For the past 18 months, junior management major Brianna Ridenour from Alliance, Nebraska, gained real-world experience as a certified strengths coach at the College of Business Administration. When the Clifton Strengths Institute opened at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in August 2015, Ridenour took the Entrepreneurial Profile 10, also called EP10, during her freshman BSAD 111 class. She scored high enough to become part of the first cohort of the Clifton Builders Program.
“When Mark Pogue came to campus and taught me about strength-based theories, I instantly fell in love with what the Clifton Strengths Institute offers. Being part of the Clifton Builders Program and making connections with other students in the program has been invaluable,” Ridenour said.
As one of 80 certified coaches, Ridenour advises freshman CBA students in groups of up to 12. She and the other coaches also conduct in-depth, one-on-one meetings with each student to discuss maximizing their strengths.
“Since this is still a new program, we are constantly learning how to be better coaches. Just seeing the program come together as a whole from where we started has been amazing,” she said.
She also consciously leads with strengths in mind in her many leadership roles on campus. She is the president of the Multicultural Business Student Association, chair of the Executive Council of Multicultural Organizations, an Honors Program ambassador and a member of the Nebraska Women’s Leadership Network.
To help maximize work environments throughout the community, the Clifton Builders (Management 398) class teamed up with local business leaders to analyze employee engagement through the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, which features 12 questions measuring the most important elements of employee engagement and its business impacts. They also constructed action plans to create better work environments.
“We met with managers, talked about what we were studying, encouraged their employees to take the test and looked at the numbers with them to create a plan. I checked back in with my business contact recently and the manager now has monthly one-on-one meetings with her employees and carrying out the plan we created,” Ridenour said.
The group presented their findings at Gallup in Omaha, Nebraska, to researchers and consultants. Members from the Clifton Foundation in Washington D.C at Gallup World Headquarters tuned into a livestream of presentation as well. The Clifton Foundation and Gallup made the donation that established the Clifton Strengths Institute.
“The people we presented to are actually our personal strengths coaches so it was special to share our findings with them. We are the first students in the Builders Program at a university, so I feel like I came to CBA at the right time,” she said.
Last summer, she traveled to the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain to study. When she first arrived in the city, she quickly realized the importance of mastering public transportation. She depended on her strengths to lead her through the unfamiliar experience.
“I am from small town Nebraska and never used public transportation in my life. We made our way around Spain and France without using technology,” she said. “I relied on my strengths of adaptability and learner to guide my decisions and stay calm in the situation.”
Ridenour immersed herself in the culture by living with a lively host mom, practicing the language with natives and participating in events like the Running of the Bulls. She found the trip both educational and eye-opening, and encourages students to step out of their comfort zones and travel.
“Once you go, you will become a more open-minded individual which will help you in the professional world,” she said. “Don’t let something hold you back from expanding your experiences and utilizing your strengths.”
To learn more about the Clifton Strengths Institute at CBA visit: http://cba.unl.edu/academic-programs/clifton-strengths-institute