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Coaching Students Help Guide Unemployed and Disabled Entrepreneurs

You’re disabled and unemployed. One answer might be for you to start a business. You need advice to make this work, but aren’t really in a position to pay for the help. Where can you turn?

In the case of local clients of the Volunteers of America’s Working Order program, they’re counting on life coaching advice from students in Duquesne University’s School of Leadership and Professional Advancement’s Professional Coaching Certification Program (PCCP).

“Our coaching graduates have required coaching hours in order to gain their certification, and what better way to assist the community as a whole than to share their knowledge with those who are in need?” asked Dr. Susan Merrie English, co-director of training for Duquesne’s professional coaching program, who helped to launch the collaborative in 2010.

Working Order’s would-be entrepreneurs are low income, have disabilities or other disadvantages, come from a broad variety of occupations and have life challenges that would benefit from business and life coaching.

Through a series of interviews, the focus of each student coach in the PCCP is matched with the needs of a participant in the Working Order program. So far, three students have been partnered with Working Order entrepreneurs, who received additional support in work and life issues.

“I was full of questions when I started working with a coach: Was coaching just another name for counseling? Was a coach like a teacher or a mentor? Or heaven forbid, a boss?” said Susan Donley, a portrait artist working with a student in the PCCP program. “After a few months, I can see that the answer is ‘none of the above’ and ‘all of the above!’ She helps me clarify my goals and identify specific tasks I can do to achieve them. It helps so much to have someone to be accountable to, who won’t condemn if I don’t complete a task, but rather helps me figure out why. Coaching helps me see my goal in the distance and clear the path to getting there.”

But the clients are not the only beneficiaries, according to Dr. Dorothy Bassett, dean of the School of Leadership and Professional Advancement.

“In partnering with Working Order, the new coaches will benefit by working with a diverse population to broaden and strengthen their abilities,” explained Bassett. “The Working Order entrepreneurs, who have additional needs for support other than business coaching, benefit from this professional group of people. They are committed to providing encouragement and insight through their listening skills and powerful questioning.”

Ruby S. Wilkosz, regional director of the Working Order program, agrees with Bassett.

“Partnering with Duquesne University’s graduates from the Professional Coaching Certification Program is a perfect way for our entrepreneurs to receive top-notch coaching for issues that do not fall under our program’s business coaching services,” said Wilkosz. “Each entrepreneur and coach pairing has provided value-added support, enabling the entrepreneurs to shore up of area of their lives to better prepare for transitioning into business ownership.”

For more information on the coaching services offered by students in Duquesne’s Professional Coaching Certification Program, call 800.283.3853 or email leadership@duq.edu.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.