Tom Leonard and I have both been where you are: in graduate school. Mine was Cornell (Ph.D., 1988), while Tom’s was right here at Cal (Ph.D., 1973). We both know how difficult it can be to find the right time and place to do some serious writing — and as much as you might enjoy your topic, starting and completing your dissertation certainly qualifies as serious writing.
So Tom and I and our respective staffs had some discussions along this line in recent months, and in June they bore fruit. (Tom is the head of UC Berkeley’s Library, so perhaps you can see where this is going.)
In Room 215 of the Doe Library, a new facility has just opened for quiet, inspired business; it’s called the Dissertation Writer’s Room. The story below gives the room’s hours of operation and its setting within the Library’s Graduate Services section (which, if you’re not already familiar with it, is a reserve library for graduate courses in the humanities and social sciences and a favored hideaway among grad students for recreational reading or dedicated study). Whatever your discipline, drop by 215 Doe next time you’re in the library and see if it might suit the way you work; all doctoral candidates are welcome to make use of the DWR.
And speaking of progress on writing tasks, as the spring semester drew to a close, nearly half of the 21 Ph.D. students in the School of Information elected to tackle their writing projects — dissertation, prospectus, you name it — head-on over a two-week period in May, in what they called a “writing boot camp.” The I School set aside a room, faculty volunteered to provide refreshments (coffee and bagels “at a minimum”), and the students showed up every morning and wrote and wrote. If one can discuss writing in terms of physics, overcoming inertia takes a significant share of the available (mental and emotional) energy, while maintaining momentum thereafter is relatively easy. The I School’s “boot camp” was about really getting underway — starting or re-starting — and keeping going, and I applaud it.
I hope you all find your own individual best places and best methods for researching, for putting that research into words, and, over the summer at least, finding ways to have some fun and relax.
Andrew J. Szeri
Dean of the Graduate Division