Strengths Spotlight: Individualization

by Maribeth Flakes, Associate Director – Office of Student Involvement and Leadership

Top 5: Woo, Empathy, Communication, Individualization, Discipline

In elementary school, I was always most interested in the comments my teachers would leave, I distinctly remember hoping they would write something about how I got along well with my peers or I was a team player in the classroom, but then my mom would tell me the same consistent message… my teachers always wrote that I talked too much. To this day my talking to people is sometimes a little much, particularly to introverted types (like my husband) but, everyone has a different story and I am always interested in knowing getting to know what makes you, you so now I see it as a strength, a quality of what makes me unique and thankfully, now I have some backup for my thoughts…

I describe my Individualization as what drives that curiosity behind people and their individual stories. I listen to the nuances of when people share and I try to ask questions that allow people to know I am not hearing them, I am genuinely listening, and I want to know more. Getting an accurate ‘read’ on people has always come easy to me, I try to determine how people like to work with others, what makes them upset or happy, and what drives them to do what they do, and when working with others, I try to accommodate to the style and preference of the team members.


In my work at BSU, it is important to me to get to know the students and colleagues I work with, our work at the University is only a part of who we are, and to best work together, I always feel like it is important to appreciate the other parts of who we are. I often feel like my individualization helps me be a good judge of character. I really value how my individualization works alongside my theme of Empathy, and my theme of Communication which allows me to articulate how people are different and have different approaches. Alot of the work I am most passionate around are issues of social justice and diversity and I believe that comes from my general appreciation of difference, individualization helps me see people for who they are as individuals not necessarily as a group or some social construct. It’s important to me that students and colleagues know I appreciate them for who they are, where they are. Another area that has helped me best understand myself and my individualization is around giving recognition, I have always loved celebrating people’s successes and wins, for me it isn’t enough to just thank everyone, I like giving meaningful and individualized recognition that is thought out just for that person, and the truth is.. that’s how I like to receive recognition too.

Looking back, I understand how my teachers may have misunderstood my talent of Individualization and through time I have learned the rules of ‘time and place’. I like to believe, however, that the time and energy I took getting to know my classmates, even in elementary school, was valuable to them and to me in the long run.



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Student Affairs Technology Week

BSU Student Affairs Technology Week

BSU Student Affairs Technology Week

Over the past three years (2013, 2014, & 2015), our division’s Technology Committee has offered Social Media Week programs in person and online to support our colleagues’ various social media uses. This year, the Technology Committee is expanding our scope of topics and providing all the education online!

Before diving into the online training, please login into the Atomic Learning online platform using your BSU credentials.

Tuesday, May 31st: Microsoft Office 365
As BSU fully migrates over to Microsoft Office 365, learn more about all the new features to get a head start on how you and your staff could fully integrate the numerous new features available!

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Wednesday, June 1: Refreshing Presentations
The summer is a great time to refresh those presentations that you plan on using for your student and/or staff training. Below are some great resources for you to help rethink and reframe how you great dynamic and engaging presentations!

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Once you have your presentation slides updated, give them a test run at the BSU “One Button Studio!” For more information on this exciting BSU resource, click on the link below and send any question you may have to Eric LePage in the Teaching and Technology Center!

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Thursday, June 2: Social Media Marketing
As more of our departments use social media to communicate and engage with students, our use of paid social media advertisements on Facebook and Twitter needs to become part of our digital communication strategies. Check out these resources to enhance your social media messages and to get them seen by more people!

Facebook Blueprint: Online modules to learn how to best advertise on Facebook!

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Looking for presentation ideas? Check out the “social network” for presentations: SlideShare!

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We hope that you take full advantage next week (and beyond) of all the available training modules on the Atomic Learning Platform!

What other technology or social media education are you looking for? How can the Technology and/or Professional Development committees support departments and individuals better?

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Strengths Spotlight: Includer

Justin Mug shot 2011by Justin McCauley, Assistant Director – Residence Life and Housing

Top 5: Arranger, Includer, Developer, Connectedness, Learner

Hello, my name is Justin McCauley and I am an Includer.  That is, Includer is my second strongest theme of talent out of my Strengths Quest Top 5.  Arranger, Developer, Connectedness and Learner are my other four themes.  This is important to know in order to view my Includer theme in the proper context.

