Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Ones Without a Clue

Love them or leave them. These schools are handing their undergraduate alumni over to CW MFA programs. Perhaps it's a wish list of sorts. What if they had a CW MFA program? Northwestern's new program should give us hope. These are just off the top of my head.

1) Harvard U, Princeton U, Yale U

2) UPenn, Georgetown U, Howard U

3) Auburn U, Clemson U, Tulane U

4) Temple U, Pepperdine U, and University of Hawaii

Do you miss anyone? Let us know.

42 comments:

Matt said...

The University of North Carolina and Duke don't have MFA programs. UNC does have a creative writing department for undergrads though. Not sure if Duke has a CW department or not.

Kevin said...

What about the big UC's? UC Berkeley has the #1 ranked grad program for Literature; it would be nice to have an MFA program go along with that. We already saw how quickly a UC can get popular with San Diego. Berkeley and LA should be able to do that easily.

renila said...

Stanford doesn't do MFA's, but I wish they did. Guess the Stegner is as far as they'll go. UCLA has plenty of MFA's in their film program and a huge extension writing program -- and I wish they'd give me an alternative to USC.

Vince said...

Philly and DC are the cities that I think can cultivate two CW MFA programs.

Smoke-oi said...

Here are some undergrad writing programs at those schools:

YalePrincetonHarvardUPennGeorgetownOne insight into why these schools are generating so many writers could be that most of these schools have very privileged student bodies - suggesting that pursuing graduate study in writing might be a somewhat risking and indulgent undertaking, as opposed to studying law, medicine or engineering...

Other major feeders include: Brown and Columbia (though they have grad programs). I've also seen a lot of writing students come from the big Canadian schools, McGill, Toronto, etc.

mister trickster said...

Well, I think there are a few parts of this thread that are interesting, so I will try to keep each post focused (and I'm commenting pretty strictly from a poetry background--not much idea on the fiction).

Should all of these schools start up programs? Mostly they would have attractive name brand value (that's not a bad thing or a left-handed compliment, they would)--so long as they fund their students then they would probably be very attractive options for MFA programs.

mister trickster said...

Some of these have been placing alumni in good graduate CW programs in part because they are already selective schools, in part because they have privileged students, in the sense that they can afford to live cheap working on an MFA.

My understanding is that some of these schools have writing classes that are so hard to get into, that you can consider yourself lucky to get into the advanced classes, so the quality of the graduates is high, if not the volume.

mister trickster said...

Which makes me wonder, are there really such a large number of students at these schools going to top MFA programs? I can't say that there aren't, I'm just wondering.

I know that at the Bucknell Seminar last year students generally came from small, liberal arts colleges that were able to give students a lot of attention and support.

mister trickster said...

I guess what I'm wondering is, if these schools do start creative writing programs, should we expect them to provide the funding and resources that students need, or will the faculty and administration be too split for time between their small, elite undergraduate writing programs and any potential MFA programs?

Just a few questions, trying to get at a couple different ways of looking at the topic. Not really trying to pick any arguments, here...

mister trickster said...

And of course, if people have different impressions of the programs at these schools, please do clarify what they offer, for those of us who are less informed.

Seth Abramson said...

MT,

Please--for all our sakes--put all your comments into a single post if possible.

Best,
S.

mister trickster said...

My bad. Sorry!

Vince said...

It's a wish (what if?) list. Seth has the numbers. I mean, if the Most Competitive CW MFA programs get hundreds of applications for ten to fifteen seat...oh dear. Also, all these schools don't have to take a cue from others and start CW MFA programs. A high ranking school like Northwestern wouldn't have jumped on the band wagaon without seeing a need.

Vince said...

A few things to remember:

1)CW MFA applicants (in general) are willing to make sacrifices for: moving with family, paying multiple application fees, and our biggest asset as writers is time.

2)It's a gift if you find your calling to write in your undergraduate years. Many applicants come to these programs after several years working in the real world.

3)Heaven forbid we're indulgent while working on new poems or new prose works. I won't even go there with the desire to teach writing to others who might be less informed or uninformed.

Ryan said...

I go to Temple. There is no creative writing major for undergrads. There is a writing certificate available. Undergrad actually has some talented people working in the department. Mike Ingram studied at IWW and runs a great workshop, is totally approachable too (whats up, Mike? in case you ever see this). His was the only workshop I've taken with fewer than ten students--let me tell you, the large class sizes at Temple are an all around DRAG.

As for the MA program, I have yet to work with any of its professors--though I will be able to provide some insight come this Fall.

MV said...

This is an interesting post -- There are tons of great universities that probably don't offer MFA programs, and that might be a result of very specific variables at work -- bureaucracy & money. On the flip side, schools creating an MFA program might do so out of interest in beefing up their arts & letters program, attracting & hiring gifted faculty, etc.

