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jwegman


Nov 27, 2005, 1:41 PM

Post #1 of 764 (25062 views)
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Current MFA Rankings Can't Post

Does anyone know where to get current (at least 2003/4/5) rankings on MFA in Creative Writing programs? I have an MA from Iowa State University and want to apply (can't find a job since I graduated in May of '05) for an MFA but am depressed, scared, and don't know where I would even want to go or if I can get the application materials together in time for the deadlines.

Just wondering. Thanks.


thee swimmer


Nov 27, 2005, 4:39 PM

Post #2 of 764 (25029 views)
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Re: [jwegman] Current MFA Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think there are any up to date Creative Writing MFA rankings.

I found that by going back and reading all the posts over the last few years, I was able to cobble together a pretty comprehensive list (I chose 10 schools).

The folks who post on this board really seem to know their stuff, and it's encouraging to know that others are going through the same process.

Good luck with everything.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Nov 27, 2005, 5:31 PM

Post #3 of 764 (25027 views)
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Re: [thee swimmer] Current MFA Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

There are a number of problems with any MFA program rankings, the most important being that no ranking is really meaningful for you unless you know all the factors that went into it, and at that point you might as well do the research yourself.

For example, some people might have ranked Iowa tops when I was applying, but I needed a low-res program. Some might have ranked Brown very highly, but it leans toward a kind of writing that I don't find congenial. Some programs focus more on criticism, some more on pure writing, some on getting published, and so on. You need to know what you want from your MFA and then you need to know which programs will give you that, and no ranking will tell you.

dmh


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


sibyline


Mar 23, 2006, 4:56 PM

Post #4 of 764 (24832 views)
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What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

All this talk of rankings and how the USN&WR ones are so out of date makes me think that we who have done our research are more in the know and can come up with a better rankings list if we talk about it. So I wanna start the ball rolling by listing what I believe to be the top ten schools in fiction. My caveat is that I haven't done a lot of research on some schools, and I do show a private school bias. But you can definitely make suggestions as this list develops.

1. Iowa - on reputation alone, it's still self-selecting and attracts the most applicants and best students. Add the reputation of its professors (Marilynne Robinson and James Alan McPherson among them), and it's hard to question its place. However, it does have minuses, including the fact that it has a tiered funding system and is seen as conservative.

2. Johns Hopkins - fully funded for all students with Alice McDermott and Stephen Dixon on faculty, as well as a top-notch English PhD wing as complement, Hopkins is definitely an amazing program. The two-year format is pretty new though, so it may not be as well-tested as other programs. Also, the fact that Hopkins is primarily known as a science school may affect environment (read: stuffy).

3. Cornell - the best financial deal among the programs: a fully-funded two years for all students plus a guaranteed two-year lectureship after graduating. Extremely small with four students in each genre admitted each year. No outright stars among the faculty, but an amazing teacher-student ratio, especially with the recent addition of Ernesto Quinones and J. Robert Lennon to the faculty. Also the highest ranked English PhD program among schools that also have MFA Writing programs.

4. Michigan - Peter Ho Davies and Nick Delbanco lead a faculty with a great reputation and a fantastic recent publication record. As of this year, they're also funding all students equally. Even though the funding isn't as good as at other schools, they also have fellowships available upon graduation. Faculty-student ratio isn't great but students seem to be doing quite well regardless.

5. Brown - The place to go if you're feeling cutting-edge and experimental. Fully-funded though cost-of-living is high.

6. Michener Center, UT-Austin - Time, time, time is the key: three years of fully-funded study without teaching responsibilities. The problem is that there's no permanent faculty, so feedback may be inconsistent.

7. Boston University - With Jhumpa Lahiri, Ha Jin, and Peter Ho Davis emerging from BU to become luminaries, there's no doubt that it has emerged as a top program. Problem is that it's only one year and the funding situation isn't great.

8. Columbia - New York location draws excellent faculty but at what cost? Try being at least $30,000 in debt for each year you're in the program. But hey, the location and people to work with are hard to beat.

9. UVA - Ann Beattie and John Casey head a stellar faculty in a fully-funded program.

10. University of Houston - A significant amount of star power among the faculty with Antonya Nelson and Robert Boswell, but not all students are funded and incoming first-years have to teach as soon as they get there.

Other programs that could be on this list, but I don't know enough about them: UC Irvine, University of Montana, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Wash U., Syracuse, NYU, Arizona


(This post was edited by sibyline on Mar 23, 2006, 4:57 PM)


bigcities


Mar 23, 2006, 5:15 PM

Post #5 of 764 (24808 views)
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Re: [sibyline] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Deborah Eisenberg's one of the major draws of UVA, myself. Given the faculty, full funding, teaching opportunities, and general "reputation," I'd probably put UVA in the top five. The idea of working with Eisenberg and Beattie at the same time makes my head want to explode - in a good way.

Syracuse has George Saunders and Mary Gaitskill on faculty, so they're moving up in the world. I have no idea what the funding's like there, though.

There are a number of programs I'd probably put above Brown (very niche) or Boston University, especially since it's a one year deal with little funding. U Mass-Amherst, for example, is a three year program that has tiered funding (much like Iowa) and plenty of opportunities for teaching (both at the college itself and neighboring universities), as well as poetry luminaries like James Tate, a famed summer writing workshop (Juniper), and an extremely well-respected literary magazine (Jubilat). Formerly run by MacArthur Genius Grant winner John Edgar Wideman, the program has also produced poets like Matthew Zapruder (editor for Verse/Wave press) and David Berman - two of poetry's few "stars." It's a damn good school. The University of Montana also tops BU, in my opinion: An Iowa surrogate (i.e. it's modeled on Iowa's program), it's got Kevin Canty and Karen Volkman, (once again) a great reputation, and a steady stream of quality visiting writers and lecturers. In fact, I was told by a reliable source (i.e. someone that got in) that Aimee Bender will be a visiting lecturer this coming fall.

So, yeah... There are plenty of excellent state schools out there that match (or trump) the private stuff.


(This post was edited by bigcities on Mar 23, 2006, 5:50 PM)


franz

e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 5:19 PM

Post #6 of 764 (24764 views)
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U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

Joseph, I'll concede the point. I'm ready to move onto other topics.

Actually, I whipped myself up into a bit of a frenzy about the U.S. News and World Report rankings. I have a copy of the 1996 listing on my computer. It was helpful for my application process because it was basically the only information out there. However, it's still a load of crap. Thankfully, Tom Kealey's new book should shatter any illusions about this list. Everyone on the forum has been talking about how flawed the list is, but I haven't seen much mention of its actual flaws. Here are just a few.

Let's start with omissions:
Where's the University of Wisconsin? They have a great program. How about uber experimental CalArts? Where's Hunter? How about the New School? Where's Texas-San Marco? Where are the dozens of programs that have cropped up since 1996?

And how about the arbitariness of the rankings:
Here's the most egregious one, I think- Minnesota at 62? Well, now they got Charles Baxter. Syracuse has full funding, George Saunders and Marilynn Gaitskill and they're #20? I wouldn't have the nerve to put them that low. I also wouldn't have tied them with Sarah Lawrence, which has a great program but poor funding. Texas-Austin Michener Center is 30? They have an awesome program. Why is USC's super-small and selective program at 33? And tied with Oregon, which also has a great program? And why is Alabama's awesome 4 years of funding at 37? How about Florida State's great funding? (37) Notre Dame is up and coming and they're 83 here. Ditto the Art Institute of Chicago, tied for 83-- they've got an interesting experimental program. Meanwhile, Emerson is overrated at 20. They've been falling apart, don't have much funding, and their faculty retention is low.
And how did they give Indiana a 16 (when it could easily go higher) and Ohio State a 37 (when it is comparable in many ways to Indiana)? They're both great programs. And UC-Davis has been climbing up since these rankings, when it was #30. And Hopkins at #2-- don't get me wrong, it's awesome, but back then, they didn't even have an MFA. They had an MA and a one year program.
-How did low-residency programs Goddard (83), Warren Wilson (20), and Bennington (37) get lumped in with other programs? What was their basis for giving WW a higher ranking than the Michener Center? Well, yeah, I think I like apples better than oranges. And where are all the other low-res programs? Oh yeah, they didn't exist yet.
-Looking at the #10 ranking-- that must have been thorny-- how did they compare Boston's 1 year program to UMass and UWash's 3 year program to Cornell's 2 year program? And the fact that Boston has poor funding and Cornell gives full funding with a 2 year teaching option after you finish?
-What was the basis for the ranking of Columbia at 4, ahead of UC-Irvine, Michigan, Cornell and Brown, all of which have full funding, supportive faculty and name recognition, while Columbia has only the last of the three? Get outta here.
So, to agree with bigcities and just about everybody, take the list with a lot of salt.


Franz Knupfer, author of short stories and novels


JosephC


Mar 23, 2006, 5:20 PM

Post #7 of 764 (24801 views)
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Re: [bigcities] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Syracuse has excellent funding. I would definitely include their program.

1. Iowa
2. Johns Hopkins
3. UC Irvine
4. Houston
5. UVA
6. Arizona
7. U-Washington-Seattle
8. U-Mass-Amherst
9. U-Montana
10. Brown

I chose this listing based on the quality of faculty, location, and funding. Also included would be Brown, Syracuse, Cornell, and BU.


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 23, 2006, 5:40 PM

Post #8 of 764 (24746 views)
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Re: [franz] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, that beautifully said it all!!! Thanks, Franz.


franz

e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 5:40 PM

Post #9 of 764 (24783 views)
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Re: [JosephC] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know if I could do it 1,2,3, but I'd give it different tiers

Iowa-in a class by itself simply because it was ground-breaking and has the amazing history. However, with so many other good programs, I don't know if I would necessarily say it's the 'best' anymore. And the funding isn't perfect.

Highest tier
(Funding for ALL students, small enough program to get attention from faculty, great faculty, reputation and history)
Stegner, Cornell, Michigan, Brown, Michener, Hopkins, Syracuse, UC-Irvine

High tier
(Good funding, faculty, and reputation)
UMass, UWash, Arizona, Montana, Indiana

Pretty high tier
(Good funding still but maybe don't know as much about the faculty and reputation)
Ohio State, Minnesota, Oregon, Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona State, UC-Davis, USC, Florida

Programs that I think are overrated and wouldn't give a high tier (mainly because of funding but also lack of attention)
Columbia, NYU, Hunter (Don't get me wrong, I love NYC, but what do these schools expect considering NYC's insane cost of living) Emerson (Boston U, however, I think is pretty awesome anyway)

Programs I don't know anything about but I'm sure are really good:
Houston, Virginia, Washington U


Franz Knupfer, author of short stories and novels


lavashlavash


Mar 23, 2006, 6:11 PM

Post #10 of 764 (24754 views)
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Re: [JosephC] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a fun thread idea. Everything is subjective, but...

1. UC Irvine
2. Iowa
3. Johns Hopkins
4. Michigan
5. Brown
6. Cornell

...

Gets a little murky after that...


JosephC


Mar 23, 2006, 6:35 PM

Post #11 of 764 (24735 views)
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Re: [bigcities] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Definitely, bigcities. I couldn't have said it better myself.


In Reply To
I think Deborah Eisenberg's one of the major draws of UVA, myself. Given the faculty, full funding, teaching opportunities, and general "reputation," I'd probably put UVA in the top five. The idea of working with Eisenberg and Beattie at the same time makes my head want to explode - in a good way.

Syracuse has George Saunders and Mary Gaitskill on faculty, so they're moving up in the world. I have no idea what the funding's like there, though.

There are a number of programs I'd probably put above Brown (very niche) or Boston University, especially since it's a one year deal with little funding. U Mass-Amherst, for example, is a three year program that has tiered funding (much like Iowa) and plenty of opportunities for teaching (both at the college itself and neighboring universities), as well as poetry luminaries like James Tate, a famed summer writing workshop (Juniper), and an extremely well-respected literary magazine (Jubilat). Formerly run by MacArthur Genius Grant winner John Edgar Wideman, the program has also produced poets like Matthew Zapruder (editor for Verse/Wave press) and David Berman - two of poetry's few "stars." It's a damn good school. The University of Montana also tops BU, in my opinion: An Iowa surrogate (i.e. it's modeled on Iowa's program), it's got Kevin Canty and Karen Volkman, (once again) a great reputation, and a steady stream of quality visiting writers and lecturers. In fact, I was told by a reliable source (i.e. someone that got in) that Aimee Bender will be a visiting lecturer this coming fall.

So, yeah... There are plenty of excellent state schools out there that match (or trump) the private stuff.



bighark


Mar 23, 2006, 6:40 PM

Post #12 of 764 (24728 views)
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Re: [lavashlavash] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

My top ten list is for fiction. It's presented in alphabetical order.

Brown: Brown has plenty of funding and an all-star faculty. As a matter of fact, I'll go so far as to say that Brown has the most exciting faculty of any program I've looked at. Coover, Maso, Vogel, and Wright are among the accomplished writers in American letters, bar none.
Cornell: It's small, selective, secluded, and rich.
Florida State University: FSU's director has big plans for this program, and he has the money and the university's will to make it happen.
Iowa: The funding is not ideal, but I think there's something to be said for the bigness of the program. Having 25 other writers in your cohort is definitely going to contribute to your development. Well, that and the fact that Ethan Canin is the shit.
Indiana: This fully funded program is especially good for folks who want formal and directed pedagocical training.
Minnesota: The program offers three full years of fundins and has Charles "Burning Down the House" Baxter.
Notre Dame: Steve Tomasula has some of the most exciting experimental writing this side of Brown. Valerie Sayers is just elegant, and Frances Shorewood is great. ND has an influx of cash thanks to Nicholas Sparks and a good relationship with an English department that includes none other than Margaret Doody.
Syracuse: Three years of funding and George Saunders. Game. Set. Match.
UC Irvine: I don't know much about this place apart from its reputation. It's got one hell of a reputation, though. Damn.
Wisconsin:Wisconsin's money isn't the greatest, but it does fully fund its students. Plus, there's that nifty every other year thing they've got going on in terms of fiction and poetry cohorts. And hey--Lorrie Moore anyone?


