York PhDs join Lake Shift Graduate retreat

Fifteen York PhD students, part of a group of more than 40 students from seven Ontario universities, meet last week at the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) for the inaugural Lake Shift writing retreat.

PhDs at Lake ShiftThe four-day retreat, hosted by Queen’s School of Graduate Studies, provided graduate students with structured time to work on their theses in a peaceful and relaxing environment on the shores of Lake Opinicon – one of the lakes of the Rideau System. Students were also able to take part in workshops on tips for effective dissertation writing, and enjoyed opportunities to network with other graduate students.

The 15 York students were chosen from among 56 applications.

The objective of the retreat is to enable graduate students to make substantial progress in writing their thesis and to establish scheduling and time management skills necessary to maintain that momentum. Students from the seven participating universities (Brock, Western, Windsor, York, Laurentian, University of Toronto, and Queen’s University) were also able to benefit from an interdisciplinary atmosphere – programs represented a range from history to criminology to neuroscience to natural resource engineering, and more.

Barbara Crow
Barbara Crow

Barbara Crow, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York, put the idea forward to the student community using funds from FGS’ Academic Excellence Fund to pay their way. She said the experience is “a great opportunity for our graduate students, at the dissertation writing stage, to work with other students across the province. Queen’s has put together a strong writing support program in an ideal setting.”

Brenda Brouwer, dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Queen’s, said “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.”

What’s distinct about the Lake Shift, she said, 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,” said Brouwer.

The retreat offers a balanced program including ample time to write, structured time for goal setting, shared meal and recreation times, as well as evening workshops, discussion groups and seminars.

Some of the presenters included in the program were: Maggie Berg, author of The Slow Professor; Hélène Lawler, academic writer, editor, and dissertation coach; and Evaristo Hernández-Fernández, an ornithologist and illustrator from Mexico.

During recreation time, participants were able to enjoy the QUBS’ many amenities, including swimming, boating, hiking and campfire conversations.

Besides beautiful lakeshores and hiking trails, the field station features a library and multiple exhibitions to engage the public and foster public awareness of environmental and conservation issues. QUBS is an internationally renowned facility, regularly hosting field researchers from Canadian and international institutions.