The program is built around five essential blocks:
- Enrichment Project
The program hosts two residencies per year; one during the first week of August and the other during the first week of January. For full-time students, attendance is required at any residency that correlates to any semester in which you are enrolled (for an alternative, please see Campus Workshops section). August residencies correlate to Fall semesters and January residencies correlate to Spring semesters.
The residencies provide the essential locus for building community in the program. You will gain more from our program by taking advantage of the presence, work, and comments of your colleagues during residencies. Engagement and activity in the residencies will increase the likelihood that you will be able to take advantage of networking opportunities with students and faculty before and after you graduate.
At the residencies, you can expect a week of intensive work and engaging entertainment. Each workday begins at approximately 9 AM, and involves workshops, lectures, and meetings with faculty. The day concludes with readings and other social events after dinner and typically ends at about 9 PM.
In order to foster a sense of community and create a rich residency experience, attendance at all events is required for all students. The residencies are conveniently located in Danbury on the Westside Campus. The program provides lunch and coffee/snacks during the day; students provide their own dinners, usually at one of the many restaurants near campus. Students arrange their own accommodations; a variety of hotels adjacent to or near campus offer discounted rates for MFA students, and many of those hotel offers include breakfast. Some students choose to save on expenses by sharing rooms. While we understand that Danbury residents may choose to sleep at home in their own beds, they should plan on being away from home and away from work for the full day every day of the residency. We do not recommend that students who live more than 20 minutes or so away commute during the residency. The residency schedule is thrilling but also can be exhausting, and we want to emphasize the importance of the residencies and the need to have full student participation.
So that local students can participate in ongoing programs outside of the residencies, we offer a series of on-campus workshops, readings, and lectures during the academic year. Students have the option to forego one residency in favor of attending five program sponsored on-campus workshops. Off-campus workshops and conferences may also substitute for residency days. However, this option is not available in your first semester, therefore all students must attend the residency that corresponds to their first semester of enrollment.
Campus workshops are always open to any student in the program.
In the Multi-Genre Workshop, you will work on projects in at least two genres. You will critique the work of students in your workshop, and they will critique your work. The critiques and wide array of writing assignments are designed to help you build critiquing, writing, and editorial skills that are necessary for the professional writer or editor.
With the exception of the online workshops and, from time to time, the Internship/Practicum course, all courses are individual, student-driven mentorships. In each course, you will work one-on-one with a faculty member to design your syllabus, create your reading list, define your writing workload, and schedule your meetings, whether online, by mail, by phone, or in person.
Remember, it is your responsibility to get the most out of your courses. The return on your investment will be determined almost entirely by your level of participation. You will need to do independent research, drive yourself to write frequently, and to ask the right questions of your mentors.
All mentors in this program are highly successful writers in their respective fields. Rather than dictating to you, their role is to guide you through to your own journey of discovery. They will provide you with feedback, ask you directed and challenging questions, suggest useful writing projects, and direct you to important resources.
The application process for the program requires selecting a primary and secondary genre, one creative and one practical. The faculty members you will work with are selected according to your genres of interest and each faculty’s genres of expertise. We will make every effort to match you with the faculty with whom you want most to work.
III. Practicum and Internships
One of the goals of the program is to give you practical, hands-on experience working in one of your fields of interest. Students who are interested in teaching may choose to complete a teaching practicum by teaching at any level and completing a parallel project such as an essay or journaling.
Students who are not interested in teaching may participate in an internship that complements their course of study. The MFA Coordinator can assist the student in setting up an internship with organizations, businesses, or institutions across the country. The student might, for example, intern at a commercial magazine, for a newspaper or book publisher, as a grant writer, in a technical writing shop, or any other appropriate venue.
IV. Enrichment Projects
Enrichment projects are designed to give the student an opportunity to explore an avenue of learning outside the course structure that he or she might not have the time or initiative to otherwise, explore. The student will design in collaboration with the MFA Coordinator a project that will increase his or her ability as a writer, provide valuable networking contacts, or educate and enrich the student on a personal or professional level. The student might, for example, choose to learn a foreign language, start a new online publication, volunteer for a non-profit organization, or try another appropriately challenging activity. The enrichment project is not a writing project, but a project that will enrich the student as a professional writer.
In your final semester, you will register for 8 credit-hours of thesis work. This time is designed to allow you to complete your final thesis, a book-length (or appropriate equivalent) piece of work in your primary genre (or, perhaps in some cases, a combination of the primary and the secondary genre). The completed thesis must be approved by your thesis committee (first reader, second reader, and MFA Coordinator) before you receive a degree. The committee will judge the thesis on the quality and publishability of the work.