WMU News

Doctoral students get real at dissertation 'boot camp'

June 8, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- What do you get when you sequester seven doctoral students in individual rooms for a week of intensive writing? No, this isn't fodder for a new reality TV show, it's real life at Western Michigan University.

The students have all signed up for a rigorous, supervised retreat that provides a structured time and place to focus exclusively on their dissertations--the research papers that cap off years of doctoral study and are required before being granted a doctorate.

The retreat, which takes place from Sunday, June 10, to Friday, June 15, allows doctoral candidates to jump-start their writing or make dramatic progress on this culminating project without distractions.

It is being sponsored by WMU's Graduate College and is one of many resources the college offers to help students successfully complete their academic and research endeavors. The Graduate College is funding the bulk of the retreat's cost, while participants are paying a nominal $200 fee to attend the program.

The retreat will be directed by Dr. Sonja K. Foss, professor and chairperson of the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado at Denver. Foss has been leading similar programs in Albuquerque, N.M., and Denver since 1997, but this is the first time she will conduct the innovative program elsewhere in the United States.

She will provide individual coaching as well as assist participants on a variety of fronts, such as unblocking writing blocks, getting motivated, and developing writing plans and strategies.

"By participating in the retreat, these students have declared the earning of a doctoral degree in the near term to be a high priority," says Dr. Eileen B. Evans, associate dean of the Graduate College. "Certainly, the Graduate College is pleased to make available a setting and the expertise conducive to their achieving, individually, the goals outlined in their written plans for the week. For the graduate deans, watching these scholars and researchers as they are hooded and their degrees conferred during commencement will be very gratifying."

While attending the retreat, participants will be housed and fed in French Hall and adhere to a daily regimen that begins at 6 a.m.; includes breaks for required exercise, communal meals, and an evening social hour; and ends with lights-out at 10 p.m.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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