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What to Expect From a Walden Residency Experience

Faculty and staff provide doctoral degree candidates with exceptional student support to help them achieve their academic goals.

When you earn a doctoral degree online from Walden University, you join a global community of scholar-practitioners committed to advancing positive social change. Participating in a Walden residency takes your academic experience further still. Walden’s residencies not only support you in the doctoral degree process, they connect you with like-minded scholars who become lifelong mentors and friends—and sometimes even like members of the family.

“What a lot of students tell us that they appreciate about the residency or lab experiences really is the connection and networking opportunities they have with faculty, staff, and students. They really start to develop a network of individuals that they can rely on,” says Dr. Juli Konopa, Walden’s senior director of performance and planning for academic residencies. “And because they go to their first residency pretty early in their doctoral degree program, they’re starting to establish that network right away so that they’re meeting friends and peers that they can go on the doctoral journey with. And they can rely on them for support and encouragement and motivation.”


Walden’s Academic Residencies division helps facilitate thousands of connections. Annually, Academic Residencies serves 10,000–12,000 students, with 1,200–1,400 faculty and staff members supporting those students by delivering approximately 35 face-to-face and virtual experiences.

Those events are not all residencies, but they fall under the purview of Walden’s Academic Residencies division. Currently, Walden offers 38 different required and optional residency, lab, and intensive products/experiences for 30 online degree programs. The number of and timing for required residencies and labs varies by program. All are designed to help enhance skill development, scholarship, and professional practice.

“Residencies is probably the most common term that individuals are familiar with,” Dr. Konopa says. “Primarily, at this point in time, there are some programs that require residencies, and that’s almost all of Walden’s doctoral degree programs.”

While virtual events took the place of face-to-face events for some time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these are the types of residencies and experiences Walden offers, and what you might expect during your participation:

Academic Residency
Academic residencies are face-to-face experiences that allow students to collaborate and network with other Walden students, staff, and faculty members. Residencies function somewhat like professional conferences and align with online courses at strategic points in a student’s program.

Residency sessions emphasize growth and practice in research and disciplinary skills. Almost all Walden online doctoral degree programs require academic residencies, though they are optional for Doctor of Education (EdD) advanced students. The number of academic residencies required varies by doctoral degree program. In many cases, residencies are required in order to advance into later program coursework.

Virtual Academic Residency
Virtual academic residencies are synchronous, online learning experiences that allow students to collaborate and network with other Walden students, staff, and faculty members without having to travel or take time away from work and personal obligations. Students participating in virtual residencies engage online in live, interactive sessions with other students as well as Walden faculty and staff. Virtual residencies have the same requirements and expectations as their face-to-face residency counterparts.

Blended Academic Residencies/Pre-Practicum Labs/Skills Labs
Blended academic residencies/labs are required hybrid learning experiences that integrate specific online degree coursework with a face-to-face or synchronous virtual component in the same term and conclude with the remainder of the curriculum online. Blended experiences enhance the development, application, and practice of specific disciplinary skills for students in the online PhD in Clinical Psychology licensure program (Blended Academic Year in Residence), the master’s programs in counseling (pre-practicum labs), the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) degree programs (social work skills labs), and the PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision (pre-practicum labs).

Capstone Intensive Retreat
A capstone intensive retreat is an optional, face-to-face or synchronous virtual experience for students in Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Doctor of Information Technology (DIT), Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and PhD programs, designed to offer additional assistance on completing their capstone. Participants spend time writing and meeting with experienced research faculty and writing staff members to obtain individualized support and assistance with their capstone writing.

Skills Intensive Retreat
A skills intensive retreat is an optional, face-to-face or synchronous virtual experience for students in select programs to immerse themselves in special topics, case studies, and scenarios that can be applied to work in their disciplines and better prepare them for future workplaces. Examples include Consulting Skills Intensives, Coaching Skills Virtual Intensives, and Forensic Psychology Special Topics Intensives. PhD students may attend select skills intensives to satisfy the Residency 4 requirement.

A Peek Inside a Doctoral Degree Residency
Academic residencies generally take place over 3½ days and help to launch students on their journey or support their progress along the way. Approximately 20 students meet with an instructor in cohort sessions to learn about topics such as dissertation requirements, research processes, how to write research questions, or how to analyze literature related to a research topic.

“There might also be sessions relating to research methodologies,” Dr. Konopa says. “So, once students decide on their research question and the research problem they’re trying to solve, with a social change mission, they need to figure out how they’re going to answer those questions. Do they need to gather some quantitative data to help answer those research questions? Or is their study more geared toward a qualitative nature? Will they be using a data set that already exists, perhaps in their school district or in a healthcare facility or a hospital that they work in? … And of course, ingrained in all of those sessions is Walden’s social change mission: helping students identify social issues and challenges that they can solve and help them realize that they can make a difference in their profession as well as in their community.”

A Walden Team to Support You
From enrollment to graduation, students experience Walden’s robust student support services: academic writing support, Student Success Advisors, research support services, library research support, and much more. Walden infuses its residencies and other experiences with the same uncompromising support.

“When a student registers for a residency or a lab, they get a confirmation email and access to an event website that provides all the information they need to prepare for the experience. So, it includes information about their Blackboard classroom, how they can access the schedule of sessions, and information about advising appointments because they can meet with Student Success Advisors and faculty advisors throughout the residency on a one-to-one basis as well. And then just prior to our virtual events, we conduct an orientation session that is essentially a demonstration that walks them through everything to help them feel prepared,” Dr. Konopa says. “We want to set them up for success, and that’s worked quite well.”

Walden’s Online Education Mastery
In March 2020, with a Walden academic residency in Houston scheduled in just two days’ time, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a sudden end to face-to-face gatherings, closing businesses, restaurants, and schools. The Academic Residencies team made a lightning-fast move—in 48 hours, they converted the entire three-and-a-half-day in-person residency to a virtual event.

“Because of Walden’s history with online learning, we were very well-positioned to pivot to a synchronous virtual model for all of those programs quite quickly,” Dr. Konopa says. “Students still can appreciate and get that same rigorous academic experience and those networking experiences in a virtual format. We use the Zoom meeting platform, and all of the sessions are synchronous. They use audio and they use their webcams or computer cameras, and they’re highly engaging and interactive. So essentially it mirrors exactly what happens in the face-to-face sessions.”

Dr. Konopa says the university will continue to monitor guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as it plans programs for the remainder of 2021. But virtually or face-to-face in groups as large as 1,200 or as small as 150, professional doctorate and PhD degree candidates can expect immersive, education-rich experiences that connect them with other stand-out learners and Walden’s world-class faculty.

“We have such stellar faculty that are so passionate about their profession, their discipline areas, and the research that they conduct. And they just really enjoy helping guide and direct students through that journey. They’re just so supportive,” Dr. Konopa says. “Walden students aren’t alone when they’re going through the process, even though some might think that online learning can be quite isolating. But we really try to make sure that students know that they’re being supported.”

Walden Online Degree Opportunities

If you’re ready to earn a doctoral degree, Walden offers more than 20 online doctoral degree programs with over 140 specializations to help support your professional goals. With Walden faculty, staff, and a like-minded cohort of scholar-practitioners by your side, you’ll have support and camaraderie to help guide the way. You can learn more about Walden’s residencies and other experiences by visiting Academic Residencies or the division’s YouTube channel.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online certificate programs and bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,