Mount Mary College’s new student services division is dedicated to empowering students to achieve excellence from a position of strength. At the center of this effort is a program called StrengthsQuest, an online self-assessment that discovers a person’s natural core assets.
StrengthsQuest is the creation of Gallup Organization’s multi-million dollar endeavor throughout 30 years of research in positive psychology. This global management consulting, training and polling company conducted its analysis with more than two million individuals’ profiles.
Martha Nelson, associate dean of student affairs at Mount Mary College, introduced StrengthsQuest to the Mount Mary community in conjunction with the full dedication and support from David Nixon, vice president of academic and student affairs at Mount Mary College. The college approved and launched the program in April but has formally introduced it this fall semester.
An estimated 450 campus members – from incoming freshmen and student leadership officers to new faculty and school administrators – have already taken StrengthsQuest to date. Participation from these groups is required, with the intent to immerse all faculty over time.
The college will implement the program progressively, with the ultimate goal of full classroom integration. It will also serve as a tool for advisers to maximize their interaction with students during the advising process, so they can better meet students’ needs.
Accentuate the Positive
Students often arrive at college with a variety of negative self-labels that can sabotage their paths to success. A common notion is that in order to achieve success, energy should be spent on the identification and reduction of weaknesses rather than the enhancement of strengths.
Nixon said we often “spend all of our time obsessing with deficiencies and challenges, and neglect the very things that are the best features of our persona. Shame and self-loathing are an overabundance in the world. We choose not to walk that path… The Mount Mary woman knows her strengths, knows her worth and how to leverage them in service of whatever community she finds herself in.”
Merchandise management senior Morgen Petek said StrengthsQuest helped her realize “the sky is the limit … There is no greater gift that you can receive than truly understanding who you are.”
Lacking an understanding of individual strengths may lead to the change of majors and career paths, producing brutal financial repercussions, not to mention effort and time ramifications.
“The higher education experience is a voyage of discovery… if we can help people to bring focus to fundamental aspects of their personality, their hopes, their dreams early on, perhaps they won’t have to wait until they matriculate into a major that’s not going to be comfortable for someone like them. It helps us to design curriculum and it helps the students to choose their best path – early,” Nixon said.
Assessing the Assessment
The assessment consists of a series of 177 responses, typically lasting about 30 to 45 minutes. Each “question” has a pair of potential self-descriptors, positioned as if planting polar ends of a gamut, such as “I am an observer of life” and “I want to control the events of my life.” The participant selects a rank that most closely portrays him or her. Only 20 seconds is administered for each response before the system continues, which prevents over-thought and skewed results.
StrengthsQuest allows individuals to discover their top five “themes” of talent and learn to capitalize their strengths. Composed of 34 “themes” and thousands of feasible combinations, the program brings awareness to individual strengths and how to perfect them for personal, academic and professional success. Such themes include Competition, Achiever, Ideation, Learner, Strategic, Woo and Communication.
None of the top five theme results are based on just one question. An undecided or unintended answer is not going to change the overall results, for other groups of questions will be able to sort along that variable.
Because it is an assessment rather than a test, StrengthsQuest has no right or wrong answers.
“There are no bad strengths, which is a change in our culture, because we quite often look at the things we’re not good at,” Nelson said.
According to Nelson, the program’s sophistication really spoke to her. The statistical reliability of the assessment is so high, it in fact measures strengths on a global basis in a variety of cultures.
StrengthsQuest Goes Gratis
The college has created a rather large, auspicious opportunity for students, administrators, faculty and staff. The cost of the assessment, typically $13 per person, is currently waived for everyone at Mount Mary. Anyone on campus can obtain a free access code and to assess his or her “top five.”
“Administration’s commitment and level of support has given us the chance to infuse the philosophy of strengths into every corner of the college community and transform [it] into a strengths-based campus, ultimately becoming the culture of Mount Mary,” Nelson said.
Diffusion into Mount Mary Culture
Campus community members have exhibited enthusiasm for this initiative.
“It’s really caught fire and seems to resonate with the community at a fairly deep level,” Nixon said. “Our college’s [mission] is to empower women for leadership and social change. What better way to empower women than to give them the tools to understand their core strengths.”
As the program is rapidly interwoven with Mount Mary culture, strengths-based language is now laced into the college’s community. Everyone is encouraged to interact and collaborate with this common vocabulary. In fact, a frequent element of dialogue on campus may soon become: So, what are your top five? And a person won’t have to question what that means.
To obtain a free access code and to assess your “top five,” contact:
Lisa Heid, administrative assistant of student affairs