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The program in creative writing offers a two-year master of fine arts degree in creative writing in the areas of fiction and poetry. The MFA program is a small program within a large and vibrant writing community. The program typically admits six new students each year.

The MFA program is the only program of its kind to have an "alternating genre" admissions policy. The program admits fiction writers in even-numbered years and poets in odd-numbered years. This alternating admissions schedule allows the program to provide a 2 to 1 student/teacher ratio and lets fiction instructors focus entirely on one group of fiction writers, and poetry instructors on one group of poets for the two-year instructional period.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and processes related to funding.

Program Resources

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements

MODE OF INSTRUCTION

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

CURRICULAR REQUIREMENTS

Minimum Credit Requirement 42 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (27 credits out of 42 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (https://registrar.wisc.edu/course-guide/).
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements To be considered a student in good standing in the MFA program in creative writing, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and receive no grade lower than an AB in any creative writing course. If a student does not meet this requirement, or if a student receives an F in any course, the student could no longer be considered to be in good standing. Consequently, a student who is not in good standing could have their TAship or other financial aid support revoked, and could be asked to leave the program.
Assessments and Examinations MFA candidates must submit a publishable written thesis in the genre in which they were admitted (fiction or poetry).
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required Courses

Writing Workshops9
Students take workshops in their primary genre (fiction or poetry) which are held in the first, second, and third semesters. Workshops include:
Graduate Fiction Workshop (Fiction Genre)
Graduate Poetry Workshop (Poetry Genre)
Creative Writing Pedagogy Seminar (Both Fiction and Poetry Genres)
Pedagogy (during the first semester)3
Thesis 115
MFA Thesis
Electives 215
Total Credits42

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

A Graduate Program Handbook containing all of the program's policies and requirements is forthcoming from the program.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 12 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 10 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Probation

The MFA advisor (sometimes referred to as the MFA program director) will review student academic performance and conduct in all coursework to determine that students are making satisfactory progress toward the degree. If at any time the MFA advisor determines that a student’s academic performance and/or conduct has not been satisfactory, the MFA advisor, with the input and concurrence of the voting members of the Creative Writing Steering Committee, may place the student on probation or may dismiss the student from the program. The period of probation will be one semester in duration. Prior to the end of the probationary period the MFA advisor will review the student’s performance and conduct and decide, with the input and concurrence of the voting members of the Creative Writing Steering Committee, to reinstate or dismiss the student.

ADVISOR / COMMITTEE

The current MFA advisor (sometimes referred to as the MFA program director) advises all MFA students.

CREDITS PER TERM ALLOWED

15 credits

Time Constraints

It is expected that the MFA thesis be completed in May of the second year in the program.

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Other

Each student receives financial aid in the form of teaching assistantships, prize scholarships, tuition remission, and health benefits.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

1. Develop the creative and technical skills necessary to conceive, execute, and revise original literary work in a student's chosen genre (fiction or poetry).

2. Demonstrate sensitivity to language and style on both the artistic and technical levels.

3. Develop the critical, analytical, and editing skills necessary to evaluate literary works in progress, both in the student’s own work-in-progress, and in that of the student’s peers.

4. Develop the ability to read literary works not only for their social, historical, intellectual, formal, and interpretive value, but for their capacity to inspire and generate new work, and to see in a finished work the process of its being made.

5. Develop through study and practice the pedagogical skills necessary to teach creative writing courses to undergraduate students.

6. Demonstrate understanding of professional and pedagogical practices and opportunities within and related to the field of creative writing.

7. Recognize and apply principles of ethical conduct with respect to one's work.

8. Engage with local communities of creative writers.

Faculty: Professors Barry, Johnson, Kercheval, Mitchell, Wallace; Assistant Professor Evans