Friday, August 12, 2011

Craig Imler & the Terra Trax Team bring the "Retreat" to the August 2011 PROMISE SSI

We were unable to have a traditional retreat in the mountains this spring, but thanks to the generous sponsorship of PROMISE at the University of Maryland College Park, Craig Imler and the team from Terra Trax will be able to bring the retreat to us! There will be a "retreat-styled" activity on Friday, August 29, 2011 in the lakeside park area of Sheraton Town Center Hotel in Columbia, Maryland. The "retreat" is part of the 2011 PROMISE Summer Success Institute.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Faculty (x,y) 2010 Seminar at UMBC invites questions from Graduate Students

Each year, PROMISE and the Graduate School host a dinner seminar that allows students to ask questions of faculty. This year, our 4th annual "When Faculty Say 'X', They Really Mean 'Y'" seminar will be held on Friday, October 22, 2010 in Lecture Hall 4 of the Academic 4 Building. If you would like to post questions anonymously, you may post them here.

To view a sample of last year's questions, click here:

Please RSVP for this seminar at

Monday, March 15, 2010


Pictures of the lions not sure if anyone added these. The retreat was a wonderful experience that helped build a lot of friendships and gave me the motivation to work hard so that I can achieve my goals of graduating. It was the break i needed from school and the insight needed to realize I'm not the only person that feels like graduate school is impossibly difficult. No matter how hard it may seem I just need to work harder and use the support system that I have available to achieve my graduation goals. Once again I would like to thank everyone that was involved with this amazing trip.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rocky Gap

The Rocky Gap Retreat was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. I learned more about myself as a leader, as well as a person. I learned my strengths as well as my weaknesses, and I even had the opportunity to conquer my fears. I climbed to the top of the ladder leaning on just the trust in my peers, and knowing myself, and my lack of trust in others, it might as well had been Mt. Everest! Not only did I gain trust in my peers, I gained friends as well. I learned that I can't do everything on my own, and it's not always a bad thing to need help: it doesn't make me a weak person. It makes me stronger.

Thank you PROMISE!


Thursday, March 4, 2010


You guys have asked for it and now it's here!  Here are some pictures from the Rocky Gap Retreat, taken by Yours Truly.  Enjoy!

Exciting times at Rocky Gap Retreat 2010!

Thank you Promise so very very much! This retreat was very encouraging, inspiring, rejuvenating, and fun! I think one line that I heard over and over was “You go to UMBC too?” We didn’t even know there were so many graduate students in the system, much less on our own campuses!
For many of us, life as a graduate student does not naturally allow us to interact or see other students, and consequently we often feel isolated and alone in the work that we do. This retreat allowed so many of us the chance to meet and interact with other graduate students, as well as those who have successfully completed programs. It was such a wonderful opportunity to learn and be reminded that there are others diligently working and persevering, and to build relationships with people who also want you to succeed.
One of my favorite parts was perhaps the very first group thing we did, which was to introduce ourselves one by one. Although it takes a while, it is so neat to hear what everyone is studying, where they are from, and which programs they are a part of! Promise is filled with interesting and intelligent individuals for sure!
I also loved the activities we did with Terra trecks… from the amusing “I’ve got the power” warmup exercise to having to *fall backwards off a ladder*, it was such a breath of fresh air the whole time! I think also the amount of structured and free time was a perfect mix.
Thank you so very much to Promise and all the wonderful staff, and to everyone who went on the retreat! It would NOT have been the same if YOU had not been there!
Let’s keep working hard! We’re all in this together- supporting and encouraging each other!
*Initially I didn’t think this would be that scary… but I was truly surprised! Fortunately, we had an amazing group of people that were trustworthy and did catch each of us!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rocky Gap Retreat

The Rocky Gap retreat provided a much needed break from the "monotony" of grad school. Great place to be, and even greater company. Met a lot of cool people-go Sparta!- who reminded me that grad school can be fun and I rued not having attended earlier retreats. I would definitely recommend this to any grad student. I did not attend the dissertation house this time but it is on my to-do list and I am reserving my spot for the next one now. Judging from how re-energized I am I guess we should have these more often! Thank you PROMISE and I look forward to the next event.

Moon Dancing by the Fire

Here are the photos I promised to post taken by Gustavo. The first is the camp fire. Second one is the moon. The third one is the lake from our room window in the morning. The fourth is a moon dance performed by Nohemi, and last but not least a moon dance by Katrina.

Another Great PROMISE Retreat!!

