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Northwestern’s New Graduate Certificate Prepares Leadership Coaches

Program designed for senior professionals responsible for developing talent

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Maximizing the development of talent through one-on-one and group coaching is a strategy for many human capital leaders seeking ways to strengthen and grow their organizations. However, effective coaching requires a strong knowledge base and skills in facilitating lifelong learning and the mechanisms for change.

Singularly qualified to prepare professionals in these areas, Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) Program is launching a new graduate certificate program in organizational and leadership coaching.

“The field of executive and organizational coaching has exploded over the past decade due to a shift from providing leadership development via formal training programs toward individual coaching and on-the-job development,” said Kimberly Scott, director of the MSLOC program in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

“Excellent coaching, as a process for developing individual competencies to achieve individual and organizational goals inherently requires skills and knowledge in the areas in which MSLOC focuses: learning and change,” she said.

In the new MSLOC coaching program, graduates gain a solid understanding of the drivers of individual learning and performance, an awareness of personal characteristics and their influence on coaching, and supervised practice engaging in coaching.

The certification program is designed for senior professionals who are responsible for developing high-potential talent within organizations or providing coaching to managers or leaders. The certification can be completed either as a concentration within the MSLOC degree program or as a four-course, one-year sequence culminating in a graduate certificate.

For example, part-time degree student Joy Canonigo, an executive in leadership development at Trustmark, integrated the MSLOC coaching certification into her degree studies to support her professional goals. “There isn’t a part of my job where I don’t do coaching,” Canonigo said.

Likewise, part-time degree student Ashley Boehm Punzalan, a manager on Google’s learning and development team in San Francisco, finds the certification professionally valuable. “Coaching is a huge focus here at Google, and this was a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “To prepare managers to be good coaches, I need to be a good coach myself. The formal background is giving me expertise I haven’t had the opportunity to develop over the years. … I use it every single day in my job.”

Living in San Francisco, Punzalan is pleased with the carefully planned alternative schedule option that allows her to participate remotely, with occasional campus visits. In addition, she says, “My MSLOC colleagues blew me away. … These are incredibly smart and passionate students from many different backgrounds and companies. I’ve learned so much from my colleagues.”

The 25 students in the initial cohort represent a range of diverse locations and experience. They hail from across the United States, including Washington, California, New York, Colorado and California. Their careers are as talent officers, human resources and organizational development professionals, consultants, sales managers and executives. Some are current or former MSLOC students while others are new to the program.

Coaching certification students who are not also MSLOC degree candidates take one course each academic quarter for one calendar year. The program’s hybrid learning model makes it possible for students from across the United States to participate. Students come to campus once each quarter for two and a half days and the rest of the time participate in classes and activities online.

The certification program is designed around the MSLOC coaching model, which integrates the activities of coaching around a core of relationships, learning and performance alignment. The model helps coaches connect the practice of coaching individuals or groups with the larger challenge of understanding coaching as part of a talent development system.

The coaching curriculum builds to a culminating fieldwork course where students learn and apply coaching skills under the guidance of faculty. Other courses in the sequence are Accelerating Learning and Performance, Building Transformational Client Relationships and Coaching for Learning and Performance.

The program design also includes the resources and relationships available through the MSLOC coaching community of practice. The community leverages MSLOC's unique online social collaboration platform, The Hive, which also is used for formal online course activities.

Jan Hayes, personnel librarian at Northwestern, summarizes a key reason that applicants are drawn to the program -- to make a difference in people’s growth within an organization.

“As an HR administrator, I spend a portion of each day coaching and counseling staff on a wide variety of topics. … I want to do more than just give advice: I want to really make a difference and help staff learn and grow,” Hayes said.

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