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. 


Why was the Write Up! Institute created?

I teach the very first research course doctoral students encounter as well as their final class where they present their Dissertations. I 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 provides virtual writing workshops, where students have opportunities to hear from faculty about research methodology and scholarly writing skills. In addition, the Lab hosts 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 and challenges where faculty and students alike hold each other accountable for setting time to write The Lab hosts such learning and writing opportunities throughout the academic year for free. These events have resonated remarkably with the students and faculty. So much so that we record the labs and create asynchronous opportunities for students to experience the Labs in their own time and space. 

The second pillar of the Write Up! Institute is the Writing Retreat. It is set to occur on November 10th and November 11th, 2023 on Marymount’s main campus. This is our second annual Write Up! Retreat, and we are thrilled to be making the event even more purposeful and tailored to curate an unforgettable experience for the attendees. Students gain the opportunity to concentrate solely on their writing for two days. There will be brief workshops and panels one can choose to attend that will provide helpful instruction on scholarly writing, opportunities to meet with peers to provide feedback and obtain suggestions on selected writing, and the option to meet one-on-one with faculty members to work on a challenge in the writing process. Most of the time will be dedicated to writing. We start with a pre-event, by hosting a virtual session only for retreat attendees to ensure the attendees know what to expect and are prepared to gain the most out of the weekend. A personalized writing goal that is achievable for the weekend is set first thing in the morning on the first day and becomes the sole focus throughout the retreat. However, 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. Following the event, there will be two online follow-up sessions for the attendees to circle back to their achievements and refocus their efforts.


What can people expect during the writing retreat?

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, panels, 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. 


Is this a required part of the EdD program?

This is not a required part of the EdD program. It’s an offering faculty are providing in addition to the courses they teach. Furthermore, while the Labs are always accessible to students within the program and after, the Write Up! Retreat is only offered to students during their final dissertation phase, as we aim to target a very crucial time within the student’s writing journey. 


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

The short-term benefit of attending this in-person writing retreat is the pages of solid drafts or polished drafts of your dissertation in practice. 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 this writing retreat is right for you, feel free to peruse the past Write Up! Lab asynchronous modules on the EdD Write Up! Institute Canvas Page or attend the live, free virtual workshops prior to the retreat. Anyone in the EdD program can attend the live Lab workshops and take advantage of the asynchronous modules of past labs offered on the Write Up! Institute Canvas page. More information regarding upcoming labs will be sent out directly to students in the fall. Faculty across the university share their expertise in research and scholarly writing with our doctoral students through these events. 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.