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 23, 2006, 6:41 PM

Post #13 of 764 (24726 views)
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Re: [lavashlavash] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

This is how I think of it personally:

1. Iowa, Johns Hopkins, Irvine
2. Michigan, Cornell
3. UVA, Montana, Arizona, UMass, Washington
4. Brown, Indiana, Syracuse
5. Columbia, NYU, BU (all great but sucky funding)

dunno enough about Houston

I don't think there should be rankings. I think each program should receive scores based A) faculty rep B) alumni publication record C) funding D) quality of lit mag published+reading series+other miscellaneous.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 6:44 PM

Post #14 of 764 (24717 views)
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Re: [franz] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Let's start with omissions:
Where's the University of Wisconsin? They have a great program. How about uber experimental CalArts? Where's Hunter? How about the New School? Where's Texas-San Marco? Where are the dozens of programs that have cropped up since 1996?


Well it really isn't a critique of a list from 1996 to say they ommited stuff from after 96. But I've seen several people talk about mid-90s rankings. For those who haven't seen it, here is the 2002 rankings: http://www.english.ucsb.edu/...d/aftermajor/mfa.asp

I think funding is certainly a big issue, but personally I think you are overstating it. It isn't the only factor in a programs worth and I don't think some program like alabama's or Florida State's should jump up on the list on funding alone...


Quote
What was their basis for giving WW a higher ranking than the Michener Center?


You've said a couple comments like this. I think you are confused with the process. "They" didn't decide anything. "They" didn't have a reason to rank one above the other. They asked the faculty at MFA programs to rank the OTHER programs on various things. This is peer reviewed. Why did the faculty rank Columbia above FLorida state? I dunno, you'd have to ask every MFA faculty member to find out.

This is like of like Rotten Tomatoes or something. Sometimes when talking about sites like that or Metacritic people will say "what reason do they have for ranking Spiderman 2 over spiderman 1?!" or whatever, but the answer is that is what the critics ranked, RT and Metacritic are just compiling their votes.

Same thing here.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 6:50 PM

Post #15 of 764 (24719 views)
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Re: [franz] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not going to pertend to have researched every program or know that much about all of them, but here is what immediately comes to mind for me:

Top Tier: Iowa, JHU, Columbia, NYU, UCI, Umass Amherest, Michigan, Houston, UVA and Cornell

Second Tier: Brown, Syracuse, Indiana, Arizona, Indiana and Washington. Maybe Montana, George Mason and SLC too.


franz: You seem to be quite into small classes. Why do you think those are so superior?
I haven't been able to decide what I"d prefer. On one hand, you probably get closer to your teachers and that is a good thing. OTOH, being with the same 4 other students could be negative in a couple ways. You'd have a better chance of finding likeminded students and finding writer friends you like more at a big program.

Obvious you get to choose your priorities, I'm not disagreeing with your list, just wondering why you are so into small programs?



(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 23, 2006, 7:07 PM)


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 23, 2006, 6:56 PM

Post #16 of 764 (24711 views)
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Re: [bighark] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, Valerie Sayers and Frances Sherwood are great. And Cornelius Eady. Sherwood seems extremely accomplished.

Hahhaa, just because nobody has said this yet, and because it's been itching at me for several weeks--I don't think Samantha Chang is that great of a writer. Maybe because I'm Chinese, and I've read too many Gish Jen, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Amy Tan books.... but Chang doesn't compare to them in my mind. I read her book, and it just felt like imitation Amy Tan. And my dad read her book, too. He couldn't remember what happened after finishing it. He said it felt like a soap opera. And signing 743 rejection letters? Hmmm.... I don't think it's that hard to sign your name 743 times.

But somebody's going to come and knock me down right after I post this, so I'll keep quiet. The Chang worship strikes me as odd, that's all.


clarabow


Mar 23, 2006, 7:07 PM

Post #17 of 764 (24694 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Someone forgot to mention that Indiana funds all its students and the publishing record there is very substantial lately.

If you're looking for the person who has probably done the most research on this topic, Tom Kealey considers Irvine the best, and puts Indiana, Irvine, Austin, Michigan and ? (couldn't find it) in the top 5, and Cornell, Syrcause, Houston, Virginia and ?? in the top 10.

That said, you're pretty much have to be crazy to make your decisions based on schools, and I kind of think rankings are b.s. Once you get above a certain level, there really is no clear distinction. It's like saying that Yale is a better school than Johns Hopkins because Yale is in the Ivy League. Uh, well, Johns Hopkins is just as good, or Boston University is as good as Brown, or whatever.

Look at these programs' English Departments, as well. Iowa's English department isn't nearly as well-considered as Indiana or Virginia; I know that the WW is sep. from the English department, but it speaks to the caliber of the literary community. Or does it? I don't think it does. This is all so freaking arbitrary and the more I write, the more I realize how foolish it is for me to spend my time on this, so I'll stop now.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 7:09 PM

Post #18 of 764 (24691 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

My list there is just based on my idea of the program in general though.
If I made the list more personal, I'd reject a lot of those schools. It doesn't matter how great the progam at Montana, Ann Arbor or Syracuse are... I have no interest in living in those places for a couple years of my life.


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 23, 2006, 7:38 PM)


sanssoleil
Chris
e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 7:10 PM

Post #19 of 764 (24688 views)
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Re: [franz] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

I used an admittedly stupid criterion when I selected the schools I applied to. I considered funding and geographical location, but I usually looked at faculty first. I know why I shouldn't have done this, so you don't have to tell me why this is a stupid strategy. So, with that criterion in mind:

Brown, for Brian Evenson.
Syracuse, for George Saunders.
Cal Arts, for Steve Erickson.
Columbia, for Ben Marcus.

Obviously these programs dangle these names to attract people like me, but these writers must play a part in shaping the rhythm and vibe of a program. I don't know. Iowa, University of Washington, NYU, Irvine--I applied to those programs, but their respective faculties are responsible for almost zero interesting literature, in my (retarded, yeah) opinion.


rapunzel1983
Marisa Lee

Mar 23, 2006, 7:11 PM

Post #20 of 764 (24686 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Um, I lived in Syracuse for awhile. It's perfectly fine. Ann Arbor's nice, too. and Montana's gorgeous.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 7:16 PM

Post #21 of 764 (24679 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Its all preference. I have no interesting being trapped in the frigid north or anywhere in a land-locked state. Just me.


fishy


Mar 23, 2006, 7:23 PM

Post #22 of 764 (24670 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

1) The 2002 US News rankings are exactly the same as the 1997 rankings. Check here: http://www.notwriting.com/best_creative_grad.pdf. Look at the header--you'll note the header says "2002," but the rankings say "1997."

2) It's ridiculous to rank creative writing programs anyway. By what criteria could you possibly compare creative writing programs? US News no longer ranks them, you know. This fact, I think, should not be overlooked.


augustmaria


Mar 23, 2006, 7:31 PM

Post #23 of 764 (24658 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, we don't want you, either.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 7:37 PM

Post #24 of 764 (24648 views)
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Re: [fishy] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

1) Point taken there. I was told they were different, but I guess they just reprinted them in 2002?

2) By what criteria can you compare any kind of graduate program? I don't see why it is so much more impossible to rank creative writing MFAs than Comparative Litertaure PhDs or anything else. Most of the same problems crop up...


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 7:44 PM

Post #25 of 764 (24637 views)
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Re: [clarabow] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
If you're looking for the person who has probably done the most research on this topic, Tom Kealey considers Irvine the best, and puts Indiana, Irvine, Austin, Michigan and ? (couldn't find it) in the top 5, and Cornell, Syrcause, Houston, Virginia and ?? in the top 10.


TK puts U of Texas in the top five.

JHU and Iowa round out his top 10


sibyline


Mar 23, 2006, 7:50 PM

Post #26 of 764 (11148 views)
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Re: [fishy] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

[reply2) It's ridiculous to rank creative writing programs anyway. By what criteria could you possibly compare creative writing programs? US News no longer ranks them, you know. This fact, I think, should not be overlooked.


Eh... everybody just loves being ranked. :) Maybe if we actually did this based on a formula it would be better. So ok, so new question: What criteria would you use to rank Creative Writing programs and what weight would you give to each criterion. For me:

Funding: 25%
Faculty: 25%
Faculty/Student Ratio: 10%
Student Satisfaction: 25%
Alumni Success: 15%


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 7:54 PM

Post #27 of 764 (11142 views)
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Re: [fishy] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

Take that U.S. News list, burn it, and throw away the ashes. It's nearly 10 years old, it lumps MA and PhD programs in with MFAs, it has never been updated - only republished with a new date - and was more or less repudiated by everyone the instant it came out. There's been an explosion in creative writing programs since then - programs with terrific reputations today were either brand new or nonexistent, including Wisconsin, Michener, Minnesota, and all the low-residency programs except Warren Wilson.

Ranking writing programs is totally silly anyway because a reader or editor doesn't care where you went to school, only that you learned how to write something decent when you got there. Reputation might get you past a first reader, or onto an agent's desk. That's it. You still gotta bring the words. And the world is littered with writers who never learned to bring the words in their MFA program because they went there for the prestige and not because the program fit them.

So stop the insanity with these rankings, OK? The better programs are obvious by their faculty and alumni and funding. Do your research, talk to students and graduates and faculty, then pick the one you like.


sanssoleil
Chris
e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 7:56 PM

Post #28 of 764 (11138 views)
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Re: [sibyline] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

Faculty: 40%
Funding: 25%
Location: 20%
Reputation: 10%
Desirability (hotness) of Student Body (so to speak): 5%

I think I value faculty so much because I want to learn from and be criticized by people whose work I really admire. It is a huge motivator for me. The hotness of the faculty isn't really an issue though. I mean, just conduct a little mental parade of all the author photographs you've ever seen. Christ, a gallery of grotesques.


fishy


Mar 23, 2006, 7:57 PM

Post #29 of 764 (11137 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

I wholly agree. Rankings are ridiculous and evil. For more on this, have a look at the following articles:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2000/0009.thompson.html
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2000/norc.html

What rankings do are perpetuate a culture of exclusion and create conditions whereby institutions are forced to adapt to the metrics used by US News. They suck.


fishy


Mar 23, 2006, 8:06 PM

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I think you're right. The only way to compare programs is by measuring them against your own purely subjective criteria. Well done.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 8:07 PM

Post #31 of 764 (11123 views)
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I'd probably rank programs in general something like this:

Faculty = 20%
Alumni Success = 25%
Reputation\Buzz = 20%
Funding = 25%
Location = 10%

But on a personal level location would be way more important.

fishy: I agree to an extent, but ranking is a bit inevitable and really needed. How else would students judge what programs are worth looking into and going to?


sibyline


Mar 23, 2006, 8:11 PM

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In Reply To
I think you're right. The only way to compare programs is by measuring them against your own purely subjective criteria. Well done.


those aren't my subjective criteria actually.... different people have different priorities. what i listed is my projection of a general set of criteria. funding is much more important for me for instance. and having a good english ph.d. program is a priority for me in a way that i think it isn't for most people.


sibyline


Mar 23, 2006, 8:14 PM

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In Reply To
Faculty = 20%
Alumni Success = 25%
Reputation\Buzz = 20%


But don't you think Faculty + Alumni Success = Reputation? I wanted to account for programs that may not be "hot" at the present time, but where students are happy with the education they're getting, which may be an indication of future hotness.


HopperFu


Mar 23, 2006, 8:18 PM

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In Reply To
Hahhaa, just because nobody has said this yet, and because it's been itching at me for several weeks--I don't think Samantha Chang is that great of a writer. Maybe because I'm Chinese, and I've read too many Gish Jen, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Amy Tan books.... but Chang doesn't compare to them in my mind. I read her book, and it just felt like imitation Amy Tan. And my dad read her book, too. He couldn't remember what happened after finishing it. He said it felt like a soap opera. And signing 743 rejection letters? Hmmm.... I don't think it's that hard to sign your name 743 times.

But somebody's going to come and knock me down right after I post this, so I'll keep quiet. The Chang worship strikes me as odd, that's all.



This isn't intended as a knock, and is not about Sam Chang as a writer, but I can speak to her as a teacher: I worked with her for a week last summer and I was knocked out. One of the best teachers I've ever worked with (in any subject). It was a great workshop group to, but Sam Chang was phenomenal. I had some doubts at first when I found out she had been chosen to succeed Conroy, but after seeing her teach. Wow.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 8:19 PM

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well the \buzz was meant to imply it included the status of a program in terms of agents and such. Agents are said to buzz around Columbia and Iowa, for example, and the culture there apparently provides opportunities to new students than a new school wouldn't even if they had great faculty.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 8:24 PM

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I wouldnt' call syb's list "purely subjective" at all. Those are all criteria that are important to everyone personally and to everyone's experience.

Purely subjective criteria aren't funding and faculty, they are like really wanting to live in Texas or being obsessed with an individual faculty member at some school.


fishy


Mar 23, 2006, 8:30 PM

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Ah, I see. But what's the point? Why have general criteria at all? To me, it's more useful to see how actual people like you, sibyline, go about making decisions. Everything else is simply academic.


(This post was edited by fishy on Mar 24, 2006, 12:16 PM)


Dr. Bathybius


Mar 23, 2006, 8:47 PM

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I think I value faculty so much because I want to learn from and be criticized by people whose work I really admire. It is a huge motivator for me.

Exactly. I'm battling this myself, right now. Kealey & Co. deem 'faculty' a poor measurement, but at the same time, I feel that if I went to Syracuse, say, I'd end up with teachers and peers who read the same stuff I do, who'd be less dismissive and more insightful in determining how well my work measures up to its aims. When I look at "reputation", schools like Iowa and Michigan, and the admirable work they produce (Best New American Voices and so on), I wonder if they'd steer my writing down a more traditional, Heartfelt Stories of Human Frailty and Forgiveness--Now With Epiphany! avenue... Is it really so foolish to try to match your work up with a faculty?