My journey into Strengths Quest began after some of my friends, co-workers, peers and – most notably my wife – had already engaged in learning about their themes of talent and had begun training on how to utilize this new information.  I was lucky to be surrounded by a lot of people, who spoke the language, when I finally completed the assessment.

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Nobody that knew me well was surprised to learn Includer was one of my top themes of talent.  I am infamous for always wanting to “expand the circle”.  Anybody that has worked for or with me knows that I try to solicit all opinions prior to making decisions in committee or team settings.  My wife will tell you that there is no such thing as small, intimate group outings or gathering because I always think of “just one more” person to invite.  You should have seen me when we were planning our wedding.

I joke about the little annoying intricacies of being an Includer but I genuinely relate to this theme of talent.  It is a part of me of which I am very proud.  I see being an Includer as a kind and caring strength that is beneficial to others.  It also helps to fuel my desire to socialize and interact with people.  It helps me to engage in small talk and really learn about people that others may not take the opportunity to.  I feel an obligation to engage with other when they seem lost, in need or uncomfortable.  I am they guy that makes friends while waiting at the DMV.

My Includer talent has also helped me to remain mindful of other people and their needs.  While this can sometimes feel suffocating when I have to make quick decisions, it has most often serves me well and helps me to build and maintain important relationships.  I like to believe that this helps people to view me as genuinely interested in their stories and situations.

This talent has helped me a lot in my work within Residence Life & Housing.  When I think back to my days working as a resident director, one of my favorite memories is of my large office assistant staff.  The Includer in me just couldn’t see any way around hiring students that I knew had work study funds and needed a job despite the lack of a need for that many student employees.  The Includer in me kept hiring these students and the Arranger in me then forced me to find creative ways to utilize them all.

Each year I would hire a lot more office assistants than my peers.  I didn’t need to hire all of these student employees and I had to work hard to create a system where managing such a large staff would yield a positive benefit.  At the end of the day it wound up serving me as a strength that was worth the extra coordination and the processing of all of those timesheets.2012 Office Assistants

This large, diverse office assistant staff allowed me to serve my residents better and helped me to form relationships with students that I might not have been able to reach if it hadn’t been for the endorsement of students on my staff.  These student employees felt valued and included as a part of something bigger than themselves and these positive feelings seemed to form a sort of student referral system.  Students I had not interacted with previously would feel familiar with me and approach me with an initial level of trust because of their preexisting relationships with our office assistant staff.  This was such a blessing and a true gift for an Includer because other people were “expanding the circle” for me.

The Includer theme of talent can often times be misinterpreted or misunderstood as being wishy-washy or indecisive.  I strongly argue that this isn’t the case.  This talent pushes you to look under every rock and make sure that you aren’t leaving people behind.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t already have strong thoughts, opinions or convictions.  It just means that I am not going to sacrifice somebody else’s feelings or best interests in order to get something done quickly or be seen as being “in charge”.  Let me clarify that I don’t think that most people intentionally sacrifice other’s feeling or best interests.  I think that it is just mostly the byproduct of passion and a need for efficiency that can unintendedly lead to this happening.

I have learned when it is important and appropriate to embrace my Includer talent and when efficiency or urgency must rule.  This oftentimes comes along with learning about the people that you work (or live) with and knowing how to gauge the appropriate times to exert you Includer talents.  I am often able to indulge my Includer-ness when working on long-range projects at work.  I have learned to see the importance of not engaging it when handling immediate problems/projects.  The Includer in me does take notes though and does follow up with people that I may perceive to have been slighted by being left out or forgotten.  This has served me well.




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Strengths Spotlight: Ideation

by Heather Tisdelle
Assistant Director, Administrative Systems
Information Technology
Top 5: Strategic, Includer, Ideation, Individualization, Achiever

I think of this talent as a creativity and problem solving ability.  It is a brainstorming tool that is key to the way I think every day.  My ideation talent makes me better at my job in my role in Information Technology.  I work in the Administrative Systems department where we integrate and expand our Banner ERP system with other technologies.  We support business functions with creative technical solutions.  We are a small group and often times have collaboration and brainstorming sessions on how best to develop and deliver a solution.  In some aspects, our technology base is growing with the addition of Ellucian Recruiter, DegreeWorks, and the University Data Stream (UDS).  As this technical environment grows, so does the challenge of our role at Bridgewater State – to make sure that all of our systems are working together and new solutions do not break existing processes.  In addition, we are trying to maximize the software that we have already invested in.  Many technologies can be extended to serve more purposes than originally thought of.  That is when I use my ideation talent most – to find ways to create solutions with existing tools.

