The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Professional Life Coaching Certificate program (PLCC) helps participants become skilled at guiding others toward change in the workplace and beyond. The results can be meaningful for the coach and client alike, especially when a problem is solved or a milestone is reached.

Speaking of milestones, PLCC arrived at a big one recently: five years of training professionals to do this important work. The program celebrated this achievement at Madison’s Pyle Center on May 18. The festivities began with a ceremony for learners who completed the program earlier this year; a gathering for all of the program’s alumni followed. About 50 graduates attended the second event, and many of them shared how the program has changed their lives and those of their clients. See below for a gallery of photos from both events.

PLCC Director Chariti Gent is pleased that so many alumni had successes to share, but she’s not surprised. That’s because the program aims to help coaches enhance many aspects of their personal and professional lives.

“We’re not just in the business of growing coaches,” she says. “We’re in the business of growing leaders and lifelong learners.”

A mindset for success

Toral Livingston-Jha is one graduate who has benefited from PLCC’s holistic approach to growth. Though she had already spent two decades coaching teams at corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, she knew the program could help her take her skills to the next level.

Life coach Toral Livingston-Jha

Toral Livingston-Jha: “I gained the confidence and perspective needed to launch a successful coaching business.”

“Once I realized that I wanted to more formally serve individuals and organizations in this way—as a balanced source of support, compassion, and presence—I enrolled in PLCC to learn strategies for partnering with individuals on their process of self-discovery,” she says.

This year, just six months after completing the program, she launched her coaching business, TLJ Coaching and Consulting, and began focusing on its growth full-time. In addition to providing a challenging curriculum filled with useful strategies, PLCC helped her develop the mindset needed to thrive as a life coach and business owner.

“I gained the confidence and perspective needed to launch a successful coaching business,” she says, “and I thoroughly practiced techniques to support clients in achieving their goals, regardless of their role or title within an organization, team, relationship, or family dynamic.”

PLCC also helped Livingston-Jha integrate her mindfulness practice into her work. Like mindfulness, life coaching encourages people to be more aware of the present moment’s challenges and opportunities. The process helps individuals turn goals into action by examining their current circumstances, defining what they want to achieve in the future, and addressing both real and perceived barriers to progress.

“Life coaching is distinct from therapy, mentoring, consulting, and training in that it recognizes that you are the expert on your own life and have the wisdom for change within you,” Livingston-Jha explains.

Flexible learning plus a valuable credential

As the Midwest’s only university-based coach-training program accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), PLCC offers top-quality instruction that prepares learners to build a coaching business or expand the role of coaching within an existing organization. It also provides a valuable credential that can help participants land job interviews or gain new clients.

Plus, with a combination of online and in-person learning—five face-to-face modules over three days and three online modules at a time of participants’ choice—PLCC can accommodate busy schedules and multiple learning styles.

According to Darcy Luoma, who served as PLCC’s lead instructor and now oversees its curriculum, working professionals appreciate the flexibility of this blended, cohort-based approach. Over the years, the program’s online component has evolved to deliver even more skill practice in a group setting.

“We used to do teleconferences where I’d teach on the call, but then we decided to video-record the lessons so students could learn the content first and then use the teleconference for more practice, application, and skill drills,” she says. “It made the classes more interactive and interesting.”

PLCC’s in-person component hasn’t changed much because it’s so effective at cultivating relationships, Luoma adds.

During most of the 10-month program, PLCC participants work with real clients, under the supervision of an ICF-certified coach. They also seek coaching services from a certified provider, which strengthens their understanding of the client’s role. Throughout the experience, learners explore concepts such as emotional intelligence and appreciative inquiry while discovering how to use the power of self-awareness.

“You can use every assessment there is to guide someone, but your use of self is actually the best tool you have in coaching,” Luoma explains.

And by working toward self-awareness in PLCC, learners often transform their own lives.

“Many people come into the program to get certified to coach but gain so much more,” Luoma says. “Our students are becoming better leaders, managers, parents, and spouses—and doing this in phenomenal ways.”

For details about the Professional Life Coaching Certificate program and other life coaching courses at UW-Madison, see this webpage or contact Chariti Gent at chariti.gent@wisc.edu.