CEHD Strengths Spotlight | Anna Mraz, Academic Advisor

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At the University of Minnesota and in CEHD we feel every student has what they need to be successful. We believe in taking a strengths based approach and work with students to learn to use their talents so they can be developed into strengths.

Anna Mraz, Academic Advisor, talks about her strengths.
What are your top 5 talent themes?
Woo, Communication, Positivity, Empathy, Developer
In what ways do you use your talents each day?
As an academic advisor, I find that I use many of my talents each day at my job. I don’t think I could function very effectively if I did not understand and often demonstrate Empathy when students are explaining their concerns, questions and their lives to me.
My Developer theme helps me to notice and cultivate potential in others, something that I find well-suited to my job. I can think of many times in which I have been meeting with a student and remarked upon a previous semester of strong grades. “That is so great, well done!”, I will say (and most of the time the student will smile and sometimes even agree with me).
My Positivity theme can take on many different forms throughout the day. At work, I find that I am often someone who is energetic and positive in meetings and in informal gatherings with my colleagues. I find it easy to get others excited about almost anything simply by expressing my own enthusiasm. Further, I am frequently looking for ways to make a presentation/meeting/appointment/topic more fun. People tend to be happier when things are more fun and I am drawn to people who I perceive to have positive energy and who are also fun.
Communication is probably the primary way I spend my day, meaning that I am constantly engaged in it. If I am not emailing a student or colleague, I am speaking with them, or presenting to them, or perfecting a written document that will be distributed to a larger audience. If I am not at work communicating, I am at home communicating with my two young children and spouse. While some people find solace in silence I am drawn to conversations, both in – person and electronic.
Finally, the Woo. Woo is a talent theme I am still striving to understand for myself but I believe that that it intersects with my Communication and Positivity quite easily. I will sometimes be speaking with a student in an advising appointment and I will find myself wanting to ensure that student leaves the appointment happy – both with the information received and with me personally. In a nutshell, I strive to be well-liked, sort of like Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”. In presentations I will find myself thinking of ways to engage with my audience so that they will enjoy the presentation (positivity!), understand the information presented (communication), and come away with a good opinion of the presented (Woo!).
How have you sought to develop your talent themes?
Before I knew anything about StrengthsQuest, I applied to a graduate program in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology in CEHD. As you might expect, much of the skills we worked to refine in this program were related to Empathy and Communication. Beyond graduate school, I frequently find that I volunteer to give presentations on various topics in order to practice my Communication skills while also better understanding how to use my Woo in group settings. Finally, I have taught an online class for the past several semesters that focuses on career planning. There are many instances in this class in which I draw upon my Developer theme as I encourage students on their career-planning journey.
I find that I can sometimes become more concerned about the feeling around a specific event (are people having fun, is the content clear, do they feel welcomed) as well as the enjoyment of simply meeting with colleagues with whom I enjoy spending time, that I can sometimes forget to step back and consider the ideas and processes related to the planning. In those cases, it is helpful for me to partner with colleagues with high Ideation, Achiever and Strategic.
What surprises you about your talent themes?

I was very surprised by the Woo. In fact, I emailed our Assistant Dean for Student Services to tell her that I thought StrengthsQuest was an invalid instrument because Woo was listed as my top talent theme! I was beyond surprised at that. After talking with her a bit and with some of my colleagues a bit more, I can see the Woo (or the drive to have others like me and to meet new people) but I am still working to understand how I express it.
Which talent themes fit you best and why?
While I can see aspects of my daily self in each of my top five talent themes, Communication and Positivity resonated the most with me when I first saw my results. I enjoy and appreciate good communication, both written and verbal and I appreciate it even more when it is delivered in an enthusiastic and positive way.
In presentations I will find myself thinking of ways to engage with my audience so that they will enjoy the presentation (positivity!), understand the information presented (communication), and come away with a good opinion of the presented (Woo!).
Visit Strengths at the U to learn more!