The respected bi-monthly journal Poets and Writers recently ranked the University of Mississippi’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program 38th among the nation’s top 50 programs.
“Although our program has only been around for a decade, it is one of the rapidly rising MFA programs in the country,” said Ivo Kamps, chair of the English department. “The Atlantic Monthly ranked us recently as one of the top five up-and-coming MFA programs. Our fiction, poetry, nonfiction and screenwriting classes are taught by a highly talented, dedicated and widely published faculty. Poets and Writers moved us up 10 spots in the rankings this year, all the way to 38th. In the field of fiction, they ranked us 28th.”
Kamps credits the faculty and students for the program’s success. This fall, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford and award-winning author and screenwriter Chris Offutt joined the faculty. Assistant professor Tom Franklin’s 2010 novel, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” made the New York Times Bestseller list and won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Beth Ann Fennelly, director of the MFA program, this year won the College of Arts and Letters Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award and the UM Humanities Teacher of the Year Award.
“We have a supportive administration – it’s been quick to realize the tremendous energy surging out of the MFA program right now, and it’s provided some important resources that allow us to deepen and expand the range of our work,” Fennelly said. “And of course, the great students we have publish exciting work that gets noticed by other prospective students who then apply to us.
“Last year, we had 237 applications for just eight spots and were very, very selective indeed. It’s thrilling to be a part of this very young, dynamic, news-making program.”
Corinna McClanahan Schroeder, a 2011 MFA graduate, said the program offered her incredible opportunities, including working for The Yalobusha Review and helping organize the Grisham Visiting Writers Series.
“The program is incredibly small and close-knit,” Schroeder said. “Admitted students are supported not only financially but socially – they are immediately welcomed into a community of writers upon their arrival in Oxford, a town with a rich literary history. So, too, the MFA faculty are devoted to their students, and during my three years in Oxford, my teachers were far more than faces that I saw in the classroom once a week. My professors became mentors and friends and advocates of my work.”
Schroeder is working on a doctorate in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California. She is the recipient of a Wallis Annenberg Endowed Fellowship, one of the top fellowships offered by USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
“I have no doubt that my time at Ole Miss, spent writing and studying and publishing, helped me to earn this fellowship,” she said.
It is important for the MFA program to excel, Kamps said.
“Having a superb MFA program lifts the profile and reputation of the English department but also of the entire university,” he said. “In recent years the University of Mississippi has begun transforming itself from a predominantly regional school into a national university. The MFA program plays an integral role in this transformation.”
For more information, visit the MFA website.