Jill Hoffman needed clarity about her unique genius, so she could align her work with her authentic self, and take heartfelt action on some big goals. 

Jill had just moved across the country for a new tenure track position. She was feeling stuck and wondering "Did we make the right choice?" She wanted to feel that her work aligned with her values, fed her, and didn't leave her stressed out and overwhelmed. She came into the Pillars of Genius™ program with high expectations, and left with the clarity she needed for her career - and to take action on her big dreams.


Jill Hoffman
Assistant Professor
School of Social Work
Portland State University

My research interests focus on two broad areas. First, the connections between early childhood systems, with an ultimate goal of strengthening the connections that exist between early childhood serving systems, as well as developing connections that are not yet present. Second, support for families with young children, as well as support for the professionals working with these families. Currently, I am working in collaboration with Oregon’s WIC program, examining service use and demographic patterns for WIC eligible families, as well as self-care related supports for participants during the later postpartum period.

Why did you join the Pillars of Genius™ program?

"When I first heard about the Pillars of Genius™ program, I was close to the end of my second year on the tenure track. 

All my family, we had moved across the country for this job - we're from the East coast now we're up in the Pacific Northwest - and I was feeling a bit stuck and not really aligned with my work and thinking...

Did we make the right choice? What am I doing?

I wanted to feel that my work aligned with my values, and fed me and didn't leave me stressed out and overwhelmed.

I wanted to be excited about what I was doing. I was catching glimpses of that - I could see it sometimes - but I was really wanting to make that an all the time thing."

What had you tried, and why did you feel this would be different?


I spent a lot of time - my first couple of years - thinking each week about what's working, what's not working, and how can I adjust things.

I realized that the truth was, even with self-reflection, I'm still missing the mark. 

So I thought - what can I do differently?  What other thing can I try?

I saw your webinar and really resonated with what you said. 

I saw examples of other faculty who had come through this program, and what it had done for them. 

I saw the support from you and the other people who are involved.

I saw what was possible.

And I thought - all right, this is it.  I'm going to try this."

"I spent a couple of years thinking about what's not working, and how can I adjust things. I realized even with self-reflection, I'm still missing the mark.  I thought - what other thing can I try? I saw examples of other faculty who had come through Pillars of Genius™ program, and what it had done for them.  I thought - all right - I'm going to try this."

- Jill Hoffman, Assistant Professor

How has the clarity from the program made a difference for you?



I use my Pillars of Genius™ as  a decision-making tool when I am structuring and prepping my classes, so the things that I'm doing - the activities, the assignments - are aligned with me and my unique genius.

For each activity or assignment, I'd run through how each of my Pillars of Genius showed up - and if not, how I could incorporate more of my (unique genius) into what I was doing.


I think just in general from, from thinking about from an academic faculty standpoint, Having my Pillars of Genius™ as a framework from which to view everything, and decision-making in terms of projects - what I get involved in, what I don't get involved in.


"The first main way that my Pillars of Genius™ have shown up and the work that I'm doing is in my third year review.  I'm at RMI university. at the midway point of tenure is a bigger tenure review process, before the actual real deal. You have to put together a personal statement document and talk about  where your research is going.  I was in the process of putting that together when I was in the Pillars of Genius™ program. So I used my Pillars of Genius™ - my unique genius that I identified in the program,  as a way to organize pieces of those documents.

I use it as an organizational framework to help me write these documents, and make them more interesting to read - and to write. 


Even for things where I don't necessarily have a choice as to whether I'm involved in them or not. Knowing why this experience is causing me a bit of stress or something. I'll know why, because it's bumping up with a particular Pillar of Geniius™.

So having that knowledge of where the issue is, and seeing how I can shift that experience to align it a bit better.


After going through the program and having clarity with my Pillars of Genius, they were really a catalyst for all these other things that had been brewing that I wanted to do, but I kept being like, should I do it? Should I not do it? How should I do it?

After going through the program, I was just like, you know what, I'm just going to do it.  This is what's happening.

I started the blog "Toddler on the Tenure Track" about my experiences of being a new faculty member with a young kid, with the hopes that other people who have young kids in academia might  find something helpful in what I'm doing.

So putting myself out there like that, with the blog, with the hopes that it helps one other person.

"Having clarity with my Pillars of Genius (was) a catalyst for all these other things I wanted to do, but I kept being like, should I do it? Should I not do it? After going through the program, I (knew)...I'm going to do it. This is what's happening." 

- Jill Hoffman, Assistant Professor

What has the Impact been? changed for you because of the Pillars of Genius™ Program?

"The teaching part of it was something that I definitely have struggled with. Pillars of Genius™ helped change my teaching. 

It made it so much more fun to be in the classroom and just aligned with me - especially as someone who never really thought of myself as a teacher. I got into academia for the research.

During my third year chat with my Dean, she even mentioned the change in my teaching evaluations over the first three years of being, being in my position and how they drastically improved and how did I do that?

This process had a lot to do with it of making it more me and then showing up in a way that makes things fun and students see that and enjoy the class more."

I'm not even doing this on a piece of paper - just in my mind thinking through wow. The different areas and - Oh, okay. That's, that's why I'm stressed about this because it's bumping up against one of my Pillars of Genius™.

I did have an experience recently where I was given an option to switch some things around in what I'm doing next year. And I immediate knew - I'm going to do this one because it (aligned with my Pillar of Genius™).

I created - as a spinoff of the blog - a virtual planning retreat for academics called "Plan-It".

I'm really excited. I've got people registered and I am thinking about potentially another one in September, and then another one before the spring and winter  terms. And definitely next year too. So, more in the future.

Watch Jill Hoffman Interview Now


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