Monday, April 17, 2006

Miami vs. George Mason

Underneath the Mango Tree writes in...

Hi, Tom, Thanks for the blog, it continues to be of
great help. I have MFA fiction offers from George
Mason and the University of Miami, both with full
funding. (Although Miami pays more.)

What are your thoughts on George Mason and Miami, if
you happen to be familiar with either or both?

I'm a fan of the George Mason program, UMT. I like the funding and the teachers there. Miami I'm less familiar with. Maybe other readers have a take?

14 comments:

Bhavin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bhavin said...

Hi UMT, firsly congrats on both acceptances. I did my undergrad at Miami but in poetry, and I really enjoyed it. Though my favorite professor was a visiting professor. Maureen, director of Creative Writing, is an awesome and helpful woman, one of the nicest I've met. And I've heard good things of Galang, but never worked with her.

The Lit faculty really has some outstanding professors too. Sorry I can't help more, as I'm not familiar at all with the fiction. I can ask a couple of people what they thought though.

Anonymous said...

Hey UMT. I'm currently a fully-funded student in Mason's Creative Nonfiction MFA program.

Just like with any program, there are goods and bads.

The goods are the professors in the program. Though I'm not in the fiction program, I know many people who are, and consesnsus is that the profs are great, and really seem interested in working on your progression as a writer. For me, the nonfiction profs are above and beyond what I expected.

The program's administration leaves you twisting in the wind sometimes, however. They'll tend to gloss over some things, such as Mason's MFA is a 3 (not 2) year program, and there's a pretty hefty foreign language requirement.

If you get a spot as a TA, you really earn your tuition remission & stipend. The English dept. expects a lot out of you. A lot. But they also treat you with the respect of a peer, and I feel as though they're preparing me well to be a college-level instructor.

I don't think I have to tell you that location-wise, Fairfax has nothing on Miami. Mason's a commuter school, so it really doesn't have that "campus" feel, but so far I'm really enjoying it the program anyway.

Hope this helps you make your decision.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tom, Bhavin, and Mason non-fiction. And yes, Bhavin, Maureen has been terrific so far... Unfortunately for me she's in poetry...

Does anyone know anything about Mason's Alan Cheuse or Miami's A. Manette Ansay as regards their workshops?

Bhavin said...

I'm still trying to get in contact with the fiction people I knew, but none of them are responding, bah. I'll comment if I find anything. or you can give me your email address and i can send the info that way if you want. Good luck, and i'm trying to get info as soon as i can.

Bhavin said...

"Ansay is a good professor, she will kick your ass but shes the most published person at miami so she obviously knows her stuff. "

I swear its like pulling teeth to get answers from people. Im sorry that wasnt more helpful.

Anonymous said...

Mason non-fiction again re: question about Alan Cheuse.

The fiction folks swear by Cheuse. From what I hear, he's what I meant by "interested in working on your progession as a writer." I've only met him a few times, but I see no reason to doubt them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mason non-fic and Bhavin!

Anonymous said...

Regarding Cheuse:

I took a fiction workshop with him two summers ago and found him pompous and fairly unhelpful. I think the workshop actually hurt my writing by damaging my self-confidence without providing any real benefits or opportunities for growth. He also sent me comments on my story two months later by e-mail that were utterly bizarre and useless. (BTW, that story has since been published as the lead story in a very fine magazine).

His name on a program would be enough for me to take it off my list. Others might have different experiences.

Bhavin said...

Hey... I dont know if you're still around, but I realized I know someone else who has Manette now, and he says the short answer is that he would recommend her. but if you have any specific questions to let me know and I'll pass them on. i know its probably pushing your deadline now, but let me know if it'll help

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bhavin, I have asked for additional time (I am waiting on news of funding from yet another school) so I am still on the fence... At Mason, I have to work 15 hrs at the W.C., and teach 2nd sem. on; at Miami, I need to work only 5 hrs./ week, and there is a probable option to teach creative writing... Plus the stipend is a lot heftier than at Mason...

Keep passing on any words of advice if you have any... if any Mason guys see this, let me know if there's anything about Mason that I'd miss out if I chose to go to Miami...

David Sloane said...

Hey y'all,

Mason 3rd-year fiction here. My first impression of Alan was similar to anonymous' - pompous and unhelpful. But I have since found him to be incredibly helpful, someone who believes in meeting writers where they are, who badly wants to see you produce quality work. I have yet to meet a professor as open and willing to work with young writers, both individually and as a group - he answers every email, reminds us at the end of every class to come to office hours, and even donated money to help us get a fiction dinner program started. He is not someone who writes many, if any comments on stories - instead, he focuses on building conversations through the workshop, so each story can be used to teach the entire class (and it never feels like he is skimping on the reading - he clearly understood what I was trying to do and where my blind spots were for each of my workshopped stories). He strongly believes in the power of pastiche, that we can learn how to write by reading other writers and imitating passages from their works; this seems to be what distinguishes Mason from other programs--our heavy focus on reading as part of the program.

We have had our ups and downs with the program. There is much that I love here--incredible, kind, and brilliant professors; a very supportive community--and much that I wish could have been different, starting with funding. I also started out as a TA, but quit after the first semester, because the commute from DC and the hourly pay (once calculated to include tuition) did not match what I could make in the city for the same hours.

In the next few days, Ryan Call and I will publish and open an unofficial Mason MFA fiction blog, starting with current student posts about what they wish they had known before they started. We'll let the blog administrator know once it is up.

Congrats UMT! Good luck with your decision.
David Rider

David Sloane said...

And at GMU, we are also working on folding the time-space continuum so we can help people who needed to make the decision in 2006. Ahhh...fooey...these brain cells don't work like they used to...hopefully my last post is helpful to those considering Mason in 2007 and beyond.

David

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