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September 21, 2023

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Creative Writing MFA program graduates top in job placement, publishing

The University Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts Program was recognized in Poets and Writers magazine, which ranked it 15 in the nation in terms of job placement.

Wendell Mayo, a professor in the creative writing department, said the ranking was based mainly on teaching jobs, but also indirectly reflects authors who are published.

The program, which was founded in 1967, has historically been highly regarded, especially in recent years, with 73 books by alumni and students being published between 2008 and 2012.

Students and alumni have also received 53 documented awards and recognitions between 2008 and 2012.

“In order to get a tenured job, you need at least one book published,” Mayo said. “So you can look at all [our] writers at colleges and universities teaching and you can just about bet that each one of them has at least one book published.”

Mayo said this emphasis on publishing sets up students to be more credible to employers.

“We don’t teach people writing,” Mayo said. “We teach people to be writers.”

The program teaches students how to be good writers, but it also teaches them how to be successful as writers, by being able to get published, Mayo said.

Lawrence Coates, another professor in the creative writing department, mirrored Mayo’s statement, saying few writers make a living just writing. In fact, most graduates go on to teach.

Because of this, the program tries to make their writers well-rounded.

“Half or more than half of our MFA students are published,” Coates said. “To get a job in which you are teaching creative writing, it’s important to be published.”

Tricia Reno, a BFA student in the program, said she came to the University because of its creative writing program.

“Most colleges focus on English,” Peters said. “That’s not going to help me when my dream is writing novels. And the classes here are focused on that.”

Reno went on to say the faculty are largely what sets the University’s program above those of other schools.

“[The faculty] are published authors,” Peters said. “They’re successful in their own right and they really take their time to go over your work.”

Jason Harris, an MFA student in the department, said the amount of work published by alumni is partly what attracted him.

“The sheer volume of publications that the alumni had is impressive,” Harris said.

Overall, Harris said it was graduates who persuaded him.

“The testimonials were strong, people were getting published,” said Harris. “Whatever they were doing here was working.”

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