An Interdisciplinary Culture of Advising, Coaching and Mentoring at Duke

Advising, coaching and mentoring.

As a doctoral student, you’ve already discovered that creating new knowledge and building a career is not a solo enterprise.  

When seeking academic and professional guidance, have you considered looking beyond your home department or programs for additional guidance? Interdisciplinary networks offer potentially transformative avenues to foster your development, including:  

  • A safe, nonjudgmental and (typically) confidential forum, to hold conversations that may feel too “high stakes” with Ph.D. program advisors and others responsible for evaluating you 
  • Multiple, fresh perspectives on issues and questions important to you a break from the “groupthink” that arises among people who inhabit similar disciplines
  • Exposure to different kinds of research questions and approaches to answering them, which may lead to new collaborations as well 
  • Opportunities to see that the challenges you face as a Ph.D. student are not unique to you, or even to members of your cohort or discipline, which can have a powerful “normalizing” effect and increase your feeling of self-agency 
  • Opportunities to widen both your professional and social networks across Duke, and an enhanced confidence in your ability to help and mentor others who aren’t necessarily like you.   

This page maps out an expanding array of interdisciplinary advising, coaching and mentoring resources sponsored or cosponsored by the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies. 

What’s the Difference Between Advising, Coaching and Mentoring?

There are varying definitions and understandings of each of these terms (plus a lot of confusion). For our purposes:

Advising: Provides advice and specialized expertise (such in the case of a dissertation advisor) to support another person’s learning and development.

Coaching: A structured process of inquiry that helps individuals pinpoint problems, identify solutions, develop and execute strategy, set goals and exercise accountability for moving forward. A coach, unlike an advisor, will not tell you what to do, but will support you in figuring things out.

Mentoring: A broad set of interactions (which might include advising and coaching), within the context of a personal relationship, that supports the learning and growth of another person.

Coaching Resources  

“Ph.D. Transitions” Group Coaching Program  

Maria at NCSU.This one-of-a-kind program, directed and facilitated by Maria LaMonaca Wisdom, ACC (Associate Certified Coach), helps Duke Ph.D. students from all disciplines navigate the many changes and learning curves embedded in a five-to-seven-year doctoral program.

Small interdisciplinary groups (four to five students) will be formed around distinct program stages (“early” coursework; “middle” exams/prospectus; “advanced” dissertation/job search) and commit to meeting four times over the course of the semester or summer (six hours total). Participants will be expected to take an active role in:  

  • Identifying individual goals (academic, personal, professional) for the coaching sessions  
  • Cultivating a deeper sense of self-awareness, including personal strengths and growth areas  
  • Identifying appropriate action items, and demonstrating accountability for making progress
  • Respectfully supporting, coaching and mentoring others in the group  

Coaching can accommodate a wide variety of topics. Popular ones (as determined by program participants) include developing more productive working relationships (including the advisor/advisee dynamic); expanding networks of mentors and collaborators; adjusting to a new stage or set of expectations in one’s program; developing strategy for a summer or semester; productivity and time management; and work/life balance.  

To sign up for the next available group coaching program, complete the Summer 2021 Group Coaching Interest Form or email Maria Wisdom. 

Read more about the program in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Advising Resources 

Complementary Advising for Ph.D. Students in the Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences  

Maria with students.Maria Wisdom also offers one-on-one consultations for support with a variety of topics related to academic and professional development. Her particular niche is helping humanities and humanistic social sciences Ph.D. students make the most of Duke at every stage and identify ways to counterbalance the hyper-focus demanded by most doctoral study.  

She is also happy to help students navigate future career paths, although this is in no way a substitute for the valuable support offered by Duke Career Center. Her areas of expertise in this domain include: framing the strongest possible candidacy for teaching-intensive faculty positions; and thinking expansively and creatively about professional paths other than faculty roles.  

To schedule an advising session, email Maria Wisdom.

Humanities Navigator Newsletter and Blog   

As part of her advising role, Maria Wisdom maintains the Humanities Navigator newsletter (formerly, “Versatile Humanists at Duke”), which is designed to help humanities Ph.D. students make the most of Duke (funding opportunities; professional development events; internship, postdoc and job opportunities).  

The newsletter has, at various times, also included links to a series of blogposts written specifically for Duke humanities PhD students. These posts (dating from 2017), encompass a range of perspectives and advice relevant to all facets of professional development for doctoral students.

To subscribe to the newsletter, email Maria Wisdom  

Mentoring Resources  

Arts & Sciences Peer Mentoring Fellows Program  

In 2021, Duke’s College of Arts & Sciences launched a pilot Ph.D. Student Peer Mentoring Fellows Program to support an interdisciplinary cohort of 12 advanced doctoral students in exploring best practices in peer mentoring and small group facilitation. Through their participation in this cohort, and through creating spin-off groups in Fall 2021, the fellows will demonstrate leadership in building a strong culture of inclusive peer mentoring, well-being and resilience across disciplines in Arts & Sciences. 

Peer Mentoring Fellows will hone skills highly valued across multiple professional realms, such as active listening, group facilitation, basic coaching techniques and supporting a range of diverse learners and learning goals. Fellows will also cultivate a deeper awareness of their current roles as mentees, to support them in key advising relationships (such as with Ph.D. program advisors) and strengthen their ability to mentor others effectively in turn.  

The application cycle is currently closed.  

Interested in participating in a future date? Reach out to Maria Wisdom to learn about plans for the program.  

Best Practices in Mentoring (GS990): A Duke Graduate Academy Short Course  

Duke Graduate Academy logo.This free course is designed for doctoral students and postdocs from all disciplines at Duke, who seek to get the most out of their mentoring relationships (whether as mentees or mentors, ranging from informal to formal relationships). The course will provide space for you to reflect on how mentoring has shaped your path thus far, what you can do to improve your current mentoring relationships (as a mentee), and how you can be a more effective mentor to others. You will practice peer mentoring in small breakout groups with other Ph.D. students or postdocs, and hone concrete mentoring skills such as active listening, providing helpful feedback and coaching people to solve their own problems.  

Register for this course in the Duke Graduate Academy Summer Session 2021 by May 14. For more information about course content (or when it will be offered again), please contact the instructor, Maria Wisdom