MFA Program Structure

The Writing Program leads to the Master of Fine Arts in Writing (MFA). It is a two-year program, requiring satisfactory completion of 42 semester hours, a thesis (usually a volume of poems, short stories, a novel, a collection of essays or a book-length nonfiction manuscript), and an oral examination dealing principally with the thesis.

Course Work

Of the 42 credit units required, 24 will consist of the graduate poetry, creative nonfiction or fiction workshop taken every semester. The remainder will primarily be literature and craft courses from the English department, but in consultation with the Director of the Program, graduate-level courses from any department are acceptable as long as the student has the appropriate preparation and the permission of the instructor, and the course will enrich the student's writing. 

In the first year, students enroll for 24 units: the graduate workshop in their genre (6 units) plus two additional 3-unit courses each semester. In the second year, students will typically take a total of 18 units: the workshop each semester again (12 units), thesis hours (3 units), and an additional course. This pattern may vary for the students who are not participating in the Mentored Teaching Experience, or for whom the director approves a different distribution of the workload.

First Year Review

At the conclusion of each workshop students will receive an evaluation from the workshop instructor; at the end of the first year there will be a review of overall performance in the program. At this time, students who show insufficient progress as writers may be dropped even though their academic records are satisfactory (although such cases are rare). Such students may have the option of transferring into an MA or PhD. program, subject to the approval of the faculty of that program. Students who are lagging in their academic work may be put on warning at this time or may be dropped.


The required work for the MFA culminates in a thesis, which may take different forms but is usually a volume (or most of a volume) of poems, stories or essays, or a novel (or most of a novel), or a memoir or other long-form CNF work (or most of one). Graduate School regulations require the filing of a "Thesis Title, Scope, and Procedure" form at least six months before the date of the degree-granting period. Students in the program, when filing this form, will select a committee of three readers (a thesis director and two other full-time members of the faculty). Generally, the thesis will be completed and defended in the spring of the second year. Under unusual circumstances, it is possible to complete the thesis out of residence and return for the oral examination.

Oral Examination

Near the end of the second year, after the thesis has been submitted in final form, the department will schedule an oral examination, dealing principally with the thesis.