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Academic Life Coaching is a supportive relationship for PhD students to enhance their development as scholars. Coaching is a self-directed endeavor focused on your goals, your development, and your ways of doing things. You will not be told what your goals should be or how to achieve them. Rather, your Coach will partner with you to help you get creative, plan action steps, and make habitual change. Coaching is available free of charge for PhD students at WPI.

FAQ's

  • What are common topics of focus in Coaching?

    The most common topics include themes of procrastination, imposter phenomenon, time management, work/life balance, wellness, life aspirations, career exploration, milestone completion (e.g. quals and dissertation), research habits, and professional relationships/networking. Most topics that are relevant to your functioning as a graduate student are fair to bring up in coaching.

  • What if I am questioning whether to leave WPI or switch degrees? Can I still use coaching services?

    Absolutely! These kinds of complex decisions are excellent topics to focus on. Coaches do not have a vested interest in convincing you one way or another in these decisions.

  • Are topics of discussion kept private?

    Yes, with reasonable exceptions:

    1. Your Coach may obscure your identity and discuss your case with other staff, such as a supervisor or peer, for the sake of the coaches development.
    2. Your coach may exercise their best judgement to identify you in discussing your case with other staff when there is a legitimate educational reason to do so.
    3. Your coach will not discuss your situation with your faculty members without first asking your permission, excluding extraordinary circumstances.
    4. Coaches are employees of the University and thus are obliged to report knowledge of harm or discrimination relating to protected class, for example in cases of sexual misconduct, to the Title IX office or the Dean of Students office.
  • How is Academic Life Coaching different from a mentorship?

    Coaches focus on your development with a particular focus on your life goals and aspirations. Coaches are rarely experts in the topic of focus and instead rely on you as the expert of your own life. Mentorship is similar in many respects but assumes that the mentor holds expertise in the area of focus. For example, a Mentor might be a professional who is further along in the career path that you are pursuing. It can be beneficial to have both coach and mentor figures.

  • How is working with a Coach different from working with a Therapist or Counselor?

    Therapists and Counselors have expertise in mental healthcare. Coaches do not. While coaching is focused on your development as a whole person, it is not a substitute for working with a clinician when you need clinical support. For some people, coaching can be a complement to clinical work by supporting the maintenance of routine wellness habits. For other people it can be counter-productive or even harmful, analogous to poking an unhealed wound. It is best to discuss boundaries with your coach if you have concerns.

Logistics of Academic Coaching

  • You will start with an initial meeting to discuss your goals and envision your future. We will go over how coaching works in more detail in that conversation (bring your questions).
  • In subsequent meetings, we will revisit your goals and explore how they are showing up in your life recently. Coaching ought to be a neutral space to explore how you are making progress and how you are getting stuck without judgement.
  • Coaching sessions typically conclude with a discussion about your intended action steps. These are co-constructed between coach and student and emphasize habitual changes to everyday routines, though one-time actions are also appropriate. We will revisit these actions in future sessions to aid your self-accountability.
  • Coaching is an iterative process. It tends to work best when you meet with your coach on a consistent basis over the course of a semester, typically every 1 to 4 weeks. This allows us to notice patterns together so you can better understand your habits and make changes to them. (reference CU study)
  • You can pause and restart coaching whenever you need to throughout your PhD.

Meet the Coach

Brendan Griffiths

Assistant Director, Student Success

What our students have to say

I’m having a great time and benefiting tremendously. To have someone else in my corner, who is a stable fixture in my life is so important. Sometimes I’m not sure what we’re going to talk about in session, but I always end up leaving with a good message and action items as necessary. I also am glad that I can share basically anything, even if what I share is outside our scope, I can still say it and be heard and not judged.

Honestly, every student needs this. Every student on this campus. Every student should have access to… something consistent they can have throughout their tenure.

Thank you for offering this service. It has honestly been too valuable to put into words here.

The discussion about PhD roadmap was very useful for me to understand the requirement and have better understanding of the process.

I left each academic coaching session with action item[s] to help me in my work and mindset.

Very friendly and cared about my progress and growth and gave constructive feedback.

Brendan is always supportive, and coaching has been a really positive experience for me and made me more aware of my feelings and actions.

It was a more holistic approach to address balance with academic work and life...I also believe it fills a gap in the type of student services provided.

In my experience, coaching challenged me to rethink behavior patterns, offered me a space to be completely vulnerable and expose things I’m not good at and that I wish to improve.