I always enjoy participating in the PROMISE Community Building Retreat, this is my second time attending Rocky Gap. It is a great way to take a break from my lab work and studies to spend time with old friends and make new friends. The outdoor activities are always fun, and they also give me the opportunity to reflect on my life and my graduate studies. It's great to have a chance to spend some time outdoors since the only time I usually get to go outside is when I walk from my house to my car and then from my car to my lab. Thank you PROMISE for providing us with this great experience!!

Promise Retreat

This event from PROMISE needs to happen every year. It was a great opportunity to meet and network with other graduate students from many different departments. The retreat was also a chance to learn more about people that you might have already known. Best of all the retreat was, it gave everyone short break from school just to socialize and have fun.

The team activities that were outside and the "Olympics" that we did inside were the most fun part of the weekend. It was a time to communicate and work together to all reach the same goal. This part of the retreat just re-enforced the fact that grad school is too hard to do on your own. It's important to seek help and support from others and also, help others whenever possible.

Thank you PROMISE for putting together a great event

The only outdoor activity for DH participants

So participants in DH did manage to take some time to enjoy the outdoors. On Saturday afternoon, we took to the streets and took a 45 minute walk to the bridge and back. It was beautiful. I promised to post the pictures so here they are. You can see the view from the bridge in the first, the view of the frozen lake and lodge in the second one and the mountains in third, not to mention all my wonderful Dissertation House colleagues. Moon dancing pictures to follow.

Retreat @ Rocky Gap 2010: Grad Students & Life/Work Balance - Some Photos

Promise Community Building Retreat

This retreat was a great opportunity for me to build relationships with fellow cohorts. I am currently a first year out-of-state graduate student, and this event presented me with the opportunity to network with new people. The team building exercises were exciting, and I had the chance to apply some of the methodologies that I have obtained in class. I think one of the most notable concepts that I gained from the activities was that challenges are more manageable when you have group support. This was an important lesson for me because I often disconnect from people.

Overall, the retreat was a great experience. I enjoyed all of the games, team building activities, encouragement from peers and mentors, and food! I would like to thank Promise for this opportunity, and I hope I will have a chance to participate again in the future.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rocky Gap

Rocky Gap was an experience like no other. I had the privilege to network and fellowship with other grad students with the relief of not conversing much about school work and the emotions that are involved. This gave me an opportunity to get a way from campus and get to know my colleagues a bit better as well as meet some new folks. It was inspiring to see what new things people learned and how they can apply to their lives once they come back to campus.
Thank you PROMISE!

Great time

This was my second time at Rocky Gap. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet new friends and reconnect with old. It was also great to meet all those who have been through the process. The Ph.D.s who were present were inspirational; not only did some present information in a formal way but those who mingled with us were also very great. I can't recall the last time I had so many Ph.D. grads ask specific questions about where I was in the process and offer advice on moving forward. Dr. Idalais who I'd never met before was great; she reminded me of the benefits of PROMISE and the strength we have as a group. I can't wait for the next PROMISE opportunity!!!

Productive Rocky Gap Retreat!

I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend the Promise Community Building Retreat at Rocky Gap this year. I have recently advanced to candidacy in my doctoral program due in large part to the support of the Promise staff and student members. Completing my comprehensive exams was an exhausting and isolating experience and I am still mystified by the process. I needed an intervention of sorts to jolt me back into the process of writing again and the Rocky Gap retreat dissertation house component was essential for me. This short retreat away from my campus and usual procrastination routines of the weekend allowed me to re-enter my dissertation project with renewed energy and motivation. I think of the Promise community as a safe and supportive network that serves as a counterpoint to the competitive and often performative/posturing nature of graduate student life. The peer mentors (recent graduates) who assisted Dr. Carter in the dissertation house were especially helpful for me. Dr. Johonna McCants and Dr. Heather Holden provided individual assistance/feedback/coaching, and their presence reinforced the notion of success and perhaps more importantly the reality that community support only begins as a graduate student participant. The support and network continues well beyond our life as graduate students in that the Promise Program is an intentionally generative device. Thank you Dr. Tull, Dr. Carter, Dr. Parham, and the entire Promise staff for your support and investment in our success!

Great weekend!!!

