On Innovate Carolina’s podcast, On the Heels of Innovation, Indigo CEO Sheri Smith and Ted Zoller discuss how Indigo helps schools identify students who have what it takes to become powerful entrepreneurs. These individualistic, forward-thinking students will make up the backbone of successful businesses for generations to come, so Indigo helps schools by identifying these students early to allow for greater educational support and encouragement. In this episode, Sheri talks about how Indigo Project inspires entrepreneurial-oriented students to build their own ventures and tackle life’s challenges. Give it a listen!
Marette Hahn never will forget the day a freshly minted Grand Canyon University graduate dropped into her office, the big, bright, wide world rolling out the red carpet for him, spilling out all of its possibilities.
It was the summer after he graduated, his premed degree in biology still fresh in his hand. He was going to be a doctor.
His parents wanted him to be a doctor.
“But he had no desire to go into medical school,” Hahn said.
The student admitted to her, after four long years of climbing up that wall of chemistry and physics and calculus, “I hate it. I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Then came THE question: “Now what do I do?”
It wasn’t a fun conversation to have, Hahn said.
Members of the Canyon Activities Board took the Indigo Assessment, a comprehensive personality and career assessment, over the summer. Several Student Engagement groups and full-time employee groups at GCU have taken the survey to help with team-building.
These days, when the College of Science, Engineering and Technology student success specialist speaks to students, she often tells that story.
“I don’t want to have that conversation with you,” she tells them, at least not after they graduate: “I want to have that conversation with you while you’re a freshman or sophomore, while we still have time to figure it out.”
Stories like that are part of the reason why CSET takes a unique approach in serving its students and helping them find “their God-given purpose,” as CSET Dean Dr. Mark Wooden calls it.
Personality survey on steroids
It was in 2015, when GCU built its engineering programs, that the college started using the Indigo Project’s Indigo Assessment, a comprehensive career and personality assessment the department gives to its freshman engineering students.
This year’s cohort has until Sunday to take the survey before Hahn starts making her rounds in the engineering classrooms on Monday to “debrief” students on the results.
CSET Dean Dr. Mark Wooden said the assessment helps incoming engineering students determine early on whether their choice of an engineering major is truly in line with their internal motivators.
CSET is the only college on campus to incorporate an assessment like this into the curriculum, though Career Services does offer Career Compass to all GCU students who are trying to find a career path.
Just call it a personality and career survey on steroids.
“We were looking for something that would help incoming students determine early on whether their choice of an engineering major was truly in line with their internal motivators and capitalized on their unique strengths,” Wooden said.
Even if the student hasn’t asked, “Do I have the personal disposition and skills for the field I’ve chosen?” Or, “Will I be entering a career truly meant for me?” Wooden said, no problem. The department is asking – and answering – those questions through the survey.
More than academics
When helping craft the engineering program, Dr. Michael Sheller, Associate Dean of Engineering at the time, wanted the program to be more than merely academics.
“He wanted these engineers to graduate as well-rounded professionals ready to enter the workforce, and not a lot of college students have those professional skills,” said Hahn, who worked in Career Services before moving to CSET. “They don’t have enough experience, so he was really interested in trying to build, essentially, the career-development pieces into the curriculum. So rather than them having to go out and seek out that kind of assistance and guidance, it was just built in there for them.”
Such assessments have been used in corporate America for development training for decades. But in recent years, organizations such as the Indigo Project have found value in assessing college and high school students, too, and making them self-aware.
Not that the assessment’s value is just in suggesting career choices. It also gives insights into what motivates people, what value they have on a team and even how to improve their study skills.
The assessment incorporates the DISC model, which outlines four behavioral styles — dominant, influencing, steady and compliant.
The survey, which analyzes a person’s behavioral style, motivators, social emotional perceptions and 21st-century skills, takes about 45 minutes to complete. It asks students to rank, for example, what’s most important to them out of a list of 20 or so possibilities. Would it be a new car that’s ranked at No. 1? Or helping others? The survey wants to know if you value beautiful surroundings or if you like learning just for learning’s sake.
After completing the assessment, students receive a more than 20-page report detailing their top five skills, motivators, their strengths and their value to a team.
“It’s scary how accurate it is,” Hahn said of her own Indigo report.
A major part of the assessment is the DISC Model, which divides people into their behavioral styles: dominant, influencing, steady or compliant.
High dominants are big-picture risk-takers and go-getters, while low D’s are the more team-oriented peacekeepers.
Influencers are the enthusiastic ones who need to be in an environment where they’re working with people. “High I’s are going to be the people who talk to people on the plane sitting next to them,” Hahn said.
Those who score high in steadiness are loyal, calm, reliable and consistent — the ones who drive the same way to work every single day – while low S-scale people need constant change.
