Finding direction in the woods

Finding direction in the woods

July 28, 2016


The School of Graduate Studies has made great strides in recent years in supporting its students as they work toward completing their studies.

With the success of programs such as Dissertation on the Lake and Dissertation Bootcamp, Queen’s University decided to reach out to universities across Ontario and share its experience and resources through a special writing retreat.

The Lake Shift, held a Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) from July 24-28, brings together more than 40 graduate students from seven universities (Brock, Western, Windsor, York, Laurentian, the University of Toronto, and Queen’s), with the aim of enabling them to make substantial progress in writing their theses and to establish better scheduling and time management skills.

“Providing graduate students with the opportunity to get away from their daily routines to focus on writing is a winning combination, and when you add into the mix beautiful surroundings and three prepared meals a day, it provides for a welcome balance of productivity, health and wellness,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean, School of Graduate Studies. “What’s distinct about the Lake Shift, is that it brings graduate students from many Ontario universities together to exchange ideas, share their tips and strategies for making headway in their theses and to get to know one another. We’re thrilled that we can build on our Dissertation on the Lake program and offer this opportunity to graduate students across the province.”

Daily schedules include workshops and writing time as well as blocks for recreation and conversation with other attendees. The combination of work and downtime is a key element for the writing retreat, says Marta Straznicky, Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies.

“The balance of solo time and an opportunity to engage with others I think has been really good. I’ve been walking around and I am hearing lots of conversations among people about their work but not only about their work,” she says. “They are really connecting across fields, across schools, so they have a lot in common that they otherwise would not have discovered. It’s important to talk to other people who are facing the same challenges, the same demands in their program, the same task, which is writing the dissertation.”

A writing board covered in Post-It notes with daily achievements attests to the work being accomplished.

For Xu Yuhang, a PhD candidate in mining engineering from Laurentian University, Lake Shift offered him a chance to improve his writing skills. As an international student he says that while his English is solid he is struggling with the technical writing that his thesis requires. After the first two days he was already applying a number of tips that he had picked up in the workshops.

“On (Monday) night there was a workshop given by Maggie Berg (English Language and Literature). It was very instructive and gave me a clear guideline on how to work with my writing more effectively,” he says. “(On Tuesday) I tried to follow her suggestions and I think it works pretty well.”

Mr. Xu also found the socialization aspect of the retreat beneficial and was interested in hearing from other grad students about their work.

QUBS is located on Lake Opinicon offering a beautiful shoreline and hiking trails. The field station features a library and multiple exhibitions to engage visitors and foster public awareness of environmental and conservation issues. QUBS is an internationally-renowned facility, regularly hosting field researchers from Canadian and international institutions.