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 23, 2006, 9:00 PM

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Its just too hard to tell, I think. Just because a person writes one way doesn't mean they can't understand other writing or help you reach different goals. ANd just because a person is a great writer doesn't mean they will be a great teacher.
Then combine that with the fact you don't know how often people will be teaching classes or if you will be able to take them...


fishy


Mar 23, 2006, 9:03 PM

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No, it doesn't. I called her criteria subjective (which apparently has a negative connotation in this forum, though I'm not sure why) because she didn't offer up any rationale for selecting critera other than "what you think." While I'm certain she has very good reasons for her choices, they cannot be based in much more than her personal feelings (this isn't a diss, by the way; I don't know about you, but I am niether a statistician nor an expert in comparative academics).

My rationale for selecting criteria aren't any different.

My point is this: you can't fix the problem of the lack of objectivity in rankings by arbitrarily supplanting one set of criteria for another. While sure, it's possible to come to some kind of consensus about what we as a group agree are the most important criteria for selecting/ranking programs, doing so is only useful insofar as it can help us--each of us individually--come to a personal decision, which requires--guess what!--we measure our pseudo-objective criteria against our subjective ones (i.e., I don't want to be cold, I want to be near family, I need funding, etc.).

Why not just cut to the chase?

(re-reading my post here, I think my tone may be misconstrued as aggressive or rude. I'm curt because I'm in a rush--don't be offended.)


(This post was edited by fishy on Mar 23, 2006, 9:16 PM)


sanssoleil
Chris
e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 9:04 PM

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Right. I just might be a total asshole in this regard, but I just wouldn't take a writing teacher seriously if I didn't totally dig his/her work. I'm just a brat that way, I think. But it's something I had to consider when I applied.


clarabow


Mar 23, 2006, 9:37 PM

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Iowa does not round out Tom Kealey's top ten. He refers to it as a top twenty program.

JHU is, indeed, in his top ten.


clarabow


Mar 23, 2006, 9:39 PM

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Agents "buzz" to all the top schools - Irvine, Houston, Indiana, UMass, Montana, all of them. Just ask their students whathappens every spring. Generally, the program puts together a look book of student work, sends it off the agents, then the agents meet with the students they are interested in individually.


franz

e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 10:11 PM

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franz: You seem to be quite into small classes. Why do you think those are so superior? Obvious you get to choose your priorities, I'm not disagreeing with your list, just wondering why you are so into small programs?


i think it computes to more one on one attention from the faculty and a larger amount of university resources dedicated to each student. Do any of the large programs offer full funding to all of their students? No. And it just so happens that many of the faculty at bigger programs are known for not giving as much attention to their students-- whether this is because of the size of the program or other reasons, I'm not sure.
The one downside is that it's nice to have more peer review and a larger circle of writers. But then, in a small program, everyone gets to be a big fish in a small pond, and that's nice.
And also, I'm not sold on just small programs, but they tend to offer more. I was gung ho on going to UMass just a few weeks ago, and that's about as big as a program gets. And I would be going there, if I hadn't been lucky enough to get another offer that gave me funding. I don't think it's any surprise that the program is much smaller in size. How many schools can offer 25 writers a year full funding and a stipend? Not very many. Although UMass and Iowa come pretty close.

As far as the World News report, I'm quite aware that it's peer reviewed. So what? Considering the way the rankings turned out, maybe it shouldn't have been. I'm willing to bet that there were a lot of faculty that looked at this dubious questionnaire, laughed at it, and threw it away. But then the deans, directors and chairs? There was probably some pretty good politricking going on.


Franz Knupfer, author of short stories and novels


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 10:20 PM

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What counts isn't when the agents buzz to your school. What counts is when they buzz away with your work. It doesn't do any good to have agents visiting if you haven't matured enough as a writer to take advantage. That's why it's so important to pick an atmosphere where you think your work can flower, regardless of how prestigious the program might be.

These days a writer needs an agent. It's flattering when an agent comes up during a visit and wants to know if you have anything they can look at, or if you've started that novel. But early attention from agents has its dark side. One of my teachers said, if you want to lose ownership of your stuff right now, get an agent. He said the only time in your career when you'll have total control over what you're writing is before you've signed with anyone. As soon as the agent is involved it's fiction by committee - they're saying this character is wrong, they're saying your ending is wrong. And that can be crippling when you still haven't figured out your own identity as a writer. I'm taking the advice and resisting showing something until I'm sure it's where I want it. It's hard though, especially when your classmates have agents who are pitching stuff, or in a few cases, books on the shelf already.


sibyline


Mar 23, 2006, 10:25 PM

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i feel that as long as the criteria are stated and clear, then a ranking has value. the fact is that as it stands, everybody is still referring to the USN ranking ten years later. this leads to programs being overlooked. for instance, in all my research, i didn't encounter syracuse as a good program until i got to this board. had i known that syracuse is fully-funded and has amazing faculty, which i would have found out had the us news rankings actually reflected this, i would have applied there.

i'm hesitating responding to you because you have a clear opinion on the matter that's probably not mutable. i'm just trying to provide better research tools by bringing up some sort of way that the collective knowledge of this board, which is substantial, ranks these programs.


franz

e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 10:32 PM

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In Reply To
Take that U.S. News list, burn it, and throw away the ashes. So stop the insanity with these rankings, OK? The better programs are obvious by their faculty and alumni and funding. Do your research, talk to students and graduates and faculty, then pick the one you like.


Bob, I agree with you entirely, except for one thing-- what I would have given to have this thread last summer when I was researching schools! The only schools i knew about were basically Iowa, Hopkins, Irvine and a few others. And honestly, most of the programs have crappy websites. When I tried to get in touch with faculty or students, I didn't get responses. I couldn't afford to visit the schools. I really had a limited amount of time. There were no books out there (Kealey's wasn't available at the time). I had to start somewhere, and all I had was the rankings (I didn't know about Speakeasy then). Things worked out for me, but there were three programs that I knew nothing about and didn't apply to (and wish I did). And as far as faculty, I'm an avid reader, and I hadn't heard of 90% of the faculty of all the schools I looked into before I started researching! I knew about 1% of the information available on this thread alone, which I can read through in about 20 minutes. And it's great that everybody has their own opinion. That's peer review, but instead of getting a number average, future applicants will get some valuable insight that will help them narrow down the field from 300 programs to 10. So I really think this is a valuable service for others down the road, and something I wish I had.


Franz Knupfer, author of short stories and novels


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Mar 23, 2006, 10:50 PM

Post #48 of 764 (10986 views)
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Well, the US News rankings would be useful as sort of a list of programs to check into, if it weren't so freakin' out-of-date. It's gotta drive a program like Michener berserk, not to mention my own soon-to-be MFA alma mater, which was at #37 having graduated one class at the time.

There are ways to research it without rankings. You can look at contributors' notes in journals and collections to see where people are. You can take an undergrad workshop at your local university and talk to the instructor. But I get the problem when you're starting from scratch and don't know where to begin.


soulzenful


Mar 23, 2006, 10:52 PM

Post #49 of 764 (10985 views)
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I've tried to stay out of this one (and a few other tangent oriented threads) mostly because the threads are so long and involved to read and I have priorities (like writing;)). So I am writing this without having but glimpsed at everyone's own personal ideas about ranking and who would be ranked where. When you think about it, I doubt anyone actually cares where Hemingway or Faulkner went to school. Or Gwendolyn Brooks or Sylvia Plath or insert favorite author/poet here. I feel compelled to point out the future success of any program really comes from us, our incoming generation, who will shape the future perceptions of certain schools. One reason I think Iowa is considered to be so highly ranked is quite honestly because it was the first workshop around of its kind, and so naturally young artists, like one of my favorite authors John Irving, were going to be attracted to studying there. Iowa was early and came out strong because there was no other place for these writers to apply for a program that catered to them. Then other schools caught on, giving more and more choices, and attracting big name writers who like the thought of teaching and having a steady salary. Iowa continues to dominate this group's thoughts, but if next year the Pulitzer Prize Winner comes out of a smaller school with a less well thought of program insert name of school here, suddenly that school would take on major prestige.

The idea of prestige in selecting a school seems to be a major concern for some people. I guess I find this disturbing. Especially coming from a group of people I consider to be well read, engaged with the world, and interested in it. The truth is, no matter how well reputed a school is by others or even by yourself, if you don't work your ass off to make your writing better, all the prestige in the world won't help you. I don't think this sort of thing ever bothered any writer before the advent of the MFA, and even since then it really shouldn't matter at all either. Who really cares so much what other people think about your chosen path/school? If someone says Iowa is great and you happen to go there and think it is great too, that is fine. But if someone says a different school is not as good as Iowa and you didn't get in to Iowa and you are heartbroken, rather than thinking you are going to a subpar school (because your education is only as good as you make it) the real question you should be asking yourself is why do you care so much? This really relates back to middle school and trying to fit in and wear Guess jeans and having certain sneakers and if you don't then you just aren't cool. Whatever. For some the idea of ratings is a way to make themselves feel superior by going to a 'superior' school. Again, whatever.

Rankings are impossible, even with the best of criteria, because everyone's needs are different. It is funny, but my honest reason for leaning towards one school at this point is because they want me, they are great on the phone, and I feel comfortable. So in the end, if you are looking at a school based on prestige, good luck to you. It won't help your writing one whit in itself though. That is all on you whether you go to an MFA program or not, and despite the incredibly subjective 'ranking' of your school. One last thought: if/when you have kids, try "ranking" them sometime and see how well you do. It can't be done! (I tried this with my dogs.)


fishy


Mar 23, 2006, 11:25 PM

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sanssoleil
Chris
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Mar 23, 2006, 11:36 PM

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This talk of ranking rankles.
I feel like I'm in one of those New Yorker cocktail party cartoons.
You know, characters splitting hairs to establish a hierarchy within an already elite cultural milieu.
I understand why one would care about prestige, but it seems antithetical to the production of good art.
Maybe I'm just a romantic.


jdurose
Julie
e-mail user

Mar 24, 2006, 9:03 AM

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That's it; I can't take it any longer. (This is my first post ever on P&W.) I must point out that very few of the so-called "best" writing programs in the country offer programs in nonfiction writing. I didn't realize this until I decided to apply to MFA programs back in December. There is a niche for a nonfiction Tom-Kealey-type to write a book just for us. (Or maybe a pamphlet?) Hey -- our numbers are growing!

For the record, the following programs DO NOT have a nonfiction track:

Cornell
Michigan
Brown
Michener
Boston
U Mass – Amherst (Perplexingly, one’s thesis may be a work of nonfiction.)
Houston
NYU
UC-Irvine
Arizona
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin
Syracuse
University of Virginia

These programs (among others not mentioned in this thread) DO have a nonfiction program:

Columbia
Montana
Iowa, but not in the Writer’s Workshop
John Hopkins, but an M.A.(not an MFA)

***Therefore, the "rankings" are even more irrelevant for those of us looking for nonfiction programs. Any nonfiction writers who would like to banter about MFA options are welcome to shoot me an email.


(This post was edited by jdurose on Mar 24, 2006, 9:07 AM)


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 11:59 AM

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Quote

Rankings are impossible, even with the best of criteria, because everyone's needs are different.


That all doesn't mean that rankings are impossible. It just means you need to understand WHAT the rankings are ranking.

For example, the US News rankings aren't measureing "what programs are best for you" they are measuring which programs have the best reputation amongst other creative writing faculty. (So a combination of the programs quality and prestige)

I could put out a ranking of programs based on what percent of the students they fund. That works fine, it isn't impossible. When reading the rankings (for anything) the reader just needs to keep in mind what is being judged (hint: It is never judging one individual readers best fit...)


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 24, 2006, 12:48 PM)


lustra


Mar 24, 2006, 12:33 PM

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Where would you guys rank (or would you even rank them as good schools?) St Mary's College in CA, University of Utah, and San Francisco State?

l.


fishy


Mar 24, 2006, 12:46 PM

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For poetry or fiction?

For poetry, Utah is the choice for me. Allen Grossman, I believe, is visiting there this year, and Craig Dworkin is a neat guy. He runs ubuweb.

St. Mary's has Brenda Hillman (if you like her stuff) and is in sunny California.

SFSU is in San Francisco. That's about it.


(This post was edited by fishy on Mar 24, 2006, 12:48 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 12:49 PM

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Along with lustra's questions, where would you all rank The New School?

I'm not sure if they even had a program when the US News thing came out...


lustra


Mar 24, 2006, 12:50 PM

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I'm a poet, so am interested in how these programs compare against other poetry programs, to the extent comparisons are possible.

l.


bighark


Mar 24, 2006, 12:51 PM

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There are two things about the US News list that bother people. The first, is the fact that it's nearly 10 years old and therefor almost useless to people who need to use it now.

The second thing about the US News list that bothers a lot of people is the fact that a nebulous criterion like reputation was one of the items that contributed to a program's score. Now don't get me wrong--reputation is not unimportant--but reputation does not exactly have a correlating scientific unit of measure.

When it came out, I think the US News list was pretty ok. In terms of listing the top 25 programs, it did what it was supposed to do: show the programs that are most highly regarded among creative writing instructors. You may squabble over who was placed where, but I think it did an acceptable job of listing the most prominent programs of the day.

Anywho, the US News is no longer valid. It's just not. A popularity contest from 10 years ago does not reflect the current state of affairs. It's kind of like going to your high school reunion. I mean, some of the people from 10 years ago are still well liked and successful, but you find out that the old homecoming king is already divorced and selling used cars and that some chick you never heard of was apparently in your homeroom and is now a recurring character on CSI Miami.

Things change. Grants are won. Budgets are pulled. Faculty retire. New stars are born.

