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Workshops are at the core of our curriculum. Students typically take three workshops in their primary genre and one in another genre, but students with multiple-genre/hybrid genre interests may consult with the MFA director regarding the most productive workshop schedule for their particular aesthetic goals. The program also will begin regularly offering creative writing seminars that a student may take alongside, or in substitution for, workshops, decisions to be freely made in consultation with the MFA director. Students in their first semester may not take more than one workshop (ENGL 5560) except with permission of the MFA director. Students, in consultation with the MFA director, may choose to take more than the four required workshops, but a student should take no more than a total of seven workshops and creative writing seminars (including both semester-long workshops/seminars and short intensive workshops/seminars) during their time in the program. Manuscript consultations, master classes, and other non-credit opportunities with visiting writers are not included in the seven-workshop/seminar total.
Beyond workshops and creative writing seminars, MFA students take several elective courses as well as credits towards the MFA project (see “MFA Project” for details on that requirement). Students may take electives in any department or program across campus. Students with strong interests in another discipline or field are welcome to concentrate their non-workshop coursework in that area if it serves their creative goals. Students should work in close consultation with the MFA director in mapping out their elective coursework.
Students teaching first-year composition are required to take ENGL 5010 in their first semester, and to take ENGL 5900 in every semester in which they teach 1010. Students who are teaching a course other than ENGL 1010 will be required to take a similar mentoring credit with a teaching mentor selected in consultation with the MFA director. This credit will replace the ENGL 5900 requirement in that semester. Students with equivalent graduate-level coursework, or with a graduate teaching degree, may have the option to waive ENGL 5010. Students in this case should consult with the MFA director before the semester begins; the MFA director will discuss the waiver with the director of 1010.
A few words about requests from the MFA faculty. We are deeply committed to helping you flourish while in the program, and seek to foster the well-being of our entire writing community.
This means that faculty are devoted to your growth as a writer—and to our own work as writers. In fact, these are complementary values in that quality teaching and mentorship of writers entails an active writing life on the part of the teacher/mentor.
The MFA faculty focus our energy on workshops as the primary mode of teaching. Independent Studies necessarily draw time away from the communal activity of workshops. As such, individualized courses are not generally the optimal use of limited instructional time, unless there is no other course in which a line of inquiry can be pursued by a student. In addition, all UW faculty who direct Independent Studies do so on top of their assigned teaching responsibilities. So please understand that faculty may not be able to support every Independent Study request despite our pleasure in working one-on-one with motivated students.
Please understand that your request for faculty to read a work in progress represents a significant investment of time. The faculty take such feedback seriously, so a ‘quick read’ is not usually possible. With 20-or so students in the program at any given time, please limit your requests for unstructured reading by faculty and understand that such requests may not be possible to fulfill—or the turnaround time may be longer than desired.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, faculty also take very seriously the preparation of letters of recommendation. Your success and our reputations depend on carefully crafted letters. As such, a month’s lead time is appreciated; two weeks is tolerable; and anything less is problematical. Professionalism entails your anticipating the need for letters of recommendation well ahead of deadlines. Of course it will be the case that some opportunities arise unexpectedly and give you (and faculty) little time to assemble the necessary application materials. And we are sympathetic to such occasions, so don’t fail to apply to an exciting program or funding source—and ask for a letter of support—because you only learned about it 10 days before the deadline. However, be sure that when asking for a letter with less than two weeks lead time, the compressed timeframe does not reflect procrastination or poor planning on your part.