Program Overview | Master of Fine Arts in Writing
Students in Pacific’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program earn a graduate degree in fiction, nonfiction or poetry over the course of two years through five intensive residencies, coupled with four semesters of guided study.
In the belief that writers can and must lead full and interesting lives, the program embraces students who have full-time jobs and other obligations, helping each to design an individualized course of study to be carried out in collaboration with a professional writer.
Faculty and Students
The writers who serve as faculty for the MFA program are outstanding for both their level of national or regional literary achievements and for their teaching records and abilities. These accomplished authors share a sense of joy around their work, bringing diverse writing styles and voices to the mix.
Like the faculty, Pacific’s MFA students are talented and committed writers from around the globe. While they are in various stages of life, they share a devotion to their art. They write because they can’t help it. They write to pay attention to their inner lives and to the lives of others. From baristas to brain surgeons, our MFA students understand implicitly that the apprenticeship they receive here is ongoing and that writers discover their original voice and moral point of view over time. They know that the process requires patience and the ability to embrace the muscular discipline that literary writing demands. For more information about the MFA faculty, see the faculty webpage.
Each semester begins with a short residency. One takes place in June on Pacific University’s 165-year-old campus set among groves of oaks, towering redwoods, and firs. The other takes place in January on the Oregon Coast in the small, resort town of Seaside. Over the 10 intensive days of events, students meet some of the best minds of the literary world. The schedule includes workshops, lectures, panels, classes, and readings featuring MFA faculty and an array of guest writers. Though students in the program specialize in a particular genre for their degrees, the residency offers opportunities to experience and appreciate the relationship among all the literary genres. In addition to the formal sessions, the schedule includes time set aside for contemplation, writing, and informal gatherings. Toward the end of the residency, each student is paired with a faculty advisor and together they create an individualized study plan that outlines the student’s projects for the guided study that follows. The residency is both a rich reward and a stimulus for the months of solo work that lie ahead.
The semester study plans grow from the students’ own interests, needs, and developing visions and guide the trajectory of their work. During the guided study students send writing to their advisors and, in turn, receive critiques and support, including specific suggestions as well as general advice for the developing craft and course of study. Student work sent in the exchanges includes new poetry or prose, revised work, and commentaries on the readings assigned as part of the study plan. Students are expected to devote 20 to 25 hours each week to their reading and writing, but the flexible structure of the exchanges allows them to carry out family and job commitments while still pursuing the art of writing.
The MFA degree requires successful completion of at least four semesters of study and five residency periods. During the course of the program, students read approximately 80 works of literature, about which they write commentaries during their first two semesters and bibliographic annotations during their last two semesters. They complete an analytical paper on an author, a literary theme, or another aspect of contemporary letters. For their thesis, they prepare a polished manuscript of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. At their fifth residency, students discuss their work in a thesis review and do a public presentation that includes a critical introduction to a reading of their creative work.
Upon completion of the program, degree recipients will demonstrate mastery-level rhetorical skill and imaginative originality in creative works.