Graduate Center for Research and Retention

The Graduate Center for Research and Retention—housed within the Graduate College--is an innovative, one-of-a-kind center that provides sustained individual mentoring, guidance, and advising support to graduate students in all fields. The center represents an integrated approach to graduate student retention and success, conducts research on time to degree, ensures best practices in graduate education, and implements programmatic interventions to enhance opportunities for degree completion and professional development for all WMU graduate students. The center oversees all Graduate College awards for graduate student research and travel, as well as dissertation completion awards, fellowships and prizes.

The center provides:

  • Conflict resolution for students and faculty.
  • Curriculum vitae or resume development assistance.
  • Dissertation and thesis coaching, proposal development and writing support.
  • Statistical consultation services for dissertation and thesis research.
  • Workshops to improve award application competitiveness as well as other topics. See events page for listings.



Dr. Marianne Di Pierro

Program Manager Graduate Research and Retention


Printable Graduate Center for Research and Retention Brochure 

July 2015 Dissertation Café

Eight students and Dr. Di Pierro stand for a photo in front of the fireplace of Walwood Commons. Behind them above the green ceramic tiles of the fireplace is a large painting featuring three cows in a field as seen through a break in the woods.

Left to Right: Libertie Bael Mantilla (Department of Statistics; Ali Bolandi (Department of Chemistry); Stephanie Means (Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation Program); Justin Moore (Department of Psychology); Sylvie Coulibaly (Department of Biological Sciences); Ewing Tiong (Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering); Marlene Camacho-Ochoa (Department of Spanish); Kristin Hobson (Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation Program); Dr. Marianne Di Pierro, Graduate College


Nine students are seated around a large table in Walwood Commons, each appears to be engaged in studious activity such as typing on their laptop, reading articles, or examining the text of a book.

Graduate students working hard at the Dissertation Cafe in Walwood Commons

On July 15, 2015, eleven WMU graduate students came together for a six-day writing challenge to participate in the Dissertation Café, a quiet space that permitted them the opportunity to work on writing their doctoral dissertations and masters theses in the tranquil atmosphere of Walwood Commons and to receive academic writing support. I began the process by establishing individual goals for the Café experience with each student. Together, we outlined a realistic plan of action that would permit students to accomplish these goals within the time frame available to them. Then, the students projected the probability (in percentages) that they would attain their goals. Upon the conclusion of the Café, we met yet again to reevaluate the goal-setting endeavor. The vast majority of participants reached or surpassed their projected goals. Out of 11 students who began the Café, 10 completed the week-long session. Students appreciated the Café experience, and half of the participants asked for a continuation in the week following, which was arranged in order to encourage the momentum they had established and to capitalize on their writing. The Graduate College is very proud of these students who took time from their own demanding schedules and carved out the disciplined space of the Café to advance them to degree completion.

We acknowledge the financial contributions of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) which, together with the Graduate College’s Graduate Center, generously provided luncheon and other refreshments to the students throughout the Dissertation Café. We look forward to continuing this invaluable program in future. Write and let me know your thoughts regarding the Graduate College/Graduate Center’s ongoing sponsorship of the Dissertation Café and other related programs to ensure opportunities for professional development and success. We are interested in hearing your voices.

Contact Dr. Marianne Di Pierro, Program Manager for Graduate Research and Retention, via email or by phone (269) 387-8249


Quotations from Dissertation Café attendees: July 15 to July 22, 2015

“The Graduate School Dissertation Café has come to me at the right moment and as a great space to focus my work and to improve and facilitate my writing. To be surrounded by peers is encouraging and helps me to feel less isolated.” Marlene Camacho-Ochoa, Department of Spanish

“This writing retreat came at a time when I needed it the most. Just the week before, I prayed about needing the time, space, and resources to complete Chapter 5. Lo and behold, the next day I received an email to participate in the retreat. My prayers had been answered! It was just what I needed to get over this last writing hump. A big Thanks to Dr. Di Pierro and her staff!” Stephanie Means, Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation

“The Dissertation Café was a wonderful, supportive, and structured space to work on my dissertation. Dr. Di Pierro’s leadership, persona and intellectual vigor created great opportunities to explore and work through dissertation ideas. Being around other scholars helped to keep me energized and focused on my work.” Anonymous

“The Dissertation Café is such a great program that any graduate student should take advantage of when they are at the writing stage. Being with other fellow students sometimes brings the energy to write, which is not sometimes so easy. Thank you, Dr. Di Pierro, for investing in us.” Sylvie Coulibaly, Department of Biological Sciences

“Thank you for such a wonderful and helpful experience to make progress individually, yet also in the supportive atmosphere of the group.” Anonymous

“[ Dissertation Café ]is a great support in both the technical aspect as well as the emotional. It helps to feel less isolated, and even without talking, you feel the companionship of other graduate students.” Anonymous

“Very helpful and beneficial.” Anonymous

“The ‘dissertation café’ was a tremendous help in getting me through finishing my dissertation. Thank you for providing this opportunity and special thanks to Dr. Di Pierro for her advice and suggestions. Ali Bolandi, Department of Chemistry