Tuesday, September 11, 2007

University of New Hampshire, MFA

I thought I would give some basic information about UNH for those out there applying or looking to apply to schools. So far, it's been a great program. It's new, but the 2nd years are happy here, and they've been really welcoming to the rest of us. There are 100 graduate students in the English department; of that, 36 are MFAers. That's 12 in each genre, 4 per year. There's not that strange genre divide there seems to be at other schools either; I'm friends with poets and fictioneers along with my fellow nonfictioners (who are particularly awesome, I must say).

Over half the department is getting some sort of TA/GA thing, which covers both tuition and offers a stipend. As someone with one of those, I'll say that they trained us well to teach, and although it's terrifying to suddenly be teaching 24 kids, I feel confident in what I'm doing. They also have you take though, your first semester teaching, a semester-long course in teaching, and you have a teaching advisor, all of which are safe-guards against feeling overwhelmed by your role as a knowledge-sharer.

One of the great things about UNH's English Department is that they're really big on conferencing. Every student meets one-on-one with their professor of each class bi-weekly. That's really rare, and incredibly useful. Yes, right now, when I have started conferencing all 24 of my students, it seems like a lot, but it's a great way to help me get to know them, and to help them with their writing. It will also be great for my writing to get that much attention when I start conferencing with my professors.

As far as professors, they're all totally available, even those on leave right now. They offer all the wonderful extras, like class at their houses , going out to the bar with mfa-ers after class, etc. But it's also that the professors make an effort to really get to know us. The first time my advisor met me, she asked really specific follow-up questions to my personal essay, and to later emails I had sent her. What's more, she wasexcited to have me here at the program. Same with how others have felt.

There's definitely an emphasis on publishing, but it's not overwhelming. I'm writing a profile for my nonfiction class, and tomorrow we have to submit a mock query letter to a real magazine, and then the other people in the class are going to consider the proposal. Conceivably, it doesn't have to be a mock letter at all.

Oh, and the area is gorgeous. It's New England (re: foliage, Gothic Architecture) and it's on the Atlantic, next to the oldest town in New Hampshire (so it's also got charm). It's also only an hour from Boston but still close to the White Mountains. Campus itself is 1000 acres, a lot of it trails and lakes; they rent kayaks and hiking gear for about $5 a pop.

Let me know if you have any more questions about this program. I also have friends at other programs around the country, so I can certainly rustle up information about them.


Emily Benton said...

Thanks for your detailed account. You've certainly perked my interest.

But as a potential poetry applicant, I'm wondering - with Charles Simic as the new US Poet Laureate, and undoubtedly busy with all those responsibilities - is the program considering expanding its poetry faculty? I noticed only one other faculty member besides him.

ann said...
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ann said...

Thanks for the account, it was very informative. I'm wondering about the transition -- were you from the East Cost originally? If not, how easy was it to adapt to NH?

alexa said...

Hey Emily, Simic teaches, I believe, one poetry workshop a semester, and it's pretty much open only to poetry students....That's his schedule now, and I'm under the impression that he loves teaching so it won't change too much in the future.

alexa said...

Ann, I'm from NYC, so I definitely had a transition, although maybe of a different kind. I will say most people at the school are from the New England area. That said, they are more down to earth, and genuinely fun, than a lot of other people I've met anywhere; essentially, they're super welcoming no matter where you're from.

mummy licker said...


I've been emailing with UNH, asking questions about their poetry program, and apparently, Charles Simic is going to be retiring. Also, all workshops will be taught by one of the two teachers they have on staff.

Hope this helps.

Eileen Wiedbrauk / Speak Coffee said...

Charles Simic is semi-retired. He's no longer advising or doing a full teaching schedule BUT he's planning on teaching one graduate poetry workshop every spring semester until he no longer can. There will probably be a waitlist.

Katie said...

Hi Alexa - are you still connected to this blog? Wondering how you liked UNH after 3 years there. I am in the applying process for creative non-fiction and UNH is on my list. Thanks,