---

I do agree with you, though, about your observation regarding rankings. They do a lousy job of determining which program would be the best fit for a particular applicant.


sanssoleil
Chris
e-mail user

Mar 24, 2006, 12:52 PM

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I've heard SFSU has terrible funding. If you're a resident of California, this isn't much of an issue--tuition is cheap.
So if funding isn't an issue for you, I'd say that their faculty earns them a decent ranking, if you're interested in more experimental fiction.
You could do worse than Robert Gluck, that's for sure. I think he teaches both poetry and fiction.
I applied there. But then I'm not one to get in a dither over rankings.


mingram
Mike Ingram

Mar 24, 2006, 1:04 PM

Post #60 of 764 (16742 views)
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Re: [bighark] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

The difference between ranking MFA programs and ranking other grad programs is pretty simple, actually. Other grad programs are ranked by objectively measurable criteria -- law schools, for instance, are measured by selectivity (number applied vs. number admitted), faculty-to-student ratio, percentage of graduates who pass the bar, etc. This is much different than calling a bunch of writers/teachers on the phone and saying "What's the best program?"

Really, the US News list was put together in the same way people on this board decide which programs are "best" -- consensus of popular opinion. Not that this is completely meaningless, but that's all it is.

I read once (in some sort of nonfiction book, I don't remember what the book was actually about) that this guy told his son to go to an Ivy league college not because his education there would be better, but because then he wouldn't spend the rest of his life wondering if he could have gotten a better education and better career opportunities had he gone to an Ivy.

It seems like the same principle may apply to grad school. If you're the type of person who's going to wonder, fifteen years down the line -- would my books be getting published/reviewed/bought had I gone to Iowa/Columbia/Brown/wherever? -- and that speculation is going to drive you nuts or make you bitter -- than maybe considering "prestige" is something you should really do. And I don't mean to diminish that approach -- it definitely played into my selecting Iowa over a couple other programs that seemed to have a lot to offer (though it certainly wasn't the only reason I selected Iowa). And I can say that never once in my two years here have I heard anyone speculating about what goes on at other MFA programs, or whether they would have been better off elsewhere.

But let's be real here. We're not going to med school. At the end of the day, wherever you go, this all comes down to you sitting alone at your desk and writing. Go to whatever place is going to best facilitate that happening.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 1:16 PM

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I'm not sure I buy that mingram. Are you positive rankings for laws schools and such are purely based on those criteria (do things like faculty and reputation not come into play at all?) and even if they are done like that, you can't jusge the majority of programs by those kinds of criteria. How are Comp Lit programs, Spanish programs, history programs, etc. ranked?

I do not know, but I have to imagine in pretty much the same way MFA programs are ranked (alumni, faculty, etc.)

I think your Ivy league anecdote is a good point. You don't want to be looking back thinking "if only i'd picked Hopkins I could be publishing my books."

To be honest though, on some level I almost feel like prestige is more important for an MFA than a med school or something. As we all know, most people look down on arts degrees in general, and even in the literary community a fair number look down on MFAs for writing in particular (oddly in a way that other arts fields don't seem to...). MFAs don't gaurentee anything and at the current rate of MFA proliferation, almost anyone can get in somewhere. People might look down on MFAs, but they probably won't begrudge you too much for going to Iowa. OTOH, plenty of people might really look down on you for spending three years getting a somewhat pointless degree from a no-name school. So on some level I feel like it would be almost pointless to get an MFA from a no-name place.


fishy


Mar 24, 2006, 1:50 PM

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Well, who do you like to read?


texasgurl
Stacy Patton Anderson

e-mail user

Mar 24, 2006, 1:55 PM

Post #63 of 764 (16697 views)
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Actually, Mike is pretty right on with the law school comparison. I worked for a law school for a little while, and the USNWR rankings play huge in their recruiting strategy--so I learned a bit about it. It's a very statistically-based ranking system, and a great deal of it has to do with how many students are employed within one year of graduation, where they are employed (judicial clerkships, big firms, how much money they're making), how many admitted versus applied, and other things. I don't recall that alumni and faculty play much of role.


Stacy Patton Anderson
http://family-of-five.com


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 2:04 PM

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I guess I don't really care about prestige for prestige's sake, at least not for writing MFA's. I do care about the quality of the feedback I get and the colleagues I have, and I feel that the more selective a school is, the more likely it is for me to be with a community of fellow grad students who can help me improve my work.

And yes, ranking schools in order when they are in many ways equivalent is probably a bad idea (I should have had ties on my original list), but I think having a sense of what programs people consider the best according to their own set of criteria, and making that collective knowledge, is not a bad thing.

Given new information, my current list is:

1. Iowa
2. Johns Hopkins
2. Irvine
4. Cornell
4. UVA
4. Michigan
7. Brown
7. Syracuse
9. Michener Center
10. Columbia

Hmmm.... I wonder if I should have applied to Irvine given how much people seem to like it. I really dislike the planned community environment there. But I would have definitely applied to Syracuse if I could do it over again.


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 2:15 PM

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In Reply To
Along with lustra's questions, where would you all rank The New School?

I'm not sure if they even had a program when the US News thing came out...


Well, they're not fully funded so that definitely puts them further down on the list for me. They have the advantage of being in New York and attracting good faculty, but Columbia and NYU already have pretty comparable and more selective programs. I would say somewhere between 20 and 30 maybe?


curiouskate


Mar 24, 2006, 2:20 PM

Post #66 of 764 (16672 views)
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I've read up on this board from time to time and this is my first time posting. I used to work for a top New York Agency. Here's the deal- what they look for is not so much an MFA degree, but if you are being published in literary journals, magazines, popular online sites, etc. An MFA from IOWA and no publishing track gets you less attention than someone with no MFA and a publishing track. So, if it's agents you are concerned with, you don't even need an MFA. If you are going to worry about what people think of you and your degree, you are not doing this for the right reasons. An MFA is for yourself- it is concentrated time to write and to develop yourself. It is the credentials for an adjunct teaching position. You can get these two things at any program. The agents don't care which one, as long as you are out there, getting published in the small journals. People on this forum need to justify to themselves why they are going to be spending 100,000 (or their parents- its OK to be a trust fund baby, just think before you speak) for a degree. Go anywhere you want- take on any debt that you want- have a great time and live life. The only way to be a good writer is to be honest with yourself, and you can't do this while being tangled up in "who has the best reputaion, i need to be in the ELITE. I AM ELITE!" game. Apply to as many schools as you can. See where you get in. Go where you think you will be the most comfortable. It doesnt matter if it's a state school or an Ivy- most people don't understand these art degrees and way of life anyway- so don't even think about them. Discover who you are. Learn about yourself. Try not to listen to the people who think they are oh-so important. Be motivated. Send your stuff out there to get published. If you don't get in anywhere- apply again. The schools like developed writing and real life experience anyway. My aunt told me, "the ones who don't make it are the one's who gave up" - this applies to anything in life. Don't worry about rankings. I repeat: I worked in a powerhouse agency. They don't care where you got your MFA. if you have one, great. If you're published, even better. If you can't stay true to yourself, you'll never make it. And another use for this board is to see what kind of personalities are going where. Do you really want to be in a program that attracts CM, or would you rather be in a program that attracts someone like the free thinking SS?


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 2:31 PM

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texas: Well, I can believe that about a few select grad programs, like law or medicine, but I don't see how it could be true for most grad programs in general.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 2:34 PM

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I'm surprised to see Cornell and Michener so high on your list.
I honestly didn't hear much about either program when researching stuff and talking to old teachers last fall before coming to speakeasy and seeing everyone loving em.

If I could do it over again I'd do Syracuse as well (and probably Cornell).


Windiciti



Mar 24, 2006, 2:43 PM

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Also Northwestern University with campuses in Chicago an Evanston has an M.A. in Creative Non-fiction.


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 24, 2006, 2:43 PM

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Re: [curiouskate] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

curiousskate, I'm just thinking through issues which I feel a lot of ambiguity towards. You seem to have missed most of what I was actually saying, but there is no need to pretend I'm attracted to some type of ruthless programs others aren't. I'm sure I applied to most of the same programs everyone else did.

I just find it more rewarding and helpful to tackle these issues in a practical and honest way, instead of spouting a bunch of empty platitudes like "great art comes from being honest with yourself."

People should be less worried with the "attitudes" of potential classmates than with the quality. These are people whose work you are going to read and who are going to be critiquing and helping you along. If your fellow classmates don't have high quality work, a good part of your MFA experience has been a waste. I double majored in creative writing and something else undergrad. Most of my classmates couldn't critique or write. They didn't help me grow as a writer in the least (my teachers were another matter). If a bad MFA program is filled with similar students, I can't imagine it would be worth going.


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Mar 24, 2006, 2:58 PM)


Windiciti



Mar 24, 2006, 2:56 PM

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Enjoyed your post curiouskate!
People are still killing themselves to go to the "top" schools in the old USNews report. How many places can there be in these top schools?
Publication is everything.
Do you recommend literary contests (most have a fee!) or straight submissions to mags?
Do you have any ideas about which journals will be more likely publish a higher percentage of writing by new, unpublished writers?
I'd be most appreciative for your ideas and guidance on this. I'm driving myself crazy trying to figure out where my stuff can fit---short fiction.
Thanks.


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 3:00 PM

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In Reply To
I'm surprised to see Cornell and Michener so high on your list.


Cornell and Michener have something a lot of the other programs don't have: excellent funding. They also have the possible drawback in Cornell's case of not having the kind of superstar faculty that other programs have, and Michener of not having permanent faculty at all.

I obviously know a lot about Cornell since I'm going there. The thing about them is that they tenure from within and they don't actively recruit big stars. They're happy with what they can offer, a super-small program with full funding for all students, and a guaranteed two-year lectureship after graduation. If working with big-name faculty is important to you, then Cornell may not be the way to go. However, in fiction, they have five full-time and two adjunct faculty members, as well as two retired faculty members who are still available and actively teaching, and eight fiction grad students at one time.

So that's nine faculty members for eight students, which is an amazing ratio. I'm not in the program yet and I'm already having a substantial e-mail exchange with one of the faculty members. And it's not like Helena Maria Viramontes, Maureen McCoy, Stephanie Vaughn, and Lamar Herrin aren't fantastic writers and, judging by what the students there say, amazing teachers. They just don't have the kind of profile that some professors in other programs do. But the program seems to inspire a kind of commitment that I find really inspiring. All the professors there seem really committed to their students and want to be teaching. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be really happy.


viviandarkbloom


Mar 24, 2006, 3:04 PM

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In Reply To
Hmmm.... I wonder if I should have applied to Irvine given how much people seem to like it. I really dislike the planned community environment there. But I would have definitely applied to Syracuse if I could do it over again.


Irvine is awful. The town, I mean, not the program. I'd still cut my toes off to go there, though. Palo Alto kinda sucks too, but I wouldn't turn down Stanford.


bighark


Mar 24, 2006, 3:18 PM

Post #74 of 764 (16590 views)
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Clench, that's a big disclosure there regarding your creative writing major. No wonder you feel like you do.


dtva


Mar 24, 2006, 3:44 PM

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rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't seen Ohio State in anyone's rankings, though people on other threads have noted the great funding, faculty, etc. Any thoughts? (if it isn't obvious, this is a program I'm seriously considering, though I've had offers from two other schools which might be considered more "prestigious." I'm trying to decide if I should care about the rankings factor as I make a decision.


sibyline


Mar 24, 2006, 3:48 PM

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In Reply To
I haven't seen Ohio State in anyone's rankings, though people on other threads have noted the great funding, faculty, etc. Any thoughts? (if it isn't obvious, this is a program I'm seriously considering, though I've had offers from two other schools which might be considered more "prestigious." I'm trying to decide if I should care about the rankings factor as I make a decision.


Don't know a lot about OSU, but I was at a conference with a couple of OSU people last summer and found them really impressive. It's a three-year program right? Even better. What are the other schools and what kind of funding are you getting from them?


jennymck


Mar 24, 2006, 3:48 PM

Post #77 of 764 (12167 views)
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I appreciate curiouskate's post. You made a number of interesting points. As far as this ranking discussion, though, what about nonfiction programs? It's funny because so many of these top fiction and poetry programs just don't offer nonfiction concentrations so they're totally off my radar. Which nonfiction programs are most attractive to people? The ones that come to mind for me are:
Columbia (although too expensive)
Iowa (although I'm not clear how well-regarded the nonfiction program is, although it appeals to me greatly)
Arizona
Sarah Lawrence (also too $$)
Emerson (also too $$ plus all its other aforementioned problems)
Minnesota
Wilmington
Pitt
Penn State
Notre Dame?
Hollins?
George Mason (although I hate that area because I grew up right around there, don't want to go back)
OSU?

Also, Tom was saying in his last mailbag that he thinks nonfiction progs are the most competitive because it's this growing thing but right now there are more slots available then people. I wonder if that's true?? Here's his post:

As far as nonfiction programs in general: Only about 20% of programs offer nonfiction programs (that’s a ballpark figure, but I think it’s close), and that will be growing. I can tell you that more and more universities are seeking nonfiction teachers for the undergraduate and graduate level. Just check out the MLA and AWP job listings. My answer: very competitive. There is a growing interest, but not yet enough slots. I’d say, man-facting, that the nonfiction programs are the most competitive.


dtva


Mar 24, 2006, 4:02 PM

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In Reply To

In Reply To

Don't know a lot about OSU, but I was at a conference with a couple of OSU people last summer and found them really impressive. It's a three-year program right? Even better. What are the other schools and what kind of funding are you getting from them?

Sibyline, thanks for the quick response... I've had offers, with full funding, from U-Wash (Seattle), OSU and Indiana. I have, actually, decided against Indiana, and am still (like so many other tortured souls posting here) waiting on UVA. So, if I were lucky enough to get an offer from UVA, it would be a decision between OSU, UVA and Seattle.



soft petal


Mar 24, 2006, 5:48 PM

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Seems like sansoleil and Clench Million are trying to decide what's best in a program, no need to fault either of them. Writers still have to eat, so for me, yeah, platitudes from someone in a powerhouse position ain't going to cut it. Publication is key, but guess what submissions editors read first? Iowa MFA's and people who list quality pubs in their letters. The internet is littered with editors who say this, even when they claim not to like it (mingram wrote a article in semi-response to this for the southwestern review, I think).


