The MFA Program at Washington University in St. Louis is a two-year program where 20 to 25 students are working toward MFA degrees in fiction or poetry with Mary Jo Bang, Carl Phillips and Paul Legault in poetry; Danielle Dutton, Kathryn Davis and Marshall Klimasewiski in fiction; and Kathleen Finneran and Edward McPherson in creative nonfiction. Each year our reading series brings a diverse group of poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers to the department. In addition, the Hurst Professor program brings in four distinguished visitors each year to present their newest work, lecture on the craft of writing, and work one-on-one with our MFA students. Edward P. Jones, Frank Bidart, Joy Williams, Jorie Graham, Aleksandar Hemon, Lucie Brock Broido, George Saunders, Claudia Rankine, Deborah Eisenberg, Paul Muldoon, Lydia Davis, Matthew Harvey, Martha Collins, Kelly Link, and Richard Powers are just some of our recent visiting Hurst Professors. Click here for a list of the coming year's Hurst Professor events.
The MFA Program, which was ranked ninth in the country in 2011 by Poets & Writers, was founded by Jarvis Thurston and Mona Van Duyn, and distinguished past faculty have included William Gass, Stanley Elkin, Howard Nemerov, Donald Finkel, Constance Urdang, and John Morris. For more about the history of the program, take a look at this article from the Fall 2008 Washington University Libraries' publication "Off the Shelf".
The program is part of the English Department, with offices located on the Danforth Campus, where St. Louis City meets St. Louis County, right across Skinker Boulevard from beautiful Forest Park (site of the 1904 World's Fair and one of the largest urban parks in the country). For more about St. Louis, click here. For more about St. Louis literary events off campus, click here. Our students come from all over the US and around the world and generally include a mix of recent undergraduates and older students, with a diversity of writing styles that continues to surprise us.
The two-year program is rigorous and challenging, but fosters a close-knit community of support that continues long after the degrees have been granted. At the heart of the program are the fiction and poetry workshops, with creative nonfiction, craft, and literature courses offered as well. Students may also take graduate courses from other departments when appropriate to their creative endeavors (and with the permission of the faculty).
Entry into the MFA program is highly competitive. In 2012, we had 395 applicants and accepted 12 students, six in each genre.
Because of our selectivity and size, we are able to offer all our new students full and equal financial aid. For first year students, this is in the form of a university fellowship which provides a complete tuition waiver plus a stipend sufficient for students to live comfortably in our relatively inexpensive city. The amount of the stipend is variable (it has risen each of the last five years), but for our students in 2013-14 it is $20,000. In addition, summer funding of $2,500 is provided between the first and second year. We also provide full and equal funding to all of our second year students in the form of a Teaching Assistantship which, again, includes a full tuition waiver, plus a stipend that, at present, is $19,250. To earn this assistantship, our students teach one section of an introductory creative writing workshop in their genres each semester of the second year (two sections total). There are also two university-wide fellowships for graduate students, which applicants to the MFA Program are urged to apply for separately: the Spencer T. Olin Fellowships for Women presently carry a stipend of $28,000 for each of the two years (please see the Olin Fellowship website), and the Chancellor's Graduate Fellowships, for students who contribute to the diversity at the university, presently carry a stipend of $29,500 for each of the two years (please see the Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship website). All MFA students receive health insurance through Washington University.
We've long been fortunate to have outstanding students come through The MFA Program at Washington University, and we're very proud of how much our MFA alumni have gone on to accomplish since graduating. In terms of publications and awards, just since 2008, our graduates have won both the highest national honor for a first book of fiction (the 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award) and one of the top national awards for a story collection (the 2009 Drue Heinz Literature Prize); in poetry, their full-length book manuscripts have won the 2009 FIELD Poetry Prize, the Many Voices Project (MVP) Competition, the 2011 Les Figues NOS Book Contest, the 2012 New Issues Poetry Prize, and a 2013 Brittingham Prize. One was also named one of Publisher Weekly's Five Best Poetry Books of 2008. In the past four years, three of our students have won the Poetry Society of America's Chapbook Fellowship. Their novels and story collections have been or will soon be published by Counterpath Press, Harper Perennial, Houghton Mifflin, Knopf, McSweeney's Books, Riverhead, Scribner & Sons, Simon and Schuster, and W. W. Norton, and their poetry collections by Alice James Brooks, Ateneo de Manila University Press (in the Philippines), BOA Editions, Four Way Books, New Issues Press, Oberlin College Press, Ohio State University Press, and the University of Wisconsin Press--again, all since 2008. They also won two of the 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, and a Whiting Award in 2011. In July of 2010, the novels of two different graduates of the program were fortunate enough to be featured in two cover reviews in the New York Times Book Sunday Review.
In addition, recent graduates of the program have gone on to pursue a Ph.D. in East Asian studies at Princeton, a JD at Northwestern Law School, and Masters degrees in Social Work both at Barry University in Florida and here at Washington University. Another founded and served as president and CEO of a company based in Pittsburgh devoted to teaching young people financial and life skills. Another teaches at an experimental high school in New York City. One became co-curator of a monthly poetry, arts, comics, and theater performance series in Seattle; several have gone into publishing or founded literary journals, and several more write columns and reviews for journals and newspapers. One recently served as the Vice President/Secretary of the National Book Critics Circle.
We're proud to offer this list of news and accomplishments, which will be regularly updated. However, we're sure the list is incomplete. We have little news from anyone who graduated before 1996, and we're certain there is plenty that we're not aware of concerning more recent graduates as well. We need your help. If you came through the MFA program, please write to let us know what you have pursued since graduating, whether it has to do with your writing or not. And for those already on this list, please do continue to update us. The best way is to email Dave Schuman, the director of the Writing Program, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Please browse the links here to find out more about the Writing Program and its students, alumni, and faculty. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our assistant director, Shannon Rabong, at email@example.com.