University of Minnesota
student writing support
center for writing

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

Why participate in the Dissertation Writing Retreat?


Past participants have told us that the retreat was “invaluable”:

  • The structure and positive environment of the retreat made my work feel less burdensome and POSSIBLE! This is what I have needed most in my dissertation writing process: hope and confidence. The retreat has given me both of those things.
  • I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to participate and work with the awesome consultants. This is only the beginning to me becoming a more confident writer. I'm that much closer to being a Ph.D. graduate.
  • I gained some important trials (successes and failures) in carving out space for writing (or other dissertation work). I gained important daily structure that helped me place boundaries between work and life time (which was super helpful, coming so soon after prelims).
  • Prior to the retreat my dissertation seemed huge and overwhelming. This retreat has given me skills to take on small chunks and work through my writing difficulties. I would like to thank you especially for providing us with resources that we can use now and in our careers. Because of this retreat I have learned to enjoy writing as much as research.
  • The retreat has helped me to be even more organized about the dissertation process, particularly with respect to setting reasonable and flexible goals. Moving forward, I feel that I can even more clearly share my goals with my advisors.
  • I feel like I gained: 1) joy in writing, 2) days of structured writing work, 3) sense of belonging, 4) many written pages, 5) aha! moments regarding my own struggles with engaging with the dissertation (to name a few).

When asked if they would recommend the retreat to other dissertators, participants told us...

  • Yes! Great to connect with other dissertators, great to get some fresh perspective on how writing gets done. Great to have access to writing consultants, and to discuss my work with people outside my field.
  • YES!! This is a great environment for any dissertator: the support from both the consultants and fellow writers is priceless.
  • YES, because it has reminded me of my own value and voice, that I can do this thing!, and expanded what feels possible in the next year.
  • Absolutely! I already did. I found it to be inspiring (in the sense of finally realizing that I could actually finish this dissertation—this is the first time I have felt like this is doable and that I WILL finish). The sense of community gave me the feeling that the worries and fears I had were pretty common and that people had worked through them and actually finished.

When asked about what Gather was like (first used in Summer 2021), participants told us...

  • It was the best online environment I have worked in. I've seen similar attempts for virtual conferences, but this one worked the best. And it was so nice to have a break from Zoom. It also allowed for more natural interactions than Zoom.
  • I was honestly pretty skeptical of the space—I imagined it would feel a lot like the energy-sucking vortex, Zoom. But the avatars, the integration of audio and chat, and something that felt like a physical space surprised me in really positive ways. I have found myself day dreaming about to recommend Gather to various online conference I am apart of in the coming months.
  • I enjoyed this space, and I enjoyed having my own little "spot" each day. Haha. It was a really nice switch from Zoom and I liked how you could have conversations and walk by and sort of listen in on snippets of conversations, just like in real life. I liked that we could be cameras on, cameras off, use the chat—it was a great use of space.

Light bulb photo by Kat Clay, used with permission under a creative commons license. See more of this photographer's work here.