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 25, 2006, 3:20 AM

Post #80 of 764 (12049 views)
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Personally, I feel like SS is the closet to me in writerly outlook, so I find it funny to be contrasted against him.

However, let me say that what I meant before whas NOT that agents would look at MFA program above publications, no way, publications are top no doubt, my only claim was that being at a better MFA might
A) get you a closer read at literary magazines (I speak from experience here)
B) maybe (maybe!) will get you attention from literary agents looking for new talent. You might get to meet them and smooze with them prior to a random submission phase.


LookUp


Mar 25, 2006, 4:29 AM

Post #81 of 764 (12044 views)
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Arizona does too have non-fiction. Arizona STATE may not, but U of A does.


Windiciti



Mar 25, 2006, 9:56 PM

Post #82 of 764 (11982 views)
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Does Tom Kealy rank or discuss the Low Res programs?
Thanks!


Clench Million
Charles

Mar 26, 2006, 3:43 AM

Post #83 of 764 (11946 views)
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Yes, he talks about them. No, he doesn't rank them.
Honestly he doesn't talk about htem too much and admits his ignorance on the matter. However, he has a "low res queen" (or some name like that) who periodically posts on his blog.


Windiciti



Mar 26, 2006, 4:20 PM

Post #84 of 764 (11886 views)
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Thanks, Clench Million!
I was tempted to buy the book a month ago, but that would have been a-backward because I'd already applied....so why spend the money?

Now that my acceptances are NU and Sewanee, and still waiting for WWC, there's really no point; especially since I can't apply to a resident program out of town. Wd. have loved to apply to Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and OSU, otherwise.


jdurose
Julie
e-mail user

Mar 26, 2006, 6:41 PM

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Not to be one of those people who just write posts to argue, but...

Even though I had sent the majority of my apps out by the time Tom Kealey's MFA Handbook arrived, it was definitely worth my $14.95. (I think it's even less now that it's available on B&N.) Let me first say that I've never met Kealey, and am not here as a publicist. Let me also say that TK doesn't know squat about nonfiction programs. (I mentioned before that we need a nonfiction addendum to his book.)

With that said (and no, I can't believe that I used that phrase on a thread for writers), it should be noted that the guy's book has a great section on how to make your final decision -- the types of questions to ask, with whom to speak, negotiating your offer. It also devotes a chunk of space to getting the most out of your MFA program -- teaching, writing workshops, publishing. I was particularly delighted -- who says "delighted" anymore?? -- with the "Helpful Sources Online" guide in the appendix.

I know. We write. We don't have piles of cash to burn. But this is a good use of twelve dollars and the few hours of reading time. And hey -- get paid for a few pieces, call yourself a freelancer, and write it off on your taxes.


Windiciti



Mar 26, 2006, 9:16 PM

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You've convinced me. I'll buy it!
Still waiting for the AWP (?) book from my library on Interlibrary loan. Have you seen that one? What do you think?
Thanks.


theapplepicker


Mar 29, 2006, 12:40 PM

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dtva--

Have you spoken with students yet? Are you attending, or have you attended, the recruitment weekend?

Definitely give OSU a fair shake. I'm not a fiction person so I don't know how they stack up against UVA or Washington in fiction, but OSU's environment seems to be an extremely supportive one.


dtva


Mar 29, 2006, 12:46 PM

Post #88 of 764 (11714 views)
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Re: [theapplepicker] rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, I have actually made the big decision (just last night, in fact!) and OSU it is. You're right, their fiction program is VERY supportive, vibrant, etc. All the students I spoke with were very happy. If there's anyone else out in the blogosphere headed to Columbus (or considering it) I'd love to hear from you!


theapplepicker


Mar 29, 2006, 1:17 PM

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Congratulations!

You two, you're gonna make it.


fratres


Mar 29, 2006, 3:20 PM

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Post deleted by fratres [In reply to]

 


Windiciti



Mar 29, 2006, 5:27 PM

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You are so fortunate! That wd. be one of my picks if I cd. go to a FT program out of town.
One of my favourite short story writers, Erin McGraw, teaches there.
Enjoy!


Stroudb

e-mail user

Mar 29, 2006, 7:31 PM

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I should add Michigan to that list of places with great funding. With the new Zell Fellowships, everybody gets $18,000 the first year, and teaches in the second year (only one class a term) under a union contract (good pay, free health care).


__________



Aug 22, 2006, 3:03 PM

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KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

Kealey never made an actual list, so I've assembled one based on the comments in his book. Ranking within the Top Whatever is somewhat arbitrary. Mostly Kealey would say, pretty confidently, matter of factly, "This is a Top __ school." A few schools were "easily in the Top __".

Then things get a little mysterious. You'll see he left out 25% of the schools, for starters. Is he a commitment-phobe? Light on knowledge? Afraid of error? Why is Cornell "easily in the top ten" but not in the Top 5, when a fifth school isn't even specified?

Discuss, kids, discuss!



KEALEY'S RANKINGS


TOP 5
  1. University of California, Irvine
  2. Michigan
  3. Indiana
  4. UT
  5. __________ ?

TOP 10


6. Cornell ("easily!")
7. Syracuse ("easily!)
8. John's Hopkins
9. UVA
10. Houston


TOP 20

11. Iowa
12. U-Mass ("easily!")
13. Brown
14. Oregon
15. Washington U, St. Louis
16. NYU
17. __________ ?
18. __________ ?
19. __________ ?
20. __________ ?



Who are these masked men?



six five four three two one 0 ->

(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Aug 22, 2006, 3:05 PM)


danip1


Aug 22, 2006, 4:33 PM

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Re: [Junior Maas] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

Check out what he wrote today (http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/).
So Purdue, Minnesota, UNCG, UNCW, Virginia, Florida State, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Arizona, & Arizona State fill out the list (and then some!).
I think the point Kealey tries to make is that rankings don't make sense for a program like CW. We're all looking for something different from our programs, and that changes where they'll each fall onto our respective lists.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 22, 2006, 5:57 PM

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Re: [Junior Maas] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

I like Kealey's book a lot and think both it and the blog are helpful (they certainly helped me) however... his rankings never quite sat right with me.

If you went by general reputation in the publishing world, the top three would "easily" be Columbia, UCI and Iowa.

To have 2 of the top 3 not even in the his top 10 seems pretty odd. Now, I know, he is ranking funding as the most important thing which hurts several top schools, but that makes his list even more confusing for me. Is it a list of the top 20 schools to APPLY to or just the 20 best? Because he includes a lot of schools that don't have full funding and a couple that have pretty bad funding. Would it really be better to go to one of his top 10 without funding than to go to Iowa?



That said, I certainly think all the schools he listed are great and are all "easily" in the top 25, though some I question their specific placement within that.


Clench Million
Charles

Aug 22, 2006, 6:00 PM

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Re: [Junior Maas] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

As for the masked men, I'd be willing to bet he didn't have a full list of 20 in order and then left some out. There were just some schools he felt were definitely a top 5 or top 20 and listed those and didn't list ones he was on the fence about. Maybe he wasn't sure if Syracuse or Cornell should get the last place in the top 5, so didn't list either.


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Aug 22, 2006, 9:16 PM)


glerk12


Sep 3, 2006, 4:46 AM

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Re: [Clench Million] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think a single one of those programs offers nonfiction as an option. Curious. Well, I guess Iowa does, but it's sort of a third wheel.


(This post was edited by glerk12 on Sep 3, 2006, 4:54 AM)


Clench Million
Charles

Sep 3, 2006, 12:16 PM

Post #98 of 764 (11208 views)
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Re: [glerk12] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

A single one of the three I listed?

Iowa does, as you said, and Columbia definitly does, and it isn't any kind of third wheel there. Some of the best faculty are Non-fiction.

UCI, however, does not have a non-fiction program.


glerk12


Sep 3, 2006, 3:31 PM

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Re: [Clench Million] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, I meant on Kealey's top 25 'list'.


umass76


Dec 30, 2006, 4:12 PM

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Re: [glerk12] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all. Just wanted everyone to know that I've been reading Kealey's book and I do think it allows for a new ranking system to supplant the U.S. News ranking from almost a decade ago. I'm working on a very, very rough methodology--frankly Kealey's book *immediately* suggests a ranking system, including a rough "specific" ranking, which is at least better than the now out-dated U.S. News one--and I will post a link shortly, when I'm done. I hope that, within 24 hours, we'll all be working off a new ranking. While I know Kealey didn't intend to create a specific ranking, it's simply absurd that anyone is working off the 1997 rankings anymore. It makes us all look a little clueless. I'm hopeful this will be helpful to folks.

P.S. I didn't go to UMass, it's just a screen-name, so there's no bias there.


umass76


Dec 31, 2006, 1:09 AM

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Re: [umass76] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

NEW 2006 MFA rankings now available (The Kealey Scale):



Code



Please note that these are NOT the 1997 U.S. News and World Report Rankings.

This is the first new ranking of the Top 50 MFA programs in nine years.

Also please note that I have used Tom Kealey's methodology and observations as a resource and a guide. These rankings do not in any way reflect my personal opinions and I have attempted to acknowledge this by classifying these new rankings as "The Kealey Scale" for MFA programs.


jargreen

e-mail user

Dec 31, 2006, 1:48 AM

Post #102 of 764 (12164 views)
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Re: [umass76] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

The thing I can't understand about the UC Irvine program, and the reason I stayed far away from it, is that it looks as though there's only one or two fiction profs. Tell me I'm very wrong!


umass76


Dec 31, 2006, 2:02 AM

Post #103 of 764 (12163 views)
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Re: [jargreen] KEALEY RANKS 'EM! [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi! All I can tell you, friend, is that I'm a [usually poorly-informed] poet, not a fiction-writer, and even *I* had the impression (pre-Kealey!) that U.C.-Irvine was primarily known for its fiction program, not for its poetry department(!) In fact, and this is no insult intended to the program (I simply didn't know much about its poetry department, I'm sure it's excellent), I've *only* heard U.C.-Irvine discussed as a top program in areas other than poetry. So it must be something else in fiction! [And, of course, it must have much to offer in poetry as well, else it wouldn't enjoy the reputation it clearly does].


jargreen

e-mail user

Dec 31, 2006, 4:50 AM

Post #104 of 764 (12148 views)
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More notes on the fiction MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the great information, umass76! I also recommend buying Kealey's book (http://www.amazon.com/...?ie=UTF8&s=books).

I'd like to offer some notes from my two years' obsession with the fiction MFA.

Illinois
This program is less than five years old, which may explain its lack of exposure. It is three years of $17K stipend. There are seven fiction faculty members, plus all students teach.

Colorado State
The students seem very enthusiastic about - and deeply involved in - this program. Here are a couple of student-prepared guides to the program: http://www.colostate.edu/...programs/thebook.pdf, http://www.colostate.edu/...sh/programs/deal.pdf

UNC Wilmington
Not sure why this branch is always ranked lower than Greensboro. UNCW features an eight-member fiction faculy and tons of community outreach; the students organize a summer workshop for high school kids. Fun stuff.

Ohio State
For those in a hurry, this program can be wrapped up in a year and a half. A couple of really compelling writers now on faculty.

Florida
An hour from each coast, but out of the way of some of those hurricanes. Plus, David Leavitt on faculty.

Bowling Green State
I rarely hear a peep about this program among prospects, but it's highly regarded with faculties around the country. A well-funded program that gives great preparation for teaching. The director of the Indiana program, for instance, went here. (Damn, I wanted to keep this school a secret.)

Southern Illinois
Talk about a well-kept secret! Three years, fully funded, plus everyone teaches. A wonderfully structured program.

And on the down side ...

Columbia
I've spoken with six graduates of this program. When asked about it, each one uses nearly the same wording: "Well, others may enjoy it, but I had a negative experience there." Eerie.

Maryland
I don't understand what Kealey's saying about their faculty. All I see, in fiction, is Howard Norman.

UC Irvine
The only fiction faculty member that I know of is Michelle Latiolais. Not a great deal of variety there.

Also underwhelming fiction faculties at Penn State and Pittsburgh.

And just for gits and shiggles, here are some schools that if they offered the MFA, I'd apply today: Emory, UCLA, Boston U, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Penn.

Best,
Ryan



ecphraticknolls


Dec 31, 2006, 7:44 AM

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I think your inclusion of location “ratings” is way too subjective to be included. You could potentially include collected data from schools in regards to what they think of the location, however, I would just leave this aspect out.

Realistically, I think the best means of ranking the programs would be considering funding and reputation in a 1:1 ratio.

I also think that you need a better means of rating and comparing both of these aspects… possibly another poll? Otherwise, your new ratings seem completely superfluous.


rpc
ryan call

Dec 31, 2006, 10:52 AM

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jargreen

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/english/mfa


<HTMLGIANT>


silkfx2004


Dec 31, 2006, 12:17 PM

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jargreen:

http://www.scs.northwestern.edu/grad/cw/

It's a part-time evening program but it does offer what they like to call an MCW (Master of Arts in Creative Writing).


--------
Nobody but God gets it right the first time. Everybody else has to rewrite. --attributed to Stephen King


Fear&Loathing


Dec 31, 2006, 12:53 PM

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I like the comprehensive weighting of different factors that goes into a ranking system like Kealey's and your filtering of it. Ultimately, at least in professional degree programs (law, business), it's primarily outcomes that matter. Location, faculty and funding are most important to me, but it is ultimately outcomes that matter. I can't yet think that far ahead to think of outcomes; I would just like to get into a program. I wish publication statistics of students, however, would be more available. If all the other aspects of the program come together well, students will publish. If students don't publish, then a program may not necessarily deserve its good reputation. It's art for art's sake, but if I'm making sacrifices, I like to know from precedent, at least from programs that have been around for more than 10 years. This will all change in the future since most programs have only recently started.

