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Unraveling the power of professional coaching

For Julie Stephenson, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Certified Professional Coaching Program (UWCPC) was “a transformational learning and growing experience.” She completed the 10-month program in May 2023 and has been applying her new coaching skills and knowledge as Southwest Health’s community development director. 

Stephenson had considered being part of the UWCPC program before, and what ultimately led her to join was a request from her organization’s CEO to develop an employee coaching program. 

“I was excited about the opportunity to learn more about professional coaching and how to use it to create value in our work environment,” Stephenson said. “The UWCPC program helped unravel what I thought I knew about being in service to employees.”

“The powerful effects of coaching”

One of the only major research-based programs in the Midwest, the UWCPC program is International Coaching Federation (ICF)-accredited. The program’s cohort model allows learners to build deep relationships with peers in a tight-knit learning community. Participants learn from expert instructors and mentors who are ICF-certified and hold Professional Certified Coach (PCC) or Master Certified Coach (MCC) designations.

headshot of Julie Stephenson
Julie Stephenson

During her time in the program, Stephenson realized that she had truly never been coached nor had been a true coach. Through observing, collaborating and coaching her first “clients,” Stephenson witnessed “the powerful effects of coaching firsthand.” The program allows students to be prepared to coach in many areas including leadership, career and diversity and inclusion.

“The class allowed me to build skills that better serve others by staying unattached to outcomes or ideas that make sense to me,” Stephenson said. 

Being aware of her implicit bias was one of the coaching strategies Stephenson gained from the program. The clients’ insights should drive their ideas and outcomes, not the coach’s experiences, she said. Instead of relying on her ideas, ego and biases, she learned to let them go and listen. 

“The work of a coach is to walk with and share space with another person as they explore where they are and where they want to go without looking through someone else’s filter,” Stephenson said. 

Finding the answers within

The program also allowed Stephenson to understand coaching with new perspectives. 

“I now wholeheartedly believe that for the most part, we have the answers we need,” she said. “I’m grateful to understand that coaching is mastering the skills and process of excavating and removing the layers in the way of seeing those answers for ourselves.” 

Stephenson said she is grateful for the UWCPC program and its facilitators. 

“I truly felt the support and endless commitment [from the instructors, mentors and support staff] to my success and the success of others in my cohort,” Stephenson explained. 

UWPCP graduates like Stephenson go on to use their coaching skills and knowledge to create and advance coaching cultures within organizations, establish private coaching practices, spearhead coaching-based service projects and add professional coaching to therapeutic or clinical counseling settings.

For more information on the UW–Madison Certified Professional Coaching Program, visit the UWCPC website or contact Michelle Galarowicz at