We are often asked “How could we get this done?”, or “Is it possible to do this?”.  I find that I am constantly thinking of the best possible way to implement a fix or enhancement and for it to fit with the rest of our environment like a jigsaw puzzle piece would.  To me, there is always a better way to do something and I strive to find the solution that “fits”.  Of course, someone with this talent could be seen not willing to take no for an answer, or is constantly changing agreed upon the path.  Over time, I find that I am rolling the ideas over and over in my head to make sure that they work in conjunction with everything else and will work all the way through.  Sometimes they won’t, and we have to adjust or change course.  Over my eight year tenure at BSU, and even before coming to BSU from other higher education institutions, my ideation talent has grown and matured as I have developed more knowledge and experience with the Banner ERP system and our vast database environment.  I have learned a great deal working with other departments and am familiar with the way that our worlds fit together.  I am constantly learning and tuning my practice in this respect.

For example, we have recently been asked for an easy way to check-in students for an event.  We are leveraging Argos, a tool that was originally implemented for reporting, to create an interface to Banner.  This allows users to actually update and store check-in information in the Banner database.  Combined with an inexpensive card reader, students can be checked in quickly and efficiently, with much less probability of data entry problems.  In addition, the check-in information is stored in our Banner database which enables users to access reports that can be run after the event.  These reports can include useful information such as contact email address, student class, major, etc.  The list goes on and on…  It is developing solutions like this that make my job a challenging and rewarding adventure every day.  I enjoy my work at Bridgewater State immensely and it is gratifying to see my solutions work to make other people’s lives easier.

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Strengths Spotlight: Harmony

By Shelly Keniston, Associate Director of Residence Life and Housing

Top 5 themes: Harmony, Relator, Achiever, Deliberative, Consistency

I rememKenistonber taking StrengthsFinder about six years ago.  We had to take it for a train the trainer daylong session being presented to us.  So all at once, we were learning what StrengthsQuest was and what our top five was and what it all meant and learning how to present and teach others about StrengthsQuest.  Immediately upon receiving mine, I was not a believer.  Harmony could not be my number 1!!!!  That didn’t describe me at all and even when I read the description, I didn’t see it in myself and figured the whole thing was wrong.

I read it out loud to the group, a room full of people I had worked with for years, and they laughed at that word being used to describe me.  Only making me doubt and disbelieve even more.  I decided to focus on my other strengths because at least in those, I could see parts of myself.  But what would nag me for a few years to come was this number one strength which was Harmony.  Others would try to convince me that they saw it in me but I just didn’t.

People with the Harmony theme look for consensus.  They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.

So now I was going out and presenting StrengthsQuest to classes and groups.  I always shared my experience with how I didn’t see my number one in me but was on the search to see where it fit.  I think that helped some feel more comfortable with their own and being okay with not feeling the whole thing.

Then, one day, BOOM!  Like a bolt of lightning, I found and saw my number one:  HARMONY!!!  I was working an event and had two people from two different offices in conflict and found myself in the middle.  I understood what both wanted and that it was in essence the same thing but they weren’t communicating that.  I pulled them together, explained each other’s side and all of a sudden, in the middle of it, I yelled “THAT’S MY HARMONY!!!”  Both thought I had lost it but what they didn’t know was that I had actually found it!

When I know people hold differing views, I try to find the common ground.  I have done this my whole life.  I try to steer people out of conflict.  In my career, I have mediated roommate conflicts and staff conflicts and conflicts with friends.  It comes natural to me and come to find out, this whole time that was just my number one strength, Harmony.

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Strengths Spotlight: Futuristic

fratoniby Kristin Fratoni

Master’s student, Student Affairs Counseling ’16
Graduate Assistant, Office of New Student and Family Programs

Of my five top strengths, I would have to say that the Futuristic theme of talent is my favorite. To me, it symbolizes an endless supply of hope and possibilities; having the ability to direct and redirect the vision of my future as many times as I want.

