Saturday, April 05, 2008

Brooklyn MFA/MA?

Hi All. One of our readers has this question about the Brooklyn MFA program. I feel like there must be some logical explanation for the situation, and we'd appreciate if you have any insights into it. Thanks! -- TK

I have been a big fan of the blog and found it to be a tremendous help through all stages of the application process. I have now seen three different posters on the blog that were not accepted into the MFA program at Brooklyn College but were assured of acceptance into the MA English program upon redirection of their applications. I am in the exact same situation. The other options I have are Emerson, of which I'm quickly finding all the naughty rumors to be true, and Roosevelt University in Chicago, about which I know very little and only applied to because they contacted me and waived the application fee.
So anyway, this Brooklyn option is interesting and is considerably more affordable even without the better prospects of financial aid that Brooklyn offers. I just don't know how to interpret it, especially since it seems they are diverting a lot of their applicants to their MA program. What does that mean? Is their MA program unpopular and they just want to fill it? Or are they just really excited about their applicant pool and want to offer a spot to students who might be happier or better suited to an MA? Has anyone heard of this kind of thing? What do you think about it? Have you heard anything about Brooklyn's MA program? Also, what are your thoughts about becoming a writer via MA English degree instead of MFA degree?
Also, I saw one of commenter "Ethan's" questions about talking to the program and seeing if there is any wiggle room in squeezing a workshop class or two into the MA degree. I guess that's a question that only the department can answer. I know Brooklyn's MFA program is up and coming and Tom treated it well in his book. This just seems a bit odd to me, especially given that there are 3 other people on this blog alone in the same situation. I really need some perspective on this. Thanks!

34 comments:

Miss Esquire said...

I received this offer as well, and felt that it was a tactic they were using to try to fill seats. Maybe I'm completely wrong.

It seems to me that this program would give you absolutely no advantage in "becoming a writer" - though if you're serious about writing you'll do it anyway.

Miss Esquire said...

To clarify, by "do it anyway" I meant you'll write regardless of your academic situation.

Ethan said...

You seem very certain of it being absolutely no advantage. Can I ask why? One would still be studying great literature and be able to apply things learned to his or her writing, hence why even mfa programs still make their students take lit. classes and not just workshops, I think anyway.

Scout said...

The basic issue is that an MFA is a terminal degree (you can use it to get a university teaching job) and an MA is not. And in most MA programs I would think you don't get a lot of opportunities to write what you do in an MFA (fiction, poetry, whatever your flavor), but critical essays. Yes, MFA programs have you take lit classes, but not INSTEAD of workshops.

Also? I'm a Roosevelt MFA student, and while our program isn't Iowa by any means and we have a long way to go, we have just hired a new director for the fall. It's going to be a good time to be a RU student. If you need more info about the RU program, contact the interim director (I'm sure you have that name) and she'll put you in touch with me.

Miss Esquire said...

Re: Ethan,

I wasn't saying that literature is of no advantage to a writer. It absolutely is. Scout points out what I mean when he/she writes: "in most MA programs I would think you don't get a lot of opportunities to write what you do in an MFA (fiction, poetry, whatever your flavor), but critical essays."

That is what I meant. Not a lot of time to write creative work on top of the critical work you'd be doing to earn the MA. An MA is a big commitment, and I think that if the freedom and encouragement to write creatively is what a person is seeking the traditional literature MA isn't the best means to achieving that end. But that's just my two cents, and there are always exceptions.

Ethan said...

Ok, thanks. I'm in a similar boat to the poster. Lots to think about!

ann said...

i'm one of the earlier posters with the MA offer from Brooklyn, and i considered the offer for about five seconds - long enough to scan the sheet BC provided highlighting the achievements of their MA students. it was lit crit, lit crit, lit crit.......and that was enough for me.

Monketah said...

Brooklyn College is milking the cash cow. It's that simple.

Callista said...

I also received the Brooklyn offer--and I already have an MA in literature.