Those who are high on the C-scale, or compliance scale, want to know exactly what is expected of them. However, low C’s are “going to find a workaround; they’re still going to try to get that end result, but they’re going to get it in a different way,” Hahn said.
Mechanical engineering technology professor Dina Higgins has used results from the Indigo Assessment to build student teams, particularly lab groups.
Mechanical engineering technology professor Dina Higgins
“That’s the biggest thing we do with it,” she said of herself and fellow engineering professors. “I put a group together based on Indigo results. … It’s interesting, because you can form groups in different ways.”
She said she has put teams together made up of members who all were congenial types that got along well. But that combination hasn’t always yielded the best results.
“The group didn’t have the person that says, ‘Hey, we’ve got a deadline. We’ve got to go!’”
Faculty have access to a dashboard and can pull up students’ profiles, see their classes, get a sense for their behavioral styles and put together effective teams based just on communication style, for example.
As for how the assessment helps students, Higgins said that those who might have doubted their choice in their career path will see their attributes highlighted in writing: “I think it’s a real good morale-builder. They realize they do have those tools to be successful. It’s like their swagger comes back,” she said.
Higgins has taken the survey herself. It helped her realize why she wasn’t the best fit for a business-development job she once had. She was good at the educational portion of that job but said she never wanted to close the sale. Looking at her Indigo results, she was reminded how money isn’t a motivator for her.
“Of course!” she said of that revelation. “Even as old as you might be, you still can learn things.”
She loves the “time-wasters” portion of the assessment, too, which details for the user what might hinder someone from maximizing their time.
Higgins said the DISC Model has been used in the corporate world for years. Having taken this sort of assessment in college gives students an advantage. They might, for example, realize their boss is a certain behavioral type and will know when to back off.
That kind of knowledge, Higgins said, “is empowering for a student.”
While CSET is the only college to incorporate the Indigo Assessment into its curriculum, it isn’t the only department on campus using the survey. After hearing about the test, other groups on campus have been interested in taking the assessment, too.
CSET has collaborated with Student Engagement to help facilitate that.
The Associated Students of GCU, for one, “fell in love with it,” Hahn said. She has completed Indigo Assessment training with not just ASGCU but with the Canyon Activities Board, Freshmen Class Council and full-time staff, too.
“I just love doing those presentations so much because there’s so much clicking that happens. People will say, ‘Oh, that makes so much sense,’” she said. “It’s a little bit of personal awareness and development, but also some team dynamics as well.”
The Indigo Assessment is incorporated into the freshman engineering curriculum.
Rizella Espiritu, ASGCU club advocate and a sophomore nursing student, took the assessment with fellow ASGCU members during leadership training at the end of summer. The students shared their results with each other and attended roundtable discussions.
“A big part of it was to learn from each other and learn how we work differently,” Espiritu said.
Fellow ASGCU club advocate Madison Wade, sophomore environmental science student, said the test helped the team “get the best work out of each other.”
ASGCU’s Lexi King, a sophomore studying psychology, said the value in the assessment for her was it “helped us to know how to interact with each other.”
While the group used the survey mainly for team-building, King said it also guided them toward careers that meld with their personalities: “It helped you to know what environment you work best in,” she said.
Not that the assessment’s career guidance is an absolute be all, end all. Hahn said that whatever the Indigo report says, students ultimately have the power to decide what they’ll be doing after they leave the GCU campus, and they have their career and personality assessment as a tool to help them make those decisions.
“It’s not that you can’t do it. It’s that you’re really going to have to push yourself to do it if it doesn’t come naturally to you,” she said.
While engineers are high in steadiness and compliance, Higgins said she doesn’t fit the mold. She scores extremely high as an influencer and is an enthusiastic people person.
“Engineering is not on my Indigo Assessment list for jobs,” she said, making this point to her freshman engineering students: “When you get this (Indigo Assessment) over the weekend, if the word engineering isn’t on there, don’t freak out. … We’ve got three engineers (on the faculty) who are high I’s. That’s not an engineering personality.”
So many different things go into engineering, she pointed out. For her, when it comes to an “engineering personality,” really, “There isn’t one.”
What there is is the knowledge that the world still will be rolling out that red carpet and spilling out all of its possibilities.
(Version of this story published in Niagara Gazette).
Coach Bill Beilein isn’t only teaching offensive and defensive strategies to his players, he’s also teaching how to work with people different than them.
Beilein is the head men’s basketball coach at Niagara County Community College, and this season is a momentum builder. It’s the best record he’s seen at NCCC as the head coach, including decisive victories over teams like Henry Ford College (95-47) and Isaiah Christopher Academy (107-59). His goal is to capitalize on momentum to make NCCC a destination school for junior college athletes.
