Communication Connection

Friends of Com Newsletter

Department News

The Adaptive, Self-aware Student Gets The Worm

Friday, February 21, 2014

By: Laura D. Garmany

In an example of unexpected networking, Dr. Rick Olsen and C.D. "Hoop" Morgan III, founder of the Forte Institute, crossed paths at Morgan's son's wedding. Dr. Olsen's Wilmington native band, School Boys, performed at the ceremony's reception, and their interaction left one another inspired and ready to embark on a new project together. Much different from the instruments in his band, Dr. Olsen found that Forte was a communication instrument, one that could tune the strengths of his students.

Morgan's Forte Institute, a Wilmington based company that services coaches, trainers, human resources managers, and other types of people managers, provides a unique assessment that outlines an individual's communication strengths and compiles the findings into an easily understandable profile. The Forte profile distinguishes itself from other generic personality tests with its adaptability component, whether it's adapting to different people or to groups of people. Dr. Olsen accepted Morgan's offer to make an investment in the UNCW Communication Studies Department and allow his students to use the Forte program free of charge. "I think if it were a different kind of instrument, I wouldn't have been so excited… it was genuinely in alignment with what our department was about." said Dr. Olsen, "Forte is about adapting to others, it's not about 'here's my personality - deal with it.'"

As a prominent tool used in the Communication Studies Department's gateway courses, the Forte profile focuses on building self-awareness in its users. The goal is for students to be able to talk about themselves in insightful ways, using the unique describers that the Forte profile provides based on their responses. With this vocabulary, students are able to convey themselves as "broadly-educated, versatile, and self-aware," which Dr. Olsen says are some of the most important characteristics a candidate should communicate for an entry-level job position. They can specifically answer questions about their desire to work for a company by citing their key motivators, according to their Forte profile, and how that company demonstrates consistency with those qualities.

The impact of Forte has spread from the COM Department, as faculty and students are working to integrate its curriculum into UNCW Housing and Residence Life. Specialized groups of COM students have been charged with a directed independent study to design a training sequence for resident assistants. The COM Department hopes to see this initiate a roommate pairing system that would be unique to the UNCW residential experience. This vision also includes piloting Forte profiles in the University Studies courses for freshmen and receiving their feedback on the program as well. For now, student partnerships with Forte are mostly episodic as the COM Department contemplates potential next steps. However, Morgan is enthusiastic about welcoming further involvement and expansion of Forte in new, innovative ways. Morgan's vision for Forte's future includes classroom application and understanding "how professors can adapt their teaching style to the learning styles of their students" using Forte's Team Pulse reports, which summarizes the group's strengths and patterns.

In the future, the COM Department plans to make more use of Forte internally, by referencing it in more classes and group projects. With a start in Residence Life and the UNI courses, Forte has the potential to spread throughout the entire institution, applying to all fields of study.