Recently named by The Atlantic Monthly as one of five up-and-coming creative-writing programs in the nation, the MFA program — the only one of its kind in the state — has benefited not only the 30 students enrolled but the entire English department.
An important reason for this success is the private funding for recruitment of outstanding students. John and Renée Grisham regularly sponsor MFA fellowships, and Jim Barksdale has donated funds for scholarships since the program’s inception in 2000.
“We must rely on donors to be truly excellent,” said Barry Hannah, permanent writer in residence and director of the MFA program. “We are lucky for Jim Barksdale and John and Renée Grisham, our angels and stone-fine, stand-up people.”
Benefiting the entire student body is the Grisham Visiting Writers Series, which brings critically acclaimed writers to campus throughout the year. The growing success of the MFA program has enabled the English department to increase the number of creative-writing courses in fiction and poetry for graduate and undergraduate students.
The national acclaim some MFA students have garnered reflects the success of the program. In 2007 alone, a poem by Louis E. Bourgeois (MFA 02), “A Voice from the City,” was included in the critically acclaimed poetry anthology The Best American Poetry, Jennifer Malesich (MFA 07) won the Iron Horse Literary Review’s Discovered Voices Award and a story by Jake Rubin (MFA 07), “Little Stones, Little Pistols, Little Clash,” was published in Best New American Voices, marking the fourth consecutive year a UM student’s work has appeared in the publication.
“The processes I’ve gone through have been amazing,” said Malesich. “This MFA program really challenged me to grow and expand those ideas of what I envisioned poetry to do. I’m writing better than ever.”