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USD and Vermillion Public Schools Learn Strengths-Based Development

VERMILLION, S.D. – On Tuesday, March 14, members of the University of South Dakota School of Education and a team of teachers and administrators from Vermillion Public Schools participated in training with Gallup Education Consultant Jerlene Mosely to learn about identifying and incorporating student strengths.

The team is collaborating as part of a Bush Foundation grant awarded to Jolley Elementary to develop a Strengths-Based Professional Development School.

Sue Galvin, principal at Jolley Elementary, is excited about the partnership. “It’s a unique and important opportunity for collaboration. The School of Education has been an active partner to help our staff and students move forward on a number of school improvement initiatives. They are willing to collaborate as true partners in learning,” said Galvin.

Strengths identification and training from Omaha based Gallup is the first step of the process. Gallup has studied human behavior for more than fifty years and developed the Clifton StrengthsFinder program to help focus on personal strengths and manage weaknesses. “All of this is about patterns of instinct,” explains Mosely. “We are all diverse and contribute in different ways. Let’s celebrate who [we] are instead of who [we’re] not.”

StrengthsFinder creator and psychologist Donald O. Clifton believed that strengths impact people significantly. Identifying and utilizing these traits is often empowering, opening up growth. For teachers and leaders, this translates into positively renaming, then changing assumptions and expectations with students. Understanding student strengths help teachers redirect or affirm student behavior, giving students more opportunities for success. “A conventional teaching approach fixes weaknesses, but a strengths-based approach identifies and develops talents,” says Mosely.

Jolley Elementary is in the first year of its Bush Foundation grant and the Gallup Strengths-Based Parenting workshop was one of the project’s initial steps. Jolley staff will continue to work closely with the USD School of Education to develop these partnerships and programs.


USD's School of Education is transformative in preparing students both inside and outside the classroom. Its research- and practitioner-based programs train future educators, counselors, leaders, fitness and sport-related professionals for successful careers. The school focuses on a comprehensive learning experience, lifelong learning and developing professionals grounded in best practice. The school’s divisions include counseling and psychology, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, kinesiology and sport management, and teacher residency and education.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.