Dissertation Boot Camp offers time to write

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | September 01, 2017

Image with caption: Graduates of UNMC's August Dissertation Boot Camp posed with Dele Davies, M.D., right, and Pamela Carmines, Ph.D., left.

Graduates of UNMC's August Dissertation Boot Camp posed with Dele Davies, M.D., right, and Pamela Carmines, Ph.D., left.

A sign on the wall at the last day of Dissertation Boot Camp read, "To begin is to be half done."

That's overstating it, but just barely. Graduate students who took part in the four-day event, Aug. 1-4, reveled in the opportunity to finally just sit down and write.

"It's kind of tough to find a quiet place to write," said Jacob Contreras, a Ph.D. candidate in cancer research, who was able to finish a chapter and most of his introduction during the camp.

"That's the hardest part, isn't it?" said Dele Davies, M.D., vice chancellor of academic affairs and dean of graduate studies, who attended the "graduation" ceremony.

It's one of the hardest, but not the hardest, Contreras said. "The hardest part is finding time."

Then make it a priority to make the time, Dr. Davies said. Schedule it officially.

And that's just what the Dissertation Boot Camp did. It gave Ph.D. students nearly a week to work. Designated time, with publicly stated goals and positive peer pressure.

"No more excuses or distractions," the Dissertation Boot Camp web page says.

Rachel Utter, a Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Sciences Interdisciplinary Area (MSIA), normally works full time in the genetics lab. "I wrote 54 pages," she said.

Jordan Lill (MSIA, applied behavior analysis) rose to share his experience. "If I didn't, my adviser would be upset," he said. Instead, his adviser would be proud. He wrote about 15,000 words.

Organized by UNMC Graduate Studies, Dissertation Boot Camp provided access to writing experts and offered tips and strategies. Lunchtime workshops addressed grammar, time management and navigation of the electronic submissions process.

And it was free. Or, the $75 fee was waived for all who completed the camp.

The next Dissertation Boot Camp is Jan. 2-5, 2018. Registration will open in October.

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