Leading the Way in Supporting Doctoral Students’ Academic Writing

Marymount Write Up Retreat
Marymount Write Up Retreat

Dr. Paula AzevedoWe quizzed the founder of Marymount University’s Write Up! Institute about the purpose and aspirations of creating such a resource for Marymount University Ed.D. students. Here is what Dr. Paula Cristina Azevedo had to say about the creation of the Write Up! Institute, its offerings, and the mission and vision behind it. 


Click here to register and secure your spot for the Write Up! Retreat.


Why was the Write Up! Institute created?

I teach the very first research course doctoral students encounter and began to notice some common challenges across cohorts. First, was the uncertainty, and even fear, of conducting research, which is natural since we’re not trained to design and conduct original research. That’s the whole point of a doctoral program. However, I found that many would overcome this fear as they began to dig deeper into their research topic and started to develop coherent thoughts and research questions. A big hurdle that many experience is shifting into writing scholarly papers, which requires a different set of writing skills. Yet the greatest challenge is simply finding the time to write. Our doctoral students are busy professionals and it is very difficult to find time in the day to write; even we scholars find it challenging to dedicate time to write. As a result, the Write Up! Institute was created to yield extra support for our students as they face these challenges by providing workshops, group writing sessions, and retreats to address these and other challenges of writing a dissertation in practice. 


Why does the Write Up! Institute have two different components - the Lab and the Retreat? 

Yes, there are two pillars to the Write Up! Institute. The first is the Lab, which will provide virtual writing workshops, where students will have an opportunity to hear from faculty about research methodology and scholarly writing skills. In addition, the Lab will host virtual group writing sessions where students can just show up on a zoom call, write for a period of time and then get peer and faculty feedback and support. The Lab will host such learning and writing opportunities throughout the academic year for free. The first is scheduled for September 13th, 2022. 

The second pillar of the Write Up! Institute is the Writing Retreat. It is set to occur November 11th and November 12th, 2022 on Marymount’s main campus. This year we are piloting our first hybrid writing retreat. Students will have an opportunity to solely concentrate on their writing for two days. There will be brief workshops one can choose to attend that will provide helpful instruction on scholarly writing, opportunities to meet with peers to provide feedback and gain suggestions on selected writing, and have a chance to meet with a faculty member to work on a challenge in the writing process. Most of the time will be dedicated to writing. We will start the first day by setting a writing goal that is achievable for the weekend and throughout the retreat, we’ll revisit and adjust the goal as needed. The expectation is that students who attend will leave with pages of scholarly writing, additional skills, and gained knowledge regarding academic writing that will continue to support them in their dissertation journey and throughout their careers as scholarly-practitioners with a dedicated habit of writing.  


Register now for the upcoming Write Up! Retreat in November.


What can people expect during the writing retreat?

This really depends on which path the attendees choose, whether in-person or virtual - though the content will be the same, each experience will be unique.  



During the retreat faculty facilitators, coaches and volunteers will ensure participants have a safe, distraction-free environment to write and learn. Each day, there will be opening sessions where participants will have an opportunity to set their intentions and writing goals for the day. If they choose, they’ll learn from our expert faculty during workshops and group sessions. In addition, beverages and food will be provided during the day, and there will be dedicated quiet spaces for writing - even a room where you can meditate, pray or take a power nap if needed.  You’ll also be able to enjoy the serene outdoor spaces the main campus has to offer. It is our goal to take care of everything for the participant so all they have to focus on is learning, writing, and revising… and then continue to do some more writing. 



The online experience will be similar but not the same as the in-person version. We understand that what we do in person doesn’t translate perfectly virtually. So, we’re designing an experience that will specifically support virtual participants. For instance, dedicated faculty and volunteers will exclusively work with virtual participants by co-creating a safe learning environment, facilitating writing sessions, answering questions, coaching groups and individuals through a writing or research concern, and more. Virtual participants will be able to watch and listen to the daily opening and closing sessions and the workshops. They will be able to participate via chat during these large group sessions through co-facilitation between the lead faculty member present and the lead virtual faculty member present in person. The purpose of having a lead virtual faculty member present in-person is to provide support and co-facilitate the session with the in-person faculty facilitator. To safeguard the integrity of the event for all participants, there will be little interaction between doctoral students on campus and those who are virtual. We want to ensure that there are few distractions and minimize the use of apps, especially since the main goal of the retreat is to write. Nevertheless, online participants can receive a rich experience and deepen their writing skills and practice by attending the retreat virtually. 


