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Celebrating Strengths at Calvin College
February 26 , 2007

“Celebrating Strengths,” a new program from the office of Student Academic Services (SAS) at Calvin College, will enable students to identify their chief character assets and to channel those strengths into their majors, careers and leadership opportunities.

The program, funded by an $83,618 grant from the Select Student Support Services (4S) Program administered by the State of Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, is a partnership of the SAS and Career Development offices at Calvin.

“Students, first-year students especially, often don’t know what their strengths are,” says Andrea Kitomary, an SAS academic counselor and Celebrating Strengths project director. “It is our hope that by implementing the Celebrating Strengths program we will cultivate a campus climate that embraces students’ talents from the moment they come to campus and helps them to build those talents into strengths throughout their entire college experience.”

The core of Celebrating Strength is the Clifton Strengths Finder, an assessment tool from the Gallup Organization that allows a person to hone in on his or her five main “themes” (or talent groups) out of 34 possible choices: Achiever, Activator, Adaptability, Analytical, Arranger, Belief, Command, Communication, Competition, Connectedness, Consistency, Context, Deliberative, Developer, Discipline, Empathy, Focus, Futuristic, Harmony, Ideation, Includer, Individuation, Input, Intellection, Learner, Maximizer, Positivity, Relator, Responsibility, Restorative, Self-Assurance, Significance, Strategic and Woo.

“The StrengthsFinder gives us a starting point of conversation,” Kitomary says. “It helps you name what you already see or it helps you identify what isn’t as obvious.”

After taking the Strengths Finder through the SAS or Career Development offices, the student will meet with an advisor or in groups to discuss their strengths and how best to develop those strengths through existing Calvin academic, career and leadership opportunities. To qualify for the program, a student must have a GPA of 2.5 or below or have received financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), making Celebrating Strengths available to a wide pool of Calvin students.

Calvin officials note that iIn the past this type of grant has been focused on minority and under-represented students, but that the new program makes the grant available to a larger population, and that SAS and Career Development hope to promote the use of the StrengthsFinder in Calvin departments throughout the campus.

Kitomary, who has already used the StrengthsFinder in a pilot program through Calvin’s Entrada Scholars Program, is enthusiastic about the potential of Celebrating Strengths.

It’s very exciting when I’m working with a student, and the light bulb is coming on,” she says.

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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