Duke Faculty Advancement offers several channels for faculty members to receive professional coaching from Maria LaMonaca Wisdom, director of faculty mentoring and coaching programs. Chairs and unit leaders who would like 1:1 coaching support in their administrative roles may self-nominate for 1:1 coaching. Alternatively, they may nominate any faculty colleague for 1:1 coaching support for a critical research, teaching or service role. Any faculty member, anywhere at Duke, may sign up directly for group coaching.

What is Coaching?

Coaching is a series of confidential, structured conversations that help people reflect on complex situations, navigate challenges, enhance self-awareness, set goals and exercise accountability for meeting those goals. Through active listening and open-ended questions, a coach engages individuals in a creative process to help them identify and achieve their highest potential.

How Can Coaching Help Faculty?

Coaching can be especially beneficial to faculty members who have already established a successful academic career and would benefit from dedicated time to focus on one or more of the following areas:

  • Transitioning to new stages of a faculty career, or taking on new projects or opportunities
  • Cultivating productive working relationships with colleagues, students/mentees or others
  • Strategically using time and resources to advance priorities
  • Enhancing productivity and creative problem-solving
  • Fostering work-life balance

How Can Coaching Help Academic Leaders? 

Coaching can be especially valuable for faculty who are new to leadership roles, or who are taking on new leadership challenges. Common coaching topics for leaders include: 

  • Reflecting on your identity and purpose as a leader 
  • Identifying strengths and growth areas as a leader 
  • Setting and sharing a compelling vision  
  • Building a strong team and healthy working environment
  • Cultivating networks and collaborations across the university
  • Developing resilience in a highly politicized environment

What Isn’t Coaching?

Coaches do not give people advice, or tell them what to do.

The coach’s role is to empower you to generate ideas, solutions and plans.

Coaching is not mentoring.

Your mentors are typically people within your discipline who draw on their context-specific expertise to help you (which often includes giving advice).

Coaching is not remedial.

“Coachees” tend to be highly competent professionals who are dealing with the normal challenges of navigating a demanding and complex career path.

Who is the Coach?

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Maria Wisdom

Maria LaMonaca Wisdom is a credentialed professional coach through the International Coaching Federation and a certified Six Domains of Leadership Coach. Wisdom, formerly a tenured faculty member in English, brings several years of experience in faculty development from her previous role as executive director of a humanities institute at UNC–Chapel Hill.

She has published reflections on coaching faculty (“Beyond Productivity Hacks and Time-Management Tricks”) as well as graduate students (“Who’s Responsible for a Ph.D. Student’s Success?”) in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her new book, “How to Mentor Anyone in Academia,” is forthcoming from Princeton University Press in 2025.

How Can I Get Coaching?

Option 1: Faculty Group Coaching

Any faculty member (full time, tenure-track/tenured, or regular rank non-tenured) can sign up to be coached as part of a small, interdisciplinary group (four faculty total), prior to each academic semester (fall and spring cycles). Each “cycle” constitutes a preliminary 1:1 meeting with the coach, followed by four 90-minute group sessions, spaced three weeks apart, over the course of the semester.

An added benefit of the group format is that participants benefit from multiple perspectives and the opportunity to meet other faculty dealing with similar professional issues (in a confidential setting).

Faculty interested in group coaching can watch the Duke Faculty Advancement newsletters for registration announcements. They may also reach out Maria Wisdom (maria.wisdom@duke.edu) directly for updates.

Option 2: Faculty or academic leader 1:1 Coaching

Faculty can request nomination from their department chair or dean for a semester of 1:1 coaching (five one-hour meetings) with Maria Wisdom. Please note that because this is a limited resource, chairs may make only one nomination per department/program, per semester. Chairs or unit leaders may also self-nominate for support with their administrative roles. To maximize your chance of getting 1:1 coaching for yourself or a colleague, please reach out to Dr. Wisdom by email as soon as possible. Our office can also recommend other qualified coaches, although these coaches work independently and compensation will be the responsibility of either the faculty member or the unit.

Nominations from chairs should be sent to maria.wisdom@duke.edu and include the following information:

  • Why are you nominating this particular faculty colleague (or yourself) for coaching?
  • What would you hope to see for this faculty colleague (or yourself), as a result of the coaching?
  • What concerns, if any, do you have about your colleague’s potential to benefit from coaching?
  • What background issues or context might it be helpful for coach be aware of?

Upon receipt of nomination, the coach will reach out to the faculty member for a preliminary conversation about their goals for coaching. Once these slots are filled, we will create a waiting list.

Note: Not all situations or issues are appropriate for coaching. Faculty will take from the coaching whatever they bring to it; they need to be open to the process, and also able to commit the necessary time, energy and focus. It is the discretion of the coach (after a preliminary discussion with the nominee) to determine whether a faculty member will benefit from coaching.

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