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Students engaged in the NC State Common Experience workshop series on Feb. 17 by virtually participating in the “Being of Service Through Your Strengths”workshop. The Common Experience workshop series, which replaced the common reading experience from previous years, is an optional opportunity for first-year students to engage with their strengths in a way that helps them navigate various aspects of college life and beyond. 

At the beginning of the fall semester, students were emailed about the CliftonStrengths Assessment, a psychology test that identifies a person’s five main strengths out of 34 possible themes. The results provide a rich description of what each strength means for a person and provided ways in which they might utilize their strengths. The Common Experience workshops, led by student leadership and engagement, help develop those strengths.

Adam Culley, the assistant director of student leadership and engagement, led the first workshop. He guided students through a digital worksheet that looked at questions such as “What social problems concern you most?” and “If you had the power to make a significant change in the lives of people, what would you change?” 

The workshop provided participants with a safe space to ruminate and reflect on what really matters to them.

“We’re hopeful that this will continue because I think a lot of our students really appreciate and understand the power… of your own… natural talents and strengths and how they can develop those,” Culley said.

Participants also discussed what difficulties they ran into while discussing the questions from the worksheet and implemented the CliftonStrengths results into their mission to serve others. Culley said that the reason the event focused on participants’ strengths rather than their weaknesses is because of how it relates to the students’ general well-being.

“This is grounded in positive psychology, so instead of ‘What is it that you’re not good at?’ and focusing on those areas of weakness and trying to compensate for those, let’s look at those areas of greatness,” Culley said.

On the surface, a student’s five strengths from CliftonStrengths seem like somewhat of a glorified horoscope; however, it uses the evaluation to create actionable items for people. Rather than describe what they ought to be, it aims to give people reason to become more of what they want to see.

Cailin Peterson, a fourth-year studying microbiology, said she felt this event helped her reconnect with her strengths and think about how she could use them to best serve others.

“[It was] just a good reminder that this is a really important thing to think about, especially as I’m leaving for jobs,” Peterson said. “[It was] a reminder that not everyone is good at everything, and we all have our certain places to be to make a difference.”

Students can find more information about the Common Experience and related workshops on the Common Experience website.