At this point, beggars can't be choosers. I'm rattling my tin can.


v1ctorya


Dec 31, 2006, 1:32 PM

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I thought Vanderbilt did offer the MFA, and this was the first year of it. I almost applied because the application was free for this year (again, as it was the first) but they don't give good aid.


umass76


Dec 31, 2006, 2:19 PM

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To add to what others were saying (about Vanderbilt and Northwestern), BU actually *does* offer an MFA. It's #23, FWIW.

To ecphraticknolls: That's a good point, but remember that location was actually one of the *lowest*-weighted factors (see the Methodology section), as it's acknowledged to be a subjective one. Essentially, a school got a *very* slight bump if it had a desireable location, or a very slight hit if it did not, and "location" was only used as a factor *at all* if there was something of a consensus.

So, for instance, certain towns have "reputations" for being excellent college towns--Madison, WI; Amherst, MA; Bloomington, IN; Austin, TX, to list just a few--while other places (e.g., Houston, TX; Syracuse, NY; Baltimore, MD) have generally bad reputations. Again, however, the impact of these locations was very slight. Moreover, while schools in New York City, for instance, did get a slight bump--as, culturally, New York City is seen as being a very desireable place for a poet/writer to be--anyone who *didn't* want to be in a big city could simply, obviously, drop those NYC schools *down* a peg or two. In the Methodology section, I explained that while Kealey thinks location is the biggest consideration for prospective students--and I happen to agree with him, to an extent--he also recognizes that you can't use "location" very heavily in the rankings, as there's little consensus about which places are "elite" or "good" or "poor" or what-not.

I do think, however, that some locations have such a strong reputation that you *do* want the rankings to reflect that reputation at least to some extent, so that people who *can't afford* to go to that location and check it out say, "Hmm, apparently a lot of people out there think this is a nice/not-so-nice location." Look at it this way: I don't have the money to travel out to Madison, Wisconsin and see what it's like; is it helpful to me to know that the consensus is it's an incredible college town/city, and does Wisconsin therefore deserve to move up, say, 1-2 spots on that basis, the better to draw my attention when I start thinking about "location"? I think that's only fair.

Likewise, the "Student Publication History Reputation" is given extraordinarily little weight because it is, obviously, quite subjective, and frankly amounts mostly to "buzz" surrounding this or that school. So, again, don't be fooled just because you see a particular criteria listed; it hardly means that criteria even received a tenth of the weight of the most important criteria in the ranking: funding.

I completely understand that some folks will see the rankings and say, as some have here, "Why does Kealey say that? I don't agree with his comment about [x]." And again, that's fair; I just think that people *really* need to read the Introduction to the rankings to see what they are and are not intended to be--namely, it is acknowledged that they are extremely imperfect and unscientific. The *key*, however, is that it is indisputable they are more accurate than the rankings we currently go on, because they use those rankings as a base and then further refine their inter-school distinctions by applying thirteen other factors of consideration. As well to have some dispute with The Kealey Scale (as I'm sure some will, and that's perfectly understandable) as to remember that, for the past ten years, Columbia University has been treated as the "number four" MFA in the country when, as to the most important factor in choosing an MFA program--funding!--Columbia has almost literally given its prospective students the middle finger (seriously, go read the website; if the school's language about funding doesn't actually offend you--it certainly did me--I'd be a little surprised). Quite simply, it was crazy for Columbia to have been rewarded for stiffing all prospective students money-wise with a #4 ranking it couldn't possibly live up to, and needless to say, if it wasn't in New York City it would have been (as I said above) a couple spots lower than even where it is now.

So: I think it's great that we debate these rankings, but calling them "meaningless" or anything close to that simply makes no sense--unless we presume that the rankings we have all been secretly or not-so-secretly working off for almost a decade were "less than meaningless" (i.e., misleading, which I happen to think they may well have been).


blueragtop


Dec 31, 2006, 2:53 PM

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Did anyone apply or take a look at Texas State? I almost applied there, but had to cut down a few schools at the last minute. They seem solid.


jargreen

e-mail user

Dec 31, 2006, 4:14 PM

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Umass76, and Others,

I believe that if I hadn't concluded my own research, your rankings would have been indispensable. Kealey's book is a truly great read for the prospective MFAer.

I never understood his opinion of UC Irvine. The people make the program, and when you hire only one person for the purpose of teaching fiction, you don't have a program. Also, having intimate knowledge of the Indiana program, I would rank Michigan higher; UM has better funding and the most amazing faculty in the history of mankind.

But I'm not going to nitpick. Well, maybe a little. Overall, the rankings are very helpful and you do a great job of explaining them.

On location: I would have to agree with ecphraticknolls that location is a tough attribute to rank. We can reliably compare schools according to how much money they offer and how much their faculty has published, but location is about as personal, subjective as any part of the decision could be. New York City may offer a zillion cultural opportunities that invigorate the fledgling writer, but perhaps he'll struggle to find the comfort, isolation, and quietness to actually produce. Some people may go crazy in rural Colorado and start chopping up their families, while others will write a great book over the weekend. It probably wouldn't hurt to simply rank the programs according to all those easily measurable qualities and then leave the choice of location up to the reader.

Then again, I live in Bloomington, one of those great college towns (it's true), and I've read some postings on this website that are absurdly misguided about this place. People have actually not applied to Indiana because they've heard about lots of crime and fraternity tomfoolery on the mean streets of B-town. Well, if you hang out with frat boys, you get what you're asking for. Otherwise, this is one of the safest places in the universe; just very laid-back, liberal-minded, and tranquil; and one of the cultural meccas of the Midwest. Summary: Location is very subjective, but people who've never visited a place can be extremely ignorant about it, and may benefit from hearing a consensus view.

One additional note, on funding: If it is so important - and, to poor me, it most definitely is - then why are great programs that lay the cash right out on the table like Illinois, Bowling Green State, Minnesota, Southern Illinois, and Colorado State never given any respect? Seriously, after I apply to these places, I'm going to begin a campaign to make them better known.

A final word, he says exhaustedly: Boston University offers an MA, not an MFA. Same with UC Davis. But how'd I miss the new Vandy program? Shoot.

Best,
Ryan


umass76


Dec 31, 2006, 4:40 PM

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Jargreen,

Hey, thanks for the catch on BU and Davis! I'm afraid that was my goof, not Kealey's (I've also fixed the Cincinnati entry; same problem). Please continue (all of you) to let me know if you see any other technical mistakes!

As to Illinois, Bowling Green, Minnesota, Southern Illinois, and Colorado State: good question. If I understand right, Illinois is a relatively new program still establishing itself, which is why it isn't in the Top 50 but makes the "Honorable Mention" section at the end of the Long Post on The Kealey Scale (I've now created a Short Post also, which jumps you right to the short-form rankings; hopefully this will make it easier for repeat visitors who've already read the Long Post and just need a quick refresher).

As for Minnesota, Kealey actually gives it major props: it goes from #62 in the 1997 U.S. News & World Report ranking to #20 here; likewise, while Colorado State only moves up slightly (from #50 to #47), it does still make the Top 50 ranking (no small shakes, given that there are well over 100 programs in the U.S.), and is probably ranked where it is based largely on its "Average" funding ranking. However, like you, I've heard the situation has improved, so Colorado State may deserve a bump. I'll look into it, and if the funding has improved, I'll make an "Editor's Note" via an asterisk under the ranking. I've heard similar news about the University of Arizona, though I'm not sure if it's true or not and will have to look into it.

That leaves Bowling Green and Southern Illinois: I've heard the same things you have, and I'm tempted to (and probably will) include an "Editor's Honorable Mention" notation so that these schools at least get mentioned in the rankings. I'll have to do some more research first, though; shouldn't take long. Thanks!


umass76


Dec 31, 2006, 4:53 PM

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Follow-up to Jargreen:

From what I can tell (re: Colorado State), they have a limited number of GTAs available which provide full tuition waiver and a stipend. Other students must resort to a) the FAFSA, and/or b) applying for in-state tuition (which can only be done for the second and subsequent years). The website (which I should mention to anyone wondering, is hugely informative) says that the school doesn't have "enough funding" to do more. This would seem to make CSU equivalent in the Funding category to, say, the University of Iowa: and keep in mind, Iowa's "Average" rating (based on the limited availability of GTAs there, and in-state tuition which is great but only accessible to second- or later-year students) caused it to drop from #1 (1997) to #13 (2006), largely because the "Elite" funding schools are top-heavy in the rankings, meaning that a school with a top reputation like Iowa suffers more for having an "Average" funding rating than a school ranked, in 1997, as CSU was, #50. Hence, Iowa slides twelve spots, but CSU manages to still jump three spots (which I'd guess is due to Faculty, Reputation/A [cf. present time], and other slightly less significant factors like its Teaching Opportunities, Association With a Top Journal, and extended Duration, which allows for more writing time). All in all, at the moment that ranking seems about right (taking into account, of course, that all of these rankings are at best rough approximations). I hope that seems like a fair and considered response to you.

Will look into SIU and BG later.


jargreen

e-mail user

Dec 31, 2006, 5:14 PM

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Umass76, you're right about the Colorado State funding. That is the one school I listed that I did not apply to, probably for that very reason. But I was blown away with the student involvement and enthusiasm for this program. I mean, these kids really seem to make this program their own.

Some quick info on the Bowling Green program: All students receive full tuition waivers, a stipend that is fairly reasonable for such an inexpensive location ($8-9K), and tons of hands-on experience with teaching and publishing the fine Mid-American Review. Those MFAers interested in teaching one day should have this school in their top tier. The greatest undergraduate writing professor I ever had went here. So did Tony Ardizzone, the former director of the MFA program at Indiana. A couple of quiet giants are currently on faculty (Wendell Mayo, Lawrence Coates).

But, unfortunately, they're not taking any more people this year. Just me, that's it. I've got to stop giving away my secrets.

Best,
Ryan


jdybka
Jilly Dybka

e-mail user

Jan 1, 2007, 4:01 PM

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http://www.sewanee.edu/SL/SLDegreePrograms.htm

The University of the South just started the Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program. I don't know anything about it though.


Poetry Hut Blog (poetry news)




laughingman


Jan 1, 2007, 5:21 PM

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First I should say that it is a worthwhile thing you have done in attempting to rewrite the rankings--somebody needed to do it (and many people on this board have put up their personal choices--though none, yet, with so much work at sorting things by a set methodology). Secondly, I will say that it is a brave deed, indeed, posting it here for our persnickety and opinionated bunch to pick at. I have nothing but admiration for your project.

My pickings:

Poor Iowa! How many Pulitizer prizes and National Book Awards and happily published graduates? It seems that they have graduated so, so many good, great, and brilliant writers and yet, because of the visibility of the program, the voices of the dissatisfied workshoppers are paid so much more attention. Maybe it is the nature of literarily mided people to pay more attention to the voices of the lessers and the losers. I can see Iowa losing top-spot for funding issues, but I have nothing but admiration for their taking a lot of applicants (twenty per genre? twenty-five?) even if the cost means being forced to spread their funding thinner. (If UCI or Austin or Cornell or any of the other well-funded programs spread their funding to twenty or twenty five writers, they would be in the same boat.) I am always shocked when people do not rank Iowa in the top six or seven.

Indiana? Top ten or twelve, sure--but third? I really have never been able to see it in the top five... I would probably take Cornell, Syracuse, Virginia, JHU, Iowa , Minnesota and WashU over Indiana...

Personally, I think Minnesota and Montana should each be a little higher, but, admittedly, now I am getting into personal taste and personal interpretation of location, reputation and prestige a little more.

Thanks for the list and the work,

-laugher


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 1, 2007, 9:18 PM

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I'll add my thanks for this list...it looks like you put a lot of work into it. I admit I was also surprised to see Indiana ranked so high, and I don't see how location can really be a factor in these rankings since it represents a completely personal preference. (Why would Bloomington be ranked "elite" and Ann Arbor just "good"? For me, that would be reversed...but that's just me.) Anyway, I think everyone can agree that a ranking system, while a good guide, shouldn't offer any applicant the final word of which school would be the "best" for him or her. But I admire your work on this!


umass76


Jan 1, 2007, 9:21 PM

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Laughing Man,

Personally I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Writers' Workshop--and should mention, again, for those who've seen the post, that none of what you see in the rankings reflects my personal opinion, but instead my synthesis of Tom Kealey's observations and weighing of various "hard" and "soft" criteria. For myself, I'd like to see Iowa ranked higher as well. By way of explanation--not to act as apologist for Kealey, but to clarify something--I have a sense that there are two primary reasons Iowa fared as it did on The Kealey Scale:

1) The ranking is by no means any sort of "moral" barometer of a school's commitment to poetry; everything is taken from the perspective of a prospective MFA student. Consequently, Iowa's unquestioned dedication to poetry (and the fact that, if it accepted fewer students, it would have more money available) didn't help it in the rankings: that's a "macro-" issue, and not one prospective students are likely to care about (i.e., every student just wants to know, am I going to be able to get funding, and not feel in competition with my classmates for it?). If I understand correctly, Iowa's new director has resolved to fix this problem (which, I suppose, on some level requires acknowledging that it is indeed a pressing problem--something Kealey's rankings already reflect).

2) Other schools haven't been static over the past ten years; Iowa dropped more than just five or six spots, I imagine, because while their funding system "stagnated" (if that's even the right word for it), other schools found themselves (not because of greater commitment, but, I suppose, greater available resources) in a position to dramatically increase their own student funding. So that accelerated Iowa's drop--if you look at the twelve schools ahead of it, all made substantial strides in funding over the past decade.

So, I don't think this is Kealey's "sour grapes" or anything like it; I think he's realizing that funding is the number one concern for prospective MFA students, not how many Pulitzers the faculty has (though I admit, that matters [and impresses] too!). As to Indiana, I agree with you, though I also realize that when you're #16 in 1997 and no one complains about it, and then you increase funding and teaching opportunities and give students not two but three years to write, you're going to bump yourself somewhere into the top 10.

