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About the Program

The MechE Graduate Student Coaching Program started during the chaos of the COVID shutdowns. In the summer of 2020, Kelli was getting certified as a coach and started the MechE Grad Coaching Program as additional support for MechE graduate students during the pandemic. That first summer, Jenny joined the program as a participant and the experience was instrumental in getting her across the PhD finish line in 2022. Since 2021, Kelli and Jenny has been working together to grow coaching for graduate students at MIT. We offer small cohorts that meet weekly over a semester, and smaller-commitment events and workshops.

Our overall goal is three-fold:

  1. spur graduate students to reflect on and take charge of what they want out of their MIT experience and future career
  2. cultivate the mindset of curiosity, openness, and respect in our participants
  3. decrease isolation and normalize the challenges of grad school

We do not expect the students to become coaches. Rather, we help our students incorporate the coaching mindset into their “soft” skills. Students have reported that their experiences from our program help them be more productive researchers and mentors, better able to address group meetings, offer more effective support for others, and more nimbly navigate obstacles.


About the Lead Coach

Dr. Kelli Hendrickson (Sc.D. ’05) is an experienced fluid dynamics researcher with over 25 years of experience working in academia as a researcher, mentor, and advisor.  She is the daughter of a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and led the semi-nomadic life that being the child of a military officer can bring living in Dayton, OH (twice), D.C., and CA, where she was born.  She received her B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati and an Sc.D. degree in Ocean Engineering.  Dr. Hendrickson grew up wanting to be the first woman on the moon and even worked at NASA as a co-op.  In time she realized that the underlying passion in all of her research is fluid dynamics, and she should stay on the planet where the fluids are.

Dr. Hendrickson is a Certified Professional Coach through the International Coach Federation with an intense desire to bring the practice of coaching, widely acknowledged for its effectiveness in the professional business sector, into academia.  Her core belief in the power of reflection to generate intentional change is at the heart of the Graduate Student Group Coaching program that she founded in 2020 with support from the Mechanical Engineering Department Leadership. 

Her informal bio is this:

On top of being a woman Sc.D. in STEM, she is a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a sister.  She has tried to “have it all” and find “work-life balance” and has failed spectacularly.  Along with her successes, these struggles and failures define who she is as much as her academic CV.   She equally enjoys wake surfing and lazing by the water (be it the beach, river or lake) with a good book that has nothing to do with research. This pandemic year she has hunkered down with her husband of 25 years, two children who on the cusp of adulthood, an aging dog and a cranky cat. 

Meet Me

About the Lead Facilitator

Dr. Y. Jenny Wang (Ph.D. ’22) is an entrepreneurial engineer with experience in product development and a particular interest in interdisciplinary problems. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on acoustophoretic assembly — moving small objects with sound. In addition, she has worked on projects in a variety of domains, including fluid mechanics, nonlinear acoustics, manufacturing, heat transfer, atomistic modeling, batteries, and urban planning. A modeler at heart, she distills complex problems into their dominant components to create elegant solutions and insights.

With a passion for building systems and institutions that serve all people, she is deeply interested in community building and using technology to improve the world. In 2020, she co-founded Fuente Tech, a mobile-based geographical information system for urban data. Fuente Tech brings the power of geo-spatial data for making informed decisions to anyone with a smartphone. This technology empowers urban planners, officials, and residents of growing cities to quickly understand the current situation in their city and create effective policies to guide future growth and development.

As lead facilitator for the MechE Graduate Student Coaching Program, she leads cohorts, trains new Coach Fellows, and works to expand graduate students’ access to coaching. When she noticed that many graduate students could not commit to a weekly meeting, she created the Open Conversation Series, a series of stand-alone workshops where students come together to have a facilitated discussion on topics relevant to the graduate experience, such as prioritization, career exploration, and measuring success. In fall 2022, she won an MIT MindHandHeart Community Innovation Fund grant to support the Open Conversation Series, which allowed the Coaching Program to offer programming to all MIT graduate students for the first time. Drawing on the success of the Open Conversation Series, she co-created the Coaching Skills for Engineers workshop to round-out the shorter-commitment coaching offerings available to graduate students. In summer 2023, she successfully raised sponsorship from the Riccio Graduate Engineering Leadership Program to offer the three day workshop to all MIT graduate students.

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