About the Azusa Success Coach Program
Azusa Pacific highly values their ability to provide that support to students who many not have received such support at previous institutions. The 1400-1600 new students who enroll in Azusa each year get assigned to one of Azusa’s Success Coaches. The Success Coaches supports these students from the beginning to the end of their program.
Phone calls, google chat, screen sharing, and emails are the primary form of communication with these students. The coaches and students often don’t meet in person, but this allows adult learners to balance their time between academics and their lives outside of campus.
Questions for Christin:
What did Gallup’s Accelerated Strengths Coaching Course give you?
The course provided her with more language around CliftonStrengths than she’s ever had before. It gave her relevant resources and ideas to create individualized plans to help Azusa Pacific students achieve their specific goals. The resources from the training that were most helpful included: information around values (values cards/connections to talent and strengths) and pairing strengths (theme dynamics).
Any new a-ha moments for you from the Gallup Strengths Coaching kit?
The materials around the values that go with strengths. Starting with values can bring the theme definitions out if they sound foreign to the students at first. Also, the information around pairing themes together (Curt’s book).
As a student what would I expect to interface with strengths?
Students enrolled in the UC101 Success in the University (intro course for first year students) are required to purchase SF2.0, take the assessment, engage in an online discussion with their peers, and required to have a conversation with their assigned strengths coach within the first 8 weeks of being on campus.
Universities tend to use StrengthsQuest materials rather than StrengthsFinder 2.0. Azusa requires students purchase SF 2.0 mainly because some of the contents in SQ was not applicable to the adult learner population. They did combine the applicable parts from SQ (i.e., academics) to complement SF 2.0 contents.
What is the best of your program? What are you most excited about?
Helping people make the connection between their top 5 and their career.
What path do you lead them down to get to a suggest career?
In order to do this, Azusa staff "zoom out" by asking background questions about their motivation to pursue education, their personal goals, career goals. By asking questions and listening, coaches are able to pick up on comments that link to a strengths-based conversation and weave CSF into the conversation. This helps the student come up with some of their own solutions based on reflecting on their Top 5.
You came to the Accelerated Strengths Coaching course with some other higher education people, what did you talk about?
Generally, when higher education professionals gather, we speak about the state of higher education. Currently, it sounds a little dire with schools closing (for profit and non-profit), lack of engagement, different population of students, different types of students and how we support them, career challenges and pressures on students, unpacking students' career expectations versus what they will actually enjoy and thrive in.
At the course, we discussed how CliftonStrengths might be more helpful than other solutions in higher education (both with students and with higher education professionals). The tide is changing in higher education and it is placing more emphasis on numbers (i.e., graduation rates, admissions numbers, retention). This emphasis may be changing the game for higher education professionals and challenge us. How can we as higher education leaders help each other overcome the challenges through a strengths perspective?
What are some suggested resources for academic / higher education professionals?
You need partners and buy-in from people who will be advocates for using CliftonStrengths in the university-setting. Sometimes the work of strengths can get stuck in one area or one department when we want to make it a university-wide initiative. Getting together in groups to talk about CliftonStrengths is beneficial.
Start with the research from Gallup (Facebook group, Called to Coach, Gallup website and resources). The work in higher education around strengths is a little small due to larger priorities on the higher education scene, which is why the summit and the ACS certification was so helpful. It connects you to professionals who are using CliftonStrengths on campuses. However, those larger priorities in higher education could benefit from a strengths perspective.
For coaches who are already in a career counseling center, what advice would you give?
- There are a number of resources in the Gallup Strengths Center, start there.
- Gather research and data that Gallup has already pulled together
- Talk to other advocates on campus; talk about it collectively
- Don’t let it get stuck in one area, make it a campus-wide initiative
If I were an external coach, how could I help you? Or can they?
Coaches may be needed to help support coaching of staff and faculty. Consultant work is needed to help support universities that want to expand their strengths-based efforts.
External coaches need to learn about higher education operations and how to connect CliftonStrengths with university operations (students, faculty, staff, programmatic, training and development, goals, etc).
Partner with a faculty member or a staff member to guest lecture in one or two classes. The best places for strengths conversations to get started depends upon the university and who is open to starting a new initiative. Sometimes it is student success, career services, academic advising (especially with those who focus on appreciative advising), etc. Once you have a connection, it's essential to create a strategic plan to expand CliftonStrengths on campus.
To hear more about coaching strengths for organizations, individuals and coaches, please watch the full video or listen to the audio above.
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Christin Roberson, Ed.M, is a Student Success Supervisor at Azusa Pacific University College. She works with non-traditional, adult students in an online format. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Azusa Pacific University and recently completed Gallup’s Accelerated Strengths Coaching courses in December 2016.
Azusa Pacific University College’s Strengths Week Site: https://goo.gl/xnw9uU
Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches, Cheryl S. Pace and Rachel Carpenter contributed to this post.