Thursday, July 19, 2007

Diversity in the MFA

Daryll Lynne here. Tamiko had a question that I can't really answer but didn't want to get lost in the comments. Abby QH has given a great suggestion. Maybe you all can put your two cents in.

Tamiko said:
I'm looking for programs that specifically have a diverse student body - I was thinking about race and queerness, but now I'll be adding age to that as well.Are there programs that are particularly well known for having a mix of age & experiences?

Abby QH said:
You might want to check out the new MFA program at Rutgers-Newark (its motto is "Real Lives, Real Stories"). Last year I was at a reading given by one of its faculty members, Tayari Jones, and she emphasized that the program is committed to having a diverse student body, especially in racial and socio-economic terms. (The program is also structured in a way that allows students to go to school *and* have a job, or raise a family, etc.)

17 comments:

Rambler said...

If you are interested in the new Rutgers-Newark program, check out their student bios of their first class. Here is the link: http://www.mfa.newark.rutgers.edu/whatsnew.htm

What I read struck me as a diverse and fascinating incoming class.

Rambler said...

On the What's New page, go to the Meet Our Students section.

Marcus said...

Definitely look into Indiana's program. They're known for supporting a diverse selection of student voices, faculty members, and they provide a couple of impressive minority fellowships.
Check out this statement:
http://www.indiana.edu/~mfawrite/diversity.html

Steven J. McDermott said...

Such diversity is a key part of Antioch LA's program. It was wonderfully diverse when I attended from 1999-2001 and I'm sure it still is.

knicksgrl0917 said...
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Jade said...

Mills College in Oakland, California--faculty is diverse there (inclues an Arab American writer, an Asian American writer, and visiting profs that include African American Writers, Chicano/a writers--they are picked with diversity in mind). Faculty from the program also teach at VONA Voices (www.vona-voices.org), a writing workshop for writers of color.

Lincoln said...

My program has a queer writers group as well as a writers of color group. Also plenty of students in their thirties and forties.

I'd imagine that any large urban program (Columbia, NYU, UMass, etc.) will have a diverse student body.

Anne said...

Indiana does a good job with the ethnic diversity (both students and faculty), but not so much with the "age & experience" factor -- or at least that's been my impression over the years. The "older" students at IU tend to be in their mid-thirties at most.

As for queerness, there's a good queer community at IU in general though I can't say anything one way or the other about the MFA program in that regard. (I do think the general English department is pretty queer-friendly though.)

Tamiko said...

Dear Everyone,

Thanks so much for your suggestions! These schools are all now on my list.

(Jade - I went to VONA last summer. Are you a Vona alumn too?)

Erika Dreifus said...

The Queens College (New York) program, one of several MFA programs within The City University of New York (CUNY), makes this point on its Web site: "Our new program will offer a diverse faculty and a wide range of approaches to writing. Our core faculty – Jeffery Renard Allen, Nicole Cooley, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Kimiko Hahn, Richard Schotter and John Weir – are all nationally known writers. This is an esteemed and diverse Creative Writing faculty, which includes CUNY Distinguished Professor Kimiko Hahn, and award-winning writers who represent a wider range of African-American, Feminist, Jewish-American, gay and lesbian, Asian-American, and Latino/a perspectives than the core faculties of many of the country’s top M.F.A. Creative Writing programs." Links to other CUNY programs can be found here. Disclosure: I currently work for CUNY.

Mike Valente said...

The Notre Dame program is big on LGBT representation and racial diversity, and a couple of second-years mentioned that it's a very embracing program. The university is in the Midwest and conservative, but it's easy to get lost in the confines of the creative writing program.

Also, the 22 students come from so many walks of life, different age groups, and geographically, represent a broad swath of the United States.

Gabriela said...

I'll second Steven's suggestion. I graduated from Antioch LA's low-residency program in December, and found the program to be wonderfully diverse. Because it is low-residency, it attracts people from all walks of life, and most of them don't have the time to be enrolled full-time. They have full-time jobs and families. The youngest in my group was 28 and the oldest was in his late 60s - a retired doctor. My group had its fair share of gay and lesbian writers, as well.

Adam Deutsch said...

Here at U of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, we have a pretty diverse faculty (Tyehimba Jess, Michael Madonick, Audrey Petty, David Wright, Brigit Kelly LeAnne Howe, Phillip Graham, Alex Shakar & Janice Harrington). The student population is also varied - if age is a concern, range at the moment is from 23 - late 30s.

polly said...

I see Erika has chimed in for Queens College of the City University of New York. Most of the programs of CUNY regardless of the major are very diverse in the student body. I can speak for The City College of New York as well -- a similar rundown, with a nice emphasis on the spanish- and french-speaking caribbean literature (since your MFA at City will include four literature courses). There is also an unusual benefit here: because of a faculty member who has distinguished himself in translation as well as original writing, it is possible to add a second specialty of translation to the usual menu of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, which I seem to be pioneering at the moment, with translations as well as nonfiction in my projected thesis portfolio.

The mix in any given workshop, as I have seen so far, is as heterogeneous for ethnicity, gender, age, multilingualism, and sexual orientation as you might want.

The MFA itself is only a few years old -- it was a 30-credit MA, but has added 12 credits to the requirements in extra thesis workshop and "critical practice" courses.

polly said...

Sorry to piggyback a post -- as far as the question of age and diversity of experience is concerned, maybe I'm a good example: I'm 57, and my background has not included degrees in English (I came in with two MAs, in Music and Psychology, as well as years of grad-level study in yiddish language and literature). I'm far from the only one with that kind of profile.

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