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Advanced Strengths Course Students Impact Community

Advanced Strengths Course Students Impact Community
Audrey Erker, a senior business administration major from Omaha, interned at Nelnet to complete a 100-hour consulting project as part of a new advanced strengths course.

Students in the Advanced Strengths for Coaches and Managers (MNGT 398) course learn how to make an immediate impact in their community using CliftonStrengths®. Once selected, the Gallup-Certified Student Strengths Coaches consult with organizations and local businesses, like Nelnet, to impact overall employee engagement and performance outcomes.

"Gallup research shows that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement and influence at least 75 percent of the reasons for voluntary turnover. By helping bosses become coaches in the workplace, the goal is to better develop employees and increase individual and team engagement," said Samantha Kennelly, associate director of the Clifton Strengths Institute at the College of Business and co-creator of the advanced course.

The students gain advanced knowledge and training to become CliftonStrengths® advocates, coaches and future managers. Then they complete a 100-hour consulting project.

Tyler Clark, a senior management major from Omaha, Nebraska, took what he learned in the course to consult during his internship at Nelnet.

Tyler Clark gives a presentation on strengths to his colleagues.
Tyler Clark gives a presentation on strengths to his colleagues.

“Nelnet is already ingrained in a strong strengths-based culture, so I had to bring something different to the table beyond basic strengths insight reports,” said Clark. “This challenge motivated me to create new engaging curriculum, which I taught to managers and executives.”

Jeff Noordhoek, ’88, CEO of Nelnet, said this is the third semester Nelnet worked with students from the Clifton Strengths Institute at Nebraska Business.

“Partnering with Clifton Strengths Institute students was the perfect pairing of two important aspects of our company culture – investing in early-career talent and helping our associates succeed,” said Noordhoek. “Not only are we growing our team of coaches to empower associates to utilize their innate strengths to their full potential, we give students the opportunity to deepen their experience doing something they love.”

Noordhoek shared additional benefits of the partnership with the College of Business.

“When focused on individual and team coaching, we found our teams communicate more clearly, take greater ownership of their personal work and are more productive because they acknowledge what makes each other tick. Including student coaches gives them a deeper look into the non-technical aspects of working in the ‘real world’ and allows them to expand their communication skills and build confidence,” he said.

Audrey Erker, a senior business administration major from Omaha, interned at Nelnet prior to working there part-time this fall. She helped manage the day-to-day operations of interns.

“Our original intent was to create a strengths-based selling program for our sales people, but challenges related to COVID-19 expanded our focus to create a Nelnet-specific strengths podcast. This provided more workshops for our associates and revamped our coaching process,” said Erker, who will work at Nelnet full time after graduation in May. “It's fulfilling knowing I promote a positive culture across the organization.”

Published: November 23, 2020