Ethan said...

well, I checked into it, and the MA program does have a considerbly larger amount of seats than the MFA program and does recieve fewer applicants, and it looks like this is something that the MFA program does regularly with people not accepted into the MFA: applicants are either rejected outright or if they do have a certain level of academic merit and the commitee also feels that they would fit into the MA program, those students get this option.

But the program makes it pretty clear that this is the more academic/prior-to-PhD degree and that one will not be taking any workshops, those are only for the MFA students. So, students with this option should see it less as an alternate path to the same "becoming a writer" place and more a completely different career path where the endpoint is typically a PhD(if they choose not to pursue an MFA after the MA).

The program also informed me nonetheless that they are very excited about students who choose to take this option, excited to work with them, and that these students often end up being some the best students in the program. They were very open and honest about my questions and concerns about the quality of the program and the strangeness of this practice, and it does seem that it is a quality MA program with a great value and WIDE range of periods from medieval to current lit., theory, comparitive, and language, but it IS an MA program with NO creative writing AT ALL. Hope this helps!

anne holmes said...

if you really want an MFA, don't "settle" for an MA (meaning, don't do it just because you couldn't get into an MFA program). i had a friend who was rejected from all her MFA schools, got a full-funding offer for an MA program and took it, because she was frustrated and thought it wouldn't hurt, and since she could put an "emphasis" on creative writing during her time.

the thing is, if you prefer an MFA program, you're obviously looking for the vast amounts of time to write more than you're looking for lit classes (not that there's anything wrong with lit classes, obviously). an MA program won't afford you nearly as much time (or any). my friend didn't get to take a writing class during her first semester, even though her degree has an "emphasis" in creative writing. she's so overwhelmed with lit papers that she doesn't get much time to write for herself.

so: think about what you really want, and if an MA isn't it, then don't do it.

Eric said...

Re: Scout

You're currently attending Roosevelt in Chicago? May I ask what you think of the school? I keep putting it on and then taking it if off my list of prospective schools, and I was wondering if you could give me any insight.

Specifically, how do you feel about the writing community in this program? Is it close? Is there a lot of school support for the writing program?

I don't want to derail this thread, so if you'd like, you can email me at moomoocow42 at yahoo dot com if you feel so inclined. Much appreciated!

lavademon said...

actually, I'd be interested in what you have to say about roosevelt as well, and since I was the original poster, I don't mind the post being derailed, becuase roosevelt is one of my options as well.

lavademon said...

Oh, and thanks for everyone's input, particularly your follow up with the program itself, Ethan. It was very helpful!

JoeyD said...

I agree with Anne. Don't expect a lot of creative writing time in an MA program (unless it's a creative writing emphasis--even then, you will still spend a bit of time writing literature papers, depending upon the program). I went the MA route initially because I had poor undergrad grades and I figured that if I did my best and worked my butt off writing critical papers, and reading great literature, then it would (in some tangential way) benefit my creative writing. I found out that it helped and didn't help. I was lucky enough to fit in a graduate creative writing course, as well as two undergrad workshops. But you might not have that opportunity in another MA in English/Lit program. Honestly, I wouldn't take back my MA experience. But towards the end, I couldn't help but feel frustrated that I was unable to write or finish a Chabon or Morrison novel because I was stuck researching literary criticism, or slogging my way through another assigned (and, in my opinion, poorly written) 18th century novel.

Scout said...

OK, the post is officially derailed. I started at RU in fall of 2006. I chose RU mostly because of location. If you've read the MFA Handbook, you know that location, location, location should be a consideration. I already lived in Chicago, and my husband's job was here. So, three MFA choices in Chicago, and I applied to two of them (the other was too expensive, among other reasons). I chose RU over Columbia College Chicago (a decision that probably surprised CCC) because I got a good vibe from RU. It's a surprisingly vigorous program, has a great lit faculty (you have to take four lit/theory courses), and is housed in this incredible refurbished old building. I also got a lot of feedback from a CW prof who had taught at most of the universities in town at one point or another, and her honest appraisal of all the options really helped feel as though RU was the place for me.

