I was a graduate student of Sociology at the University of California in Santa Barbara. I returned to graduate school after taking a medical leave for heart surgery. Unfortunately, due to surgical complications, I lost five years towards my degree. I returned on probation with strict time limits for completing the dissertation. Needless to say, the pressure was high. I had very little room for margin of error all the while having to negotiate the demands of graduate school with home and family responsibilities and personal healthcare.
I very quickly found myself overwhelmed with managing the workload. All I could see before me was the dissertation “mountain” that had to be climbed and I had no idea where to begin or even how to plan. Donna immediately helped me to set realistic goals, improve my time management, manage my stress and balance life and work demands. She also coached me through the challenging process of managing delicate relationships with my faculty committee. This all has made a tremendous difference. At each weekly check in we revisited short and long-term goals, problem shoot any obstacles that have blocked progress and plan the next steps. Thanks to her steady support, I am scheduled to complete my work this summer. I simply would not be here without Donna’s consistent and systematic coaching.
I am so grateful for all Donna has done for me. At first I was not sure how a complete stranger would be able to help me, but after the first contact, it was an instant connection with the kindness and warmth in her voice.
Over a year of working with her, she has become a friend, a consultant and a companion along this crazy time in my life – when I juggled between being a mother of two young children and a doctoral candidate finishing a dissertation. The last year was particularly challenging when my husband had to commute to work 580 miles away and my dissertation committee members occasionally had diverging directions on the course of my dissertation. During this demanding time, it was so comforting and helpful to have someone who was always positive, and dependably equipped with great coaching skills and wisdom. I always liked when she questioned my strategy, and guided me towards more realistic and effective step-by-step plans.
Even though I am now done with my dissertation, life is always packed with more demands. I am sure I will occasionally ask myself “What would Donna say?” In a way, she has taught me a real-time application of many wonderful life tools. It takes practice to make good plans. It even takes more practice to remain positive. Thank you for being there for me Donna.
I worked with Donna for nearly two years – she was instrumental to the successful completion of my dissertation. She taught me a variety of tools and strategies to keep motivated, avoid procrastination, measure my progress, and handle a variety of challenges. We experimented with these strategies until the found what worked for me. What I appreciated most about Donna is how perceptive she is – she was great at figuring out what kind of advice or feedback I needed at any particular time. Highly recommended!
The day I met Donna changed my outlook on my dissertation progress. I know that I was supposed to read that email about dissertation coaching that day and I was supposed to be paired with her.
I was overwhelmed, scared, and ready to quit my program because I had a year left on my program clock and my chair wanted to me to start over with a new idea. I was also struggling with creating a workable daily and weekly schedule for my dissertation while incorporating the new home and family responsibilities and working full time.
Donna was my bi-weekly dose of sanity, rationality, and level-headedness. She believed in me and my abilities, but was also quick to remind me that I was fully capable of doing this as long as I created a plan for that week/day/hour and stuck to those plans. Each session we came up with a workable strategy for attacking the responsibilities on my plate while taking into account my time constraints and family responsibilities. We communicated in between the sessions via email to assure that I was remaining on task. She stayed on top of my progress and my accomplishments and celebrated every small victory with me. Each session I felt more confident that I could achieve this feat and I am awaiting my defense date. I truly believe Donna’s help, support, and guidance was key to me finish my dissertation.
I contacted Donna during a time in my life when I was feeling particularly vulnerable. I had just followed my husband across the country for his job. I was in a new city, far away from my university and my advisors.
Donna was honest and kind while helping me stay focussed on making progress toward my goal. There were many times when I secretly just wanted to moan about how much I hated the dissertation process, but that isn’t what a coach is for; Donna kept me on task during our phone calls by having me talk about my immediate concerns and my next steps toward addressing those concerns and making progress.
Donna was a steady presence who helped me break things down into manageable chunks and explore new ways of keeping myself on task during the day. She also helped me think about how nice it would be to be done with the PhD stage in my life and to have that accomplishment to look back on with pride.
I am fairly sure that, had it not been for the support I received via Donna’s coaching, I would still be working on it (or, worse, I would have dropped out).
Donna was an absolute delight as a coach! Not only was she very knowledgeable, but she was a great listener. She always captures the essence of your struggle and worked with you to help you to implement systems that work for you. Each week Donna and I had targeted goals that we worked on and if things did not go according to plan we just made modifications and kept on moving. One thing is for sure we always had a plan to keep us on track and that helped me to be successful!
What I appreciate most about Donna was her ability to help me to face myself. I am known for being super optimistic but not always realistic. Coach Donna helped me to be realistic even when it wasn’t always comfortable. I think when we are most honest with ourselves then we can see the big picture and move forward in an unbelievable way to achieve our goals. When I started with Donna I was just beginning the dissertation process and now I am at the end. I will be graduating this year! I am so excited!
Thanks Coach Donna! You were awesome!