Huskies get their writing in shape at the Dissertation Boot Camp 

Brendan McCormick knows what it means to get his dissertation in shape.  As a doctoral candidate graduating in May, McCormick is one of many Huskies who took part in last year’s Dissertation Boot Camp, an innovative program offered each summer by the University Writing Center.

“For a lot of doctoral students, it is difficult to carve out time at home to focus intently on the incredible amount of work that is required throughout the dissertation process,” McCormick said. “The University Writing Center gave me a quiet, comfortable setting without distractions.”

The Dissertation Boot Camp addresses the challenges writers face by providing a space to concentrate on the project and a cohort of others who can relate to the demands that come with a dissertation.

“Trust me, pep talks and cheerleading go a long way towards being motivated to complete the work,” McCormick said. “The University Writing Center staff is an invaluable resource for the NIU community.” 

Writing a dissertation can be a daunting task and the team at the University Writing Center understands that. Since 2010, they have been providing dissertation-related support for Huskies and the results speak for themselves.

“We have an over 90 percent completion rate for those who work with the University Writing Center on their projects,” University Writing Center director, Gail Jacky, said. “We offer information about all aspects of the process through the workshops and sessions, support for the challenges of navigating the process, and provide a quiet place to write, research and code without the distractions of outside life.”

Amanda Wojcik, who plans to graduate in December 2019, participated in last summer’s boot camp.

 “I appreciated the protected time to work in close proximity to Gail and other staff members at the writing center,” Wojcik said. “It allowed me to create my own agenda for each day and make appointments with Gail to review my work each afternoon in preparation for the following day.”

Wojcik said as a student who is motivated by deadlines, the format of the boot camp was beneficial.

“Each day I would determine what I needed to get accomplished and then I would work through my to-do list,” Wojcik said. “I felt that meeting daily for several days in a row allowed me to get right into the work and Gail was able to provide resources within minutes to support me when I was stuck.”

In turn, Wojcik said the time spent with the expert staff at the Writing Center was beneficial, but there were additional opportunities to collaborate with fellow Huskies.

“I found it helpful to collaborate with other doctoral students and to get insights through guest speakers who were brought in to support our needs,” Wojcik said. “I plan to take advantage of these opportunities again as I write my final two chapters and prepare for defense and graduation.”

Jacky said this year, the University Writing Center is combining the best features of both the boot camp and workshops. In addition, they have reduced costs to make the writing-focused pieces more affordable for students.

Here’s what’s happening this summer.

Workshop Wednesdays
Free workshops will take place on Wednesdays beginning June 19 through August 7. The free workshops will tackle a variety of topics pertinent to the dissertation process, taking place twice a day: 9:30–11 a.m. and 1:30–3 p.m.  In addition, University Writing Center coaches will be available before and after the workshops to provide individual assistance to students. Register here.

Dissertation Boot Camp
Along with the free workshops, the University Writing Center will offer seven Dissertation Boot Camps, a two-day writing-focused training that provides five hours of uninterrupted writing time and coaches on site to assist throughout the day. The fee for each Dissertation Boot Camp is $50. They take place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on June 24-25, June 26-27, July 8-9, July 10-11, July 22-23, July 24-25 and Aug. 5-6. The two-day boot camp is limited to 10 participants on a first-come, first-served basis. Although priority will be given to NIU students, doctoral candidates from other universities are welcome to enroll. Snacks will be provided each day. Enroll here.

For more information, visit the University Writing Center or email Gail Jacky.

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