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Community Highlights: Writing & Support Group

This semester, we are highlighting members of the SFRC community who have gone above and beyond in adapting with new methods of teaching, research, and Extension this past year. Do you know a student, faculty, or staff member who embodies this excellence? Nominate them here.

Graduate Student Writing Group

By Ana Luiza Violato Espada, PhD student, Forest Resources & Conservation

This summer, I, along with Dr. Karen Kainer’s three current graduate students — Johanna Depenthal (SFRC), Mabel Baez Schon (SFRC) and Yeyetsi Maldonado Caballero (Masters of Sustainable Development Practice) plus Dr. Kainer’s former graduate student, Stephanie Cadaval (SFRC), started a weekly writing group to help us face the challenges posed by COVID-19.

These meetings are meant to help us to cope with social distancing and physical isolation that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on us since classes turned online in the middle of the Spring term.

Each one of us was dealing with the uncertainties regarding ourselves and our relatives’ health and safety, as well as doubts concerning the continuity of our graduate work. We are trying to keep our sanity in the face of all the miserable news around the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment, and the saddest news about people dying worldwide. We realized that travel during Summer term, when graduate students usually travel to do fieldwork as well as visit family, particularly international students, was no longer an option for us. This really affected our mental health, and we saw our productivity dive.

Then, we created a weekly writing group to support each other in our writing process.

Some of us are in the early stages of graduate training still writing proposals for fieldwork funding, while others are more advanced—writing dissertation chapters and journal articles. When we created the group we started by coming up with a set of shared basic rules and processes to help us organize the meetings in order to achieve our goals: advance our writing and get feedback from our peers.

screenshot of zoom meeting featuring writing group members

It turned out that we did achieve our work goals and more than that unawares, we were checking on each other’s mental health during the whole Summer. To us these meetings were an opportunity to stay connected while staying safe. Some weeks, these were the only social interactions we had outside our pandemic bubbles.

Although it is a small group, we continue to meaningfully support each other in different matters: graduate work development, and mental health check-ins,course work, and unlimited amounts of encouragement. We have celebrated publications getting published, one of our members starting graduate school, and birthdays to name a few. After the Summer period, we have decided to continue to have our writing group.

The name doesn’t do it justice, at a minimum it should be called the Writing/Friendship Group. We are sharing this experience with our SFRC community hoping that we can inspire more people to form small groups with multiple goals including those related to graduate studies but, more than that, with friendship, solidarity, and happiness in these uncertain times.