S.


umass76


Jan 1, 2007, 10:07 PM

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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] More notes on the fiction MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Glinda,

Two quick notes (which partly reproduce a longer mini-essay I just wrote in the comments section of the rankings post on my blog):

1. I absolutely agree that rankings should be used, not abused, and used as just one resource among many, not as the only resource a prospective MFA student turns to. I also think rankings derive most of their value from the extent to which they measure "hard" data; The Kealey Scale includes, among its sixteen criteria, at least eight which are "hard" data points not really open to dispute (I'll list more than eight here, because some of these fall under the catch-all "other/miscellaneous" criterion): program size, duration, student-to-faculty ratio, availability of one-on-one tutorials, funding scheme, flexibility of degree requirements, course workload, teaching workload, teaching opportunities, focus on literature versus creative writing (as measured by the program's degree requirements), the presence of an MFA-affiliated literary journal on-campus, in-state tuition availability, and the employment of community outreach programs by the school. The other eight data points in The Kealey Scale are definitely "soft," but really no more so than either a) the existing (but now out-dated) 1997 MFA rankings done by U.S. News & World Report, or b) the sort of amateur research any one of us could do, on our own, to investigate MFA programs (e.g., calling up current/former students, attending a single workshop session [if the program allowed us to], e-mailing a professor, taking a brief tour of the school). All of these seemingly foolproof means of divining whether a school is right for us are really inherently flawed, because they're every bit as "human" and therefore fallible as the consensus-driven data Kealey and U.S. News both employed in their respective valuations.

2. I can't emphasize this enough: location was not a major factor in the rankings. It was listed first because it is, in fact, the most important consideration to prospective MFA students, according to Kealey; that does not mean he weighted it the most. In fact, in the system I developed it receives minimal weight, coming into play only in the presence of a "consensus" about a location (which is rare in itself), and even then, it only bumps a school up or down a couple spots. Anyone wanting to "undo" the location aspect of this ranking need simply bump a school up or down three to five spots based upon their own preferences--which is not to say, of course, that anyone should take the specific numerical rankings as gospel, anyway (as always, one looks at rankings, typically, in terms of "tiers"--such as, the first twenty schools, the second twenty, the next twenty, and so on--so even bumping a school up or down will probably keep it "in tier" but just, at most, remove it from your consideration). Keep in mind, disagreeing with a location "consensus" is no different than disagreeing with any other form of consensus, such as the "consensus" reputation scores used by U.S. News in 1997 in formulating the entirety of its rankings (not just one of sixteen criteria, as in The Kealey Scale). So, to the extent no one really batted an eyelash when we were told, in 1997, that the University of Arizona had a much better academic reputation than Brown University--something which, absent the rankings, we might have been very surprised to hear--it's really the same situation here; if a location assessment doesn't make sense to you, or you disagree with it, adjust the rankings accordingly. As a lawyer, I feel rankings are a lot like, say, written contracts: people don't know it, but under many circumstances you can actually write on a contract (crossing some things out and adding others) before you return it to the person who sent it to you, thus initiating a "counter-offer." The offerer can then do the same, and return the contract to you, and so on and so forth, until you reach an agreement. In other words, something's not necessarily sacrosanct just because someone sent it to you in writing. A contract sent to you is an "offer," as we say in the law. Just so, rankings: you can write on them and move schools up and move schools down, however you like, and thereby use the rankings simply as a resource--a sort of jumping-off point--for your own analyses. That's certainly the smart way to do things, anyhow!

S.


hamholio


Jan 1, 2007, 11:18 PM

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umass76


Jan 2, 2007, 12:42 AM

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Ham,

I can only say that Iowa is certainly in my top ten(!)

At the same, looking at programs I was amazed at how many schools with excellent reputations do in fact offer full tuition and a decent stipend to all incoming students--and I can tell you, there are more than ten such programs, though obviously none with Iowa's stellar reputation in so many other areas of consideration. I think what's telling for me, though--and what gives me a lot of additional respect for Iowa--is that its program director, Lan Samantha Chang, appears to have made no bones about the fact that Iowa's funding scheme must improve. I do realize that cuts both ways (that is, it's an admission that the program does have a "flaw" of sorts that some other top programs don't have, yet also shows that the school isn't resting on its many successes in the field, which is a very, very good signal to send).

In any event, I think that when Iowa's funding scheme is compared to the twelve schools "ahead of it" (or whatever) on The Kealey Scale, I can understand why a prospective student for whom funding was far and away the number one concern would feel that Iowa has some significant competition from schools such as Texas, Michigan, Cornell, Virginia, UMass, and so on; from that standpoint, and considering that The Kealey Scale quite openly privileges "funding" as a (the) top criteria, I can't fault those rankings by more than three to five spots (i.e., if you assume what Kealey has assumed about a given student's primary needs, I think even Iowa's own educators would admit it's in the Top 10 but not a runaway #1, which would make it a little silly for us to contradict them and say otherwise here).

That said, given that I and many others place a premium on funding but also (for instance) are obsessive about the prospect of teaching others at some point--myself, I've always wanted to be a teacher--I can also see Iowa being rated much, much higher than The Kealey Scale would have it. And as I said, that's exactly where I'd rank them: much, much higher (no disrespect to any other school intended; in fact, if I found one thing during my research, it's how many fantastic MFA programs there are overall, and I suppose that's good news for all of us!).

Anyway, one thing's clear: when Lan Samantha Chang finally gets the changes enacted at Iowa that she's looking to enact, Iowa will be the runaway #1 program by general consensus (across all rankings, and taking all different "student needs" into account). And while I don't know and have never spoken to Tom Kealey, I have to believe in his good faith enough to think that if and when that day comes, he'll put Iowa back at the top of his list (as, for the moment, he is quite clear that Iowa's funding "problem" is the only reason they're not still number one).

S.


umass76


Jan 2, 2007, 9:35 AM

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Re: [umass76] More notes on the fiction MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

P.S. Just wanted to let everyone know--as I'm only one man and I'm doing my best!--that a few of the top rankings got very slightly adjusted last night due to my realization that I had under-applied one of the weightings, specifically, "Reputation/C [cf. institution as a whole]." This isn't a very well-understood criteria, and, like several of the other criteria employed on The Kealey Scale, is deductively reasoned from his book's resources and observations rather than explicitly stated by Kealey. One of the resources Kealey finds necessary to include in his book--and I, for one, do understand why he does this--is a listing of websites which give some indication of school-wide reputations, including both undergraduate and (far more importantly for MFA students) English PhD. reputation rankings. Thus, while Indiana, Michigan, and Cornell are essentially "tied" in the top five--with Indiana getting the emphatic "easily" notation by Kealey in part, I think, because, unlike Michigan and Cornell, its presence in the top five is (as some have noted) something of a surprise and a significant change from the 1997 U.S. News & World Report rankings--it is clear that the latter two schools enjoy a better overall academic reputation than Indiana (though Indiana is no slouch! That's just some tough competition it has there) and therefore should have eked their way into the #3 and #4 spots, respectively, when I wrote up the initial Kealey Scale post. Michigan and Cornell also have top PhD. programs, as we all know--I should note that very important point, too.

I made the same inadvertant error in the bottom half of the top ten, with Houston, UVA, Johns Hopkins, and Brown; three of those four schools enjoy excellent overall academic reputations, including (notably) for their English PhD. programs, plus two of those schools (UVA; Brown) are supposed to inch a spot upward, over Houston and JHU, because of "location." [NB: I know giving any weight to location is highly unpopular here, and frankly if it was only that UVA and Brown had consensus positive impressions as to location, and Houston and JHU carried no bias in either direction, I think "location" would actually not be a factor here; as it is, you have UVA and Brown pulling themselves higher in the rankings and a co-equal opposite force acting upon Houston and JHU]. JHU then inches ahead of Houston because of its overall academic reputation, and especially its top English PhD. program. [I'll add that Kealey tacitly, and I think rightly, presumes the importance of a school's overall reputation for future employment opportunities, as well as for getting "in-house" recommendations to the PhD. program of the MFA program you're attending, a more valuable asset when the program in question is as revered as a Michigan, JHU, or especially a Cornell. Thus, I think this necessary but minor re-working of the rankings, to make them more accurate and helpful to prospective MFA students, is beneficial overall; nor, I'll note, is it as dramatic as one might think--notice that Cornell doesn't jump ahead of Michigan simply because it is slightly ahead in terms of the overall reputation for its undergrad and PhD. programs. The distinction between two schools in a given category, especially a lower-weighted category such as "Location" or "Reputation/C" must be significant in order for the criteria to have a measurable effect on the rankings].

One final note about Iowa, which dropped twelve spots in the rankings between 1997 and 2006 ostensibly because of funding-related concerns, a fact that has a lot of people borderline in a tizzy: it was only one of the countless programs who saw precipitous drops in their rankings because of funding-related issues. For instance, consider these other (in many cases as or more severe) "drops":

Emerson College (1997: #20; 2006: #45--twenty-five-spot drop);
University of Maryland (1997: #20; 2006: #40--twenty-spot drop);
University of Utah (1997: #16; 2006: #35--nineteen-spot drop);
George Mason University (1997: #20; 2006: #39--nineteen-spot drop);
University of Arizona (1997: #9; 2006: #27--eighteen-spot drop);
Arizona State University (1997: #20; 2006: #34--fourteen-spot drop);
Boston University (1997: #10; 2006: #23--thirteen-spot drop);
University of Arkansas (1997: #16; 2006: #29--thirteen-spot drop);
Columbia University (1997: #4; 2006: #16--twelve-spot drop);
University of Montana (1997: #10; 2006: #22--twelve-spot drop);
University of Pittsburgh (1997: #20; 2006: #32--twelve-spot drop);
University of Washington (1997: #10; 2006: #21--eleven-spot drop).

When you consider that, as I mentioned in my Introduction to The Kealey Scale, Columbia University would have dropped approximately two additional spots if not for its "elite" location, it seems to me that eleven schools dropped as much as Iowa, and ten dropped more than Iowa.

I think that puts a bit of a dent in the Kealey-just-hates-Iowa meme.


umass76


Jan 2, 2007, 11:44 AM

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Re: [umass76] More notes on the fiction MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, one more Iowa note (I swear I'm not trying to dominate this thread, it's just that I've had more than 400 unique visits to the rankings page of The Suburban Ecstasies in the last 48 hours, and I'm getting a lot of e-mail queries as well, so I want to make sure I have these rankings as tight as possible): some people are saying to me that Iowa should really move ahead of UMass (from #13 to #12 on The Kealey Scale) because its Reputation/A-C score exceeds that of UMass substantially. In the "calculus" (not really) where Reputation/A (current) + Reputation/B (cf. 1997) + Reputation/C (undergrad + PhD ranking / 2) = overall reputation rating, you'd have approximately the following (again, these aren't "my" rankings, I'm just trying to get at what Kealey is saying between the lines of his excellent handbook):

Washington U (current #11): [approx. 15] + [10] + [12 + 39 / 2 = 26] = approx. 51*
UMass (current #12): [approx. 10] + [10] + [39 + 98 / 2 = 69] = approx. 89
UIowa (current #13): [approx. 1] + [1] + [27 + 64 / 2 = 41] = approx. 43

[* Some would put Washington U's Reputation/A (current) rating at roughly 10, instead of 15, which would put its Reputation/A-C at 46, not 51, much closer to Iowa's 43 than it is presently. However, I think the Reputation/A (current) ratings for these schools must somehow reflect the tremendous success in recent years of UMass graduates (for instance, in the much-vaunted, available-in-every-store Legitimate Dangers anthology of top young poets in America, UMass placed the second-most graduates after Iowa, literally double the third-place school, Columbia), and thus for the moment I think it reasonable to (as between these three programs) to do something to indicate UMass's unique present place amongst MFA programs. And yes, I realize the horrid crassness of applying numbers of any kind to Art, but I'm trying to deduce from Kealey's book a ranking system which will be a genuinely helpful resource for lost-and-confused prospective MFA students/artists, and in no way a slap in the face of those artists or their art].

Given the numbers above: Those of you who would say "Aha! Iowa clearly is #11!" must remember this is only a rough approximation of how one might determine a Reputation/A-C rating, which a) is one of the "soft" data points of the poll and thus disfavored, but also b) is not the first or even the second most-weighted data point in The Kealey Scale (as "funding," a "hard" data point, has that distinction). Thus, under The Kealey Scale, which privileges the funding criteria above all others, but does nevertheless give substantial weight (rightly) to "reputation," Iowa (43) probably still does not and cannot overtake Washington U (51 [or 46]) because of the funding factor. Less clear is whether Iowa (43) should jump over Massachusetts (89) on the strength of its reputation rating and despite the fact that UMass has, at the present time, a much better (NB: and less intra-program competition-inducing) funding scheme. So, there's a chance that some of you writing and e-mailing me have a point, and that at the least Iowa should be moved to #12.

[Also, some of you are suspicious that Kealey's own MFA alma mater is just ahead of Iowa, which again I'll note was not Kealey's specific doing, but my own in trying to "interpret" Kealey. These new numbers may avoid anyone having to deal with the thorny Iowa-versus-Massachusetts/"Was it a 'bias' call?" issue].

S.


