Thursday, January 2, 2014

Coaching not mentoring

At mine and others' academic institutions there is much discussion of mentoring to help junior faculty, but what we really need are a good coaches. A coach is a professional whose job is to help a person to be the best that they can be. Attaining excellence is not a one-person job. On the one hand it takes the entire university community. On the other hand a good coach can help.

I propose a coaching program.  Here’s one way for it to work:
Each year, in a competitive process, a handful of senior faculty are chosen to be coaches for that academic year. (approximately ~1 coach for every ~5 new assistant professors). The coaches take on ~5 or so “clients” to meet with once a week throughout the year. Junior faculty members (and others too can apply, space permitting) are automatically matched with a coach. The coach might be in a different department, but a similar division (i.e. physical sciences). All of the coaches meet quarterly for training, to share successes and failures, and to consider progress of the program in future years. Coaches receive a quarter of teaching release.


  1. Not a bad idea, but the faculty coaches should be trained ahead of time by professional coaches

  2. Yes--I agree that coaches should receive some training. Note that unlike social workers or therapists, professional personal-coaches don't have a well-recognized licensing body. In some ways, I would more trust a therapist or social worker who has experience in counseling academics.