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Unlocking Student Potential: Leveraging Clifton Strengths for Academic and Career Success

First-Year Student Carter Davis


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In an effort to foster personal and academic development, the First-Year Programs (FYP) department within the Division of Student Success (DSS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville continues to embark on a unique initiative that involves close to 6,000 students completing a Clifton Strengths assessment prior to the commencement of classes.  

This proactive approach is particularly emphasized among First-Year Students (FYS) who are not only required to complete this assessment as part of their First-Year Seminar (FYS 101) course, but are also guided throughout the academic year on how to leverage their identified strengths for optimal academic and career success. 

First-Year Student Diana Vermillion


The Clifton Strengths Introduction in FYS 101: 

The foundation of this initiative lies in the incorporation of the Clifton Strengths assessment into the First-Year Seminar (FYS 101) curriculum. As part of their introduction to university life, First-Year students delve into the exploration of their unique strengths through the Clifton Strengths assessment.

This serves as a catalyst for self-discovery, laying the groundwork for a transformative academic journey. 


This year marked a special highlight in UT’s Clifton Strengths initiative as division leaders in Student Success randomly selected a group of First-Year students who completed the assessment before the start of classes.

Among this cohort, a standout individual was awarded a special item from the VolShop, creating a positive and motivating environment for students to actively engage with their strengths.

Guidance and Application: 

The integration of Clifton Strengths in FYS 101 goes beyond mere identification; students are actively encouraged to understand how they can best leverage their strengths to promote both academic and career success.

Faculty and mentors work closely with students to connect their strengths to various aspects of their academic pursuits and potential career paths. 

Memorization as an End Goal: 

A noteworthy objective of this initiative is that, by the end of the Fall semester, all First-Year students should be able to recite their top-5 Clifton Strengths from memory.

This commitment to memorization is not just a rote exercise; rather, it underscores the intention to internalize and integrate these strengths into students’ daily lives, providing a solid foundation for future academic and professional endeavors. 

First-Year Student Faith Branson


Benefits and Long-Term Impact: 

The Clifton Strengths initiative at our institution transcends traditional academic metrics. By investing in students’ self-awareness and understanding of their unique strengths, we aim to cultivate a generation of graduates who are not only academically adept but also empowered with a profound understanding of their capabilities.

The long-term impact of this initiative is anticipated to extend beyond the classroom, influencing career choices, personal development, and the overall success of our graduates in a rapidly evolving professional landscape. 

First-Year Student Carlos Gomez


In an era where holistic development is increasingly valued, UT’s embrace of the Clifton Strengths initiative signifies a commitment to nurturing the multifaceted potential within each student.

Through targeted integration into the First-Year Seminar curriculum and ongoing support, UT aspirse to empower students not just with knowledge but with a deep understanding of their individual strengths, paving the way for a successful academic journey and fulfilling careers.