Someone on this blog a while ago -- maybe a year ago -- mentioned that Stanford used to offer an MA or MFA, but discontinued, possibly because of the Stegner.

Mike Valente

DuhGodess said...

Hi! I know this might sound off the cuff, but are there any top MFA programmes that specifically focus on Christian fiction writing for little children?

Vince said...

Hamline University offers a Writing MFA for writers dealing with Young Adult and Children's Literature.

Vince said...

MT--

I'm serious regarding finding your passion for writing while still an undergraduate. These programs also accept students fresh out of college with newly minted bachelors degrees..these VERY lucky ones have been prepared well.

V

Joe said...

DuhGodess,

I know that Seattle Pacific University emphasizes spirituality and Judeo-Christian themes. It's a low residency program though--don't know if that is what you're looking for. Anyway, here is there website: http://www.spu.edu/prospects/grad/Academics/MFA/

Vince said...

DuhGoddess--

I mentioned Hamline's program. There is also a Children's Literature MA/MFA program at Hollins University. Whether or not your writing deals with Christianity/ Christian beliefs and values--arguably--fits under your prerogative as a writer.

V

DuhGodess said...

Thanks so much Vince and Joe !

Vince said...

What would be illuminating is a run down of how many of these schools w/o a CW MFA program do in fact have faculty who are alumni of established CW MFA programs.

Vince said...

there must be some very competent CW professors teaching undergraduates at these schools and small, liberal arts colleges nationwide. Thank you IWW, Michigan,NYU..NEO...Vanderbilt...etc...it was money well spent.

Vince said...

i think there is a tug of war regarding the teaching of writing and where it belongs in academia. does it deserve attention or a lack of attention? also, is it just another facet under English departments. the English Phd professors sort of smirk; however, they don't teach writing unless they have the Phd in CW...and i think their numbers are even less. Freshmen Composition courses are a pain in the butt to teach anywhere. it's a part of the transition between high school and college for students. how do they successfully write a college level research paper? we teach them MLA style...ie..where and when to place a footnote on the page..etc. We're lucky to have the AWP looking out for us. what does MLA have to say? i don't know. Seems like the AWP does work that MLA would rather ignore. And then there are the so called advanced writing courses..what in the world?

Vince said...

i'm sorry. i have to let everyone know that the director of Harvard's CW program did in fact attend the IWW...so kudos! their undergraduates are lucky. Harvard CW MFAs??? Just an after thought.

Ben Quick said...

Seth,

Forgive me if this is somewhat off topic, but I think it is worthy of a column, and I'm not sure how else to reach you. I'm a recent Rodgers Fellow and graduate of the University of Arizona MFA program in nonfiction. The program was great. Alison Deming, Fenton Johnson, and Ander Monson are the core NF faculty, and they all spend an almost inhuman amount of time nurturing students and their work. My prose grew tremendously during my time at the U of A. Ander joined the faculty this year, so I didn't work with him--I've heard only great things from his students--but Alison and Fenton are mentors who've gone to the well for me often and without question. Richard Shelton--just retired--and Judy Blunt--visiting prof for a semester--have been incredibly helpful, as well. They are all consumate teachers who give as much to their roles as mentors as they do their own work.

There was only one problem with the program, and I suspect this is almost universal among MFA programs in every genre: The degree offered almost no guidance in professional development. The credo "publish, publish, publish" has a lot of truth to it, but it won't help put you in a position to find your first job. The U of A graduate program in literature requires students to complete coursework designed to help build vitas, network, present papers at conferences, develop teaching portfolios, you name it.

I was lucky in that I learned these things in an American Studies masters program at Utah State before I came to Arizona. Others in my class weren't so lucky. The fact is that for those of us who seek to support our work through teaching, a CV is much more than its publication lines. The literature folks know this, and if we hope to compete with them for jobs in English departments, we need to learn this, as well.

Vince said...

Make sure to remain in contact with all members of your graduating CW MFA class...even if their genre is different from yours. Let them know how you're doing from time to time because it sounds like you're all in the same boat. This could lead to jobs later down the road. Also, don't discount getting a teaching gig at college campuses that are not flagship..i.e..there is University of Maryland College Park and then there is University of Maryland--Baltimore County--both need qualified teachers in their English Depts. Finally, try to get to the AWP Annual Conference with at least one buddy to meet people and make connections. Seth might have other suggestions.

Vince said...

BTW--if you are on a tight budget, going with a buddy will make the AWP Conference more affordable by splitting the cost between the two or more of you..e.g..hotel room costs..etc.

Vince said...

I have seen a section on several CVs titled "Teaching Competence." Are there measures for this among CW professors? Perhaps, it's something the AWP might want to look into...if it hasn't already done so.

Vince said...

Okay...okay Harvard, Wake Forest, and UPenn at least...to give the CW MFA more clout.

Diane C said...

