Motivating and Inspiring

Leadership Coaching certification graduates first cohort


As associate director of the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the U.S. Naval Academy, Ali Ghaffari worked to influence the influencers.

His challenge was to offer leadership training for faculty, staff and coaches at the academy—the four-year undergraduate college that prepares students to become officers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. 

He says while there was plenty of instruction for midshipmen—the students of the academy—there wasn’t much for those who make an impact on the midshipmen every day. So he and his colleague, Admiral Alan “Blues” Baker, set out to establish a series of leadership training experiences to enhance their leadership skills.

“We ran courses that teach leadership skills, coaching and executive education,” he says. “We even took faculty, staff and coaches for experiential leadership experiences out in the wilderness, on a small navy ship, had them run the obstacle course and jump off the 10-meter board into the pool—all so they could see what it’s like to be a midshipman. It was an eye-opening experience for them.”

Now, as Ghaffari is on the verge of retiring from the Navy, he’s looking ahead to the next stage of his career. So he enrolled in the new Leadership Coaching certification offered by the University at Buffalo School of Management’s Center for Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness (CLOE) to take his skills to the next level.

The certification is a four-course program where participants build foundational and advanced leadership coaching skills, gain expertise in assessment and feedback, and get hands-on experience with real-world coaching under the supervision of program facilitators Marsha King, PhD and Neil Stroul, PhD. The first cohort of 22 participants completed the program in May.

“I met Neil during my time at the academy and he encouraged me to sign up because he knew I’d be interested,” Ghaffari says. “I realized certification would set me up post-Navy so I could step out into coaching on day one of retirement.”

His investment paid off, as he’s already landed his first coaching and consulting gig for Visit Annapolis, the Annapolis, Maryland, visitor’s bureau. 

“Becoming certified has been an asset to me and the people around me,” he says. “The richness of the experience, the people you meet and the skills you learn benefit you in your personal and professional life.” 

CLOE’s Leadership Coaching certification is one of a number of micro-credentials offered by the UB School of Management. Upon completion, graduates receive a digital badge—a clickable image that houses information validating their newly acquired skills. These dynamic credentials can be shared on social media, digital résumés and e-portfolios to increase marketability and showcase abilities.

“With demand for executive coaching dramatically increasing, we partnered with Marsha King and Neil Stroul to create this thorough and best-in-class coaching certification,” says Paul Tesluk, professor and dean of the UB School of Management. “In addition to being highly accomplished and sought-after executive coaches, they are two of the most experienced and well-respected executive coaching faculty members in the country.”


For Sheri Mooney, principal consultant and leadership coach at Mind Squad HR, becoming certified in leadership coaching was a way to enhance a service she was already providing. 

She’s self-employed, running a boutique consulting firm in Orchard Park that offers leadership coaching, HR outsourcing and workplace investigations.

“I wanted to improve my coaching skills, and heard CLOE was bringing in two top instructors who had run nationally recognized programs, so there was a unique opportunity now at UB to get on board,” she says. “I wanted to gain knowledge from respected people in an academic setting.”

But the UB School of Law grad says the program was anything but traditional. 

“During the four classes, you have a lot of opportunity to coach your classmates—people with different backgrounds, which was cool because that’s what we’re going to face when we’re out there using these skills.

“I was already coaching as part of my consultancy, but this really brought it to a completely different level.”


Jeannie Parent is senior vice president of media sales at The Buffalo News, where she is responsible for setting the strategic direction, strategy and tactics to hit advertising revenue goals—and assembling the right team to make it happen.

She signed up for Leadership Coaching certification as a way of formalizing skills she was already building on the job.

“I’ve always been in the background coaching my team in many ways, for performance and leadership skills and abilities,” Parent says. “I wanted to understand the mechanics behind leadership—learning the methods, listening skills, and how to ask good questions and facilitate good assessments.”

She said the CLOE program checked all those boxes.

“Even though this was the first cohort of the program and we were doing it remotely, the UB team was able to bring together people from all backgrounds to talk about highly personal things that start to open you up,” she says. “That they were able to create a sense of camaraderie between people who’ve never laid eyes on each other in person was magic.”

Leadership Coaching Certification

Learn how to unlock the potential in yourself and to guide others to be their best by becoming a certified leadership coach