ODI Dissertation Boot Camp:
From ABD to PhD

2016 Boot Camp participants in camo hoodies

ODI Dissertation Boot Camp 2017

Receiving a doctoral degree from The Ohio State University is the culmination of many years of time and effort. At Ohio State, the path to the PhD includes coursework, a candidacy examination, a dissertation, and a final oral examination. For some students, finishing their dissertation can become a daunting task. But for the 25 students who attended the annual Office of Diversity and Inclusion Dissertation Boot Camp, writing (and finishing) their dissertation just got a little bit easier. The Boot Camp’s aim was to provide PhD candidates from underrepresented groups with the space to work on their dissertations alongside other Ohio State students and faculty, helping those students kick-start their dissertations or continue writing chapters to complete their doctoral work.

The format for the three-day event, held March 30 - April 2 at Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Centerin Mt. Sterling, consisted of time set aside for writing, as well as time to ask questions of the eight Boot Camp Instructors who provided feedback and guidance. The instructor’s disciplines included: Education; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Comparative Studies; Engineering; African American and African Studies; French; Kinesiology; English; Social Work; and Business.

Narrowing down a topic and explaining jargon to readers can be the first stumbling block to writing the dissertation. At the Boot Camp, students were able to sit down with faculty to help sort out and organize their ideas. Students were asked to present an “elevator pitch” that explained their projects in scope and contribution, an exercise that participants said brought clarity to the way in which their work was shared with audiences who were unfamiliar with it. Others were given daily goals that helped them sort out their writing into small, manageable accomplishments.

Even with an outline in place, just finding uninterrupted time to write can be overwhelming. The quiet location of Deer Creek, along with set times for writing, provided participants the impetus for making significant headway on their work. “The retreat gave me an opportunity to refocus and gain the clarity necessary to complete the daunting dissertation process. Although the title for the program was “boot camp,” the experience was inviting and reminded me of the immense support that I have from faculty and peers,” stated on student.

Last, but not least, students who attended the Dissertation Boot Camp appreciated the support they received from their peers and faculty mentors, leaving them with the understanding that they are not alone in this process. “Having dedicated time and space to be able to only focus on my writing, where everything else was figured out for me, was amazing. It was also really helpful to have other people doing the same thing all around me. When I started to flag, I would look at someone else working away and say, ‘I can do another paragraph, I guess.’ ” One participant stated: “I never felt hesitant to ask others for advice or assistance.”

Sharon Davies, Chief Diversity Office and vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion, remarked about the Boot Camp, “The retreat provides attendees with a sense of community and a strong foundation of peer and faculty support to help them along their journey to the doctorate. Because that journey that may not always go as anticipated, I hope that all the tools, strategies, and support that graduate and professional students received at this retreat will remind them that this is a journey they are not making alone.”

When asked if there was anything that could be changed, one student simply stated, “I wish I had known about this last year!”

2015 Dissertation Boot Camp

The Office of Diversity Dissertation Boot Camp is held annually; for more information, contact Robert Bennett III, PhD at Bennett.460@osu.edu.