For Matt Burrell, Converse College’s low-residency MFA program has allowed him to pursue a master’s degree while working on a fictionalized account of his deployment in Iraq.
“It’s gone from being a small program no one outside of the state had heard of to a program that attracts students from across the United States.”
Burrell, a Washington, D.C. resident and Chicago native, enrolled in the Converse Master of Fine Arts program two years ago. He is able to do most of his work from his home in Washington. He said it wasn’t realistic for him to quit his job and go back to school.
He had looked at programs for a long time, he said, and the Converse program made sense to him. “I had a job – I work in D.C. – and I wasn’t going to just quit my job and go back to school for two years,” Burrell said. “It just made sense to me, and the low-residency (program) really fit in with my schedule.” Burrell recently took some time off work to travel to Converse. He met with his professor and attended workshops at the campus in Spartanburg. Students have to come to the campus only twice a year. The low-residency program is unique in that it draws nontraditional students from all over the country and allows them to complete a degree without having to quit their jobs and pick up their lives and move.
Beth Lancaster, director of media relations at Converse, said that’s one of the great things about the program – being able to recruit the best writers and faculty from all over the country and no one has to give up their day jobs to participate.
There are only two Converse faculty members who teach in the MFA program – program director Rick Mulkey and Susan Tekulve. The rest of the faculty live in other parts of the country and are accomplished writers, scholars and professors at other universities. Lancaster said the professors come to Converse twice a year to meet with their students.
“The main focus is to train individuals who are interested in improving their own creative writing skills in one of the genres we offer,” Mulkey said. “It’s grown in reputation. It’s gone from being a small program no one outside of the state had heard of to a program that attracts students from across the United States.”
This article was written by Allison M. Roberts of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.