Ph.D. Transitions Group Coaching Program 

Portraits of three current PhD Transitions coaches.
These three coaches will lead small groups of Ph.D. students in the fall.

This coaching program, established in 2019, helps Duke Ph.D. students from all disciplines navigate the many changes and learning curves embedded in a five-to-seven-year doctoral program.

At each stage of a doctoral program (regardless of discipline), students confront new challenges and develop different competencies and skills. The Ph.D. Transitions program helps students make sense of all the changes within a safe, confidential space facilitated by a professional coach, within the company of a small group of supportive peers.

Students sign up to participate for one semester in a small interdisciplinary group (usually four people) who are approximately at the same stage of their doctoral training:

  • “Early” coursework
  • “Middle” exams/prospectus
  • “Advanced” dissertation/job search.

Each group is facilitated by a professional coach, who structures the conversation based on International Coaching Federation best practices.

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

What is coaching, and how is it different from advising or mentoring?

Coaching provides people with the space and tools to reflect on challenges and opportunities, develop creative solutions to problems, cultivate greater self-awareness and set attainable goals. Coaching is not telling people what to do (advising), or modeling a particular career path (mentoring). A good coach helps people navigate challenges “in the moment,” while also helping them to feel more confident and prepared well beyond the coaching experience.

What must participants do?

Participants commit to meeting with their coaching groups four times over the course of the semester or summer (six hours total). They 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 work (or life) strategy for a summer or semester
  • Productivity and time management
  • Cultivating work/life balance

How do I sign up?

Update: We are no longer accepting registrations for fall coaching groups. Feel free to direct any questions to the program director, Maria Wisdom.

What are people saying about group coaching?

Quotes from program evaluations:

“I have the tools, skills, and intuitions already to achieve my goals … It’s all in there, but I needed help panning for the gold.”

“I absolutely have already seen major changes in my time management skills, my empathy with others, etc.”

“I am in better shape to finish my dissertation on time and to have a plan for life after graduation.”

“This has changed how I think about … the structure of my relationships with faculty and the structure and function of my dissertation committee.”

Who are the coaches?

Read about the current coaches and the program director.