Grambling State University is preparing to play to its strengths as it forges forward into the future.


To begin the process of helping make that happen, 12 university representatives — six students and six faculty/staff members — participated in the first HBCU CliftonStrengths certification class that started their journey in February 2024.


CliftonStrengths, formerly known as Clifton StrengthsFinder, is an online assessment tool that helps people identify their natural talents.


The assessment is based on decades of research by Donald O. Clifton, who studied human behavior and identified commonalities in positive characteristics. These commonalities are distilled into 34 themes, or talent categories, that represent what people do best. The assessment measures the intensity of a person’s talents in each theme and provides a report that ranks their dominant strengths.


Participating in the assessment can help people understand their innate skills and potential for building on their strengths. It can also help leaders identify the strengths of their team members and how they can contribute to group goals. Some say that understanding your strengths can lead to greater performance, confidence, inspiration, and direction.


Having taken their CliftonStrengths Assessment and received their strengths report, the GSU representatives completed their first step toward the CliftonStrengths Coach Certification process and assessed 400 First Year Experience (FYE) GSU students over the next three months.


The six Grambling State University faculty/staff and six Grambling State University students participated in a one-day CliftonStrengths session that focused on fostering a strengths-based culture at Grambling State University, where each individual’s unique contributions are recognized and valued.

Representatives from Gallup Inc. and Thurgood Marshall College Fund led the group through various exercises to deepen their understanding of each talent theme. The attendees learned how to identify and leverage their strengths in different contexts through role-playing scenarios, group projects, and individual reflection periods. In the afternoon, the focus shifted to coaching techniques. They learned how to guide students through their CliftonStrengths Reports, helping them uncover insights and set actionable goals based on their talents.


The second step was completed by participating in “HEROES—HBCU’s Embracing and Retaining Our Everyday Strengths!” the inaugural HBCU CliftonStrengths certification class. Having successfully completed the 4-day session, a graduation ceremony was held and Jim Clifton, the son of CliftonStrengths founder Don Clifton, served as the commencement speaker.


Director of Grambling State University’s Center for Career and Professional Development Antoinette Livingston was one of GSU’s representatives for the “HEROES — HBCUs Embracing and Retaining Our Everyday Strengths!” program.


“Ensuring that every student at Grambling State University (GSU) has access to the CliftonStrengths Assessment is a key objective for GSU’s Center for Career and Professional Development,” Livingston said. “This represents a significant stride towards a forward-thinking approach to career and professional growth and a more empowering strategy for student retention.”


The goal for GSU President Dr. Martin Lemelle Jr. is to have all GSU students and faculty staff members participating in the CliftonStrengths program.


“One of our strategic goals at Grambling State University is to emerge as the first strengths-based HBCU in the country,” said GSU Vice President for Advancement and Innovation Brandon A. Logan. “We are seeking ambitiously for our students, faculty, and staff to clearly connect with their personal strengths as it will lead to better outcomes in fulfillment, well-being, resiliency, and overall performance.”


Livingston said that by using CliftonStrengths assessment outcomes, students can recognize their talents, develop them into strengths, and utilize these strengths to enhance their accomplishments within and beyond academics.


“By tapping into their unique strengths and talents, which are deeply embedded in their natural abilities, students can envision their future and actively engage in leadership, academic, career, and professional growth opportunities,” Livingston said. “The confidence and direction gained through self-awareness, combined with the support provided by CliftonStrengths Certified Coaches, significantly improve the retention rate at Grambling State University.


“This is particularly crucial as the university serves first-generation and financially disadvantaged students at a higher risk of not completing their degrees than their peers.”


Arianna Mosley, a sophomore kinesiology major and guard for GSU’s women’s basketball team, was one of the students that participated in the “HEROES — HBCUs Embracing and Retaining Our Everyday Strengths!” program.


“Discovering my CliftonStrengths as a student-athlete has been transformative,” Mosley said. Iet’s not just about knowing my strengths but understanding them.  It’s about using them to excel both on the court and in my studies.  It’s about determining a path for my future career success as a pediatric physical therapist.”


Tylen Davis, a sophomore criminal justice major at GSU who also participated in the “HEROES — HBCUs Embracing and Retaining Our Everyday Strengths!” program, acknowledging his CliftonStrengths forced him to act and move differently.


“It caused me to feel more confident in my leadership abilities and managerial responsibilities,” Davis said. “My CliftonStrengths could not have come at a better time than when I was discouraged.  CliftonStrengths motivated me to fight the daily fight of saving souls for Christ.  Knowing my strengths helps me on my pastoral journey, helping me become a better leader.


“I am also grateful to have the opportunity to get certified in CliftonStrengths so that I can assist someone else in learning, acknowledging, and using their strengths.”


Daphne Tolliver, Assistant Director for GSU’s Center for Career and Professional Development, said that preparing for the Gallup Strengths Certified Coach has been immensely rewarding.


“The power of self-awareness of one’s strengths and one’s team can be monumental in the making or breaking of dynamics,” Tolliver said. “Exposing our students to this tool is an essential foundation to learn more for greater growth and development.”


Now that each Grambling State attendee has completed the HEROES course, they must pass the certification exam and conduct six coaching sessions to complete the certification process.