Strengthening K-State students

Rich Mistler and his family ensure K-State students can learn and empower their personal strengths.

Building confidence, attaining goals and overcoming obstacles are easier when an individual’s strengths are known and utilized. Thanks to Rich Mistler and his family, students at Kansas State University can take the CliftonStrengths assessment to discover their natural talents to increase engagement and well-being.   

In 2010, the Introduction to Leadership Concepts class in the Staley School of Leadership Studies began using the CliftonStrengths assessment. The students valued knowing their strengths and learning how to use them to better engage on campus. It was so popular, students pushed for CliftonStrengths to be used more widely across campus, not just in leadership classes.  Rich Mistler, a strong believer in self-development, was the catalyst who first funded K-State’s use of the CliftonStrengths assessment for all K-State students in 2012. Rich’s gift was the driving force behind making K-State a strengths-based campus focused on strengths development and well-being.

Rich Mistler stepped up and invested in the project so every incoming student, new to K-State, could take the assessment. His initial funding was for three years and due to the success of the program, he has continually invested in the strengths initiative. Recently, the Mistler family created a fund to support the Strengths program, as well as other student well-being efforts.  

“Those who understand and develop their strengths grow in confidence, resilience, and well-being,” said Mary Tolar, director of the Staley School of Leadership Studies. “The Mistler family is investing in our students, and in turn, the communities and workplaces where they will work, live and contribute. This is a gift with extraordinary personal and institutional impact that ripples in powerful, positive ways far beyond K-State.”

Strengths are only strengths if lived out in a healthy productive environment. The Strengths program at K-State provides students with an opportunity to learn how to play to their strengths so they create the conditions to thrive. “Through K-State’s strengths and well-being initiative, we aim to increase student engagement and overall well-being,” said Mike Finnegan, campus lead for the CliftonStrengths for Students initiative. “K-State students can receive one-on-one strengths peer coaching to further develop their strengths, overcome challenges and discover strategies to help them reach their goal attainment.  The Mistlers’ financial contribution has provided us to be intentional about moving beyond strengths identification and into strengths development for our undergraduate students.”

As of the past academic year, two-thirds of incoming freshmen have taken advantage of strengths and well-being initiatives. And recently, K-State was awarded the Don Clifton Strengths for Students Award. Universities that receive this award are exceptional in helping students utilize their strengths to achieve success in the classroom and beyond. Educational leaders in the CliftonStrengths program are focused on what is strong with students, not what is wrong.

The Mistler family’s support of this program carries on efforts Rich established earlier at K-State. “A proud K-State alum, he has dedicated time and money in support of the university throughout his adult life, serving on the Board of Trustees and the investment advisory committee, as well as providing financial support for Blue Key’s work supporting personal development and leadership skills,” said Rich’s daughter, Megan Mistler. “As a family, we wanted to create a fund to sustain this work over time with the hope that even more people in the K-State community will benefit from the concepts of positive psychology in developing their unique potential and pursuing purpose, meaning and well-being in their life.”

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