The RU MFA is a fairly young program and has suffered a bit from the usual problems (lack of funding, small student body, small faculty). But I've had nothing but a wonderful experience there, and I've had a chance to write, improve, publish, just like I wanted. I've also had the chance to guide the future of the program, which is very bright. We've hired a new director to start in the fall, and he is just great. He makes me want to stay around longer and take some more classes. So it's a good time to consider Roosevelt, especially if you are considering Chicago. It's a great city to live in, a great writing/reading city.

That's all the good stuff, of course. Let's be honest, though, because no program is perfect. We have little funding for students, so most of our students work. This does detract from a really tight community. We make do, we're friends, but we mostly see each other on class nights. There are no teaching assistantships. If you want teaching experience, you'll take a teaching internship with an RU prof. These are great, but it's a course---you pay for it, they don't pay you. There is only one graduate assistantship guaranteed to an MFA student each year, which is unfortunate. But since so many students work, a student who doesn't work or only works part-time would have a good chance at it. If you're curious, yes, I'm spending some of my GA hours typing this message right now. The GA is a lot of work, but it's a wonderful opportunity and pays 18 credit hours and a stipend. Good work if you can get it.

Compared to a program where they actually pay *you* to go for an MFA, RU probably can't compare. But it's definitely on its way up. The students are bright and generous with their time workshopping your work; the faculty is strong, engaged, and willing to spend time on you.

The student body is very diverse in race, age, sexual orientation, etc. Lots of Chicagoland people, but also some from out of state. A local newspaper once differentiated our student body from CCC's or the School of the Art Institute's (the other MFA on Michigan Ave.) or Northwestern's MA student body as more "working class." That's probably fair. It makes for more interesting stories in workshop, though, trust me.

There. Everyone return to talking about Brooklyn now. (P.S. I second the motion, in case it wasn't clear before, that if you want an MFA, an MA in literature is not a substitute.)

Ankur said...

Just like many of you with the Brooklyn offer, I opened a thanks but no thanks letter yesterday from NYU's Draper program which is an interdisciplinary 'create-your-own-degree' program. It seems seedy. Anyone else hear this or know about it?

Matthew said...

the ma makes more sense as a supplement than as a replacement. i got this offer and unless a waitlist comes through it's where i'll end up. im a year out of school and plan on teaching, not necessarily c.w., and would love to spend 2 years in NY. if other people go maybe they'd be interested in independent workshops? i mean, writing does occur outside the MFAs, too, right?

Ethan said...

I got the same draper offer, but it's not what I'm interested in, so I haven't really looked into it.

JoeyD said...

I apologize for the last post's grammar errors. Was in a hurry. But I just wanted to add that if I hadn't received my MA, then I wouldn't have met some very supportive professors (literary theorists and a poet/rhetorician) who encouraged me to follow through with my creative writing goals.

Flash said...

I will be starting at Roosevelt in the Fall, and have to say that the attention I got at Roosevelt went well above and beyond anything I saw from other schools. From admissions, to faculty, to financial aid departments. Three separate individuals from Roosevelt called me to welcome me into their program and ask if I had any questions. Granted, funding is not there, but if you can support yourself, Chicago is a great place to live and has a thriving writing community in general.

lavademon said...

I agree with the stellar attention from RU, it seems they are in an upswing for sure and trying their best to attract talent that they are excited about.

Scout said...

Welcome to RU, Flash. Look me up in the fall, although "Scout" won't help you find me. Real name is Lori.

Lia said...

