Fraser Hall and Watson Library

Master of Fine Arts

M.F.A. Program

The University of Kansas' M.F.A. is a three-year program with tracks in fiction, poetry, and playwriting. Typically, students in the program take course work for the first two years of the program and then take the third year to write their thesis. Students may take up to 15 credit hours to complete the thesis, and by the time they graduate they will have produced a book-length manuscript of poetry or prose.

The creative writing faculty at KU has been widely published and anthologized, winning both critical and popular acclaim. Faculty awards include such distinctions as the Nebula Award, Hugo Award, Osborn Award, Shelley Memorial Award, Gertrude Stein Award, the Kenyon Review Prize, the Kentucky Center Gold Medallion, and the Pushcart Prize.

The University of Kansas' Graduate Program in Creative Writing also offers a Ph.D. degree.

Opportunities

A GTA appointment includes a tuition waiver for six semesters plus a competitive stipend. In the first year, GTA appointees teach English 101 (first year composition) and English 102 (a required reading and writing course). M.F.A. students may be able to teach an introductory course in creative writing in their third year, and opportunities are available for a limited number of advanced GTAs to teach in the summer.

Our program's award-winning students and graduates publish widely in journals and have published books with numerous presses, including Black Lawrence Press, Black Balloon Publishing, and the University of Massachusetts Press.


Degree Requirements

  • 12 graduate credit hours (four courses) in literature, literary theory, forms, or rhetoric/composition/language studies. ENGL 801 does not fulfill this requirement.
  • 12 graduate credit hours (four courses) of creative writing workshops.
  • No more than 6 credit hours may be taken at the 600-level.
  • 7 to 9 graduate credit hours in electives or practica, chosen from graduate courses in the Department of English, or approved courses in another department.
  • 15 hours of ENGL 899, Thesis. Original writing in prose fiction, poetry, drama, or nonfiction prose. Students who complete and are able to defend their thesis before completing the 15 hours of ENGL 899 may petition for a reduced credit degree.

 

The M.F.A. thesis consists of original writing in fiction, poetry, drama, or prose. After the fall semester of the second year, normally halfway through the program, the student asks a member of the creative writing faculty to serve as the director of the thesis. Students preparing their scholarly or creative thesis should be showing chapters or writing selections to all of their committee members as they go along, for feedback and revision suggestions. They should also meet periodically with committee members to assess their progress.

The thesis in creative writing is the culmination of the student’s training and preparation and constitutes the most significant requirement for the student to complete the program and receive the terminal degree. The thesis will consist of a portfolio of the student’s best work in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, or some combination thereof. In completing the thesis, the student will work under the supervision of the thesis director and two other members of the faculty, at least one of whom must be in creative writing. It is required that the thesis be of publishable quality, in parts or as a whole, and be of substantial length: at least one hundred pages of prose; at least fifty pages of poetry; or at least two one-act plays or one full-length play. More specific requirements will be determined for each thesis by the thesis director and other members of the thesis committee. Toward the end of the third year, the student will present the thesis in a timely manner to their committee members, and a defense will be scheduled. The student must satisfactorily pass the thesis defense in order to receive the M.F.A. degree.

To be eligible to defend, the candidate must have virtually completed coursework, and finished the thesis. It is the obligation of the candidate to advise the Graduate Director that they plan to take the thesis defense and confirm completion of coursework; this must be done at least one month before the date of the defense.

At least three calendar weeks prior to the defense date, the student will submit the final draft of the thesis to all the committee members and inform the Graduate Academic Advisor. Failure to meet this deadline will necessitate rescheduling the defense

Students with committee members who plan to attend the defense via remote technology must be aware of college policy on teleconferencing/remote participation of committee members.

If a student wants to have as a committee member a person outside the university, or a person who is not in a full-time tenure-track professorship at KU, the student must contact the graduate academic advisor as early as possible. Applications for special graduate faculty status must be reviewed by the College and Graduate Studies and can take up to 2 months to be approved. Requests for exam/defense approval will not be approved unless all committee members currently hold graduate faculty status.

The exam room is reserved for two hours to allow for committee deliberation. The defense itself is limited to no more than ninety minutes.

Although compelling arguments have been presented for eradicating the designation of "Honors" altogether, “Honors” on the written thesis is necessary for that work to be nominated for the CLAS annual competition for Outstanding M.A. Thesis. "Honors" will be given to theses that are rated "Outstanding" in all or most of the categories on the M.F.A. thesis rubric.

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to the defense. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student exams but not others.

YEAR 1:

FALL SEMESTER

  • GTAs take 2 courses (801 + one), teach 2 courses, GRAs take 3 courses
  • Visit DGS or assigned advisor once a month to update on progress and perceptions

SPRING SEMESTER

  • GTAs take 2 courses (800 or 780 [recommended] + one), teach 2 courses , GRAs take 3 courses
  • Visit DGS or assigned advisor at least once during the semester; discuss best advisor choices for Year 2

SUMMER SEMESTER

  • Enroll in Summer Institute if topic and/or methodology matches interests (course is worth 3 credit hours).

YEAR 2:

FALL SEMESTER

  • Take 2 courses, teach 2 courses. Remember that by the end of coursework, you must take 4 creative writing workshops and 4 graduate classes in English or American literature.
  • Visit advisor and M.F.A. Director, in person, at least once during the semester to check up on progress

SPRING SEMESTER

  • Take 2 courses, teach 2 courses
  • Ask a member of the creative writing faculty to serve as your thesis director. Discuss the building of the thesis portfolio, and which other faculty members would make a good fit for your committee

SUMMER SEMESTER

  • Summer teaching, if eligible
  • Enroll in Summer Institute if topic and/or methodology matches interests (course is worth 3 credit hours).

YEAR 3:

FALL SEMESTER

  • Take 2 courses, including at least 3 hours of 899 (thesis); teach 2 courses. 
  • Visit committee regularly during the semester

SPRING SEMESTER

  • Take 2 courses, including at least 3 hours of 899 (thesis); teach 2 courses. 
  • Visit committee regularly during the semester
  • Final Oral Examination (Thesis Defense)

Creative Writing Faculty

Graduate Student Handbook

For department policies and best practices please consult the graduate student handbook.
Graduate Handbook (.pdf)