"Affirming Students' Strengths - A Campus-wide Approach to Student Success and Retention"
Greenville College Year I Report-2000/2001
With support from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), Greenville College (IL) and Eastern College (PA) entered into a four-year commitment to become "strengths-based" campuses. The following report reviews the grant expectations (in bold) and itemizes various project-related activities conducted in Year I of the grant.
- Assessing strengths of first-year students as part of the freshman seminar:
... To introduce students to the concept of strengths development, including the stewardship responsibility for students to make good use of their abilities and talents.
... To help students understand and verify their unique pattern of strengths.
... To assist students in applying their strengths to areas that are new or in which they experience difficulty.
... To facilitate students working with others and respecting the diversity of strengths in others.
... To help students recognize ways of continuing to develop and nurture their strengths and to use those strengths in the decision-making process regarding a major or career, involvement in campus activities, the learning process, and time management.
... To help students connect their strengths to possible career choices, working environments, and service to others.
- An introduction to the Gallup "StrengthsFinder" (SF) and the implications of a strengths-based approach to student success was incorporated into each section of COR 101 (there were 16 sections of approximately 18 students each). Each faculty member was encouraged to devote three class sessions to the SF material.
- All first-year students were given the "Student Workbook" that accompanies the SF as part of their COR 101 materials. Several sections of COR 101 used the Workbook as part of the course curriculum; others used it for optional extra-credit exercises.
- COR 101 faculty met for advising twice during the semester with each first-year student. Faculty were encouraged to incorporate a strengths-based approach into the advising process during these sessions.
- Dawn Mulholland, Director of Career Services, met with each COR 101 section for an hour to explain the work of her office, which is striving to incorporate a strengths-based approach into the career planning process.
- A new "Care Team" approach, including use of the SF, was developed for use with "at-risk" students that included the use of the SF and related advising for academic success.
- Sharon Givler, a long-time Career Planning Director currently serving at Huntington College (IN), presented briefly in chapel her excitement about the vision for Greenville being a strengths-based campus.
- All Residence Hall Directors and Assistants were trained in the SF approach and encouraged to engage students in conversations related to the SF findings.
- On April 10, a "Strengths Dinner" was held in the Dining Commons, coordinated by Career Services and Student Development. Students were invited to sit at a table identified by one of the 34 SF strengths; faculty and staff leaders guided discussions about the implications of these strengths for daily living.
- Several coaches were interested in the prospect of linking athletic "strengths" with academic success (including use of the Noel Levitz videos on this topic). Four coaches began laying plans for incorporating a strengths-based approach into their teams and for use with every sophomore athlete during the 2001-2002 academic year.
- Residence hall directors and assistants conducted evening sessions in the residence halls designed to reinforce the use of the SF to achieve greater success in interpersonal relationships and in College life generally.
- The Office of Cross-Cultural and Multicultural Programs hosted a "strengths" ice cream social on April 25, 2001 attended primarily by ethnic-minority students. Student workers employed through grant funding helped to plan this event and also focused on increasing awareness of strengths among ethnic-minority students.
- Greenville's adult degree completion program (GOAL) decided to use the Gallup book "Now, Discover Your Strengths" as a required reading in the first six-week module of the curriculum. Discussion of the SF will be part of the introductory material as new cohorts are formed.
- President Mannoia spoke in chapel during May about the "paradox of strengths" - citing and discussing his top strengths for students.
- All first-year students were given a complimentary copy of the Gallup publication "Soar With Your Strengths" as they left campus in May, accompanied by a letter that reminded them of their five strengths and a "Symphony" candy bar celebrating their strengths. The letter contained references to a series of special strengths-related events for returning sophomores that is being planned.
- At the conclusion of the 2000-2001 academic year, 20+ students who were at high risk of dropping out were contacted and given the SF. In a subsequent meeting, these students were encouraged to think about how their strengths fit with their academic work. Several students decided to remain in school after this last-minute intervention.
- Every incoming first-year student for the 2001-2002 academic year received a copy of the book, "Now, Discover Your Strengths" and instructions for taking the SF as part of the curriculum for COR 101 sections this fall.
- Training faculty advisors of first-year students to do strengths-based advising:
- Dr. Edward C. "Chip" Anderson, of UCLA and Azusa Pacific University, spent two days on campus in April, 2001 training COR 101 faculty on the use of the SF. He returned in August and spent an additional three hours with faculty on how the SF could be incorporated into COR 101 sections.
- Dr. Laurie Schreiner, of Eastern College, spent two days with COR 101 faculty in May 2001 to provide foundational training in strengths-based advising (incorporating components of Career Quest, the SF, and the CSI).
