Graduate Writing Oasis

Awardee: Nancy Khalil (FAS)

Summary: Awardee ran a year-long Writing Oasis program, based on a successful pilot offering, to provide dedicated time and collaboration for graduate students in their dissertation writing.

Doctoral student Nancy Khalil piloted “The Writing Oasis” in spring 2016 in response to her observation that dissertation writing can be an isolating process with limited structure and support. As a means to reduce roadblocks and build a peer support network, students who attended a Writing Oasis session were offered a collaborative environment and dedicated time to identify measurable objectives and goals of their writing progress.

The Writing Oasis provides a space for accountability, productivity, and community. As one pilot participant described, “it’s like going to a gym and taking a group class instead of running alone on the treadmill.” At the start of each session, attendees share their goals with a group of peers who provide feedback based on their own experience. They then write for a predetermined amount of time, with break periods embedded, to achieve their objective. At the end of the session, participants share out about their experience and have the option to solicit advice for any challenges that precluded accomplishing their goal.  In addition to fixed bi-weekly writing sessions, the 2016-2017 cohort met with different university staff every 6-8 weeks for targeted workshops relevant to dissertation writers. Campus offices that offered the cohort workshops, resources and support included the Bureau Study Counsel, Wellness Center, Center for Writing and Communicating Ideas, and the Harvard Libraries. Outside of the committed cohort for dissertation writers, the Writing Oasis offers day-long and multi-day Oases throughout the academic year during the weekends and campus breaks for graduate students in all stages.

Khalil will assess the program by soliciting feedback from participants to determine if this committed format can offer a solution to be adopted across departments for future sponsorship, or potentially within an existing office or center on campus.