The on-line environment is the new frontier for academia struggling to define its place in the evolving economy. A concern is how to engage students who maximize their on-line experience and graduate in a timely manner. A strengths model was used as the basis for development of an on-line doctoral nursing program. Upon entering the program, students were given a strengths assessment that focused both students and faculty on the positive attributes students were bringing to their doctoral studies. A positive feedback methodology using on-line discussions in each course was used to support the identified strengths. The optimal picture of a successful entering doctoral student appears to be a person whose top five strengths are learner, achiever, input, connectedness and responsibility. A strengths model promotes a positive learning environment and supports a teacher–learner dynamic where faculty members are encouraged to focus on the students' strengths rather than their challenges.