first-year students at uno take advantages of strengths quest
First-year students at the University of New Orleans are taking advantage of a self-assessment tool designed to help them amplify their strengths in their academic and career pursuits. StrengthsQuest, a tool developed about 50 years ago and rooted in positive psychology is now being taught to all first-year students in a special course known on campus as UNIV 1001.
"The StrengthsQuest assessment is a self-assessment that helps individuals become more self-aware and discover their top five talents or strengths," said student success counselor Nicole Ralston. "By understanding what your top five strengths are, you can focus on the positive, rather than on weaknesses."
First-Year Experience, a department within the Office of Enrollment Services, partnered with other departments in Enrollment Services—admissions, first-year academic advising, student affairs and others—and UNO Student Government this summer to ensure that 25 faculty and staff on campus received training as StrengthsQuest educators. Now, those 25 faculty and staff members are working to roll out Strengths Quest across campus.
The test is a timed self-assessment with 34 questions. Participants must complete the test within 30 minutes. Questions are timed to be answered within 20 seconds each. The test is designed to capture participants' gut reactions or first impressions, said Ralston. Students rate themselves along a spectrum and educators help to interpret results. Students identify their five strengths and associated traits using common terms such as "Positivity," "Learner" and "Intellection"—and can then use those identified strengths to create action plans for success.
"We're really trying to build a StrengthsQuest campus, so that there's a common language surrounding strengths among faculty, staff and students," said Ralston. "In terms of implementation, all of the first-year students in UNIV 1001 are taking it in class...We have received a lot of interest from staff...and student leaders," Ralston said.
University Success 1001, affectionately known on campus as UNIV, is a one-credit course designed to help first-year students learn about college and develop effective strategies to be successful in college. The course meets once a week in small sections designed to allow students a chance to get valuable information, ask questions and make friends.
Every UNIV class includes 10 units that faculty must teach, including topical issues, such as time management, money management, study skills and learning styles. A special component taught by the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership exposes students to skills and attitudes that will help them to be more involved in campus life and become leaders on campus and in life.
A number of student organizations on campus have taken the StrengthsQuest assessment, in an effort to develop individual and collective strengths as student leaders on campus. Some of the groups that have already taken the StrengthsQuest assessment are: the UNO Ambassadors, athletes, Beta Alpha Psi Honor Society, the UNO Leadership Cabinet, UNO Orientation Leaders, Resident Assistants from the Office of Student Housing, the Student Activities Council Executive Board, Student Government Executive Board, Service Coalition Executive Board and UNIV 1001 Peer Mentors.
"The buzz is definitely starting to get around and people starting to want to do it but our hope is to start with freshmen classes," said Ralston, who said that over the next four years the entire student community will receive this education.
While UNIV students take the StrengthsQuest assessment for free, anyone who is interested can take the self-assessment, said Ralston. The test is available on the University website for $9.99. The UNO community is also invited to three upcoming workshops designed to help participants take complete advantage of StrengthsQuest information.