Upcoming Events

November 2, 2020 to November 4, 2020

8:00 am - 4:00 pm

2020 CACUSS Institute on Strengths-Based Practice in Higher Education


The Institute on Strengths-Based Practice in Higher Ed is a professional development opportunity that provides higher education professionals with the opportunity to explore their personal strengths, learn how to create a Strengths based approach to work on their campus and how their Strengths connect to the CACUSS Competencies. During this two and half day institute, participants will explore these concepts in a cohort learning model comprised of self reflection, program assessments, strategic development and professional
development mapping.

This institute is suited for entry and mid level higher education professionals that engage in program development, staff management and strategic development. The curriculum has been created with flexibility for application to all institution types and levels of program development.


Student affairs professionals who attend this institute will be able to:

  • Examine strengths-based approaches within the broader higher education landscape;
  • Use personal strengths to inform professional practice;
  • Create a strengths-based program development map specific to their unique role and/or institutional needs;
  • Identify opportunities for strengths-based professional development;
  • Select strengths-based activities that can be implemented on their respective campus.

Participants will receive:

  • Code to complete the Clifton Strengths inventory
  • Strengths based tool kit which includes:
    • Reflection activities
    • Mapping templates
    • Strengths map for role on campus and programs
    • Templates for each Strengths based approach section
    • Strengths activity guides to use with staff and students

Monday, November 2-Wednesday, November 4, 2020, TORONTO, ON

Curriculum Overview
Day One

Strengths Plenary Session

This plenary session will provide participants with current literature and discussion on the use of Strengths in higher education. Participants will have the opportunity to analyze current literature and reflect on its applicability to their roles, student affairs perspective and work on their home campus. Setting the stage for the Clifton Strengths Institute with a literature review and analysis will provide participants with the tools to maintain and academic lens throughout the remaining curriculum.

In this section of the institute, the facilitators will address the strengths and challenges of the tool. Similar to all assessments and theory, Clifton Strengths comes with components that all users must consider when applying it to their work and institutions. Participants will have the opportunity to explore this analysis and apply to further into the curriculum.

Through this session the facilitators will provide participants with a literature package as a key step in their introduction to a Strengths based approach to their work on their home campus.

Understanding Your Strengths

Before applying a Strengths based approach, participants will explore their Top 5 Strengths (inventory completed before arriving at the institute). This exploration provides participations with the opportunity to not only learn more about themselves but also to learn more about the inventory tool itself and how it may be applied to their home institution.

Day Two

Co Curricular Development with a Strengths Approach

To kick off day two, participants will apply their self reflection and exploration of the Strengths inventory tool to explore opportunities for application to programs and outcomes at their home institution. The day will be broken up into sections that will provide participants with insight into a Strengths based approach for specific components of student affairs work. Each section will include content delivery, application and tangible take aways for each participant.

Sections will include:

  • Hiring and recruitment
  • Training
  • Coaching Students
  • Managing staff
  • Strengths Based Strategic Plan

Day Two will end with a case study activity to provide participants with the opportunity to apply
their learning and assess next steps in their Strengths based application journey.

Day Three (half day)

Strengths & CACUSS Competencies

Day three will culminate learning from day one and two, and apply it to the CACUSS Competencies. During this module of the curriculum, participants will have the opportunity to consider the Clifton Strengths tool as it relates to the CACUSS Competencies from a personal/professional journey as well as from a program development lens.

Alongside this reflection, participants will have the opportunity to select a process/program at their home institution and reflect on how work is assigned, decisions are made and strategies are built to determine. Through this reflection participants will have the opportunity to consider how Strengths can help refresh  approaches to work and determine if a Strengths based approach can enhance constructs in their department/campus.


Sara Wills

Sara Wills works at Western University as the Manager, Integrated Learning and Assessment, researching and supporting the implementation of strengths-based practices in integrated co-curricular learning, professional development experiences, and assessment practices.  As an experienced student affairs practitioner and CliftonStrengths coach, she is passionate about supporting educators in creating strengths-based learning experiences and coaching students in exploring their own talents, career aspirations and purpose. Sara is also a Senior Consultant for Pathways Educational & Career Consulting, guiding organizations and government groups in developing a culture that shares the language of strength and leverages individual talents. Sara holds a Masters of Education from Memorial University, certifications in Career & Academic Advising, Leading Assessment, Life Coaching, and Positive Education, and has been a faculty member at various national and international learning and assessment institutes. 



Shari Walsh

Shari Walsh works at Niagara College as the Associate Director, Student Engagement, Academic Advising and Career Services. She is also a Senior Consultant for Pathways Education & Career Consulting, where she has the pleasure of supporting organizations and government groups in developing a shared understanding of a strengths based approach and leveraging their talents.  With 14 years of higher education, learning and leadership development experience Shari is passionate about working with individuals and professionals at all levels to help them explore their strengths, learn their potential and discover their path to success.
Shari holds a M.A in Student Affairs Administration from Michigan State University, certification as a Clifton Strengths coach, faculty experience within Ontario Colleges and currently serves a Director at Large on the CACUSS Board of Directors. 

Early Bird Registration
February 4, 2020 - September 11, 2020

Member: $999
Non-member: $1099

Regular Registration
September 12, 2020 - October 17, 2020

Member: $1049
Non-member: $1149

Location, Travel, and Accommodations

This 2.5 day workshop is taking place at the Lucie and Thornton Blackburn Conference Centre at George Brown College, located at 80 Cooperage St., Toronto, Ontario.

We will have local accommodation information available soon.

Cancellation Policy: Event cancellations must be received in writing (via email to contact@cacuss.ca) no later than Friday, October 17, 2020. No refunds will be issued if the request is received after Friday, October 17, 2020. Cancellations received prior to Friday, October 17, 2020 will receive a refund minus a $75 administration fee. Your event registration can be transferred to another delegate. Transfer requests must be received in writing (via e-mail to contact@cacuss.ca). Transfers are subject to a $20 administration fee.

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