CliftonStrengths at Furman: Discovering your Natural Talents

By: Renee Neves

Input, Learner, Achiever, Developer, Discipline. Prior to my time here at Furman, these were five random words in the dictionary that had no personal meaning to me whatsoever. Now, however, I frequently use them in my vocabulary.

This is due to the unique relationship that Furman University has with the Gallup Inc. CliftonStrengths program, an assessment that analyzes 34 talent themes rooted in Don Clifton’s strengths-based psychology. The test both identifies and hones individuals’ unique talents, so that proper application of these strengths is utilized in personal and professional settings. The 10-year effort to expose Furman students to this program is housed in the Shucker Center for Leadership Development on campus. In fact, Furman University won one of five 2020 Don Clifton Strengths for Students awards, because of the success and growth of our grassroots program, inspired by the director there, Kim Keefer.

This Strengths opportunity is just one of the many resources that our university offers students to encourage and allow personal exploration of natural talents and interests. Over the course of one’s Furman career, students are consistently encouraged to take advantage of different touchpoints with the program, through one-on-one coaching, group sessions, and more. The application of Strengths is often taken one step further too, where students are encouraged to think deeply about how their talents might connect to their on-or-off campus involvements, academic pursuits, and professional opportunities of interest.

Kim Keefer is a beloved mentor of mine, and this past year, she gifted me the opportunity to serve as the Strengths intern. As someone who is currently exploring a career in the realm of higher education, this position was a unique chance for me to witness the management of a fast-growing program like this one, as well as further connect with fellow undergraduate students about their development. I spent the whole year creating and facilitating a myriad of different Strengths sessions in classrooms, extracurricular groups, and more, all co-presented with different Furman faculty and staff members. In addition, I also led a four-member student ambassador team, which grew my mentorship skills as I better assisted them in their own personal Strengths journeys as they shared it alongside their peers.

All of this makes for great professional experience for my career moving forward, but it also augmented my own personal journey with my own Strengths. The cool thing about this assessment is that even though the theme words might be extremely general, they show up in unique combinations that prove to be unlike anyone else. So yes – Input, Learner, Achiever, Developer, and Discipline – these words don’t define me as a person, but they speak volumes to the ways in which I show up in my work and daily interactions. They help me to better understand myself and become more self-aware. They give me the proper language to utilize in an interview setting. They give me a lot more than just five random words on a piece of paper.

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