Sunday, April 09, 2006

Emerson College MFA

Bookish in Beantown wants me to go back into the mailbag and find my comments about Emerson College. No way. I'm not weeding back into the archives. That's your job.

That said, the inside scoop from a current and former student is: The department is underfunded, teaching assistants receive no tuition waiver (!) and only around $3000 per class, and that the teachers in the program are mostly adjuncts who are good teachers but are overworked. The program has a difficult time holding on to many of its best teachers.

I'd appreciate any other insights. Thanks for the question BiB.


Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I went to Emerson College for undergrad, did my BFA in writing and lit. and Tom's diagnosis sounds about right. I had great teachers, and they were all rightly pissed off about their employment situation...even the tenured profs. There has been a lot of outrage centered around this issue actually, it was in the papers around Boston, and there was a protest at my graduation.

It's really a shame, because I did have such incredible teachers at Emerson, both tenured and adjunct. The reputation of the school still attracts wonderful talent, but the administration continues to shortchange the English dept. by focusing on the marketing/journalism depts.

One last thing: It was kind of an open secret at Emerson that the undergrad BFA program was stronger than the MFA program. Don't know why. But I bet the poor funding at the MFA level means a lot of the most competitive students go elsewhere....

However, I still think if funding is not an issue, prospectives shouldn't rule out Emerson, because Boston has a ton of resources, and you will get to work with many different profs while there, all of whom have stellar reputations in their field...

Steve said...

Just for the record, most of the information you have is incorrect.

I am an Emerson student (and a GA), and yes, we do get a decent sum of money that is deposited into our bursars account for our assistantships (which we can either withdraw for living expenses, or use toward tuition, etc). At Emerson, graduate assistants do not teach, instead they work in the various departments, work for professors, etc. However, after taking a teaching class, grad students are eligable to apply as adjucnt faculty members while they're in school and get paid as a regular professor. It's possible to get both the teaching salary and the assistantship money at the same time, so it's really not a bad deal.

I also don't agree with the anonymous comment about the MFA program. Most of the faculty are well known in their respective fields, and the MFA students are pretty good at what they do (sorry to burst your BFA bubble).

Rebecca said...

Steve-- as someone about to enter the Emerson mfa program, I'm curious how you landed the assistantship. I'm not too interested in teaching yet, but being a general GA sounds lovely.

mermaidshoes said...

rebecca: all applicants for the MFA program are automatically considered for graduate assistantships--there's no extra application process, the faculty just pick the best students for the positions. these assistantships are awarded to students in the top 20% of the incoming class, have a work component (10 hours/week), and cover $5000 in tuition per semester. there are also presidential fellowships, awarded to 1-2 students per year, that cover $7000/semester in tuition, with no work component.

the original blog post is talking about teaching opportunities, which are available as well. you need to take an intensive "teaching freshman writing" course and complete a sample course syllabus (among other components) to apply. if you're selected for the program, you'll teach a general writing/composition course to emerson freshmen. from what i've heard, the teaching stipend is indeed about $3-4k per semester, which doesn't seem worth it considering how much work would be involved (i.e., probably at least 2-3 times as much work as the assistantships require, and for less money at that). if you want to each, however, it's good experience. some students also teach writing at other schools in the boston area (there's certainly no shortage of those), but that's something you'd have to arrange on your own, not through emerson.

emerson is not the best funded MFA program out there, but it is much, much larger (accepting 40-50 students per year) than most, and therefore can be a little easier to get into. it also has strong journals (ploughshares, redivider), excellent faculty, and the advantage of being located in a literary epicenter. worth applying, at least.

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