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K-State Today

May 9, 2012

Alumnus' gift launches new assessment program for students

Submitted by Andrew Zender

Kansas State University is changing the way students approach the way they assess their individual talents, strengths and their futures.

With a lead gift of $150,000 from alumnus Rich Mistler, Fairway, the university's School of Leadership Studies will be introducing the StrengthsQuest initiative across campus, a trademarked program that empowers and enables students to identify and leverage their strengths to become successful students, professionals and community members.

Mary Tolar, director of the School of Leadership Studies, says that the program provides students with a structured way to approach a complex process both inside and outside the classroom experience.

"StrengthsQuest provides a language and a lens for students to view who they are, where they want to invest themselves and where they want to be after college," Tolar said. "It's important for them to engage in this critical exploration and determine their own pathways.

Developed by Gallup Inc., StrengthsQuest helps students identify their top five strengths through a personal assessment. Those strengths are then developed throughout their college career through workshops, group projects and other programming. At Kansas State University, the student group Advocates for StrengthsQuest has begun promoting the program in various living and learning communities across campus.

Mike Finnegan, instructor in the School of Leadership Studies, has been incorporating StrengthsQuest into the Introduction to Leadership Concepts course. He believes it's the charge of the campus community to help students work toward strength development in all facets of their university experience — orientation and enrollment, academics, residential life, career services, student organizations and any other area where they're engaged on campus.

"At K-State, we aspire to be a strengths-based campus to enhance retention, engagement and the well-being of our students," Finnegan said. "Students who have a lot of confidence and lead with their strengths will find their identity and their niche on campus, which enhances their level of satisfaction with their collegiate experience."

Tolar believes that StrengthsQuest directly supports one of the thematic goals of the K-State 2025 Vision: to build a connected, diverse, empowered, engaged, participatory culture of learning and excellence that promotes undergraduate student success and prepares students for their professional, community, social and personal lives.

"This program allows students to embark on a journey where they develop their strengths and position themselves for success both at K-State and beyond," Tolar said. "This gift provides us with a rare opportunity to take an existing program and make it our own, and we look forward to garnering additional support from alumni and friends to sustain the program into the future."

Philanthropic contributions to the university are coordinated by the Kansas State University Foundation. The foundation staff works with university partners to build lifelong relationships with alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students through involvement and investment in the university.