Those who do not have a high Futuristic talent, however, may misunderstand the value of such a trait, viewing it as a hindrance to the art of being mindful.  Eckhart Tolle once said, “The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.”   It is true that staying in the present moment can be quite a challenge for those who have the futuristic theme of talent such as myself.  It can be difficult at times to be mindful of my surroundings; to focus on the task at hand rather than peer at my planner at what the future has in store.  For some, it can become overwhelming to think so far in advance, to carefully craft a vision for the future, very well knowing that it cannot be predicted.  For me, however, I find the future fascinating, full of opportunities and possibilities to capitalize on; ones that will aid me in realizing the dreams that I have, just not always in the way I have envisioned.


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My entire college career had been one long windy road full of detours and roundabouts, allowing me first to explore my undergraduate degree in business in various concentrations, internships and jobs before directing me down the path of Student Affairs.  It has been here in this field that I am able to leave a prescribed vision of what I thought I wanted during my undergraduate experience and visualize a brand new future full of possibilities that I am not even fully aware of yet.  It was not until I came to Bridgewater State University and took the StrengthsQuest assessment that I was able to put a name to the attribute that enabled me to see beyond the present disappointments, constantly redirecting me back toward the path of endless opportunities.

While I also value the art of being mindful and living in the moment, I find the talent theme of Futuristic to be of equal caliber, providing me with the capability to see beyond what is happening now in anticipation for what might be.  While some may believe that this tactic is prevents the ability to revel in the present moment, I find it to be quite the opposite.  For me, by anticipating and planning for the future, I am able to enjoy the present moment much more knowing that the bulk of the work is behind me.  This is especially true in my classes (for the most part) as well as in my work with the Family Association.  Of course, unexpected instances will always occur but I embrace these bumps in the road, these twists and turns in the path as they bring me back to the present moment to regroup and plan my next course of action; allowing me to redirect my future once more.

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Strengths Spotlight: Futuristic

mike sandyby Michael Sandy
Director, Office of Study Abroad

Q1: How do you define this theme of talent for yourself?

I see my Futuristic talent as my road map and compass.  I am confident in where I am headed and where I will end up even knowing my long term goals are not always clear and will change by choose and circumstances.

I’ve come to appreciate Alan Lakein’s quote, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it.”

Q2: When this talent is applied, what has this theme enabled you to do in your role at BSU?

This talent helps me recognize the end results of a proposed project and develop a plan to see it through.  In meetings, I am more interested in learning the end game and figuring out how it fits into the larger context.  Knowing this a plan can be developed, potential conflicts and competing priorities can be identified, the right people can be invited to be involved, and required resources can be allocated or petitioned.

I started at BSU in 2014 with the goal of increasing the impact of study abroad across campus with increased programs and student participation.  After meeting with key campus stakeholders, we developed a strategic plan and began working.  In the short-term there have been changes and delays but this can be anticipated working in a larger organization.  As circumstances change, we adapted which aspects of the plan we work on and which aspects we will pursue when the timing is better.

Q3: How is this theme of talent sometimes misunderstood?

Being future focused can been misunderstood that you are less interested or ignoring the immediate circumstances and problems while working on future plans.  This can look dismissive to someone who is more focused on immediate concerns or is more negatively impacted by present conditions.   Knowing I have a higher threshold for ambiguity and turmoil in the short-term when plans are developing, I seek out feedback from others to help keep balance.

Q4: What are ways you have helped this talent to “mature” over the course of your career and experience?

I have learned to seek out and rely on people with complementary talents.  Working with an established staff, it is important to identify our best talents and let others take the lead on aspects of our work and projects where they are naturally inclined to succeed.  I appreciate it when others draw on my talents and I try my best to do the same for others.

I have also learned to leverage my own talents toward my goals.  With tendencies toward connectedness, responsibility, strategic and analytical in addition to futuristic, I have learned to be more comfortable with what I can bring to a situation and when to rely on other people talents.  In my volunteer roles on non-profit boards, I am inclined and more often asked to contribute to strategic planning and policy making while gladly letting others lead fundraising and public engagement events.

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