The Dissertation House is the term that describes a compact series of multi-day workshops, seminars, and activities that are focused on preparing students to finish their dissertations.  The first “Dissertation House” session was held in a large cabin as part of a West Virginia graduate student community building retreat sponsored by PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP.  Over the years, the Dissertation House has become a program that many students use to finish their proposals and dissertations.

The Dissertation House is sponsored by PROMISE, The UMBC Graduate School, The UMCP Division of Graduate Studies, and the Council of Graduate Schools’ Ph.D. Completion Project.


The Dissertation House project is based on the successful Scholar’s Retreat by Dr. Sonja K. Foss at the University of Colorado at Denver (Feature article in: Scott Smallwood (2004) “A Week at Camp Dissertation,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 16, 2004.) PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, one of the nation’s 21 AGEP programs of the National Science Foundation, adapted some of Dr. Foss’ methods and incorporated them into strategies that UMBC’s Dissertation Coach, Dr. Wendy Carter, uses in her “TADA: Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished – Finally Finished” books and software. Dr. Carter’s materials are used throughout the U.S. (Website: http://www.tadafinallyfinished.com/.)

The founders of the Dissertation House in Maryland are Dr. Renetta Tull, Dr. Wendy Carter, and Dr. Janet Rutledge.The first successful pilot of the PROMISE Dissertation House was held in a house (a large cabin) at the PROMISE Community Building Retreat on the grounds of the Coolfont Conference Center in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, during the winter of 2006. The second successful Dissertation House was held in March 2007 at the Rocky Gap Conference Center in Cumberland, Maryland. The Dissertation House staff at Rocky Gap included Dr. Wendy Carter, Dr. Chris Carlton of the UMBC Counseling Center, and Dr. Tracey Wayne, a PROMISE Alum from the University of Maryland College Park. Based on the success of these PROMISE Dissertation House experiences, the successes experienced by students who have worked with Dr. Carter, and drawing upon the experience of Dr. Foss and the staff at the University of Colorado at Denver, the Dissertation House expanded to include “Dissertation House – On Campus” week-long, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. programs in July 2007.
Successful Dissertation Houses have now taken place at the following locations:
March  2006: Coolfont, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
March 2007: Rocky Gap Conference Center, Cumberland, MD
July 2007: UMBC Campus
July 2007: UMCP Campus
January 2008: UMBC Campus
July 2008: UMBC Campus
July 2008: UMCP Campus
January 2009: UMBC Campus
Feb/March 2009: Rocky Gap Conference Center
July 2009: UMBC Campus
July 2009: UMCP Campus
September 2009: UMBC Campus (For campus employees who are working full-time AND going to grad school.)
September 2009: University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras (Single day discussion version)
January 2010: UMBC Campus
Feb. 2010: Rocky Gap Conference Center
June 2010: University of Maryland Medical School
July 2010: UMBC Campus
July 2010: UM College Park Campus
September 2010: UMBC Campus
January 2011: UMBC Campus
March 2011: UMBC Campus (Friday & Saturday version)
2011 : UMBC, UM College Park, University of Maryland Medical School
2012:  Expanded to include Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.  Friday – Sunday weekend sessions began at UMBC.
The Dissertation House is sponsored by the following programs:

Dissertation House committee:

Dr. Wendy Carter-Veale (Dissertation Coach, UMBC Ph.D. Completion Project)

Dr. Renetta Tull (Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Development (UMBC), Co–PI and Director of PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP (UMBC, UMCP, UMB))

Dr. Janet Rutledge ( Vice Provost and Dean of The Graduate School, UMBC)
Guest Coach – Public Speaking: Dr. Judith Kadarusman Pollack

PROMISE PI: Dr. Philip Rous, Provost, UMBC

Former committee members:
  • Dr. Johnetta G. Davis (Former Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Director of the Office of Graduate Recruitment, Retention, and Diversity (OGRRD), University of Maryland College Park (UMCP))
  • Gloria Casilda Anglon (Former Assistant Director of OGRRD and Coordinator of PROMISE @ UMCP)
  • Tawny McManus (Former PROMISE Coordinator, UMBC)
  • Dr. Carol Parham (Former Associate Dean of Graduate Student Experience, UMCP)
  • Dr. Jordan Warnick (Assistant Dean of the Office of Student Research, University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) Medical School)
  • Assisting Coordinators: Dr. Kristen Hodge (UMCP), Dr. Tamara Wilds-Lawson (UMCP), Qi Cao, J.D. (UMB)

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