What’s your number? Enneagram popularity rising among students

By Naomi Overby

Ellie Schut, a sophomore at Trevecca, has a permanent display of her love for the Enneagram—a tattoo of the three-part figure that sits just below the crook of her arm, and it matches a tattoo on her mother.

“My mom is actually certified to type people,” Schut said. “We were trying to come up with all these ideas for a tattoo, and she pulled out the book that had that symbol on it and I was like ‘We should definitely get that’. The whole family is all kind of nuts about this.”

The popularity of the Enneagram at Trevecca has increased over the past few years, and across campus students and faculty are learning and sharing about the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is a typology system that has been passed down over different generations and cultures, and is a model of nine human character structures.

It’s not about behaviors, but about the different drives and motivations people have, and by knowing their type it can help them relate better to others, said Amanda Grieme Bradley, the chair of social and behavioral sciences at Trevecca.

“When you think about the college journey, part of it is trying to figure out who you are. Part of emotional health is self-discovery,” said Grieme Bradley.

If she was helping a student to figure out their type, they should read about all nine types, see if any types resonate with them, and then read more in depth about it to find out what their type would be rather than only taking a test, said Grieme Bradley.

“When we look at the growth areas [of a type], we feel so exposed,” she said. “That’s how you know that you’ve found your type. Even to the extent that you might be a little hesitant to share your type with other people.”

Haley Northington, a senior at Trevecca, initially found her type through a test, but really solidified her confidence in it once she continued to consume information about the Enneagram through podcasts and books.

“I took a free test that ended up being super accurate, and what I read about it was a little painful, so I definitely felt like that fit, and then I read more about my type specifically,” said Northington.

Allison Buzard, assistant professor of social work, wanted to incorporate the Enneagram into her introductory course for social work, as others have done in courses in years past.

Having been in the field for nearly 15 years, but only learning about the Enneagram in the past five, Buzard saw that getting deeper into the Enneagram was transformative in learning self-compassion, compassion for others and recognizing when she is in healthy and unhealthy spaces.

Buzard brought in an expert to cover the topic for a few days and help students figure out their types and what that means in context of their lives and work.

“The Enneagram is so much about being honest about what’s happening on the inside,” said Buzard. “In social work we talk so much about burnout, and to me, the best self-care is building healthy proactive practices into your life every day. I think the more our students are in that head space, the more we’ll keep them in the field for a long time doing really good work.”

In Redford apartments, resident assistant Mariah Monk’s current team know about the Enneagram and their types.

“It’s helped us balance our team meetings, the conversations, and the way we understand how to handle conflict. I think we’re able to give grace towards each other a little more,” Monk said. “As for my residents, I don’t know all of their numbers, but it’s helped me give a little more grace and understanding for the fact that they could understand the world through a different perspective than I do.”

Northington also says her relationships are benefited by knowing her friends’ numbers, but while the Enneagram can be a great tool, the popular trend comes with an issue of putting people in restrictive categories instead of getting to know them.

“We don’t always want to get to know people, and it’s easier to say ‘you’re a type five, you’re data-oriented. I’m a four but I understand where you come from because I have a five wing,’” said Northington. “But there’s more to yourself than your Enneagram, your MBTI, your strengths finder. It’s important to realize your type does not define you.”

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