Friday, September 07, 2007

Chatham University's MFA Program

jen writes:

Chatham: the MFA program: What has been heard/found out about this program? When I look at it, it sounds really good. But, I haven't seen anything about it anywhere. Does anyone have an opinion? Know someone that has studied there? Thanks!

Anyone have anything special to note about Chatham University? Here are the rarer points about their MFA program that my database has picked up:

-it has a Creative Nonfiction track that focuses on ENVIRONMENT, NATURE, & TRAVEL writing as well as a Poetry and Fiction track; so if any of those subjects interest you, it's well worth a look
-it's a PRIVATE school, so for ALL students tuition is about $26 K for the whole 2-year degree
-the school is SMALL: its undergraduate population is only about 1800, and I gather the graduate population is even smaller than that
-there are ONLY 2 RECOMMENDATIONS in the application rather than the usual 3; the GRE is NOT REQUIRED
-they accept applicants in the SPRING as well as the fall
-they have a special scholarship for an incoming student with an interest in environmental and nature writing, which entails $10 K per year

Web address:

Okay, other things that people know about Chatham, please post it here.


Anonymous said...

I currently attend Chatham's MFA program, and I'm graduating in December.

It's an absolutely gorgeous campus, and the program is small--but intimate in a good way, giving students a lot of attention and a genuine rapport with instructors.

Sheryl St. Germain is the head of the program--poet & creative nonfiction writer, great teacher who supplies students with fantastic feedback and guidance. Heather McNaugher, poetry professor, runs a workshop that is a MUST for poets. She's pulled things out of me that I'd never expect to write.

A good mix of other faculty--several published prose writers & poets. All accessible and helpful.

There's a two-week field seminar as part of the program--last May, I went to India for two weeks; this summer coming has Ecuador and Germany, I believe, as the choices.

You can get an optional publishing certificate or teaching creative writing certificate on top of the MFA degree.

Chatham brings writers to campus every year, including one big name--this year, it was Claudia Emerson, last year it was Mark Doty. As a student, you often have an opportunity to attend a private craft lecture/class with these visitors, too.

I've learned a tremendous amount here at Chatham, and I've met other writers that I know will be friends and colleagues long after we graduate.

And it's in Pittsburgh, which has a TON of readings, literary series, and venues to see everything from big name authors like Ann Patchett and David Sedaris to little open mic readings where everyone is welcome.

I'd say go for it--I haven't regretted it. :)

chathamhatem said...

Chatham University should be avoided by all free thinkers, anarchists, philosophers, or anyone who loves radical theology.

This school, like so many in our day, is all about physical diversity, but true diversity of thought is severely prohibited at Chatham.

The MFA Creative Writing program is directed and largely staffed by deeply narrow-minded persons hiding behind the guise of diversity. Only those students who "play the academic game" are favored. Those who do not are railroaded and hunted like witches.

Again, if you are a free thinker and value your freedom of expression, Chatham University, and especially the Creative Writing program, will not be for you.

Further, if you are a writer of popular fiction, also called "genre fiction," you will be ostracized at Chatham in favor of those students who write "literary" fiction and nonfiction.

This is not to say that there are not excellent instructors at Chatham, for there are indeed. But you would, again, need to be willing to play their conservative-disguised-in-diversity game in order to complete any program there.

Virginia Tech was a tragedy which carries alot of lessons for us. Regrettably, Chatham has over-alerted itself, and the result is a hyper-sensitivity to forward thinkers and, since the school is primarily female, men who are obvious alpha males are targeted immediately as troublemakers, and hunted down.

Sara Kearns said...

Wow. What a comment from "chathamhatem." But as someone who received her undergraduate degree there, was regularly involved with the school for about seven years, and considers one of the creative writing MFA instructors her mentor and close friend since 1995, I'm somewhat used to such vitriole, which in my experience usually comes from right-wing misogynists.

I couldn't disagree more with "chathamhatem," and certainly my experience was much closer to Amy's. (I'd be curious to know if "chathamhatem" actually went there, and if so what ideas he/she felt were silenced and how so exactly, as I certainly was exposed to a variety of points of view there --some of which I strongly disagreed with-- and thought most of the faculty was quite respectful of such intellectual diversity, and many encouraged it. And I certainly never ever saw anyone "hunted down," literally or metaphorically.)

Here are a few random notes I hope you find helpful:

*has an "open door" policy for the faculty, meaning that instructors are encouraged to always make time for thier students, and most of them definitely do. this is especially true of Sandy Sterner, who teaches in the MFA program. she is almost always on campus, and if not in class, is almost always in her office -- door most definitely open -- and does indeed always make as much time as a student needs. she is a little known poet who doesn't publish much anymore (she's in her 60's), but she is a fine teacher and editor.

*beatiful campus located in the best spot in pittsburgh, nestled between the artistic, intellectual, and pretty neighborhoods of squirrel hill (the best with all kinds of little stores, etc.) and shadyside, and about a 5-minute busride or 15-minute walk to both carnegie mellon university and the university of pittsburgh.

*usually a very warm, friendly atmosphere, especially within departments

And generally I second Amy's impressions and information.

Feel free to contact me with any other questions -- I've lived in Pittsburgh much of my life, and consider my decision to go to Chatham possibly the best decision I ever made.

Stephanie said...

How's the funding at Chatham?

Sara and Brad said...

I was accepted to Chatham for this Fall, but had to turn it down when I realized the funding (for me) was nil. You can only apply for available scholarships if your undergrad GPA was over 3.5 (mine wasn't), and there didn't seem to be much funding outside of that.

Stefan said...

Does anyone else have a different story on funding to Chatham? I'm in love with the program, but Sara and Brad's comments worry me (im also not over a 3.5). Anyone else?

Unknown said...

I am also not above a 3.5, but really want to get teaching experience (assistantships only offered to those above 3.5). Anyone have experience to share about Chatham's teaching preparation? Thanks!

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