What Should MFA Students Demand?

I thought that this post on “Eight Things that Journalism Students Should Demand from Their Journalism Schools” was pretty interesting. The author suggests that sometimes, it’s up to students to “seize the initiative to demand” certain educational components. His list of must-haves includes, briefly: role models, a mentor, employment contacts, “a place to hack,” work experience, “deep knowledge of a field other than journalism,” “getting your name out there,” and “passion, not excuses.”

After reading the post, I began wondering how such a list might look in the context of MFA students in creative writing and what they should expect from their programs. I have some ideas, but for the moment, I’m more interested in what prospective students, current students, alumni, and faculty have to say. Please share your thoughts!

6 thoughts on “What Should MFA Students Demand?

  1. deonne kahler says:

    Great question! One thing I'm thrilled about with my program (Queens College) is how we're encouraged to work in different genres.

    I was accepted as a fiction student, but have found I'm most drawn to creative nonfiction. My director didn't even blink when I said I wanted to write a memoir for my thesis (versus a novel or collection of short stories).

    Despite my primary focus of CNF, I'm thrilled we're required to study multiple genres. (So far I've studied fiction, poetry, and translation, and hope to study playwriting next semester.) The various genres feed each other, and I'm certain I'm a better writer for the cross-genre emphasis.

  2. Erika D. says:

    Thanks for your comment, Deonne. Just so everyone's clear–your program is the one at Queens College of The City University of New York. There's another "Queens" program in the MFA world, too, but that one is low-res and is based at Queens Univ. of Charlotte. Not to mention Queen's University (Canada) and Queen's University (Belfast).

  3. Stephanie says:

    Fascinating. I'm writing a book on rethinking CW in higher ed–I'm going to use this list–thanks for the heads up.

  4. Erika D. says:

    Stephanie, that book sounds so interesting (and important). Please keep me posted.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have a question. What age is too old for a traditional MFA program? Everybody seems to be in their 20s. I'm currently in an excellent low-res program for what is but I crave a more full-time program that more mimics the life of a student, and I'm 46, only now discovering creative writing after a lifetime in journalism. And to your question, what should you demand from an MFA program, how about regular virtual or actual office hours from your prof, which is something my MFA program does require of its faculty.

  6. Erika D. says:

    Hi, anonymous. The question about age is such a good one. I think that older students are more typically identified with low-res MFA programs because quite often, older students tend to have responsibilities that simply make it much harder to consider the geographic range of programs that those right out of college may think about without any worries. I'd be happy to post this question on the blog and see what our readers have to say–I do believe that you may hear from some older students who will have helpful comments for you.

    I love the idea of requiring office hours, especially if the program otherwise discourages you from "bothering" the faculty (as mine did). Terrific suggestion.

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