How do you help someone move forward when you don’t know what advice to give them? Academic Life Coaching is an approach that can help students develop as scholars, community members, and whole people. The Office of Graduate Studies, in collaboration with the Morgan Teaching and Learning Center, is offering a three-part workshop series this semester on the essentials of Academic Life Coaching for a cohort of faculty and post-docs, especially those who mentor or advise graduate students. Learn more below! Please visit this Qualtrics page to express interest in participating and to provide scheduling information. This does not commit you to participating, as a detailed calendar will be forthcoming. We aim to start in February and wrap up in April.


Academic Life Coaching is an emerging student support service in higher education. Coaches work with students in regular one-on-one conversations. Topics of focus are chosen by the student to best align with their goals and do not assume that the coach has expertise in the topic of focus. Thus, coaching may cover a broad landscape inclusive of most topics that relate to functioning as a student, excepting the realm of pathology (psychological or physical). Graduate students at WPI frequently bring up themes of imposter phenomenon, procrastination, professional relationships, wellness, and productivity in their sessions.

So what makes this approach distinct from other helping-by-talking relationships, such as mentoring, advising, consultancy, or therapy? Though there are certainly areas of overlap, coaching is premised on the assumption that individuals are whole, resourceful, and creative. Coaches constrain themselves to act strictly as a facilitator of exploratory goal-oriented activities and conversation. They suspend the desire to influence others' choices, supplanting advice-giving with questioning; guiding with non-directive exploration; expertise with curiosity; listening-to-respond with listening-to-facilitate-insight. Coaches acknowledge the past as context for the present without diving deep into personal history.

Workshop Format

A cohort of faculty and post-docs will meet three times in the semester to investigate what Academic Life Coaching is, how it functions, and what you might adapt from the coaching approach to fit your context. You will have space to connect with colleagues to critically reflect on your habits as a mentor.

Each of the three sessions will be 2 hours in-person and have two parts: 1) lesson and discussion then 2) practice, reflection, and collaborative meaning making. Expect to pair with colleagues for authentic mini-coaching sessions, which may feel vulnerable. You’ll bring a low-intensity topic relating to your professional life to be coached on each session.

Lesson content will include:

  • Assumptions and beliefs foundational to coaching.
  • Conversational frameworks.
  • Skills, especially reflective questioning, reflective listening, and direct communication.
  • Making effective referrals.

The workshop will be facilitated by Brendan Griffiths, a coaching practitioner and Assistant Director of Student Success in the Office of Graduate Studies.