By: Jen Hart, USM Strengths Coordinator and Academic Advisor
With over 3,300 participants, the Strengths@USM Program connects students, faculty and staff with a greater understanding of their natural talents and strengths. The program is in its fourth year and is making a positive impact on the USM community. Taking the StrengthsFinder assessment is the first step to investing in strengths development. A person’s top five strengths can be actively applied to identify their ideal study techniques and be used to explore compatible career options.
USM Veterans Services welcomes newly admitted student veterans to the university every semester with an orientation program which includes an introduction to strengths. Coordinator of Veterans Services Lorrie Spaulding shares this about Strengths:
“[Strengths] gives students a common language to begin a conversation with one another that is based on what they are inherently good at…. The dynamic that they can bring to a class or group or team, that can be incredibly uplifting and a solid foundation upon which to build their college success.”
In the recent Student Leadership Summit, held during the Fall 2017 semester, Leadership and Organizational Studies Professor Dan Jenkins facilitated a well-attended session focused on using Strengths for group development. Utilizing a Strengths-based approach in group and team development to maximize leadership outcomes has been highly researched. “Student leaders,” according to Professor Jenkins, “appreciated the focus in the workshop on how their individual, distinct strengths complemented the dynamics of their groups and organizations. Students commented that they hadn’t considered how impactful their individual contributions could be if they simply leveraged their Strengths.”
Students have shared feedback about how using and developing their personal strengths has been an empowering and positive experience. Students have relayed how they are flexing their strengths in a program assessment, with one student saying, “whenever I am studying, I use my strength to help me motivate myself more.” Another student said, “in working with peers in my classes. Knowing each other’s strengths have made group work much easier.”
The Strengths@USM program is guided by a team of dedicated leaders representing programs around USM, including Tutoring, Advising, Campus and Residential Life, Honors, TRIO, Veterans Services and Community Engagement Career Development, in addition to faculty from Leadership and Social Behavioral Sciences.
Many of these campus leaders have been members of the Strengths Planning Team since the beginning of the program in 2014. In addition, the program is an active part of a five year, U.S. Department of Education Title III Grant focused on strengthening institutions and funding enhanced learning opportunities.