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Villanova University Named Recipient of Gallup’s 2021 Don Clifton Strengths for Students Award

Don Clifton Strengths for Students Award logo

VILLANOVA, Pa.—Villanova University has been named as one of two recipients of the 2021 Don Clifton Strengths for Students Award. The award recognizes colleges, universities and districts that “enable students to learn what they naturally do best and apply their strengths to thrive in school and all areas of their lives.” Villanova, along with Georgia State University, were selected from a small number of finalists among the more than 1,000 schools which partner with Gallup on their strengths-based strategy. Past recipients of the award include Purdue University, Virginia Tech University, Kansas State University and Furman University.

In 2018, Villanova launched the “Ignite Your Strengths” Initiative, allowing students, faculty, staff and alumni to work with the University on strengths-based development. The initiative is a collaborative effort of Villanova’s academic enterprise, Student Life, career and professional development units and human resources. Since its launch, more than 5,000 Villanova students have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment, which is offered to all first-year undergraduate and law students, as well as select graduate students. Additionally, more than 500 faculty and staff have taken the assessment. 

“This is truly a University-wide initiative and we are honored to have been recognized by Gallup for our work on creating environments that develop and respect one another’s strengths,” said Kevin Grubb, Executive Director of the Career Center and Assistant Vice Provost for Professional Development. “It has been remarkable to see the way in which our community has engaged in the work of self-reflection and used their strengths to succeed personally, academically and professionally.”

The goals of the “Ignite Your Strengths” Initiative are to engage students in the process of self-discovery, create a stronger sense of appreciation for others and to enable conversations to improve individual well-being, developing students to their full potential. The benefits have been seen throughout the University’s academic setting.

“I have been able to witness first-hand how students have taken their strengths and applied them to their academic journey,” said Crystal Lucky, PhD, Associate Professor of English and Associate Dean of Baccalaureate Studies. “It has given me great pleasure and joy to help students engage their strengths even to tackle challenges inside and outside of the classroom. Deploying those skills will position them for success in their Villanova career and beyond.”

The knowledge gained from understanding and developing people’s strengths helps teams of students, faculty and staff to work together to build a sense of community, as well as to work more effectively in their cohesive groups. Teams and units build activities and reflections to start and continue the conversation about developing strengths throughout their Villanova experience.

“The benefit of strengths-based development is evident for our students and begins from the moment they set foot on campus as a freshman,” said Kathy Byrnes, Vice President for Student Life. “We have seen how this initiative has strengthened the experiences for students involved in different student organizations on campus by nurturing the positives in each individual. It is also a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn early on how their strengths help them, that difference among us is a good thing, and that we can embrace one another’s uniqueness to form a stronger community of learners.”

Click here to see how the Ignite Your Strengths Initiative has impacted students and their Villanova experience.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit