Our strength is in our uniqueness
Inspired by the vision of Jeff, BA’82, and Shelley Parr and their family, hundreds of annual donors have stepped up to help students thrive by supporting the Parr Centre for Thriving, which funds projects that encourage participants to learn about their unique strengths and talents.
Western student Anjali Singh on her hostel balcony in Spain. “Taking CliftonStrengths® funded by the Parr Centre for Thriving at Western has made me stronger.”
Anjali Singh couldn’t quite understand why she completed tasks, including studying for exams, so differently than her friends. “I felt insecure,” says the arts and humanities major. “I think I had a bit of imposter syndrome and I often compared myself to my peers. I thought because I was doing things differently, it meant I was doing them wrong.”
For Anjali to become successful at university her thinking needed to shift, and thankfully it did after attending a strengths-based program funded by the Parr Centre for Thriving.“
For a student to feel successful, they need to feel supported,” says Sara Wills, who has worked with the Parr Centre since it was founded in 2020. “The Parr Centre provides opportunities and access for students to focus on and learn about their whole self, including essential elements of well-being and resources that can support their success.”
One of the initiatives recently funded by the Parr Centre, and the program Anjali completed, uses the CliftonStrengths® tool to help students understand when they are at their best, and how to apply their natural talents in any situation.
“I would recommend this program to everyone,” Anjali raves. “After I did a session, it’s like a lightbulb went off. It was so affirming. I finally understood the way I am, and why it’s perfectly fine to be different since we all have our unique strengths.”
Now travelling across Europe, Anjali is working in a hostel in Spain. “I was nervous coming into university the first year, like most students. There is a lot of comparison and doubt that can come into play and the program helped me work past that. I was able to understand what I’m good at and focus on developing those skills instead of fixating on my weaknesses. I honestly feel it has made me stronger in the world.”
Thriving through belonging
The Parr Centre funds innovative projects across campus that help Western staff support student mental health and thriving.
The Cultivating Thriving Educators program encourages educators to discover their own strengths and apply them to improve their teaching methods and program design and make authentic connections with students.
After hearing about the program, Western staff member Dr. Sonya Malone, BSc’99, was quick to investigate it. “I thought, ‘I’m all about helping students thrive – why don’t I take this opportunity to learn more?’ At every turn, participants were encouraged to spend time brainstorming about ways to incorporate their learning into practice,” says the family physician. “The collaboration was wonderful!”
Crossing paths with colleagues who took the program along with her, Dr. Malone notes they all recognize the impact the program has had on their work. “If you want to better understand the needs of students, and how to evolve your work to meet these needs, this is the program for you!”
Excited to return to campus, Anjali plans to continue her involvement in the programming offered through the Parr Centre, including strengths-based learning experiences. “It made a world of difference for me. I would like to continue to help others to experience the same shift in thinking I did. Our differences are our strengths, not our weaknesses.”
For more information about the Parr Centre for Thriving and projects undertaken in 2020-2021, please read the Impact Report.