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Jul 31, 2008, 1:50 PM
Post #3 of 10
I don't specifically know the MFA program from the inside, but I did teach at Vandy for one semester, so I can answer some of your questions.
Re: [NickMcRae] Vanderbilt University MFA
Is there anyone on here with insight into or perhaps inside information about the Vanderbilt program? I am applying this year (as I'm sure are many others) for poetry. Anyone in-the-know please feel free to respond to this impromptu list of questions:
1. What are the faculty members like? Do they take a personal interest in their students? Are they easily accessible and approachable?
I went up to Mark Jarman a couple of times, as very junior faculty (and a very junior poet), to ask advice, and he was very helpful. I met Beth Daniels once, and she seemed nice, but we didn't talk about anything substantive. I spoke to a few of the MFA students a few times, and they seemed pretty happy with the support they were getting from faculty.
Nashville is a town where "writer" means someone with a guitar. There's a substantial literary tradition in town, mostly centered on Vanderbilt (the Fugitive poets and so on), but you won't find a lot of open mic nights for poets, for example. There isn't a thriving underground publishing scene. There is a major publishing industry, but it's all Christian publishing except for a few minor outliers.
3. How is the Nashville literary scene?
That doesn't mean it isn't possible to find a literary community, but it does mean that you'll need some effort and some luck to put one together for yourself.
4. Is the stipend adequate to cover living expenses in Nashville? How expensive is it to live in Nashville anyway?
Nasvhille is one of the cheapest cities in the country to live in. I had an offer for a job near Philadelphia, and I couldn't afford to take it, since the cost of living was so much higher -- nearly twice that of Nashville. Gas at my local station, as of yesterday, was $3.699.
5. What kind of training do Teaching Assistants receive?
If you have other questions, feel free to add those as well! Thanks in advance.
I'll add that the music scene here is better than its reputation. The symphony is ready for a breakout to major league status (and I used to live in New York, so I have a basis for comparison), and there is good jazz and rock all over the place.
The food is terrific if you like barbecue, and otherwise not so great. If you love Chinese food, you might want to go someplace else.
However, I loved the atmosphere at Vanderbilt. They take seriously their identity as a research university, and people sympathized with me for my terrible teaching overload -- three classes with a total of 43 students. They run a pretty decent litmag, which I assume the MFA students are involved with (but I don't know for certain). The athletic teams are supported, but not privileged. Even star athletes are expected to do their work.
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