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UW Launches Independent Program in Creative Writing

July 24, 2015
man looking at paper he is writing on
Jeff Lockwood directs UW’s newly independent program in creative writing. (UW Photo)

An independent Creative Writing Program will be launched this fall within the University of Wyoming College of Arts and Sciences.

“We have impressive programs in art, music, theater and dance, and a nationally renowned art museum, so it makes good sense to build on our strengths in the literary arts,” says Jeffrey Lockwood, the new program’s director and a professor in the Department of Philosophy.

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in creative writing was developed a decade ago with talented faculty from the Department of English and across campus. The program grew in stature as faculty published novels, short stories, poems and essays with some of the nation’s most highly regarded publishers. Professors became finalists for the National Book Award, won a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and garnered many of the university’s top teaching awards.

Over time, the MFA program became nationally ranked in the top 20, and more than 300 applicants each year sought one of the coveted graduate positions, with only about 10 accepted into the two-year program. Students won literary contests, fellowships and residencies. They are frequently published in leading literary journals and national magazines, including Discover, The Atlantic and The New Yorker.

“The English department has been a kind of intellectual incubator,” says Department Head Peter Parolin, whose unit also has made key contributions to the Gender and Women’s Studies Program and the Honors Program. He describes the separation of the creative writers from the English department as “bittersweet.”

“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved with our creative writing colleagues, and we wish them well as an independent unit,” Parolin says.

Lockwood notes the Department of English “provided crucial stability until we were ready to walk on our own.” The two administrators agree that both units will be enhanced as they focus on their individual strengths. The units will continue to share some faculty and staff as well as space.

The Creative Writing Program includes both the MFA and the undergraduate creative writing minor. “We’ll take some time to invent the new infrastructure for an autonomous academic unit,” Lockwood says, “and then maybe we’ll explore the possibilities of a Bachelor of Fine Arts.”

The program offers specialties in poetry, fiction and nonfiction writing through courses spanning freshman to graduate level. 

The MFA program has brought writers and writing workshops to more than a dozen Wyoming communities through an active outreach program.

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