The overall experience during this past weekend retreat was very positive. I have been writing for a good amount of time during the last two months so even when it would have being useful to join the dissertation house I felt that I needed a break and go outdoors. I always feel that going outdoors renovates me and I enjoy sharing with others and confronting challenging with others as a team. This retreat give me the opportunity to do it. Sometimes while immersed in my own world I forget these feelings and needs. It is always refreshing to know that you can build a community and also work as a team with others that are traveling a part of your own pathway of life. Most of my own community and networks have not come thorough graduate school so it is great to be able to get together with old friends and also meet new ones that are going through master or doctorate programs.
This weekend was also very valuable because I hear and experience several things I will try to implement in my day to day activities. For example, I learned or I was reminded about the importance of keeping your contacts with people in your previous department or school alive and vibrant after graduation and of course to build them when you are there. Also, I was preparing to start writing my dissertation so some of the tips during evaluation time became handy. For example, I hear from a student that participated in the dissertation house that you can start with writing the full outline of your dissertation and also that you can start writing a chapter even before you finish one previously or even when you feel you are not ready to start writing them at all. You must start and continue adding everyday a little bit because the accumulation of all the little bits will at the end over time become a lot. Also, I witnessed our the team work improved during a single day quite a lot. In fact, we took quite a good amount of time to work our first challenge because reaching an agreement and taking action took time. But by the end of the day, all of us were able to work as a single unified team in a coordinate and with perfect synchrony effort to put together a puzzle as fast as we could. In this exercise every one in the team counted and all worked together harmoniously. Also I think I always wondered how was to work for the F1 racing pit crew, I think I got a taste of what it feels this weekend too ;). This specific experience tell me that with a little bit patience and if all are enjoying what we are doing, an effective team can be built very fast.
Once again, I really loved this retreat. This is the second time I participated. Last year I met several people and I kept a good relationship with some of them during the past year, I hope I will do better this coming year and that I may be able to participate again as an alumni next year!

Finally Made It to Rocky Gap Dissertation House

Support, Support, Support! PROMISE's Rocky Gap Community Building Retreat and Dissertation House provide support in so many ways and levels for everyone in attendance. This was my first time being able to attend the Community Building Retreat as a participant in Dissertation House. I have been trying to get to this spot since I first attended the PROMISE Commnity Building Retreat at CoolFont in 2007 because it means being closer to PhD completion. I also felt that being able to work on my dissertation proposal in a different place would empower me and thats exactly what it did! The best things about Saturday for me were: not being able to get internet access in the resort on my laptop (because it forced me not to check email), Dr. Carter forcing me to do my grammatical error edits from committee members before my big picture changes, and the walk/run on the trail from 1:40-2:28! Thanks so much for all the work that PROMISE leadership and our outside sponsors did to make it happen!

Monday, March 1, 2010

My amazing retreat from PROMISE

I want to thank PROMISE and everyone participated in the Retreat this weekend. I met a lot of awesome people and had a good time. This retreat helped me to re-charge my energy and continue my battle in grad school :)
The outdoor activities was not only fun, but was also meaningful in my perspective about doing research and talking classes in grad school. I learned to seek out for help, stay positive, and push myself a little harder every time I am about to give up on some work. Like one of the student in PROMISE said "may be the fall not that bad after all".
I also learned to be able to work more efficient as a team when needed. In fact, I feel so blessed to meet SAJA-the leaping lions team during this retreat. :)
Once again, thank you so much for giving me these great experiences that I could carry on with my grad work, PROMISE!


Although I wasn't able to fully participate in the outdoor activities, I believe that I received the same sense of empowerment and community building that everyone else did. I was able to participate in the most of the indoor events, which really helped me get to know new people, catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in awhile, and even re-discover myself. It really helps to be around people that have the same goals that you do! I was truly inspired by the testimonials from the students that participated in Dissertation House. They all offered great advice to those of us coming behind them, and reminded me of my dream of being Dr. Davis!

Overall I think that this retreat was just what I needed to keep me motivated and conquering the challenges that this semester has to offer. I am already looking forward to next year's retreat!

Thank you PROMISE!

Lessons for Life

It was such a nice experience to be surrounded by so many nice and supportive people. I was in the out door activities in a great team; bears group, I have already missed you!

I experienced trust, cooperation, being patient, let it go and forgive when you feel you deserved an award but you couldn't get it.
I saw myself sometimes be brave and volunteer for dangerous activities, and sometimes be the last person, look and get the courage from others.

I believe they were lessons for life, all packed in 2 day retreat program given to us by Promise! Thank you Promise!

Thank you! Promise

Up to now, I still have forgotten myself in the good memory of Retreat 2010. It is my first time to be in the dissertation house. I am a totally freshman there and I believe I have learned a lot during the weekend. From 8:30am to 9:30pm, I put all of my efforts on my dissertation even though it is still a frame work. Thank you, Dr. Carter. You helped me to start my writing. It was a pleasure experience to talk with her.

I will continue to attend the PROMISE Community building retreat in future if it is available. I believe I will learn more and more during my graduate program.

