FOR SUPPORT, ACCOUNTABILITY AND PRODUCTIVITY
All retreats are guided and supported by experienced facilitators.
0845 - 1515
0845 - 1515
0845 - 1515
Please book below to secure a place
All monthly pass holders will gain access to our 24/7 Drop-in Room
VWR is working towards developing research that investigates:
1) How does VWR assist the PhD process?
2) How does VWR maintain wellbeing?
3) How effective is VWR?
Please email us at email@example.com if you would like to be involved in shaping this research.
Hilary Causer is a qualitative and mixed-methods researcher. Her research interests include suicidology and postvention, mental health and wellbeing, and workplace culture and wellbeing. Hilary was awarded her PhD from the University of Worcester following her Viva in December 2020. Her thesis explored the experiences of staff members in two United Kingdom Higher Education Institutions following a student death by suicide.
Alongside her studies, Hilary was a founding member of the University of Worcester Staff Mental Health Network and worked alongside the University of Worcester Research School to develop improved routes to mental health information and support for PGR students.
Hilary is currently authoring a book chapter and two academic papers reporting the findings of her research. In addition, she is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Prior to undertaking a PhD Hilary worked in social care and mental health settings within the public and third sectors with children, young people and their families.
To take time away from the screen Hilary enjoys hillwalking, photography and quilt-making.
“I first came to VWR in April 2020. During the early weeks of lockdown, with a thesis to write, I was in search of some structure to shape my days and a way to hold myself accountable. What I also found was a welcoming and friendly community of PhD and ECR academics who offered encouragement, support, and kindness. I quickly became a community regular and when the opportunity arose to become a retreat facilitator it was easy to say ‘yes please!’ I wholeheartedly believe that VWR played a crucial part in enabling me to write and submit my thesis, during a pandemic, ahead of my deadline.”
You can follow Hilary on twitter: @HilaryCauser
Hilary facilitates on Fridays, 0845 - 1515
Becky Musgrove is a mental health researcher and analyst. She is in the process of writing up her PhD in Epidemiology at the University of Manchester. Her thesis focuses on suicide and other causes of death in the year after people are discharged from inpatient mental health care in England.
She developed an interest in mental health, in particular the experiences of people with severe and enduring mental illness, through her work as a data analyst with the mental health team at NHS England. Becky has continued to work for the NHS throughout her studies and will continue into a more senior role utilising her PhD experience later this year.
Although the PhD is extremely important to her, Becky has always aimed to keep life balanced and enjoys running and hiking in the hills and singing in her local choir.
“When the lockdown started in 2020 I was at a loss. I thrive on learning from conversations with others and needed to be ‘in the office’ to get any work done. I really struggled with isolation and lack of focus during the summer. However late in 2020 I discovered VWR. I can honestly say it has transformed the way I approach my work. I now have a clear process of goal setting and structuring my days. The retreats are friendly and supportive and I have learned so much about approaches to writing from others in the group. During the last year the group has seen me through my first publication and cheered me on as I put together the application for my new job”.
Becky is the driving force behind the 24/7 drop-in-room for monthly pass holders. She facilitates in there on Tuesday 08:45 - 15:15
You can follow Becky on twitter: @beckymus
Cat Aitken founded Virtual Writing Retreat (VWR), in September 2019 as a tool to hold her accountable to PhD. Through the management pathway at the University of Glasgow, Cat’s research investigates the varying degrees of hybridity in social enterprise & the impact on sustainability. In particular she is interested in the diversity of the sector & the influence of context. Cat won her PhD funding through the open competition at the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) & will submit her PhD in the next 12 months.
Cat worked as a Research Assistant at Heriot-Watt University in 2018/2019. In this role she evaluated the readiness of start-up social enterprise for scale and replication & produced a report for the social innovation fund partnership. This led to a teaching post where she taught on various modules on the International Business Management degrees, supervised UG dissertations and organised a global postgraduate module. Cat's second piece of research outside her PhD identifies the characteristics of rural & remote social enterprise in Scotland. You can read more about this research on rural social enterprise hub.
Prior to pursuing an academic career Cat worked in community education & worked with young people from areas of deprivation . This is where her sense of community was established. In her spare time she likes to ride her motorcycle & walk her huge dogs.
Cats vision for VWR in a broader sense is to tackle education inequality by offering free retreats to low income students.