I'm currently an undergraduate English major at UCLA completing the "concentration" option in CW. We follow a different track, studying literature within genres and must complete three CW workshops (all must be in either poetry or fiction), which are very competitive to get into. I'm guessing based on the stack of writing sample submissions I saw stacked up when I turned mine in, and on anecdotes I've heard, that they get about 100-150 applications for 24-36 slots (each quarter there are 2-3 workshops of 12). I'm in my 3rd now (whew). There are also several CW awards, and if you do dept. honors, you complete a 60-pg. creative project in your sr. year with 1:1 advising by one of the CW profs who are all really good.

I feel lucky to be part of this program, and it seems to be taken seriously within the English dept. It's like an MFA "lite" (without teaching experience, which is not my focus anyway). If nothing else, the workshop/writing sample application process is demystified, and we are building a network of peers and instructors. Also, we have Westwind, our online/print journal, which has taken two of my stories; athough it's a tiny, student-run journal, that has helped so much with breaking the ice and building confidence on the huge issue of getting "published." :-) They held a conference within the writing programs office last week (both CW and research theses), and the Westwind-published fiction writers had an opportunity to do readings of their work, more great practical experience.

If I don't get into an MFA program (and I'm stuck fro personal reasons in LA so my options are limited), I feel that I can continue at UCLA Extension's great CW program and get my novel finished--at least I've got a good foundation and a few buddies.

I've asked about why UCLA (and Berkeley) don't have a CW MFA, and basically I hear "budget restrictions."

p.s. I'm an older, re-entry undergrad student, so I am lucky I was very clear on my goals when I decided on UCLA. Sorry for the length, but I love it when people give the gritty details!

Vince said...

i apologize. some of the universities i've listed here are richer than many third world countries..(no offense to anyone who might be living in such countries)...Boston College??

Vince said...

Diane C--

Don't forget that UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and now UCSD offer the CW MFA.

V

Diane C said...

Vince,

I'll be applying to UCI and probably UC Riverside's low res program, am also considering Cal State Long Beach (I notice most of the faculty are UCI grads, and my current CW prof thinks it's an up and coming program). I'm also thinking about Bennington or other low res options, except that cost is a problem. I can't leave LA, so UCSD isn't a viable driving distance option.

I've heard a rumor that USC is considering some changes with its MPW program to move it to more of an MFA, so if that happens in the next year or so, and I can figure out the $$, that could be an option too.

Thanks for the suggestions! Now I just have to get accepted somewhere. ;-)

burlaper said...

As a graduate of Princeton, I figured I could give my impression of the University's Creative Writing Program. The basic setup is very similar to Diane's description of UCLA. There is a creative writing department which is completely separate from the English department and is instead housed with the fine and performing arts in its own building. Anyone can apply for workshops, but must be accepted. The courses are divided into "beginner" and "advanced" workshops, with two to three of each being offered in poetry and fiction (and one in translation, typically) each semester. Two beginner workshops are usually required to apply for an advanced one. These courses are taught by the absolutely fantastic faculty there: Chang-rae Lee, Edmund White, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Muldoon, C.K. Williams, and James Richardson, among others (and formerly, while I attended, also Linda Gregg and Yusef Komunyakaa).

Then, just before their senior year, students have the option to apply to write a creative thesis of original work. Any student of any major can apply and be accepted, but English majors are nearly always permitted to write the creative thesis in lieu of the required literary research thesis for graduation if the creative writing department accepts their application. Four workshops and a successful writing sample are required to be accepted for a creative thesis. Then, throughout the senior year these accepted students work one on one with their assigned thesis adviser to come up with the finished work. The experience culminates in a thesis reading at the end of the year and students receive a minor certificate in creative writing.

I was personally attracted to Princeton instead of some of the other schools I was looking at because of its fantastic undergraduate creative writing program. Though I do think that they would house a lovely MFA program (and the new emphasis on arts through the Lewis Center might be moving in that direction), I felt very fortunate to be a part of a creative writing program that focused entirely on undergraduates. It was a terrifying and wonderful experience all wrapped up into one. Most good experiences are, no?

Vince said...

i attended Loyola College in Baltimore, MD. i majored in English Literature; however, there is a writing major offered. i seriously enjoyed my English classes. the one writing class (taught by writing faculty) that i took in freshman year was taught by an IWW CW MFA graduate so go figure. Terrifying and wonderful experiences are sublime.

Vince said...

Rice and Carnegie Mellon are still w/o a clue.

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

Emory University.

Its undergrad program is home to Natasha Trethewey, Kevin Young, Bruce Covey, Jim Grimsley, and an assortment of other notables. Also home to the Danowski poetry collection, the largest collection of contemporary poetry in the world. In addition, they offer a highly competitive fellowship to recent MFA/PhD graduates to teach for two years. No MFA program though.

I don't know how many graduates end up in MFA programs, but I'm going to Hollins this fall and another person is going to NYU. Not too shabby.

Vince said...

We're being short changed...Lehigh?

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