Next year is the Ashland MFA Program’s 5th Anniversary. We will celebrate our anniversary during the 2011 Summer Residency, and again mid-year at the 2012 AWP Conference in Chicago. That we have seasoned well in the past five years is clear in the quality and growth of our faculty and student body, with 60+ students expected for the 2011 Summer Residency, four new faculty mentors joining us for their first summer session, and an additional faculty mentor returning after a leave of some years. We are also in the midst of our strongest spring admission period ever, with 20 positions for new students quickly filling. While we still have some positions open and will continue to review new applications, this is the strongest early admission period we have yet experienced.
We are no longer a small low-residency MFA Program. We are about the same size as 6 other low-residency MFA Programs, larger than 16 programs, and substantially smaller than the 9 largest programs that enroll more than 100 students each. Yet we have managed to maintain the exceptional quality of the Ashland Program, even as we have grown and changed.
In what ways is the Ashland MFA Program different from other programs? With a commitment to a maximum of five students to every faculty mentor, we have a better faculty-student ratio than most other MFA Programs. Our residency workshops have as few or fewer students per faculty member than all but one of 33 other low-residency MFA Programs willing to share that information. During non-residential semesters, only four other programs have a smaller maximum number than our limit of 5 students per section.
We also continue to enjoy an incredibly close sense of community in the program. As much as we may all care deeply about individual identities based on region, age, politics, religion, ethnicity, race, sexuality, aesthetic orientation, or any other number of demographic distinctions, in the program we are all about celebrating what we share—a common humanity in the arts.
Finally, we are the only residential or low-residency MFA Program in the country that focuses specifically on the relationship between creative nonfiction and poetry. I like to think that we are like no other program in the country—that we have a clear sense of identity that continues to shape us, even as we grow.
The next time I write I will be in Chongqing, China, a city of 32 million people that used to be part of Sichuan province and recently became its own province. I will teach a graduate class on Dickinson and Frost to students fluent in English, in the foreign literature program at Chongqing University. I will also work with a Chongqing University faculty member on collaborative translations of two contemporary Chinese poets—Tang Danhong and Yang Jian. Otherwise, I will still be available by phone and email, and will continue to direct the MFA Program via the internet. I will be back in Ashland in early May.
All Best Wishes for the Springing of the Year…
For more information and current news about the Ashland University MFA Program, visit our Faculty and Student News Page, which includes the current and past monthly newsletters.