"I created VWR because I wanted to hold myself accountable to PhD. I had chosen to undertake my PhD at distance & that meant I was not embedded into a research community. For that reason, it was very easy to become disillusioned & disengaged with the process. In 2019, online academic retreats simply did not exist, so in response, I created VWR. Initially the motive was accountability, but it became something more. It gave me a sense of belonging and it grew my self belief. The support generated by the community was a game changer for my PhD & wellbeing".
Cat facilitates, Monday, 0845 - 1515
You can follow her on twitter: @cataitken
Margie McKerron is a researcher in theology and higher education. She is in the process of writing up her PhD in Philosophical Theology at the University of St Andrews. Her thesis focuses on non-institutional communities of learning in the nineteenth century, and their relevance for challenging educational paradigms today. She has published articles and chapters on children’s health, university pedagogies, and theology & the arts.
Alongside her studies, Margie is interested in heritage studies and community development work. She is currently working on a mental health & well-being grant to create a community garden and community workshop/makerspace in Aberlour, Scotland. She enjoys hosting international film nights with her neighbours, celebrating local folk music, and keeping in touch with friends across Scotland and in her home country of Canada.
Rest has been an important part of Margie’s PhD journey—reading a good novel, looking out the window with a cup of tea, or going for a walk in her favourite woods with her camera.
‘When I first came to VWR, I wasn’t sure what to expect—but it has become the pillar around which my week is built. Having come from a very community-minded master’s degree in Canada, I found the isolation of doctoral work in the U.K. really challenging. While I have always been an introvert, I missed the solidarity of working with other students—sharing the joys and burdens of our research together as we work on our own projects.
After two years, I felt I was at a crossroads: how I was working needed to change or I needed to leave the PhD program. VWR came along not long after that. The community has made such a difference. We encourage one another, we learn from one another, and we celebrate one another. We keep each other accountable—not just to the tasks that we set for ourselves, but also to the good working habits and compassion needed to sustain the doctoral marathon. It’s a myth that we can do a PhD alone. As I come into the homestretch, VWR continues to be a key part of my dissertation team.’
Margie facilitates on Wednesday, 08:45-15:15.
This quiz has been designed to highlight the most commonly cited difficulties on PhD.
The data has been taken from 700+ PhD researchers, during 500+ retreats (3,250 hours). If you are experiencing 1 or all of the difficulties presented in this quiz, please know, you are not alone and we can help.
Please take 5 minutes to answer 5 questions about your current PhD practice:
1. Do you feel isolated or lonely whilst writing PhD? Our structured retreat flips the isolating PhD process on its head, by building in support and community using a shared schedule. This means, our community takes breaks at the same time so we can chat throughout the day, and protect writing time. It has proven to be extremely efficient.
2. Do you have burning questions about your research, but find it difficult to wait days for email replies? We create multiple opportunities throughout the day for you to lean on the collective wisdom of the community and ask your research questions. Advice in real-time.
3. Do you feel overwhelmed by PhD and/or procrastinate? Overwhelm is the number 1 cited reason for procrastination. Our check-ins are designed to manage these pitfalls in real-time, and our team/members have strategies for you. No-one is immune from PhD hardships; its hard by design. PhD is easier to navigate when others light the way.
4. Do you long for a supportive research community? We are group of scholars, committed to working and supporting each other throughout the PhD process and we have room for you.
5. Do you experience ups and downs on PhD? This is extremely common. Through creating a consistent working pattern and connecting you to support we can reduce the intensity of these peaks and troughs. Ultimately, consistency and community are the key ingredients for completing PhD.
If you answered YES to 1 or ALL questions, it is highly likely that VWR will work for you.
Please send this to your friends, PhD buddies and your institution.
To maintain our wellbeing during PhD we must be aware of the dangers of the process. No one is immune to PhD struggles and for that reason this poster series has been created to highlight the common pitfalls and to present the best tools to manage difficulties.
Created by Dr Zoe Ayres: a mental health advocate and R&D scientist. https://www.zjayres.com/
VWR can help you to create small manageable goals and help you to overcome feelings of isolation and guilt, by connecting you to a supportive community of scholars who together work on shared schedule.
Gift Cards for those who care about their research buddies!
For PI's who want to support their students!
For Institutions who care about their cohort's wellbeing.
Buy them the gift of support & community!
£3.50 - 1 day
£10.50 - 1 week
£39 - 1 month
£117 - 3 months
We are a not-for-profit service and rely on donations to deliver social good. Your contributions will enable us to keep providing support to those in need and widen our capacity during COVID-19. Your generous donation will fund our mission. Thank you.
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