The state's first university with International Coaching Federation Level 1 accreditation for a graduate certificate is Harding University.
Harding's Executive and Workplace Coaching Graduate Certificate was recently approved for an online, 96-hour, coach-specific education and training program. Students will be automatically approved to test for International Coaching Federation Level 1 certification when they complete this graduate certificate, which the university launched in 2022. Harding joins institutions like Brown University, Rice University, George Mason University, and Lipscomb University with similar coaching programs.
Donny Lee, dean of Harding's Cannon-Clary College of Education, said International Coaching Federation accreditation demonstrates the "integrity and effectiveness" of the university's program and lauded the director, Andrea Bishop, for its success.
To meet the International Coaching Federation standards, the program has proved it upholds strong principles of ethical behavior and develops coaches who embrace and understand the coaching competencies established by the International Coaching Federation, according to Harding. Earning the initial accreditation was a two-year process, and Harding is now accredited through January 2027.
The International Coaching Federation, a nonprofit dedicated to professional coaching with more than 50,000 worldwide members, "embodies the pinnacle of professional expertise," said Bishop, director of Harding's Center for Leadership and Development. "Becoming a coaching education partner endorsed by the ICF is an incredible win for the students in our coaching program."
Most of Harding's coaching students are pursuing the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership with the 12 credit-hour Executive and Workplace Coaching graduate certification serving a dual purpose of fulfilling their concentration and allowing them to work toward the first level of certification with the International Coaching Federation, while others already have a graduate degree and are pursuing only the graduate certificate in Executive and Workplace Coaching, according to Lee.
Coaching students pursue this certification for various reasons, but perhaps chief among them is that it provides them tools to help others reach their full potential.
For example, alumna Jennifer Wofford, an Employee Experience Trainer at ArcBest in Fort Smith, uses coaching in her daily work, and she is launching her own coaching business in the near future, according to Lee. "Jenny is an excellent representative of the types of coaching students we attract."
Harding has intentionally kept enrollment modest to allow for small-group and one-on-one mentoring; in addition, coaching education courses with more than 10 students require additional resources to meet International Coaching Federation demands, according to Lee. Roughly 20 students have already completed the requirements for Harding's Executive and Workplace Coaching certificate.
The coaching program can be traced back largely to Nathan Mellor, a successful executive coach and a Harding coaching faculty member, who saw potential in a discipline -- the coaching industry generated approximately $4.5 billion in revenue last year -- of significant growth, and Harding's leadership team felt a certificate in coaching was an ideal way for students to enter the field, according to Lee. It also "complemented our ongoing programs -- teaching, educational leadership, and mental health and wellness -- and mission so well."
Organizations seek "highly competent, well trained, trustworthy" coaches committed to the highest ethical standards, and an International Coaching Federation credential is "truly the gold standard in the coaching industry," Lee said.
In each coaching class, students have access to coaches who hold the top credentials in the International Coaching Federation and who own their own successful coaching practices.
Harding's education college "emphasizes leadership development, believing fully in the value of developing more effective leaders as a way to improve companies, communities, and classrooms," and coaching education fits into that mission, Lee concluded. "We are fully invested in the future success of this graduate offering and look forward to seeing how it will benefit our students and alumni."
Located in Searcy, the private, Christian, liberal arts university is the largest private university in Arkansas, with more than 4,600 students. It offers more than 110 undergraduate majors, 14 pre-professional programs, and more than 40 graduate and professional programs.