Master of Fine Arts Program Guide

Timeline and Satisfactory Progress:
The degree should be completed within six full-time quarters (or their part-time equivalent). Completing the MFA degree within that time period constitutes satisfactory progress.
In each of the first three quarters of residence, students must complete a creative writing workshop and receive a grade of 3.0 or higher.


The requirements for the Master of Fine Arts degree include workshops and seminars, preparation of a reading list, an MFA essay, and a Thesis.


Fifty-five credits of English graduate courses are required for the MFA, apportioned as follows: 20 credits in creative writing courses (two workshops must be in the student's genre, one may be outside the genre; plus one Graduate Writing Conference [English 586]); l5 credits in advanced literature (5 credits of which must be a seminar numbered 506-510, 550, 551, or 581); 5 elective credits (5 graded credits of Internship [601] can count for degree credit); and l5 Thesis credits (5 of which are devoted to the MFA essay).

Reading List

A preliminary reading list must be approved by the Thesis Committee at the end of the third quarter in residence. This list shall include some 20 to 30 books, falling into three categories: specialization or core (substantial representation of an author, approach, or form of particular interest to the student); genre or survey (a survey of the genre or contexts); and works of criticism. This reading list amounts to a plan of study, and should guide the student's research toward the MFA essay.

Thesis Committee.  During the first week of May, the students will supply the program coordinator with a list of three Creative Writing Faculty members they would like to serve on their thesis committee.  The students will include writing samples if they have included a faculty member who they have not studied with yet.  The requests will be compiled and submitted to the appropriate faculty group.  The results will be emailed to the students by the third week of May. 

MFA Essay

The first draft of the 20 to 30 page MFA essay must be submitted to the Creative Writing Office for distribution to the Thesis Committee in triplicate no later than the beginning of the quarter prior to the quarter of intended graduation. The Committee reads the first draft and returns it with comments and recommendations. The final draft is due to the Creative Writing Office no later than the end of the quarter prior to the quarter of intended graduation. This essay should be an expression of the student's relationship to his or her reading, a relationship based on the student's own writerly concerns and studies. It cannot be construed only as an act of literary criticism or scholarship, though some students choose to do close readings or conventional literary studies as part of their essay requirement; the essay itself must ultimately, however, address the issue of the writer's relationship to (and peculiar slant on) his or her reading.


The first draft, or Preliminary Thesis, should be submitted in triplicate to the Creative Writing Office for distribution to the Thesis Committee by the end of the quarter prior to that in which the student expects to graduate. The Committee reads and comments on this preliminary Thesis and returns it no later than the second week of the following quarter.

The Final Thesis must be submitted to the Creative Writing Office by the end of the seventh week of the quarter in which the student expects to graduate. At this time the Oral Presentation should be scheduled with the Creative Writing Office for two or three weeks later. After the Thesis supervisor has approved the Thesis in writing, the student will provide two further copies to the Creative Writing Office for distribution to the members of the Thesis Committee. Minimum acceptable lengths are: 30 poems, or five stories (at least l00 pages), or l50 pages of a novel. Committee members return the Thesis to the Creative Writing Office with written comments, indicating whether they approve or disapprove the Thesis. When the entire Committee has approved the Final Thesis, the student is ready to give the Oral Presentation.

Oral Presentation. The Oral Presentation should be scheduled with the Creative Writing office at the time the Final Thesis is submitted. It should be understood as the culminating performance of the last quarter in residence, and consist of either a reading of creative work from the thesis or a discussion of the thesis and the essay topic with the Thesis Committee. The Oral Presentation usually lasts about 40 minutes; it must not be under 30 or in excess of 60 minutes. The Thesis supervisor obtains the Master's warrant from the English Graduate Office before the presentation begins. The presentation is attended by the Thesis Committee.  At the end of the Oral Presentation, the Master's warrant is signed and the student should obtain the necessary signatures on the Committee Approval Form. After the Oral Presentation, and before the last day of the quarter, the student will submit the Electronic Thesis and Signed Committee Approval Form to the Graduate School. 


Students in the MFA program are advised by the Director of Creative Writing, with whom they should meet before registering for first-quarter courses. The adviser will review degree requirements and assist in the choice of coursework. Throughout the student's program, the adviser will continue to provide advice on matters of scholarship and professional preparation and in planning further coursework.

Applying for the Degree

A student applying for the Master of Fine Arts degree must submit that application to the Graduate School within the first two weeks of the quarter in which the degree is to be conferred and must be registered during that quarter.