University President Calls on Students to Ignite Their Strengths

Cate McCusker Staff Writers

Adaptable, communicative, strategic, woo and ideation are five of the multiple characteristics that signify University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D.’s booming persona. This past Tuesday, Oct. 22, students were invited to hear his perspective at the opening of the “Ignite Your Strengths” series. Put on by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, these talks will continue throughout the year as other luminaries from within the University will be invited to speak about their Clifton Strengths.

For those who are unfamiliar, Clifton Strengths was created by Don Clifton, a World War II veteran who wanted to help humankind after returning from the war. While both teaching and studying at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Clifton was disheartened to find that all of the psychology books focused on people’s weaknesses. He then created the Clifton Strengths Assessment, 177 questions to find your top five out of 34 strengths. Along with around 22 million people, all freshmen and sophomores here at Villanova have taken the Clifton Strengths Assessment. At orientation, all freshmen attended a session where they explored their strengths and talked to other students. Juniors and seniors are also welcome to take the assessment, but they have to pay a small fee.

Kathryn Szumanski, Director of Professional Development and a Villanova alumni, began the talk by introducing Donohue. Szumanski then went through each of Donohue’s strengths, defining them and allowing him to voice his opinion on each one.

Donohue’s first strength is adaptability, which describes someone who takes things as they come. He commented that he was a little surprised by this one, yet when he reflected on the definition, he thought that no day was predictable for him as president here at Villanova. Donohue’s second strength is communication, which reflects someone who finds it easy to put their thoughts into words. He knew this beforehand, commenting that “I like to talk…I rarely write anything out.” Referring to his sermons, Donohue claimed that they do not have the same energy when they are written out. His third strength, strategic, surprised him the most. He explained that when creating plans for the university, he is never worried about the cost. However, when he read that people who are strategic are people who create alternative ways to proceed in situations, he thought it described him well. His fourth and favorite strength is “Woo,” or Winning Others Over. He explained how he loved being around people and getting to know them saying, “I’m not a monk, and I’m not a hermit.” Donohue’s last strength, ideation, describes someone who is fascinated with ideas and possesses the ability to create connections. He explained how this strength had to do with his many years directing theater, saying, “My background for my whole life was theater. It was always part of who I was.”

After going through Donohue’s strengths, Szumanski asked him a few more questions and then opened up the floor to allow students to ask questions too. Many students wanted to know about how his strengths influenced his role as both an Augustinian and president of the University. At the end, Donohue encouraged students to rely on their strengths, “A lot of it goes back to what are your strengths? You can go back and beat yourself up about your weaknesses or you can find what you’re good at and use it.” He explained to students that you have to recognize that no one is perfect at everything. You have to rely on your community and focus on your strengths to guide you when you are weak.