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Dissertation Direction

NC State’s doctoral candidates lead research efforts to solve society’s most pressing issues. Before they make an impact outside campus, however, they need to take a final step – finishing their dissertation.

That’s where the Dissertation Institute comes into play. The weeklong boot camp serves students by providing resources, including writing instruction and mentoring, to focus on dissertation completion.

Since the program began in May 2013, more than 80 students have benefitted from that extra push. One of those students, Ozlem Demir, attended the institute for the second time this May.

Demir came to NC State in 2012 to complete her Ph.D. in design with a focus on urban design. She plans on defending her dissertation in September.

“The Dissertation Institute has been incredibly helpful in framing and structuring my thesis,” she said. “I began with a lot of solid ideas, and just needed to figure out what to focus on. I’ve definitely learned how to be more efficient and productive in my writing and presentation.”

This semester, more than 20 students started to structure their ideas by gathering in a room of floor-to-ceiling whiteboards to map out their dissertation chapters. From there, students received ample time for writing, and plenty of guidance from Meagan Kittle Autry, director of thesis and dissertation support services in NC State’s Graduate School.

Kittle Autry aims to complement the world-class instruction NC State gives students by showing them communications best practices as they take the final step in their doctoral education.

If we teach students how to approach new writing situations now, then later on, they can confidently engage in other situations, like writing a tenure dossier or a request for proposal,” said Kittle Autry. “I believe that a high-quality education both teaches students to think and how to be successful post-graduation.”

Graduation has always been the main goal for the institute, and remains part of NC State’s strategy to invest in student success. By ensuring timely progress toward a degree, the university develops students into leaders in their fields.

For Ozlem, that leadership means taking what she’s learned at NC State and applying it in her faculty position at Amasya University in Turkey.

“I plan on doing postdoctoral work in order to gain more experience in design,” she said. “Having gone through the Dissertation Institute, I feel more confident and prepared to defend my dissertation and move on to future pursuits.”

Ozlem’s experience is an increasingly common one among NC State Ph.D. students. Six-year doctoral graduation rates reached 60.6 percent for the 2014-2015 school year, up from 54.9 percent in 2010-2011.

Christine Taylor, a doctoral student in mathematics education, benefitted from this commitment by attending the institute and finding a new passion for completing what she started working toward as a part-time student in 2008.

“The Dissertation Institute has been an opportunity for me to get excited about my work again,” she said. “I am thrilled that I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Kittle Autry’s team to help me finish. NC State has chosen to invest in resources providing support, which shows the Graduate School values degree completion.”

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