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Student Writing Support.Center for Writing's home page.

Dissertation Writing Retreat

image of writers workingThanks to generous support from the Graduate School, Student Writing Support offers a free annual Dissertation Writing Retreat. Each May Term, fifteen dissertation writers from across the University gather for three weeks of concentrated dissertation-writing time in a supportive group setting. This year's retreat will once again take place in Gather, an online space similar to Zoom.

The 2022 retreat will be held online Mondays through Thursdays, May 23 through June 9 (no session on Monday, May 30, Memorial Day). Applications, which involve both the writer and their advisor(s), are due in two stages:

  1. By 11:59 pm Central time on Friday, March 25, writer submits online application. Upon submission, the application will generate an automatic email request to the writer's advisor.
  2. By 11:59 pm Central time on Friday, April 1, advisor completes and uploads a form indicating whether they endorse the writer's participation in the 2022 Dissertation Writing Retreat. (This step takes no more than 5 minutes; no letter is required.)

To be considered, applicants must commit to participating in all 11 days of the retreat.

Retreat activities and expectations

Participants in the retreat…

  • will be able to do focused, sustained work on their dissertations in scheduled blocks of writing time
  • will have access every day to optional individual Student Writing Support consultations with retreat co-leaders
  • are expected to participate in daily warm-up writing activities at 9:00 am Central time. These writing warm-ups are designed to facilitate the day's work and to expand participants' repertoire of writing strategies, all in community with other writers.
  • are expected to participate in daily closing writing activities at 3:30 pm Central time. This closing session is designed to facilitate reflection, to maintain momentum, and to expand participants' repertoire of writing strategies, all in community with other writers.
  • are expected to participate in a weekly 30-minute check-in meeting (scheduled in advance) with one of the retreat co-leaders. These check-ins are designed to reduce the isolation of a pandemic-era retreat experience and to help each participant tailor the retreat to their own needs.
  • are expected to participate in two 15-minute assessments of the program during the course of the retreat (to help make the retreat as useful as possible for current and future participants)
  • pledge to limit other internet use to essential dissertation-writing tasks during the dedicated writing hours of the retreat. (To be clear, we encourage participants to use music or other streamed content that helps them work! This internet pledge is about deliberately cutting off one's own access to online avoidance/procrastination-methods during the hours of the retreat.)
  • must have no other teaching or research responsibilities during May Term

Go to Why participate in the Dissertation Writing Retreat? for quotes from past participants.

For a sampling of the disciplinary diversity of the retreat, see our list of Defended dissertations completed by retreat participants.

Location and scheduleNicholson Hall

If you are selected, you will gather with other retreat participants Mondays through Thursdays, May 23–June 9 (no session on Monday, May 31, Memorial Day), between 9:00 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Central Time in a designated online Gather space (learn more about Gather).

  • If you need a designated space on campus to participate in this online retreat, we will work with you to find one.
  • The full group will be in Gather for opening warmups at 9 am and for a closing writing activity at 3:30 pm every day.
  • We encourage breaks throughout the day, and we build in a scheduled break for lunch from 12:15–1:15 Central Time each day.

Retreaters must commit to participating synchronously in the 9:00 am opening and 3:30 pm closing sessions for the full 11-day retreat schedule; otherwise, retreaters will not be required to be in Gather all day long (unless that's what works for them!). So, for example, if you need to spend some time away from the computer in order to focus, or if you are working in a very different timezone, or if you have caregiving responsibilities, or if there are other schedule-related changes you need to make, we will do our best to help you develop a writing schedule that suits your needs and still forwards the goal of creating a supportive group setting for all participants.

Retreat eligibility

All UMN doctoral graduate students who have passed their prelims and whose dissertation prospectuses (if required by the department) have been approved—or will have been approved by Monday, May 2, 2022—are eligible to apply. Because so much of the retreat is devoted to sustained writing time, writers who have not yet passed prelims and whose dissertation prospectus (if required by their department) will not yet have been approved before May 2 should wait until next year to apply.

Interested? Questions?

Instructions to apply are available here. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with Katie Levin (kslevin@umn.edu).

For a sampling of the disciplinary diversity of the retreat, see our list of Defended dissertations completed by retreat participants.