Is this a required part of the Ed.D. program?

This is not a required part of the Ed.D. program. It’s an offering faculty are providing in addition to the courses they teach. 


What’s the goal for students attending the writing retreat?

The hope is that students who attend will gain a mindset geared towards working to develop a new habit of writing academically and leave with pages of scholarly writing, additional skills, and knowledge that will continue to support them in their dissertation journey and beyond.


What’s the cost?

The Write Up! Retreat is using a pay-what-you can model for both virtual and in-person participants. Participants have the option to pay the minimum ticket price of $150.00 in person and virtual attendees have the option to pay the minimum ticket price of $80.00. We really wanted to find a way for the retreat to be financially accessible for any student who wants to attend. Therefore, we instituted the pay-what-you-can model. For us to break even and not lose money on the event, we would need to charge in-person attendees $190 and and virtual attendees $100; however, by using the pay-what-you-can model, we are relying on Marymount’s principle  of servitude to instill a spirit of donation for those who can afford to pay the break-even price or even sponsor other people attending the event at minimum cost. 


  • For in-person attendees, the minimum ticket price is $150, the breakeven ticket price is $190, breakeven plus one sponsorship is $230, and breakeven plus 2 sponsorships is $270.
  • For virtual attendees, the minimum ticket price is $80, the breakeven ticket price is $100, breakeven plus one sponsorship is $120, and breakeven plus 2 sponsorships is $140.


If students are able to contribute beyond their selected ticket price, but not at the next level, we have a "Donation" option, which allows them to select any amount (i.eMinimum ticket plus $10 or breakeven ticket plus $25.

We are offering this system because we believe financial accessibility is important, and we encourage you to take advantage of the minimum payment option if that truly reflects your financial situation. However, if everyone pays the minimum price we will lose close to $2000! Please be generous with your ticket option and/or donation if you can.


Why did we choose this Payment structure?

We chose a pay-what-you-can model because we wanted to make sure the writing retreat is accessible to as many doctoral students as possible. The pay-what-you-can model offers a minimum price, a "breakeven" price," which covers the actual costs of attendance, and above "breakeven" ticket options, which help sponsor those who can only afford the minimum. We are also including a "Donation" option, allowing participants to include any extra amount they can afford to contribute. For instance, if you can afford between the minimum and "at cost" prices. 

We feel strongly that this model reflects Marymount University’s values of community members supporting community members and giving when you can so others may learn and benefit. Our long-term goal is to have enough funds to fully sponsor one or two participants to attend the retreat, either virtually or in-person.


What are the short and long-term benefits students will have after attending the retreat? 

The short-term benefit of attending either the in-person or virtual writing retreat is you’ll have pages of solid drafts or polished drafts of your dissertation in practice or other scholarly work. The long-term benefits will be different for everyone because even though we’re all having a shared experience during the retreat, each person will have their own unique experience. So, some people will leave the retreat with lifelong friends, others will leave with transferable skills that they can apply to their professional writing, and others may continue to develop their habit of writing. It really depends on how much effort you put into these two days, how present you are for the full experience, and what your intentions and goals are for these two days.    


What kind of topics will be covered in the virtual “Lab” sessions?

If you’re still not sure if a writing retreat is right for you, the Write Up! Lab will be hosting two free virtual workshops prior to the retreat. Anyone can attend the workshops. More information regarding these labs will be sent out directly to students in the fall. The first one will be led by Dr. Clara Hauth who will share with participants information about the dissertation in practice (DiP) and answer any questions related to the DiP process. In October, I will share practices on how to create a habit of writing. In the spring semester, faculty across the university will be sharing their expertise in research and scholarly writing with our doctoral students. These workshops will continue to develop and deepen what students are already learning in their courses.   

We hope to be able to share this incredible offering with Marymount University Ed.D. students for years to come, with offerings becoming more robust every year. The Marymount Ed.D. Faculty are dedicated to helping the Ed.D. students aspire to new career heights and supporting the Ed.D. students to obtain doctoral-level thinking and research skills while completing their DiP and for years to come.