49º ~ finally, THE SUN!
Last year, Diane Payne and Mark Spencer, both writers and professors at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, contacted me as they were preparing to propose a new low-residency MFA program in Arkansas. I taught at UAM right out of grad school and was honored to be considered as a possible faculty member. In late fall, we got word that the program had been approved and will welcome its first group of students in Fall 2013.
Here's the official blurb from the website:
"The UAM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing provides
opportunity to talented and highly self-disciplined individuals
to earn an MFA tailored to fit their lifestyles, interests, and
goals at an affordable price relative to other MFA programs and
to develop their creative-writing, critical-thinking, and
literary analysis skills to an exemplary level through study
under successful and dedicated writer-teachers from a range of
backgrounds and aesthetic perspectives."
As the proposal for the program was in progress, I had to think about that ever-present question: Are there too many MFA/PhD programs out there? In the end, I came back to the same answer: As long as students are well-informed about the economics of the degree and the lack of a guaranteed tenure-track job in the quickly fading ivory tower, then I'm good with it all. In the end, if there are earnest people out there who want to improve their writing, then I want to help them do so. I do not refute the idea that people can become great writers outside of academia. For me, however, those few years of concentrated study were crucial to my development. I needed guidance, deadlines, and peers.
Here are a couple of other points in UAM's favor.
1. The program will be considerably less expensive than other low-residency options.
2. The traditional residency may be fulfilled by attending any of a number of pre-approved writing conferences (think AWP, Napa, etc.) and completing an intensive assignment about said conference.
3. This program will offer qualified students a chance to be trained and then to teach online. (One of my reservations about low-res programs for folks who want to teach is the lack of teacher-training at many programs.) Whether anyone likes it or not, online learning will be a major part of education at all levels by the end of this decade. Once vehemently opposed to this idea, I've now embraced it after teaching the entire range of ENGL courses online for five years.
and, of course,
4. I'll be mentoring students in poetry!
If you are an instructor of undergrads and you have folks interested in the low-res option, I hope you'll direct them our way.