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Professional coaching for PhD students

“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.

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

INDIVIDUAL COACHING (available to second 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.
If you are interested in individual coaching, please sign up here for an introductory session.

GROUP COACHING (available to first 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 four times during the Fall semester.
Registration for the program is closed. If you are interested in group coaching, please contact Magda Calvillo ([email protected]).

COACHING FOCUSED ON A SINGLE THEME (group meetings + individual coaching):
Leadership Coaching
Leadership can take on many forms. The most common understanding of leadership is defined by a position or a title that assumes leading and  managing others. But there is more to it. We all are leaders one way or another, at work and at home, and when we choose to be responsible for the direction of how things are going in our lives, how we shape the relationships with others and the experience we create – all of that is leadership.
In a small group you will meet monthly throughout the semester with other students who want to improve their leadership skills.
The group will meet 4 times during the semester, every three weeks on Wednesdays. In between group meetings you will have 4 individual coaching sessions scheduled at your convenience. 
Registration for this program is closed. If you are interested in Leadership Coaching, please contact Magda Calvillo ([email protected]).

Motivation and Productivity Coaching
As a researcher you mostly work on your own and it can be really challenging at times when no structure is provided. It is hard to maintain motivation to work and to be productive. Motivation and productivity focused coaching can help you with that. You will identify your time management challenges, develop personalized strategies to improve productivity, set achievable goals, and create routines that align with your priorities to maintain motivation over time. It’s not just about optimizing the use of time, it’s about fostering a sense of control and balance in your life.
The group will meet 4 times throughout the semester, every three weeks on Thursdays. In between group meetings you will have 6 individual coaching sessions scheduled at your convenience. 
Registration for this program is closed. If you are interested in Motivation and Productivity Coaching, please contact Magda Calvillo ([email protected]).

Constructive Feedback Coaching
Constructive Feedback Coaching Program is designed to empower individuals to deliver feedback in a way that is constructive, meaningful, and supportive. This program focuses on developing the skills and mindset needed to provide feedback that promotes growth and improvement, rather than fostering a negative or discouraging environment. The primary goal of the Constructive Feedback Coaching Program is to equip participants with the tools and techniques necessary to deliver feedback and navigate difficult conversations in a way that inspires positive change and professional development.
The group will meet 4 times during the semester, every three weeks on Wednesdays. In between group meetings you will have 4 individual coaching sessions scheduled at your convenience. 
Registration for this program is closed. If you are interested in Constructive Feedback Coaching, please contact Magda Calvillo ([email protected]).


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.

The International Coaching Federations (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.

Graduate students explaining coaching process and their experience with coaching offered in CSE.

How is coaching different from therapy, mentoring and advising?

Venn Diagram intersection of coaching, mentoring, and Advising
The differences and intersections between teaching, mentoring, and 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. In contrast to an advisor or a mentor, coach 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.

Therapy is focused on addressing emotional, psychological, and mental health issues. It aims to explore and heal past wounds, traumas, and patterns that may be causing distress and negatively impacting a person’s mental and emotional well-being.

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 experienced and knowledgeable individual provides guidance, support, and advice to someone less experienced, typically referred to as a mentee. The mentor’s role is to share their expertise, insights, and life lessons in order to help the mentee develop their skills, knowledge, and personal growth.

Coaching can help 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 an ICF Certified Executive 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, coach and adjunct faculty. I strongly believe that bringing coaching as an additional form of support for graduate students empowers them to achieve even more and grow as a whole person — professionally and personally — to be better prepared for life after graduation.

If you have any questions about coaching initiatives in CSE, please contact Magda Calvillo: [email protected]