- Three faculty (Professors McPeak, Ross and Sanders) were identified to use a strengths-based approach to assist "undecided" sophomores during the 2001-2002 academic year.
- Developing faculty awareness of their own strengths as teachers, as well as the diversity of student strengths and learning styles:
- All faculty and administrative staff (and their spouses) were invited to take the SF in conjunction with Dr. Chip Anderson speaking at the Faculty Fall Fellowship (retreat) in August 2000. All faculty were given a copy of the SF Workbook at the beginning of the year and Gallup's "Now, Discover Your Strengths" at the end of the year.
- At the retreat (August 25-27, 2000), Dr. Anderson led three sessions for 200+ participants on the history of Gallup's commitment to a strengths approach, an introduction to the SF and the possible implications at Greenville College.
- At least one department (Religion/Philosophy) is working toward organizing departmental responsibilities around the strengths of faculty within the department.
- Assessing the strengths of campus personnel, with training on how to capitalize on those strengths in working with students:
- Prior to Faculty Fall Fellowship retreat, Dr. Anderson spent three days (August 23-25, 2000) on campus during which he conducted SF workshops with staff, coaches, President's Cabinet, student development staff and the Retention Task Force.
- Dr. William Flanagan, VP for Student Development at Beloit College (WI), spent two days on campus in January 2001. Dr. Flanagan is a nationally-recognized expert on the "sophomore slump" phenomenon. He repeatedly emphasized the uniqueness and potential of Greenville's strengths-based approach to student success. Dr. Flanagan met with the President's Cabinet, Retention Task Force, faculty, staff and student leaders regarding retention-related issues.
- Coordinators for the "staff" and "administrative staff" at Greenville College were nominated by their peer groups. These two groups are planning several professional development activities for the coming academic year, including a refresher session on the SF.
- Raising senior administrators' awareness of strengths development, the complementarity of strengths in the senior administration and across the campus, and how their own strengths influence their relationships with faculty, staff and students.
- The President's Cabinet spent 2 ½ hours with Dr. Anderson in August 2000 to discuss the strengths of each Cabinet member and the implications of strengths for the Cabinet's working relationships. At the August 2001 Cabinet Retreat, another two-hour block was devoted to reviewing each Cabinet member's five strengths, followed by discussion of the implications of a strengths-based approach at Greenville. Gallup's videotape on "What Makes Organizations Great" (which includes a section on being strengths-based) was also viewed and discussed briefly.
- The President's Cabinet agreed to read Gallup's "First Break All the Rules" to better understand the larger context for the SF. The first 10-15 minutes of each Cabinet meeting was dedicated to discussing a chapter from this book.
- The President and at least two Cabinet members used the SF as a component in annual performance reviews; next year, all performance reviews will incorporate Gallup materials.
- Greenville's Board of Trustees spent ½ day in February 2001 in a workshop guided by Dr. Anderson. Board members (and their spouses) took the SF and the implications of these findings for the Board's working relationships were discussed.
- In June 2001, ten representatives from Greenville (including faculty leaders, two coaches, the Dean of Students, VPAA, Chaplain and the Director of Retention) spent two days at the headquarters of The Gallup Organization. The program involved participation from several campuses interested in incorporating a strengths-based approach.
- In October 2000, a full-page story about Greenville's commitment to being a strengths-based approach was featured in the local newspaper, "The Greenville Advocate".
- Greenville received permission from The Gallup Organization to use the "Gallup" name on the GC website, identifying the College as a national test site for the StrengthsFinder. Information about the project is accessible from the first screen of the GC website.
- Eight members of the FIPSE Steering Committee attended a two-day training and strategy session at Eastern College in March 2001. One purpose of the trip was to discuss how to implement a key grant requirement, i.e., disseminating information learned thus far with other institutions.
- The SF is now used as part of the interview process for hiring new employees at Greenville College, with discussion about Greenville's commitment to being a strengths-based campus.
- The Gallup Organization held a two-day SF training session in October, 2001 on Greenville's campus. Nineteen participants attended from Greenville; Taylor University sent five additional participants.
- The following commendation for Greenville's work and commitment to a strengths-based approach was received from Dr. Donald O. Clifton, Chairman of the Gallup International Research & Education Center (dated July 9, 2001):
"Having heard the detailed planning and enthusiasm you and your staff have for integrating the StrengthsFinder into your program for developing lives, I want to congratulate you and to endorse your program. Greenville College is the first college or university to incorporate the StrengthsFinder in a longitudinal study of student and faculty development. Your results will be of national interest. However, the most significant outcomes will certainly be in the lives of your students. We at Gallup are pleased to be partnering with you."