Writing, Grad Students

A Year of Evolution with the Virtual Writing Retreat Wednesdays

March 29, 2021

By Sally Ogis

As an M.Ed. student returning to academic life after a decades-long break, I was eager to follow up on an email from Graduate Studies in Education promoting a writing retreat offered by the Education Research HUB. Lured by the additional promise of a catered lunch (at that time the retreat was an all-day endeavour), I was able to clear my Wednesday schedule and venture up the mountain. Any traces of imposter syndrome I may have felt evaporated immediately after a warm greeting from Poh Tan who is a research assistant at the Hub, and is working on her second PhD.

The retreats begin with a presentation on some aspect of academic writing or research skills. Topics include Enhancing your Academic Writing skills, Developing a Conceptual Framework, and Identifying and Refining Your Research Question. The guest speakers provide incredibly helpful details regarding their topics, and they answer questions that arise from the presentation: including those applying to an attendee's specific need.

Covid-19 protocols have meant moving the retreat online. Sans lunch, it's an afternoon start time with the retreat now offered bi-weekly: 30-minute workshops alternating with shorter research chats. What hasn't changed with the switch to online is the supportive community the afternoon provides. Social time for introductions reveals that attendance is growing as students take advantage of being able to participate remotely. Student union representatives continue to provide updates on opportunities and concerns that affect graduate students. Optional study breaks are just a break-out room away, offering mindfulness practices and stretching to address stiffness and sore shoulders from all that intense brain activity.

Many attendees comment on the luxuriously long and uninterrupted writing session. After some realistic goal setting, the session provides space in which to deepen or find momentum. The focused energy emanating from the computer screen enhances the experience of working individually within a community. That said, attendees are welcome to come and go as per their schedules.

Reflecting back on a year's worth of attendance, I've found that these presentations, coupled with the chance to hear others sharing their processes, have opened a path that guides and enhances my own progress though grad school. I can now glance back and see signposts behind me. The ones still ahead feel manageable and the ground beneath, solid.

About the author:

Sally Ogis an SFU Grad Student pursuing a Masters of Education, Contemplative Inquiry. The pandemic has reunited her adult family under one roof with many welcomed outcomes including a puppy.