Professional coaching for PhD students

The CSE graduate programs office offers professional coaching to PhD students in CSE. Coaching sessions are available for individuals and small groups:

Group coaching (available to first and second year PhD students). In a small group setting you will grow self awareness and a sense of community with others who, just like you, are embarking on this journey. You will define your values, discover what is holding you back from reaching your goals, and determine what you can do to change it. The group meets five times per semester.

Individual coaching (available to third year PhD students and beyond). In a one-on-one meeting with a coach you will explore a particular topic of your choice and plan a strategy and accountability for reaching your goals.

To sign up as an individual or a group, please fill out one of the below forms and indicate your preferred meeting time.

If you have questions, please contact Magda Calvillo: magdaec@umich.edu

What is coaching?

Coaching is a process of facilitating another person’s learning, development, well-being and performance. Coaching helps raise self-awareness:  individuals identify goals and create their own strategies to achieve them, develop their own skills, and change their own attitudes and behaviors to reach their full potential.

As Bill Gates says, everyone needs a coach:

Definition of Coaching from the International Coaching Federation:
“ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.

“We all have goals we want to reach, challenges we’re striving to overcome and times when we feel stuck. Partnering with a coach can change your life, setting you on a path to greater personal and professional fulfillment.

How is coaching different from mentoring and advising?

Venn Diagram intersection of coaching, mentoring, and Advising
The differences and intersections between teaching, mentoring, and coaching

Coaching: Coaching is different from advising and mentoring. Professional coach does not tell the coachee what to do but helps them clarify the issue, identify solutions and develop strategy for achieving goals, also, keeps one accountable for moving forward. A coach, in contrast to an advisor or a mentor does not offer a solution but supports the client in figuring it out for themselves. That is one of the reasons the coaching process is so powerful: the coachees gain self awareness, they get to experience the spectrum of their own strengths and capabilities.

Advising:  in an academic setting an advisor supervises the research work students do. There is a clear agenda and an advisor’s role is to make sure students know what steps they need to take to make progress.

Mentoring: implies that an older and wiser person, who is senior and advanced in a field one aspires to succeed in passes on their advice.

Coaching can help if you would like to:

  • improve communication with your peers 
  • improve communication with your advisor
  • set goals for academic work – discuss priorities, plan strategy and demonstrate accountability
  • get clarification on career dilemma – academia vs. industry
  • reach/maintain work-life balance
  • address imposter syndrome
  • set up healthy boundaries- get better at time management and navigating competing interests
  • maintain work motivation
  • get support in facing many other challenges you encounter in your journey as a PhD student.

About the coach – Magda Calvillo

Magda Calvillo

When I am being asked what coaching is, I like to bring Jenny Rogers’ words: “Coaching is about closing the gap between people’s potential and their current state.”

This is the excitement that coaching brings – the raising of self awareness that makes you realize how resourceful you are and how much potential you have. Coaching is a “choice in action” where I assist the people I work with in setting goals and identifying the strategy for reaching them. I keep my coachees motivated and accountable throughout the process.

I am a professional coach. I hold a Master’s degree in Literature from the University of Gdansk, Poland and a bachelor’s degree in General Studies with a focus on Human Services from the University of Connecticut.
The majority of my career I have worked in education as a teacher, trainer and adjunct faculty. The experience of working in administration at U-M has given me the opportunity to observe and learn about the student, faculty and staff experience in this institution. I strongly believe that bringing coaching as an additional form of support for graduate students will empower them to achieve even more and grow as a whole person — professionally and personally — to be better prepared for life after graduation.