A two-year course of study
The M.F.A. at Vanderbilt is a two-year program requiring four semesters of graduate work in writing workshops and seminars. Students enroll in a workshop and two seminars during each of their first three semesters. Then during the final semester, they work intensively on a creative thesis. The thesis is a substantial piece of creative writing: a novel, a collection of short stories or creative non-fiction, or a collection of poems.
All first-year students work as Writing Consultants in the Vanderbilt Writing Studio, and second year students teach an introductory creative writing workshop in their genre.
Every student in the MFA program receives full-tuition remission, health insurance, and a stipend in addition to the salary they receive for teaching. Students are also eligible to receive travel grants to attend the AWP Conference (and other academic conferences). Moreover, applicants with exceptionally-high GRE scores and undergraduate academic records may also be nominated for topping-up awards from the Graduate School that will increase the amount of their stipends.
Close work with faculty
Our faculty of distinguished creative writers works closely with twelve MFA students—half of whom work in poetry, and half in prose—who are enrolled in the program at any one time. Since each class contains only six students, admission is highly competitive and no one’s work gets lost or overshadowed.
Good interaction with scholars of literature
Students in the MFA program work harmoniously and productively with students and faculty in the English Department’s doctoral program. The English Department’s Graduate Reading Series, which takes place during the spring semester, features the work of one MFA student and one Ph.D. student. The English Department’s faculty welcomes MFA students into their literature classes.
Opportunity to edit Nashville Review
The inaugural issue of Nashville Review, a literary journal edited by students in the MFA program, appeared in Spring 2010. The online journal pays contributors to publish fiction and nonfiction, poetry and comics, music (lyrics and tunes) and paintings, drawings, and photography as cover art. The Review also publishes interviews with established writers, artists, and musicians, along with essays, reviews, and translations.
Stimulation of visiting writers program
Each semester, the Gertrude Vanderbilt and Harold S. Vanderbilt Visiting Writers Series brings to campus distinguished writers who read from their work and discuss writing with students. In some years, a distinguished writer in residence visits for a semester and teaches a workshop in his or her genre.
A supportive atmosphere in which to write
Nashville is a place that respects creative activity. All over town people are busy making things—writing songs and playing music as well as creating art. Vanderbilt’s 350-acre, tree-filled campus—located less than a mile from downtown and just a few blocks from Music Row—is a registered National Arboretum. Vanderbilt’s campus may be peaceful and beautiful, but the action isn’t far away.
Vanderbilt’s MFA Program has been ranked among the top 15 MFA Programs in the country by Poets and Writers magazine—ahead of many better known, better established graduate programs. It earned high marks for the quality of its prize-winning faculty, for the affordable cost of living, and for the financial support it gives for students. It ranks number one for selectivity.