As Beilein and his assistant coach Mike Corbi continue to further their success, they have to dive deeper into how to develop players. “Some of the questions we have to answer are how will we grow together and understand each other?” said Beilein, “Also, who are we as a team and what are our ideal circumstances for peak player performance?”
Beilein now has the luxury of taking a step back to understand the individual strengths of his players, and how he can capitalize on them both on and off the court. He needed to understand who are the young men that make up his team.
Beilein brought on Indigo to learn more about how he can improve the human dynamics on his team. Indigo provided the Indigo Inventory to engage students in who they are and how they can work better together.
The work changed the dynamics of the team. The Inventory helped both the coaches learn more about how to communicate with and motivate individual players. It also helped the team better understand how to talk with their coaches. Beilein is a dominant, loud, move quick and act quick kind of coach who should be approached with big-picture things. Corbi is more of a low-key, consistent, detail tracking coach who can handle the day-to-day, granular issues of each player.
It also helps the coaches identify opportunities to develop students outside of athletics – character, academics, career future. It helps focus on opportunities to bring the best out of players, and translate that success to life off the court.
One of Indigo’s focuses in Western New York is to create more opportunities to connect students to career pathways and opportunities based on their strengths. “There is a huge push to expand conversations like the ones happening with NCCC’s basketball team in schools,” said Indigo Program Director Natalie. “Our goal is to reach more than 50,000 New York students in 2017 so that we can help students find that spark that will drive them in life.”
Through Natalie, Indigo Project is working with 10+ high schools and community organizations, including entities such as Liberty Partnerships, Lewiston-Porter, Lockport, Grand Island, and Niagara Global Tourism Institute.
John Waters is an Assistant Principal at Two Roads Charter school. He’s a four-time “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers” and knows where all the good places to eat are in Westminster (trust me, we went to Dae Gee last time). In my opinion, he’s one of the most chill High S and High C’s I’ve ever met.
Not only is Waters clocking 40+ hours a week working with the Two Roads family, but he’s also working on his masters right now at the University of Colorado Denver. He did an organization profile on Indigo Project this past fall, interviewing multiple members of the Indigo team to learn about what we are doing.
We loved his paper. Not only is Waters a sharp operator, but he’s worked with Indigo for nearly a year now at Two Roads. He’s seen us from a researcher and client perspective. This is how, in his eyes, he sees our mission:
“To understand Indigo Project’s mission is to also understand that students do not achieve success in secondary education solely through standardized practices and methodologies. While all good teachers know that there are various learning styles within each classroom … many struggle with how to dig deeper in knowledge of their students … Indigo enters when a school wants to deconstruct these and discuss solutions and opportunities for growth.”
There are no systems or standardized practices that meets the needs of students in secondary education because there are no systems or practices that fits for everyone. Students are different, and Indigo helps deconstruct what makes students who they are. We build solutions with administrator teams.
One of the great things about Two Roads is that their entire administration team is on board with the work Indigo is doing:
“Because the administrators at my school are committed to understanding our students beyond their academic performance, we felt there were missing pieces in our puzzle of holistically developing our student body…Our leadership team was frustrated with our students’ low state-level standardized test scores because we knew they were learning but struggled to perform well on the tests’ markers.”
Two Roads’ district, Jefferson County Public Schools, is beginning the conversation around non-academic outcomes (NAO). JeffCo is working to create more opportunities in development for growth mindset, grit, collaboration, and mindfulness to name a few.
NAO is still in its early days, and districts everywhere are working to define what it is, how to measure it, and what “impact” really means. It’s part of the conversation we are having with Two Roads currently. It takes time. It takes effort.
Waters knows that the newness of NAO means it will take time to see tangible results. Although the long-range goals are still being discovered in Indigo and Two Roads’ partnership, Waters still believes Indigo is part of the future of NAO:
“If Jeffco and other school districts in the state or nationwide choose to explore NAO, I would advocate strongly for Indigo Project despite my school’s lack of identifying definitive outcomes at this time.”
This is what we’re most excited for in 2017. Now that we’ve established our presence in Colorado, New York, California, and Arizona (projects in over ten states), we are working to build new tools and platforms that will allow schools to do even more than they are already doing with Indigo data. We’re discovering new ways to make non-academic data intersect intelligently with curriculum, counseling, analysis, and most importantly, building personal and meaningful human relationships that matter.
We’re not a perfect company, and we’re still growing into who we are. But it’s always encouraging to see schools give honest opinions, help us grow, and stand by us as we continue to move forward in the mission of impacting one million students. Because students, at the end of the day, are why anyone who works at Indigo gets out of bed in the morning.