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, the Mentored Teaching Experience, a thesis and thesis defense.  

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 take a total of 18 units: the workshop each semester again (12 units) and 6 additional units, of which 3 can be thesis hours. Students also participate in the Mentored Teaching Experience during both semesters of the second year.  

The Mentored Teaching Experience 

The Mentored Teaching Experience allows our MFA students to learn through mentorship, teaching and gain valuable experience as instructors in the creative writing classroom. The MTE begins in the spring of the first year with a required one-week pedagogy workshop during which students will draft a syllabus, compile reading lists and exercises, learn about university policies and resources, and participate in mock-workshops, among other activities designed to help prepare to teach their own sections of a 200-level undergraduate creative writing workshop both semesters during the second year.  

All students teach in their own genre. Classes meet twice a week for an hour and twenty minutes and enrollment is limited to 12. During the second year, students will receive mentorship and support for their teaching from faculty and the director.  

First Year Review 

At the end of the first year there will be a review of overall performance in the program. At this time, students who are lagging in their academic work may be put on warning or may be dropped, though this is extremely rare. 


The required work for the MFA culminates in a thesis, which may take different forms: in poetry, usually a volume of poems; in fiction a collection of short stories, or a novel / novella or some combination thereof; in nonfiction a collection of essays or a book-length nonfiction manuscript or some combination thereof. In the spring of their second years, students undergo an oral examination dealing principally with the thesis. Thesis committees are made up of 3 faculty members. 

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.  

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 with the selected committee, dealing principally with the thesis.