Intent on helping students through the often confusing college years, Greenville College (GC) will be the first college or university partnering with The Gallup Organization to employ the company's StrengthsFinder inventory in an academic setting.
"Our desire is that every student who come to Greenville College be surrounded by a group of caring adults who can help them understand who God made them to be... and to use the four years at Greenville to be fully prepared to make a difference for Christ in the world," says Dr. Karen Longman, vice president for academic affairs adn dean of the faculty at GC.
Greenville College's link to this new endeavor began with Longman, who served the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) for 19 years. Several years ago, Dr. Edward C. Chip Anderson mapped out for CCCU a vision for Christian higher education in which every student would be helped to discern who they are an how God has gifted them to make a difference in the world. Interested in helping a campus become truly strengths-based, Longman took Anderson's vision with her to Greenville.
Out of 2,000 grant proposals submitted, Greenville's was one of the 70 funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). The three-year grant of $464,000 is being shared between Greenville and Eastern College in Pennsylvania, which is using an inventory called "Career Quest."
Dr. Donald O.Clifton, longtime CEO of the Gallup Organization, states his excitement in response to Greenville's endeavor: "Greenville College is the first college or university to incorporate the StrengthsFinder in a longitudinal study of student and faculty development. [Their] results wil be of national interest. However, the most significant outcomes will certainly be in the lives of [their] students. We at Gallup are pleased to be partnering with [Greenville College]."
StrengthsFinder was first administered to freshmen entering Greenville for the 2000-01 academic year. When students finish the outline test, they are given a printout of their top five strengths (out of a possible 34), along with a paragraph narrative describing each strength. Nancy Gaines, Strengths Adviser/Program Coordinator for the StrengthsFinder Project, states, "We encourage students to look at how those strengths get played out in their lives and identify ways they can use thier strengths rather than how they are going to compensate for their weaknesses."
As Greenville College enters its third year using the StrengthsFinder inventory, the college seeks to become the model campus nationally to pilot a comprehensive four-year approach to helping students understand their strengths and abilities. The goal goes hand in hand with the college's mission of making a difference in the lives of students so that they are "transformed for lives of character and service."
One major way in which Strengths Finder is being incorporated at GC is in the core curriculum -- the general education courses required of each student. As the core curriculum had not changed at Greenville since 1968, this development is extremely exciting for the college. Among other changes, four new "core classes" have been added, designed for students to take one each year (Cornerstone Seminar, Christian Thought and Life, Foundations of Science, and the Capstone Seminar). the interdisciplinary flavor of these new courses allows professors to help students discover how their strengths complement their career aspirations or calling in life.
Reprinted with permission from the March/April 2002 issue of Light and Life Magazine.