I got the Brooklyn and Draper offers, as well. The Draper offer I gave two minutes of thought, a little online research, and said no way Jose. However, I'm really considering the Brooklyn offer. Here's my reasoning: I got my undergrad in Literature/Writing which was a combination of Literature and language but primarily creative writing workshops. Before I decided to apply to MFA programs this fall, I was going to apply to PhD programs in English. My ultimate goal is to be an English/writing professor--and a fiction writer; I believe I can do both. I backed out of the PhD for two reasons: I wasn't ready to commit to such a long, arduous program and I decided I wanted to pursue creative writing. Especially when I learned you can teach writing at universities with an MFA. However, after conversations with professors (with their PhDs)/family friends teaching at our local university, I realized that for my marketability and longevity in the professorship department, a PhD would benefit me in the long run; I would be a versatile candidate, if say, I had a PhD in English and an MFA. I applied to a mix of MA (in English with Creative emphases) and MFA programs. I'm getting into MA programs rather than MFA programs and starting to view this as a sign--back to the original PhD track. I'm also very young, just in my first year out of college, and a lot of other MFA applicants I'm noting are a bit older so I can see myself ten years from now going back to get my MFA after I'm done with the English aspect and have spent some time trying to get published. Because I really do want to apply to doctoral programs and because Brooklyn is such a reasonably priced MA, I am very thankful for the offer and I may very well end up going there. I realize it's not creative writing at all. But I do believe that literature benefits my writing. Knowing how to read critically and analyze texts definitely has developed my writing in the past and opened up interesting doors as far as ideas go, and I believe the MA could further that. I am by no means abandoning creative writing. I will still continue to do it on my own and if I do the Brooklyn MA, I will work hard at the non-creative aspects and take from it as much as I can. In my case, I don’t consider it settling. But I realize my ultimate goals of being an English/writing professor AND a successful writer put me in a different position because the MFA is not the only degree I would enjoy and at which I feel I could succeed. But, if I didn’t want to get my PhD and I was simply going to apply to MFAs all over again this fall, I definitely would not be considering the Brooklyn MA. So, that’s my situation. I’m sorry I just rambled. But I thought some others who might be considering the offer could benefit from hearing another side :)

Lia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lia said...

Matthew-
We should chat if you do decide to go. here2day_gone2morrow (at) hotmail (dot) com. I was looking into the Gotham Writers' Workshops...

Laura Scott said...

I second that, Lia. I am looking to get my PhD in Comp/Rhet, and I think Brooklyn College will be a great place to start. Unfortunately, I am not prepared to play the odds of publishing widely and winning a creative writing professorship somewhere. But I am concerned about making time to write with a PhD load. That is why I am thankful for this blog, where many like-minded writers seem to be making teaching and writing work. If I feel that I need it, I will get my MFA in the next decade of my life. Maybe we can set up a Brooklyn College writing group.

Laura

Lia said...

Laura-
I'm all for that! The Brooklyn College MA in English people getting together to workshop our writing... sounds great!

Lia said...

BTW, anyone going to the Open House this Saturday?

c.eLLa said...

Hi all,

I'm glad to see others in the same position as me. I received an offer from Sarah Lawrence's MFA program, however taking out 70 grand in loans is not appealing. I have a BA in English and have considered a PhD route, but wasn't sure if I wanted to jump in dedicate 7 yrs of my life to it. An MA may prepare me by becoming more specialized and as we all have agreed, literature certainly helps your creative writing.

I spoke to a woman at the BC English department and she informed me that no, not all applicants to the MFA program receive an offer of a seat in the MA program... you must have a 3.0 in undergradaute studies and at least 4 upper-level English courses. Out of 110 applicants, they accept about 50.

I am planning on sitting in at a class at BC sometime on the week of the 28th, as well as attending the May 3rd Colloquium, in order to better assess the quality of the English program there. I would also be a fan of putting together an MFA-reject MA-accepted Writing Workshop group, that is a wonderful idea. It's hard to find time for creative writing once all the literary reading and criticism has to come out, but I think it would be really beneficial. :)

Lia said...

C.ella-
I'm also planning to attend the May 3rd Conference! I just said NO to an MFA program that couldn't offer me money because I also don't want to take out 70K+ in the loans. Hope to see you at the Conference!
-Lia

BARRY GRAHAM said...

I received a similar offer from Eastern Michigan. I was hesitant but I accepted it, and while I regreted not having the terminal (MFA) degree, which I am now pursuing, I was also fortunate to take workshops with extraordinary writers. After complete the MA composition program I reapplied to the Creative Writing program and was accepted, and while it took an extra year, with the two MA's it was that much easier to find a college teaching position. I say if you have the extra time, go for it.

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