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We are writers. Our principles follow from what claims us as writers as we guide our students in the creation of their own work. We offer a commitment to art and to the development of community through art. We offer an immersion in making, a chance to discover, to create serious work without pretense, to collaborate, to shake off assumptions and anxieties. Because we know the MFA degree is not a credential that guarantees a particular professional future, we provide full funding for our students—no one will leave the program with increased financial debt. We try, instead, to make the program a gift that circulates among us, our students, our alumni, our undergraduates, other writers, other readers, and those who, because of history or circumstance, may not have been offered such an opportunity before.
To be first and foremost concerned with making does not mean we take refuge from the world. It means we begin by supporting the deepest, most intelligent engagement with what matters to us as writers, freeing ourselves as much as consciously possible from the pressures of the marketplaces around us—the literary marketplace, the academic marketplace. A critical distance from those marketplaces allows us to engage with them in a more thoughtful manner once we have found our authentic calling—that which we are truly compelled to explore. We will, in time, imagine and define audiences for our work—our readers of the future. Our values will never map perfectly onto the concerns of academe or other institutions, and that is good. We create the finest conditions for the making of art when we remain in an eccentric orbit of our own, one that overlaps with the other orbits, yet remains, as much as possible, guided by our own principles.
Those principles include:
Making: we require the serious, committed, ongoing process of writing and revision.
Range: we cultivate a diversity of taste, form, genre, experience, and background, as well as an open understanding of what might constitute professional accomplishment.
Flexibility: we invite our writers to pursue their own creative and intellectual goals, to tailor the program in individual ways.
Curiosity: we urge creative and intellectual roaming: cross-genre work, interdisciplinary study, the movement across what are usually understood as boundaries; we encourage students to imagine possibilities beyond what is already imagined for them by the program and the university.
Community: we foster an environment that sustains listening, investment in the work of others, collaboration, rigorous expectation, generosity and, at the same time, respect for solitude.
Integrity: we challenge students to engage in deep investigation, to find their intent as a writer and to commit to it fully.