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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 in 15 Nicholson Hall for three weeks of concentrated dissertation-writing time in a supportive group setting. During the pandemic (summers 2020 and 2021), we are holding a remote version of the retreat via Zoom.

The 2021 retreat will be held Mondays through Thursdays, May 24 through June 10 (no session on Monday, May 31, 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, February 19, 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, February 26, advisor completes and uploads a form indicating whether they endorse the writer's participation in the 2021 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 non-Zoom 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.

Writing retreat location and scheduleNicholson Hall

If you are selected, you will gather with other retreat participants Mondays through Thursdays, May 24–June 10 (no session on Monday, May 31, Memorial Day), between 9:00 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Central Time in Zoom. The full group will be in Zoom for opening warmups at 9 am and for a closing writing activity at 3:30 pm every day. We encourage a 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 Zoom 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 whose dissertation prospectuses have been approved—or will have been approved by Monday, May 3, 2021—are eligible to apply. Because so much of the retreat is devoted to sustained writing (rather than research) time, writers whose prospectuses will not yet have been approved by their departments before May 3, or who still need to complete fieldwork, 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.