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Clifton Builder Cohort Set to Stretch Their Entrepreneurial Talents

Clifton Builder Cohort Set to Stretch Their Entrepreneurial Talents
The Clifton Strengths Institute at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln welcomed 34 new students into the Clifton Builders Program. These students learn how to build businesses, teams and communities while pursuing a Clifton Builders Management major or minor.

The Clifton Strengths Institute at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln selected 34 students for the eighth cohort of the Clifton Builders Program. Housed in the College of Business, the Clifton Builders Program brings together students with high leadership and entrepreneurial potential and develops them to lead high-performance teams. This year’s cohort brings strong influencing and relationship-building talents to the program and a diverse set of majors, representing six different colleges across the university.

“We use three words to describe the Clifton Builders: stretch, disrupt and transform. We are intentional about helping students stretch and develop their unique strengths. Builders disrupt the status quo and work to make it better. They also transform their lives and the lives of those they lead and serve,” said Timothy Hodges, executive director of the Clifton Strengths Institute and assistant professor of practice in management.

The cohort-based program sets students up for success from day one, according to Kaitlin Ferris, assistant director of the Clifton Builders Program, fostering a close-knit community that promotes partnerships, collaboration and networking opportunities. Students within the program can declare either a Clifton Builders Management major or minor, and choose a track based on their interests in building businesses, teams or communities. They also work with their own Gallup-certified strengths coach to further develop their natural talents and invest in their strengths as leaders.

"With a curriculum designed exclusively for our Clifton Builders, they gain the tools to develop as leaders and knowledge that will impact the growth and success of future organizations,” she said.

Every Clifton Builder enrolls in a class called Building a Life for Impact (MNGT 324B), where they gain an advanced understanding of management and consult for organizations to help improve business outcomes and employee engagement in the workplace. Another class offers hands-on experience in entrepreneurship.

“Builders gain insight into real-world marketing creativity, market analysis and an ‘insider’s view’ of entrepreneurial creativity within their Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Organizations (ENTR 321B) course taught by Samantha Fairclough, associate director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management. A program highlight for many students, this class enables students to showcase and sell products they designed at a Builder Showcase, with all proceeds going to a nonprofit of their choosing," Ferris said.

Hodges shared how the program cultivates a winning mindset that benefits the builders in the future. After graduation, alumni have started their own businesses, pursued post-graduate degrees and worked for companies like JP Morgan, Hudl, Gallup, Charles Schwab and Kiewit.

“We’re intentional about creating experiences where our students interact with business leaders – and each other – as they develop their own perspectives and plans for the future," he said. "Our students gain confidence in who they are and what they can accomplish,” he said.

The program accepts applications from students of all majors within their first two years at the university, with courses beginning the following fall semester. Applications for the Fall 2024 cohort are due by Friday, October 13. To apply or learn more about the Clifton Builders program, visit:

The 2023 cohort of Clifton Builders includes:


Ansley: Carli Bailey, sophomore accounting major
Bellevue: Delaney Huck, sophomore marketing major
Bennington: Jack Thompson, sophomore marketing major
Chappell: Grace Timm, junior agribusiness major
Firth: Hannah Hurt, junior Clifton Builders Management major
Fremont: Elise Estudillo, sophomore accounting major
Gothenburg: Seth Daup, junior finance major
Kearney: Carter Goff, junior finance major
Lincoln: Joshua Argue, junior Clifton Builders Management major; Kyra Boesiger, junior marketing major; Emersyn Liljehorn, sophomore Clifton Builders Management major; Jadyn Maddox, sophomore Secondary Spanish Education major; Wolfgang Sturm, sophomore finance major; Mitchell West, sophomore advertising and public relations major
Minden: Connor Carpenter, sophomore accounting major
Omaha: Michael Barrett, sophomore finance major; Charlie Burt, sophomore business administration major; Josh Ferguson, junior finance major; Josie Golka, sophomore advertising and public relations major; Diya Kishore, sophomore interior design major; Ava Stanek, sophomore accounting major; Christian Thomas, sophomore finance major; Charlie Trofholz, sophomore finance major; Palmer Wright, junior biological sciences major
Platte Center: Noah Koch, sophomore finance major
Springfield: Luke Smith, junior business and law major
Waterloo: Hallie Horner, junior elementary education major


Lyons, Colorado: Mia VanLeeuwen, sophomore communication major
Parker, Colorado: Eric Jacob, sophomore business and law major
Courtland, Kansas: Carolina Barraza, junior accounting major
Fairway, Kansas: Sydney Beck, sophomore Clifton Builders Management major
Rogers, Minnesota: Jacob Ripley, sophomore Clifton Builders Management major
Victoria, Minnesota: Callin Hake, sophomore marketing major
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Hannah Thompson, sophomore business and law major

Published: September 13, 2023