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MFA in Creative Writing

Mississippi University for Women has been approved to offer a Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing, beginning in August of 2015. It is a 48-hour program that can be completed in two to three years (or longer if students choose to attend part time). Students take online classes, combined with two types of brief residency classes. Online classes  include Graduate Writing Workshops in Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Playwriting, Translation, and Writing for New Media, as well as Literature and Form classes. 

Updates:
Final Deadline, June 30 for Fall 2016 (Priority Deadline was March 1 but we still have room)
Our Short Residency this fall will be October 17-22
The MFA in Creative Writing program does not require a GRE score for admission
Our program has been named #1 in the list of Best Online Master's in English and Creative Writing

Best Online Masters in English Creative Writing Students Before Profits Award 2015 2016


Program Requirements 

  • 4 Residency courses: 6 semester hours,
    2 Short Residencies (2 hours) and 2 Full Residencies (4 hours)
  • 4 Workshop courses: 12 semester hours 
  • 4 Literature or Form courses: 12 semester hours
  • Electives: 12 semester hours: Workshop, Literature, or Form classes
    may also include up to 3 hours of additional Residencies
  • Thesis: 6 semester hours 
  • Total: 48 semester hours 

Short Residency classes are 1-hour courses in experiential, hands-on subjects, structured like a short master class. They might involve theatre, cinema, music, history, food, the environment, etc., and may be scheduled to coincide with campus events, such as the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium. Students are strongly encouraged to attend the first Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium residency (tentatively scheduled for Oct. 18-25, 2015) as an orientation to the program, the campus, and Columbus. Other short residency classes will be scheduled in the spring and summer to allow students a more flexible schedule. Short Residencies will last approximately one week on campus (or on a field trip) plus additional time for preparation and reflection at home. Students will discuss readings about the assigned topic, complete the experiential learning component, and write about their experience. The grade for the class will be based on participation, discussion, and the written response, which may be in any genre.

Full residency classes are 2-hour courses that include intense workshop sessions combining experiential learning with face-to-face workshop time and seminars on the profession of creative writing, such as publishing, pedagogy, and performance. Workshop groups will include students writing in different genres, so the discussion will extend beyond previous semester's workshop and encourage students to interact with their peers writing in other forms. The emphasis will be less on revision of specific texts, and more on each writer's growth as a writer. Written work coming out of the full residency workshops will be reflection on the writer's self-assessment and goals. The Full Residency periods will also provide time for face-to-face mentoring with the students' advisors and workshop leaders, and time for readings by visiting writers.

Workshop courses focus on writing. Students' primary work will be creative writing in the genre of the workshop. Other assignments may be included, such as readings in the genre and an analytical essay. Workshop discussion of student writing will be a main component of the course. Forms courses focus on exploring the craft of writing through reading. Some creative writing may be included in the assignments for the course, but workshop discusssion of this writing will be minimal. The primary assignments will be analytical essays focusing on the craft elements of the assigned readings. Literature courses will also explore the craft of writing through reading, but the focus of analytical essays will be on literary scholarship and interpretation. Any courses may be used as electives once requirements are met, and may include internships and special topics courses.


The W Difference

There are many low-residency writing programs to choose from, and most combine some form of distance learning with an intense personalized experience during residency periods, often at the end of each semester. Programs like ours are especially geared towards students who are already active in a career or who have family obligations that do not allow them to uproot and move to a new location to attend a resident MFA program. When designing the W's low-residency program, we wanted to make use of the latest developments in online education to create a program that is flexible, professional, personal, and affordable.

Flexible

The W's MFA program is more flexible than most low-residency MFA's because we treat the residency periods as separate classes. In many programs, the residency is the culmination of the semester's classes, which means that students are required to attend a residency every semester. With our model, students are required to attend at least two short residency classes and two full residency classes (and may count 3 more credits of residency classes toward their degree). This allows us to schedule short residency classes at different times of the semester. We plan to always offer one in October in conjunction with the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium, and we may schedule others during intersessions in January or August, during Spring Break, in conjunction with a long weekend (so students don't have to take as much time off work), in the summer, and even possibly right before or after the full residency class for students who want to save on travel costs. Since students aren't required to attend every short residency, they can choose when to come to campus. Scheduling will be determined by student interest and the availability of faculty.

Another way the W's MFA program is flexible is in our balance of requirements. With 12 hours of workshop courses, 12 hours of literature or forms classes, and 12 hours of electives, students can plan their program to emphasize one or more genres. Students whose goal is to teach writing at the university level will be encouraged to take at least 18 hours of literature and forms classes, whereas students whose goal is to enter publishing or another writing-related field may choose to concentrate on workshop classes. Students may also apply Residency or Internship hours to their elective requirements, shaping the program of study that is best for them.

