Holmes Dissertation Retreat Advances Scholars’ Doctoral Journey

The annual Holmes Scholars Dissertation Symposium and Retreat convened May 27-28 at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando. The retreat served as an invaluable exchange of knowledge, mentorship, and networking. Professionals in the fields of counseling and mentoring, qualitative research, quantitative research, and grant writing guided more than 70 participants in their doctoral journeys.

Included during the retreat was an allotted time for scholars to “work on the work” in smaller workshop sessions. Scholars spent approximately 3 hours working on literature review, conceptual framework, and general dissertation discussion. Other sessions focusing on the job interview process and the true realities of the professorship proved moving and helpful as scholars pressed forward on their trails. Participants also valued the many opportunities to network and fellowship with peers and colleagues in the field.

“Once again, the dissertation retreat did not disappoint,” said Terrance McNeil, Holmes Scholar at Florida A&M University (FAMU) and vice president of the Holmes Scholars Council. “The Scholars were provided an opportunity to delve into the nuts and bolts of their research while receiving both expert and peer-to-peer advice. For me, the expertise of UCF Professor David Boote on the literature review was exceptional.”

The opening day began with a welcome from several deans and vice presidents from both UCF and FAMU—the institutions responsible for organizing the event—who brought greetings and set the tone for the conference. Following the opening, students chose from a plethora of session options related to mentorship, literature review, mapping out a research agenda, wellness initiatives, and grant writing. Later, a plenary facilitated by Rod Lucero, AACTE’s vice president for member engagement and support, helped outline the vision for the Holmes Program moving forward and the responsibility participants have to their surrounding educational communities. Finally, the day ended with sessions around critical literacy and social justice, preparation for the dissertation, and negotiating tenure and promotion. Needless to say, Day 1 was full of rich learning and exchange.

On Day 2, an inspiring opening plenary was held by Monika Williams Shealey, dean of the College of Education at Rowan University (NJ) and herself a Holmes Scholar alumna. She spoke on the role of doctoral students and new faculty in transforming institutions into spaces that nurture the development of new understanding while challenging the perpetuation of inaccurate assumptions and beliefs among faculty about the purpose of public education. Following this opening session, several FAMU and UCF scholars showcased their research, and scholars participated in mock interviews and working research sessions.

Certainly, we can expect the retreat was not all about the professional side of the dissertation practice. Scholars also enjoyed opportunities to have fun and network with one another through a fun-filled game night and karaoke at Universal Studios City Walk.

“As usual, the networking and social activities underscored the notion that we are a collective striving toward and concerned about each other’s success,” McNeil said. “Our UCF colleagues are to be commended for putting this event together.”

For more information about the AACTE Holmes Program, visit http://aacte.org/programs-and-services/holmes-program.

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Whitney Watkins

Holmes Scholars Council President, 2015-2017