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Spots for Duke PhD Students in Yale Summer Dissertation Writing Groups; Apply by May 6

Duke’s Office of Interdisciplinary Studies invites advanced Duke Ph.D. students in the Humanities or the Social Sciences to apply to participate in a collaboration with Yale University – Yale’s Humanities and Social Sciences Summer Dissertation Working Groups. Originally funded solely by the Mellon Foundation as part of a three-year grant, the Yale program continues this year with further support from the Yale Graduate School, the Yale Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office and the Yale Graduate Writing Lab.

There will be two separate writing groups, one in the humanities and one in the social sciences. Ph.D. students in each group will gather virtually every day for six weeks of intensive writing experience, led by a faculty mentor. Yale has reserved a fewslots in each group for Duke Ph.D. students who are in the intensive writing phase of their thesis work. This excellent opportunity is described below in more detail.

The Yale Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Dissertation Writing Working Groups

The Yale Graduate School will host one small group of students from across the humanities disciplines, and another from across the social sciences, to participate in writing groups. The idea is simple. Each writing group seeks to develop students’ skills as writers and as managers of long-term academic projects, while, at the same time, counteracting the isolating work practices typical of the dissertation writing phase of the Ph.D. program. Together with intensive faculty mentorship and professional development activities, the combined elements of the dissertation writing group program will help students build sustainable writing habits and enhance their ability to contribute to a cross-disciplinary intellectual community. Duke students selected to participate will receive a $500 professional development grant from the Provost’s Office to support research and conference travel in the following year.

The faculty mentors for the two writing groups are Yale English Professor Naomi Levine (for the Humanities group) and Yale Political Science Professor Alexander Coppock (for the Social Science group).  Levine and Coppock will convene their respective writing groups, which will meet for a six-week period during the summer, from June 20th through July 29th, remotely. Students are expected to participate daily, Monday through Friday, during regular working hours (9am-5pm) for the duration of the six-week period, except for cases of illness or brief travel to scheduled family or professional events. Students unable to participate in a sustained way, with no more than 2 days’ absence in total, should not apply. Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning will provide consultation and support to the workshop leaders on effective presentation, as necessary.

Ph.D. students who have begun the intensive writing phase of their thesis work, and who have full summer funding to support their research efforts (typically in years 5+), are eligible. Please send, by May 6, 2022, the following to Amy Feistel (, as a single PDF:

  • a cover letter of no more than one page, specifying the group for which you wish to apply, and detailing where you are in the writing of your dissertation and the reasons you wish to participate in this group, and;
  • a brief CV (maximum 2 pages)

In addition, please arrange for your dissertation advisor to send, by that same deadline of May 6, 2022, also to Amy Feistel (, a very brief letter indicating your readiness to participate in the program.

The selection process will be overseen by the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and will include other senior leaders at Duke.

Additional Information

  • What kind of activities and conversation topics will be included in the meetings during the six-week program?
    These are determined at the discretion of the advising faculty, but topics for past groups have included workshops with writing coaches, preparing for the job market, dissertation to book workshops with publishers, non-academic career discussions, and more.
  • Will the meetings take up the full 9 a.m.-5 p.m. span mentioned above, or is this the frame within which a certain number of hours would be scheduled?
    Students are expected to use the full 9 a.m.-5 p.m. timeframe to participate in the program. There will be breaks, but one goal of the program is to establish a writing practice that has a set schedule and allows for work-life balance.