Finally, by including cross-genre and mixed-genre experiences, the W's program encourages students to be flexible in their writing. All residency periods involve mixed-genre workshops. Poets, fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and playwrights will work together and discuss each other's work. The short residency classes often focus on another art form or another subject such as history, food, or the environment. Creative writers do not work in a vacuum. We are influenced by other art forms and a broad range of experience. Workshop classes in New Media and Translation also encourage cross-genre writing, and students under the direction of their committee may submit a mixed-genre collection as their thesis.

Professional

One of the goals of any MFA program is to graduate professional writers who are highly skilled at their craft. We believe that, besides honing your craft as a writer, it is our responsibility to educate you in the professional side of being a writer. Traditionally, the MFA was thought to focus on the art and not the practical side of writing, though students have always entered MFA programs to network. More and more programs are taking this to heart, especially since the assumption is no longer that the MFA will lead to a job teaching creative writing. It can, but more and more programs realize that training students how to make a living as a writer (or in a writing-related day job) is one aspect of what they need to do. We strive to be one of those programs.

The primary place where this side of your education will take place is in the full residency periods. Here, alongside the workshop sessions that focus on craft, we will offer sessions on publishing and self-publishing, writing for the web or other markets, working with an agent, creative writing pedagogy (teaching strategies for university, high school, and other environments), and other professional topics. Because these are part of the full residency class, we will be able to offer multiple sessions on topics that are of the most interest to our current students. We hope to have student input on planning each residency period so that we can best meet your professional needs. In addition, with classes like Writing for New Media and with the Creative Writing Internship, students will be able to apply some of their course work in professional areas to their program.

Personal

Mississippi University for Women prides itself in providing a quality liberal arts and professional education at the undergraduate and graduate level. With a low student/faculty ratio, the W's faculty is used to working closely with students and will carry this over into the new graduate MFA program. Small class sizes should be the norm in any graduate program, but at the W, we take this even further. Advising and mentoring begins as soon as you apply to the program, often before you are officially accepted. The residency periods will be where students have the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with faculty and other students. We will also make the best use of video conferencing, asynchronous chat and discussions, and other online technologies to maintain personal communication throughout the semester in online classes. With over ten years of experience with online instruction, the program director will guide and oversee instruction across the program. Plans are underway for an online graduate student lounge to facilitate communication among students, and to orient students to the program prior to your first campus visit.

Historically, Mississippi University for Women was the first state-supported university for women in the United States. Though the university has admitted men since the 1980s, an important part of the university's mission is to maintain its focus on providing quality higher education for women, though in recent years that mission has also expanded to include other underserved groups, especially nontraditional students and minorities. The low-residency format is particularly well suited to serve these groups, since its combination of online and residency classes allows students to work and go to school full- or part-time to augment their skills and education mid-career or while raising a family. With a long history of serving a non-traditional-age student population, the W is well aware of the need to maintain a strong personal relationship with students before, during, and after their degree. Graduates of the W's Creative Writing MFA program will join the Long Blue Line of W alumnae, many of whom are successful writers.

Even before Eudora Welty set foot on campus, there was a long tradition of good writing, as evidenced by the literary societies and student magazines of her day. Miss Welty wrote and drew cartoons for The Spectator, which would later become the student newspaper. Other student magazines included Meh Lady and Ephemera, and the current undergraduate magazine The Dilettanti. We look forward to producing a national online journal through the MFA program, the name and focus of which will be determined by our students.

Affordable

Everyone knows that graduate school can be expensive, and going into much debt to attain a degree in creative writing is rarely a wise investment. The W is committed to making the MFA in Creative Writing an affordable and attainable option. As a state sponsored university, the W is able to offer its graduate programs at a very competitive tuition. Students in the neighboring states of Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana, as well as W alumni and family members, are eligible to apply at the in-state rate. Other students may also qualify, so please inquire about a waiver of the out-of-state fee.

Financial assistance for graduate students is available, though at present, the levels of aid for the new program are yet to be determined. We are committed, however, to provide financial counseling to students as part of the application process. Where financial assistance is available, we will help you find it. Students who already have earned 18 or more hours of graduate work in English or a closely related field may be considered for part-time instructorships.

We will also work with students to craft a plan of study that meets their financial needs. It is possible to complete the program in two years by taking 12 hours per semester including the summer, though most students will take three years to complete the degree full-time. Part-time students may complete the degree in four or more years, depending on how many courses they can take each semester and whether they are able to take classes during the summer. Our goal is to work closely with each student to determine a plan of study that works best with his or her finances and career.