Great Trees Retreat: Spring Break Dissertation-Thesis Writing Week
Mary Koniz Arnold's Great Trees Retreat provides an opportunity for dissertators at any stage of the game who need to get jump-started, re-started, or nudged towards that finish line. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mary the other day, to hear her tell me about Great Trees Retreat. I was impressed by the level of care and expertise that has gone into this retreat, and I could not help but think how much a retreat like this would have helped me while I was writing my dissertation. I felt compelled, and even obligated, to share this gem of a resource. But first, just take a look at the place. It's incredible!
Among all of the pictures I saw, I was drawn first to this one. This is definitely where I'd be:
Inside, I'd probably be here:
The pictures, the idea of this retreat, and Mary's years of expertise really drew me in. Here is information Mary shared with me:
WE: How did the idea for Great Trees Retreat come about?
MKA: Over the past year, I’ve been percolating ideas on ways to use this amazing property, which has been in my family for more than half a century. It’s an absolutely unique place – multiple large bedrooms, spacious common living areas, homey, comfortable feel, with light pouring in large windows from all directions. It’s located in a park-like setting on more than a half-acre surrounded by towering trees. Deer wander through the yard, squirrels and birds and wildlife are all around. You feel like you’re secluded in the country, but really, you are just half a block from a vibrant business district filled with international restaurants, boutiques, and services.
WE: Why are you launching with Spring Break Dissertation-Thesis Writing Week?
MKA: It grew out of my work with one particular scholar. I worked with her throughout 2010 providing editorial support services for her dissertation. It began as a simple proofreading assignment, but what we found was that, because of my background as a journalist, media writer, and editor (with several years experience in communications for higher education) I was able to help her find the clearest and most effective words to convey material she’d been researching and developing for 10 years. By the end of our work, she had a polished manuscript, had defended her dissertation, and invited me to her graduation! I felt I could help other scholars sort through the same editorial quagmires, and within the venue of Great Trees Retreat, could provide an atmosphere conducive to their creative process.
WE: How can the location of Great Trees help scholars?
MKA: We’re in the Poughkeepsie area of the Hudson Valley. Not only are we an area of incredible scenic beauty and historical significance, but also we are an educational Mecca! Great Trees is located literally next door to Vassar College, one of seven colleges in close proximity. There are two other colleges right in Poughkeepsie—Marist College and Dutchess Community College. The Culinary Institute of America is just up the road in Hyde Park, and Bard College is in the northern part of Dutchess County. Across the Hudson River, only a half hour away, are The State University of New York at New Paltz and Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. Each of these institutions has libraries and other research facilities, like the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar and the Lowell Thomas Communications Center and Archive at Marist.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Home and Library is only 20 minutes away. The facility is probably the best utilized of the Presidential Libraries, attracting renowned scholars from all over the world.
Our community is also part of the five-county, 70-library Mid Hudson Library System, with the central library, Adriance Memorial Library, only 10 minutes away in downtown Poughkeepsie. In addition, there are multiple historic sites within a 30-minute drive of Great Trees.
WE: What can people expect if they sign up for Spring Break Dissertation and Thesis Writing Week?
MKA: We start off before the retreat even begins. Each participant can send me up to 25 pages of their work to read and review, and this will become the basis for individual editorial discussions and daily goal setting throughout the week. During the retreat, I’ll also be facilitating group discussions and brainstorming sessions to help participants identify and share ideas to overcome writing obstacles.
I am also a wellness mentor. I teach a wide variety of fitness disciplines, including yoga, Pilates, and even gymnastics, and a course called Lifetime Wellness and Fitness where I help adult students embrace all areas of health. Because of my background, I will be offering a holistic and wellness oriented approach that includes healthy home-cooked meals (with a few guilty culinary pleasures!) and a daily mind-body stretch to help people release stress, reenergize, and refocus.
If you are coming in by train or plane, I can provide transportation to and from the Poughkeepsie Train Station (Amtrak and MetroNorth) and Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, as well as help coordinate transportation to local research sites.
WE: Mary, this is incredible! How much does it cost?
MKA: The retreat is $1,190 for seven full days including the lodging, meals, group and individual editorial meetings, fitness and other planned activities, and local transportation. For details and to register, you can call me at 845-454-7718 or email me at marykonizarnold[at]optonline.net. Also, visit us on the web at www.treesretreat.com
WE: Are there are other opportunities besides the Spring Break retreat?
MKA: Absolutely. You can arrange to spend a day, a weekend, or a week on your own if you are in the area or need a place where you can dedicate time and space to work on your project. One doctoral candidate is coming for weekends, and a professor at a local college considering the retreat for sabbatical work.
I will also be offering retreats based on a variety of creative and wellness themes and as a complement to local events and festivals.
In addition, I can provide a number of editorial support services outside the context of the retreat. If you contact me, we can discuss the possibilities.
WE: Thanks, Mary! This sounds ideal!
Recent Ph.D. Graduate's Testimonial:
“Great Trees is a light-filled space on a peaceful tree-shaded lot. The rooms and common areas are comfortable, friendly, and very conducive to creativity. Mary’s professionalism, caring and quick grasp of the subject matter makes working with her a joy. She was able to organize tangled paragraphs and sentences to smooth out the flow of my writing. Talking through the draft chapters and advisor-requested revisions with her gave me the confidence, clarity, and tools I needed to finish my dissertation.”— Carla R. Lesh, Ph.D., History, 2010, University at Albany, State University of New York