Graduate Writing Retreats

26 Jan

As a graduate assistant for my university’s writing center, I’ve been charged with starting the university’s first series of graduate writing retreats. Writing centers, traditionally funded for and by undergraduates, have been approached by graduate students in recent years. It seems that learning good writing habits and getting support with writing is as necessary at the graduate level as it is at the undergraduate level. The problem: most writing centers are staffed by undergraduate tutors, and graduate student writers’ needs are different than undergraduate student writers’ needs.

This year, part of UConn’s response included: offering sessions of 0-credit, 5-week writing seminars where groups of 12 – 18 grad students gather and discuss writing, critiquing each other’s work under the guidance of a graduate writing tutor;  offering a 4-day intensive dissertation ‘boot camp’ (modeled after Stanford University’s) where students gathered to write for 7-hour sessions; and offering monthly 8-hour Saturday writing retreats. This is in addition, of course, to the one hour writing appointments graduate students have been able to schedule at the center.

Other universities use different approaches. For example, the University of New Hampshire has adapted a system whereby graduate students working on longer projects meet with the director of the center to assess their needs and be assigned a specific tutor for a certain number of sessions in a semester. UNH is clear about its policy: the center is there to help students with the writing process–but not to copy-edit work. In a slightly different way, UConn has been trying to do the same thing with its 0-credit classes, which also foster a creative environment among graduate students and hopefully help them to get an idea for what a writing group would look and feel like. (As part of a writing group which uses the critique-one-week, write-together-the-next approach, I can vouch for the usefulness of deadlines and friendly camaraderie as you write and try to improve.)

Ultimately, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work at writing centers, particularly as a graduate assistant. While I am finishing my second master’s now and hope to begin my PhD in the fall–meaning I won’t be dissertating for some time yet–it’s useful to know what works and what doesn’t in terms of graduate student writing. I find myself not only supervising and planning some of these events but reaching toward them myself and trying to form good writing habits, at least academically.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Graduate Writing Retreats”

  1. Allison @ The Book Wheel January 27, 2013 at 3:18 am #

    I was an older student and ran into the problem you described quite frequently. Some courses required that we visit the writing center but I was “learning” from someone who didn’t know the difference between ‘effect’ and ‘affect’! I ended up doing a lot of smiling and nodding while waiting to get my paper signed.

    • kristinareardon January 27, 2013 at 3:34 am #

      That can be a problem! Ideally, a writing tutorial would be student-guided, and the tutor would just be asking questions to prompt the writer to think more critically about his/her own work, but I suppose tutors’ training depends on the philosophy of the particular university’s writing center, and some tutors are better at that than others. Many universities are trying to reach out and address the issue of graduate writing now in a variety of different ways, so hopefully there will continue to be newer and better methods of supporting graduate/older students. Where/what did you study?

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Allison @ The Book Wheel January 27, 2013 at 3:47 am #

        I studied political science at UNC. The tutors were incredibly nice, but each time I went I was told, “you’re writing is fine, you don’t really need this,” so I didn’t gain many new insights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Essays on motherhood

Musings from a new mom.

The Book Wheel

There is no friend as loyal as a book. - Ernest Hemingway

Liz Boltz Ranfeld

Living and Parenting as a Liberal Feminist Christian

Craig Robert Brown

Copywriter | Journalist

The Breakdown of Taboo

Is Taboo Dying?

Support

WordPress.com Support

Middlebrow Milieu

Where my highbrow and lowbrow tastes hug it out.

to peregrinate

Not all those who wander are lost...

%d bloggers like this: