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Igniting Your Strengths During Uncertain Times

Our unique top five Clifton Strengths can be of particular help as we navigate times of adversity. As our students, faculty and staff manage their own expectations while studying and working from home, we hope that this collection of stories will help all Villanovans see themselves reflected in one or more of these experiences.  


Stacy Andes

Director, Office of Health Promotion

Strengths: Achiever and Strategic

"As someone with Achiever and Strategic in my top five strengths, I view my role in Health Promotion and as a member of the Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator (SARC) team as simply evolving to meet our students where they are—never has that statement been more relevant to the work that we do to create conditions in which our students feel safe, supported and empowered to do the best with what they have. With a commitment to following through on what we said we would provide students this semester and with an eye to adapting those things that meets students wherever they are, I have really utilized this dynamic duo of strengths to recommit to my work and to envision a way forward for Health Promotion to continue to connect with students on the very real challenges of maintaining health and well-being at such an uncertain time."

Kathy Brynes

Associate Vice President for Student Life

Strengths: Empathy and Individualization

“With my Empathy, I can easily feel overwhelmed with the sadness of people being unwell, with the loss of life, with being unable to visit family who are sick. When I feel overwhelmed, I allow myself to do two things: first, I give myself permission to weep now and then. Second, after a good cry, I divert my attention to think instead of something kind I might do for another person. This is where my Individualization comes into play: I think of a couple of friends or family members, choose some action that will perk them up or help them feel valued, in the context of sheltering in place, and I do it (also activating my Achiever). So I’ve sent a lot of cards, written some old-fashioned letters, enjoyed some Zoom social hours, and talked on the phone more than I have in years. It’s been a blessing to connect with others in new ways.”

Jennifer Derry

Director of Talent Management
Human Resources

Strengths: Positivity and Adaptability

“With so much uncertainty in the world, my Adaptability strength helps me to live in the ‘now’ and focus on the present, rather than worrying about the future. It also helps me readily (and frequently) shift my focus between work and home responsibilities, which I have ample opportunity to practice these days with a busy job, two distance-learning children and a new dog! Coupled with my Positivity, I bring energy and hope to others with drive-up birthday celebrations, virtual social gatherings and spontaneous family activities. I also limit my news intake and instead, look for stories of all the good that is happening in my community and around the world.”

Alicia Dunphy-Culp

Director of First and Second Year Initiatives
Student Life

Strengths: Achiever and Discipline

“As an Achiever, I have always had to-do lists for myself, but now I find it helpful to have to-do lists for my children as well, including their online classroom work, daily chores, and incorporating fun things like puzzles, outdoor time and family movie night. It feels overwhelming to think about all the work deadlines, second grade class zooms, seventh grade science projects and if we have enough toilet paper. When I make a list for each person, it helps keep it all organized and right in front of me. When we can all see everything that needs to be done, it’s easy for the kids to know when they need to get schoolwork done on time, and also they are helpful in making sure we don’t miss out on time for some fun activities too!”

Anne Fink

Assistant Dean for College and Student Services
M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing Administration

Strengths: Input and Achiever

"For me, I have had to manage my strengths differently. I found that I was spending too much time on learning about COVID-19 and its management. I was watching several webinars per day, watching every live event, reading every link. It was becoming overwhelming and a huge time drain. I decided to limit myself to only the most reputable sites like the CDC and the state governor's website and checking no more than two times per day. I then shifted my focus over to my Achiever talents and revised my work and home lists of things to do which helped to improve my lost focus. Now I am back to crossing things off my list and being productive which makes things feel more normal and helps with my sense of control during a chaotic time."

Kevin Grubb

Executive Director, University Career Center
Assistant Vice Provost, Professional Development   

Strengths: Woo and Empathy

"Because this situation requires us to be socially distant, I find myself leaning into my Woo and Empathy strengths quite often. A friend recently shared some interesting advice that resonated with her, and a big takeaway of it was this: 'In a time when we must be physically distant, it's important to pay more attention to our emotional distance.' We can still care for each other so that, though we may be more alone, we can stave off feelings of loneliness. My Woo and Empathy strengths motivate me to care for others by finding ways be entertaining in an effort to spread joy and create connection."

Steve Koch

Assistant Director for Leadership Programs
Student Involvement

Strengths: Arranger and Consistency

"As an Arranger with Consistency, I have always been flexible and able to manage through change, or as I like to say, 'adapt with a smile.' During these unique times, this strength has manifested in various ways. I am knocking out to dos and project responsibilities through a focus on people and collaboration and I am utilizing existing resources to maintain forward progress. For example, in working with our Fall Fest planning committee of 100+ students, I am helping this team realize that our priorities remain the same and that this shift into the virtual world can still lead to fruitful outcomes. The Arranger is change-ready and flexible, and I reflect that in my advising to our students. At home, I am coordinating ways to be resourceful like using household items to maintain a learning environment for Emma (8) and Sophie (5). Just yesterday, I had them look at our kitchen utensils and describe for me how they think they work, and if they could be designed in any other way to function better, it was fun!"

Jen Liberato

Assistant Director for Student Support
Residence Life

Strengths: Input and Empathy

"I have found myself needing to be more mindful of my leading strengths of Input and Empathy. I want to watch, read and listen to all of the news sources and trending information. I have access to watch and listen at any time, but realized that all the information can be overwhelming while staying at home. I have chosen to limit myself and only watch one live broadcast, and only check Twitter if I am seeking trending details. The constant information flow can overwhelm my ability to empathize and not be able to be with others. I can feel for so many people and allow that to turn to constant worry if I am not careful. I instead choose to be grateful for each moment of safety and security and not take on the worry of the world."

Kate Szumanski

Director of Professional Development, Office for Undergraduate Students
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Strength: Empathy

"People exceptionally talented in the Empathy theme can sense other people's feelings by imagining themselves in others' lives or situations, and as we all live, work, study, teach and learn in our COVID-19 world, I find myself leaning into this strength more and more. I strive to hear and understand the unvoiced questions of my family, my friends, my students and my teammates, and to anticipate their needs so that I can provide support and service. This gives me a deep sense of meaning and fulfillment in my own life, and helps me cope as best as I can in difficult and unsettling times. For example, I know that students are concerned and worried about securing internships and jobs, and I say to myself, 'What programs, services and support can I offer to students to help alleviate their anxieties and fears?' This drives and fuels me, prompting me to take positive action."

Nick Tumolo

Assistant Dean of Students

Strength: Competition

"It might seem an odd time to maintain a competitive mindset, but the Competition strength is not just about finishing in first place—it's about focusing on your goals and what's important to you, and performing in a way that will meet those goals. Right now, during this time of isolation, what's most important to me is keeping my body and mind healthy, staying positive, and doing everything I can to keep community alive. By setting small, manageable goals such as eating three healthy meals a day, exercising regularly and making it a point to stay connected to family and friends—I tap into my Competition strength to hold myself accountable and go about my day in a way that achieves these goals. So, in a way, I can 'win' and therefore find fulfillment in being able to utilize and flex my #1 strength of Competition."