Di Su
Ph. D Candidate in mechanical engineering of UMBC

Dissertation House Freshman

Community, coaching, and concentration were the vital components I needed
to get back on track after having serious doubts about the path of my
dissertation. PROMISE was the fire I needed when I began my Ph.D. program
and now at the end of my journey, it is my guiding light out. I feel
privileged to have the support and resources that PROMISE provides to
students during this obstacle course. Thank you for the opportunity.
- ALMOST Dr. Carr

Thank you PROMISE

I learned a lot from the outdoor activity this weekend. It was a very great experience there that I felt the trust among team members. I climbed up to the top of the ladder and let it go. I didn't even feel fear, because I trust all the team members. I knew all my team members were supporting me.

I also learned so much from the 'puzzle' activity. In the beginning, our team were trying to build a numbering system that the puzzle boards can be put together very quickly. However, something was wrong in that system and we stuck there. We can complete the puzzle in a few minutes. However, we cannot even complete the puzzle using the numbering system we built. Why? We were struggling on finding out the problem, but couldn't. Finally, we threw out our old system and build the puzzle again from the very beginning. It was so amazing that we got our numbering system work soon after we rebuilt the puzzle.

The same situation may happen in our research. We may stuck at some point in the research and cannot find the way out. What I learned from the 'puzzle' activity is: if something doesn't work out, do not stuck there too long. Try to think the problem over from another angle. Some magic may happen to you that all the problems will suddenly go away.

Thank you PROMISE.

Feeling Blessed

Everytime I go to Rocky Gap, I feel so blessed to have decided to go to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. We have so much support and such a great community in PROMISE. Dr. Renetta Tull has created a wonderful community across the three campuses and I feel so fortunate to be able to catch up with friends who have been going thru this graduate school experience with me in such a beautiful environment. I was in dissertation house this year for my second time and it was great to see some of my peers working on their final chapters and others working on their proposals. Me, I am somewhere in between. Started thinking about the document this weekend and focused on a survey I have to do in a few weeks and a paper I have to write in the next month. For a break we, some members of DH went for a walk to the bridge after lunch. Rocky Gap was beautiful with the snow. Afterwards had meetings with Dr. Carter and Dr. Holder. Both of which gave a lot of direction.
Then we worked diligently until dinner. By Saturday night, my brain was fried, so I went for a walk to the campfire and looked at the moon. It was just what I needed to clear my head. Then worked until 10:35pm. I got a lot a accomplished plus managed to catch up with my PROMISE friends. Thank you PROMISE.

Where are all the bears!!

Come on! Bears! Let's post pictures!

Actually I borrowed those pictures on facebook from Veronica. Hope you don't mind. :) Miss you guys! And the funniest Mr. D!!

Saturday night is a silent, but productive night in the Dissertation House

Reflections of DH

This year’s Rocky Gap Dissertation Writing Retreat has been very rewarding. As I am in the writing stages of my dissertation, having the ability to work ‘non-stop’ on targeted goals to complete chapters provides me with a sense of accomplishment. Even though I could have set time aside to complete the tasks that I completed during the retreat, the prevalence of distracting people, potential procrastination, and at times paralyzing isolation would have been fighting against me accomplishing everything on my list. In addition to completing my task, I have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Carter, the dissertation coach, to give guidance and perspective to tasks that I intended to accomplish during the retreat and the development of goals to accomplish after I leave the retreat. Lastly, the ability to share with other students your joys and pains of working on your dissertation, along with the camaraderie of working in a room with other students typing to accomplish similar goals, could not be found at home or at school. I’m glad I pulled myself away from the lab and my dining room table/ writing table to attend the retreat this year.

LIONS were the best!

Thanks a bunch all Promise Community members...
I received the confirmation email a day before moving!
finding lots of new friends, learning new skills for my PhD studying, doing several exciting out-door activities, and having lots food are some out standing points I'd like to mention them!

I hope Promise think on more similar programs, especially programs which are done by cooperation of other schools like this this one!

Being with lions was a great opportunity for me...


PROMISE Community Building - A Place for Graduate Students.

PROMISE: Maryland's Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) seeks to increase the numbers and diversity of Ph.D.s in the STEM fields by building community and supporting graduate students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Here, we salute the spirit of PROMISE!
Click one of the tabs at the top: "Home" to see the main blog site with all posts, "Retreats" to see more information about the Community Building Retreats for grad students, and "PROMISE Videos" to see some videos from the PROMISEagep YouTube Channel. Other topics and pages will be added as the blog site grows.