Program Overview
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Program Overview

The residency is an integral part of each semester, and each nine-day residency, held on campus in early summer and again in January, begins the new semester with a demanding program of creative writing workshops in which student work is discussed and evaluated. Students also attend craft lectures on the history, theory and critical approaches to the genres, faculty/student presentations and one-on-one consultations, in addition to presentations by visiting writers, editors and agents. With a low student-faculty ratio that never exceeds 4:1 and typically is 3:1, students have important access to instruction from mentors. In addition, workshops are kept small, never more than 6-8 student writers. This allows students to receive direct contact with experienced writers and their peers, providing a stimulating and supportive community of writers.

Overnight housing is available to students and faculty at the Converse campus during the summer residency. There is an additional fee for housing and food service if a student selects those options. The room and board package covers all meals for the summer residency. Campus housing is unavailable during the January residency, but affordable housing options are abundant near the college. Campus dining plans are available in January, or students may choose from a variety of dining options in the Spartanburg community.

We strongly encourage students to select the residential option arranged for the program, as it helps to involve the student more directly in the Converse College community; however, students may certainly elect to commute or to make their own housing and board arrangements.

To read about the residency experience from a student and faculty perspective, check out Sarah and Leslie’s blogs.

During the months between these residencies, students work individually with faculty mentors—award-winning writers, with whom students construct reading lists and to whom they send their creative and critical work for written feedback on a schedule determined at the time of their residency. Each student exchanges 5 packets of creative writing and craft topic response papers with a mentor per term. The faculty/mentor responds within one to two weeks via mail or e-mail and offers instructive critiques for revision, additional reading suggestions and relevant observations on craft and theory.

Students must complete four mentoring semesters to graduate. The Summer/Fall mentoring semester begins with the Summer residency, and the Winter/Spring mentoring semester begins with the January residency.

At the end of the two years, students finish the program by returning to campus for a fifth, graduating residency. In this final residency, graduating students complete the following:

  • give a presentation and oral defense of their creative thesis project
  • give a public reading from their creative work
  • lead their fellow students in a craft seminar developed under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

Optional Second Genre Emphasis for One Semester

The newly approved Second Genre Option provides current Converse MFA students the opportunity to study a second genre in addition to the major genre of study. Students applying for approval to study in a second genre will enroll in an additional semester in the MFA program and complete an additional 12 semester hours.

Second genre students admitted into the optional emphasis will complete a full residency and mentoring semester in one of the three genre options: fiction, poetry, or nonfiction.

During the second-genre residency/semester which will take place in the student’s 3rd semester, students participate in the residency workshop in their second genre of interest. During the mentoring semester immediately following that residency, students complete creative and critical craft work in that second genre under the guidance of a mentor with a specialty in that genre.

This one-semester option adds one residency and one semester (a total of 12 credit hours) to a student’s total program of study and earns the student a second genre concentration in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction which is documented on the final transcript. The second genre emphasis will lengthen the program for those second genre option students from four full semesters to five full semesters (including residency sessions at the beginning of each semester). The Fifth, Graduating Residency requirements will not change, but will continue as usual and will follow the student’s final creative thesis semester.

Since it is highly important for students to first establish themselves and make positive progress in the MFA program and in the study of their primary genre before broadening out, enrolled MFA students are eligible for the second genre study option only during their third residency/mentoring semester (in other words, before the Critical Essay semester; both the Critical Essay and the Creative Thesis must be completed in the student’s primary genre in the final two semesters of the program).

For students enrolling in the second genre option, the total number of graduate hours would increase from 48 hours to 60 credit hours. This new option gives our students who are interested and equipped for graduate level work in a genre outside of their primary genre of study an opportunity to develop as a more well-rounded author and will help our graduates excel in an ever more competitive publishing marketplace and in the academic job market.

Applying for the Second Genre Option

Second Semester Converse MFA students intending to enroll in a second genre may apply for admission in a secondary genre residency/semester by one of the following dates: February 15 for students enrolling in their third semester during the summer residency/fall mentoring semester, or October 1 for students enrolling in their third semester during the January residency/spring mentoring semester.

To apply for the second genre concentration, students must submit the following to the MFA director:

  • A writing sample in the genre of interest (10 pages of poetry or 15 pages of nonfiction or fiction)
  • A brief cover letter indicating the student’s desire to study a specific second genre.

Upon review of these materials, the MFA director will consult with relevant faculty. Director and faculty approval is required for this option.

Students are expected to write at an appropriate level for graduate study in that second genre.

In addition to the requirements of the Graduate School, the following must be met:

  • Completion of 4 on-campus residencies (16 credit hours)
  • Completion of 4 courses in chosen genre (16 credit hours)
  • Completion of 4 courses in craft topics (16 credit hours)
  • Completion of original, book-length manuscript of high quality in the selected genre (Creative Thesis)
  • Completion of substantive research paper, 25-30 pages, written during third semester of enrollment
  • Evidence of broad reading and an annotated bibliography of required reading list. By the time of graduation, participants will be expected to have read a substantial number of books concerning such topics as aesthetics, craft, genre, and the works of individual writers of achievement in the participant’s chosen genre.
  • Completion of fifth, graduating residency.
  • Students are expected to devote a minimum of 16 hours per week to their graduate work.

Candidates have five calendar years from the time of enrollment to complete the MFA degree.

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