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 2, 2007, 12:28 PM

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Re: [umass76] More notes on the fiction MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Bless you for your dedication and work, umass, but I have to admit I'm chuckling a bit right now. This just demonstrates how insanely caught up we can get in rankings. Almost doesn't seem worth it, does it?


laughingman


Jan 2, 2007, 12:51 PM

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Re: [umass76] More notes on the fiction MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

=)

Now we're having a good time. I liked your latest modification of 'the list.' Here's my current thinking, though: How about a dual ranking for Iowa? Call it a top-five program for the first third of admitees (the fully funded), and a top fifteen program for the remainder? Conceivably, the fully-funded writers at Iowa are going to have a comparable experience to the fully funded writers at UCI, Cornell, and Michigan... maybe better!

ps- do you weigh visiting writer schedules in with "reputation," "other," something else, or none of the above?


wordrabbit


Jan 2, 2007, 1:24 PM

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I still think it is incredibly ridiculous that funding counts towards a program's rankings. I believe that funding should be ranked in a different listing all together. Just as some people may prefer New York to small town midwest ans visa versa, some people have plenty of cash to pay for an expensive mfa, while others are struggling to get by. The common thread in looking at programs is the quality of education, reputation of the school, accomplishments of the alumni and faculty, etc. Issues like funding and location are too complicated and varied within programs for each student to be included. Some programs give full funding, but expect a lot of teaching hours in exchange. Some programs, like Iowa, don't give as much funding to some of their students, but give them in state tuition or less. If one program shells out a little more in funding but has a much higher tuition cost, and a program with a lower tuition cost and less funding could still work out to be the better deal. Plus, are you taking into account cost of living for different areas of the country when you consider funding?

Factors that should be ranked should be consistent for any student entering that program.
That, for me, takes funding completely out of the rankings because at many programs (not just iowa) different students receive different levels and types of support. And once you take funding out, as it has been previously acknowledged, Iowa is back up to at least the top five. An applicant's writing sample affects their level of funding - if the committee likes them, they will give them more assistance. Any factor that is affected by the applicant's own application is not a true measure with which to rank a program.

(This post was edited by wordrabbit on Jan 2, 2007, 1:27 PM)


Vermont


Jan 2, 2007, 2:02 PM

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(This post was edited by Vermont on Jan 3, 2007, 9:59 AM)


renapoo


Jan 2, 2007, 4:46 PM

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I still think it is incredibly ridiculous that funding counts towards a program's rankings. I believe that funding should be ranked in a different listing all together. Just as some people may prefer New York to small town midwest ans visa versa, some people have plenty of cash to pay for an expensive mfa, while others are struggling to get by.


I have to disagree. The programs that offer better funding are fundamentally more competitive. Because more students can conceivably afford the program, they have a wider pool of applicants, and they therefore get to accept the writers who they perceive as having the most potential and talent, regardless of those writers' financial situation.

Plus, isn't there some petty, competitive streak in all of us that wants to get offered a ton of money to go to school, even if we don't need it? Isn't money linked with worthiness in our society?

I suppose you could argue that having a good funding situation would trickle down and therefore be reflected in other areas: for example, the most desirable and promising students, regardless of how wealthy they are, will probably choose a program that's paying them to write rather than the other way around. The talent of the student body would sooner or later result in a strong publication record, which would affect the school's reputation or buzz, etc. But why not cut to the chase and JUST LIST FUNDING as a criteria?

p.s. I'm glad that Indiana got bumped out of the # 3 slot. That was borderline absurd. However, I think haggling about whether a school should be a rank higher or lower is pretty silly. Just let the list be, it's imperfect but vaguely useful and well-explained for those who would find fault with it.


umass76


Jan 2, 2007, 5:31 PM

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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] More notes on the fiction MFA [In reply to] Can't Post

Glinda,

Actually, I caught the irony too. :-)

The one thing I hate about doing all this is that I have to wade through numbers when I actually self-identify as "a poet" (and, I suppose, a public defender by day) and not a "number-cruncher." That said, doing this was one way for me to learn a lot about different MFA programs in a very short time--one reason I was willing to do it(!)

S.


augustmaria


Jan 2, 2007, 7:37 PM

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Of course as an Indiana MFA'er, the opinion that IU being ranked so high is borderline absurd is going to hurt my feelings a bit. But, honestly, I think the entire ranking debate is a little silly. Last year as an applicant I was all caught up in it, but once I made the arguably-blind choice on where to go, it just seems...I don't know. When I chose the schools to apply to, I relied on the "gut" method. That is, if I felt it was right, I went for it. I just viewed the rankings as a list of programs in no particular order.

But, seriously guys. Indiana is effing sweet.


umass76


Jan 2, 2007, 10:08 PM

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Laughing Man,

While it's true that Kealey notes several programs which have a history of bringing in a particularly impressive visiting faculty, there's simple too little reliable data on that point, as the amount of resources it would take to look back over, say, the last ten years and determine the "quality" of various visiting faculties would be enormous. That said--lest it seem I've walked into some sort of a trap here--determining faculty "quality" is exactly the sort of thing U.S. News & World Report has been doing to great popular and commercial success for years now (using various methods for their measures, such as professional memberships, awards, publications, other honors, et. al.), so I'm sure if someone had the time and energy and resources, a school's ability to draw in impressive visiting faculties could be included.

So it could hardly be said that determining the strength of a given faculty is "impossible"; frankly, prospective MFA students do it all the time--looking to see which schools have the most "accomplished" faculty--though I rather think a lot of folks would deny doing so (which is odd, as I think even the programs themselves recommend looking into the faculty, and deciding whether or not you admire their work: and unless you think the artistic community in the U.S. is completely perverse, you would, I think, expect there to be some correlation between a writer being proficient in his/her art by your own measure, and that writer receiving the forms of recognition that organizations like U.S. News are able to acknowledge as "hard" data. Not a perfect correlation by any means; at the same time, you wouldn't get much support if you said the last twenty Pulitzer winners were actually chumps, would you?).

As to your question about affording Iowa "three separate rankings"--I do sense you're putting me on--I'll bite anyway and answer that question below.

Vermont,

Not sure if you're indicating agreement with U.S. News's assessment of the situation or not, but I'd have to call that statement by the editors (if it was quoted accurately; I haven't seen that comment myself) completely absurd. Does anyone really think that law schools, medical schools, engineering schools, economics PhD. programs, et. al., really were so amenable to being ranked before U.S. News "found" a way to do so? It's preposterous. Either schools can't be ranked or they can (acknowledging, once again, that any ranking is nothing more than one resource amongst many). As a lawyer, I actually find it a little offensive that U.S. News would claim we (lawyers) are so predictable in our values that we can be led, like sheep, toward a ranking system which has some sort of internal validity in our community, but artists--those artists!--couldn't possibly have the wool pulled over their eyes like those lawyers, and doctors, and engineers, and art history doctorate-holders, and economics doctorate-holders, and the thirty other educational disciplines which apparently "can" be ranked (which is all of them, really, except poetry/fiction and their kin)...

The simple facts are these:

1) "Hard" data exists; it is a real concept.
2) "Hard" data can be found in every educational/artistic discipline.
2) "Hard" data never exists in sufficient quantity to perfectly map one school (of any stripe) against another.
3) If you believe, however, that sufficient "hard" data can be mustered to craft a ranking for one type of educational discipline, you believe it can be mustered to craft a ranking for any educational discipline.
4) The only concession maxim #3 requires of us is that some disciplines are more easily mapped than others, and that no mapping should be used as the sole resource for a prospective __________ student.

Wordrabbit,

First, let me say that very few schools have tiered funding systems; I know, I've now done the research. Many schools do, however, offer school-based funding (e.g. grants) to [X]% of their students and little or none to the rest of them (aid derived through the FAFSA form excepted). There is a difference. Frankly most people see 100% funding for all students as better than 50% funding for 10% of students, and so it seems clear that, taken on its own terms, The Kealey Scale is able to distinguish between one school and another from the perspective of the average student. Meaning, because the rankings don't know who you are--and because the very concept of rankings so obviously requires that the rankings assume they know nothing about you and that you are, in fact, the "average" applicant--they can't take into account your financial resources, your religion, your gender, your race, your favorite color, your favorite band, your weight, your height, or how many presents you got for your birthday last year. I thought that was obvious...?

I've no qualm about those who simply abhor rankings, or who genuinely believe they can articulate a reason why educational organizations can never be ranked. Those positions are valid, though to varying extents I do disagree with them.

What's not valid is saying in conclusory fashion that "MFAs are different," when there's no evidence whatsoever that "hard" data doesn't exist for MFA programs and can't be, consequently, measured accurately. I've already recited at least a dozen "hard" criteria which MFAs can be measured by, criteria which do legitimately matter to incoming students (who would ever say, for instance, that student-to-faculty ratio--a known quantity for every MFA program in America, just read their websites--doesn't matter in an art degree where you're learning an art?).

Equally dodgy is the notion that "funding" cannot be used as a data point. Since when? Since the early 1990s, when U.S. News started looking at it and most people accepted that usage, or just now, when we're talking about MFAs? How in the world are MFA programs not amenable to any of the following criteria (hint: I'm about to list all the criteria applied to undergraduate programs in the United States by U.S. News & World Report):

1. Peer assessment score.
2. Retention rate.
3. Graduation rate.
4. Faculty resources rank.
5. Average size of classes.
6. Standardized test 25th-75th percentile.
7. Acceptance rate.
8. Alumni giving.
9. Student-to-faculty ratio.
10. Selectivity rank.
11. Incoming students in top 10% of class at former school.
12. Financial resources rank.

It's one thing for U.S. News to say that the MFA programs won't release this data (which may or may not be true, I have no idea), it's another thing altogether to claim, as "Vermont" says U.S. News has claimed, that "there is no set criteria to go by [for MFA programs]." What strange words! No "set" criteria? Were there "set" criteria for ranking undergraduate programs before U.S. News itself decided to "set" them? How about this idea that U.S. News simply "goes by" certain "hard" data points--when in fact, they choose those data points themselves and in some instances even invent them ("Selectivity Rank" comes to mind)?

The whole premise of The Kealey Scale is to affirm that we have sufficient "hard" data about MFA programs that, augmented with some soft data, we can craft an approximate ranking which will be, at best, one resource out of many for prospective MFA students. It's not a particularly ground-breaking (or even aggressively audacious/ambitious) premise, frankly.

My million-dollar question to Wordrabbit would be, "If the Financial Resources Rank of an undergraduate institution is relevant to the U.S. News & World Report ranking of undergraduate institutions, in large part because it dictates the ability of a school to provide benefits to its students (e.g., financial aid), why would it be irrelevant, let alone impossible, to create a Financial Resources Rank for MFA programs--particularly when the schools to be assessed are in most cases schools which have already been tagged with a Financial Resources Rank for another of their departments (cf. the undergraduate wing of the school)?"

In the same way that anyone who isn't worried about whether they'll graduate from undergrad can probably ignore the Graduation Rate data for prospective undergraduate schools; in the same way that anyone who doesn't care about sitting in giant lecture-driven classes can ignore the Class Size data for prospective undergraduate schools; in the same way that Alumni Giving is and has always been an irrelevant data point for anyone going to any school, not because it isn't great to give to one's alma mater, but because alumni giving stats are really no way to deduce student satisfaction (why not just commission a poll?), as people give for different reasons (and schools whose graduates generally have lower incomes may be satisfied but give less frequently, or give in non-monetary forms, just as alumni from schools already rich in endowment may "see no need" to give or give in funds) and what conclusion can you draw, really, from 50% of one school's alumni giving back to the school financially, as compared to 56% of another school?; just as student-to-faculty ratio and peer assessment scores aren't important to those who don't want to know their teachers or who don't care what others think of their school, respectively; just as with all those potentially "irrelevant" data points, sure, if you're independently rich or have no problem about living under massive, debilitating federal and private debt, you don't need to consider funding.

But most people aren't independently wealthy, and/or prefer to pay less for their art degree as opposed to more if given half the chance. And because those people are in the majority, in fact the overwhelming majority--just like the people who believe student-to-faculty ratio is important are in the majority--they win. It's that simple: they win, and they get rankings which reflect (at least some of) their values, because the rankings recognize those prospective students as "average" prospective students, and any ranking system must identify just such a subset before it is developed.

S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 2, 2007, 10:15 PM)


wordrabbit


Jan 2, 2007, 10:32 PM

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My million-dollar question to Wordrabbit would be, "If the Financial Resources Rank of an undergraduate institution is relevant to the U.S. News & World Report ranking of undergraduate institutions, in large part because it dictates the ability of a school to provide benefits to its students (e.g., financial aid), why would it be irrelevant, let alone impossible, to create a Financial Resources Rank for MFA programs--particularly when the schools to be assessed are in most cases schools which have already been tagged with a Financial Resources Rank for another of their departments (cf. the undergraduate wing of the school)?"

---

(from the us news website)

Financial resources (10 percent). Generous per-student spending indicates that a college can offer a wide variety of programs and services. U.S. News measures the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services, and related educational expenditures in the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years.


The above does not state that they use funding as a criteria - it says very specifically that it is considering per-student funding. That, I believe, does matter in terms of ranking a college, but how much a college spends giving a scholarship to an incoming student, or a teaching assistanceship, does not alone represent an accurate financial resources score. A place like Columbia, for example, might spend ten times as much as a smaller program per student, when you take into account visiting lectures, number of faculty, etc., while a smaller less wealthy program might give their students the five thousand a year for tuition, but doesn't spend very much more beyond that on their education. So while I agree fully that how much an institution spends on their student matters greatly, and prospective students should consider that, I believe that is not measured by funding alone, but instead in the whole of what a university offers their students, and what they are willing/able to pay to offer it.


Fear&Loathing


Jan 3, 2007, 12:40 AM

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Dude, you write long answers. You should just write your own book or something about getting in. You have a fully formed modus operandi. Out of curiosity, why did you put the Kealey Scale together? Applying yourself to programs?

There he goeth
The lone poet.
His Kealey Scale
The tell all tale.
Let's toast to his posts,
But watch if he boasts.


umass76


Jan 3, 2007, 12:48 AM

Post #135 of 764 (11569 views)
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Rabbit,

I think we may have to agree to disagree as to whether school-sponsored grants are covered under the definition of "related educational expenditures" in the U.S. News criteria. I certainly can't imagine any school administrator worth his/her salt not lobbying hard--overtly or covertly--to get that sort of expenditure counted by U.S. News as a measure of his/her school's generosity.

Comparing undergraduate funding schemes--which are wholly based on the FAFSA--to the expectations inherent in pursuing an MFA degree (i.e., just as for many other graduate degrees in "non-major" fields [law, medicine, engineering], there is a reasonable expectation of a partial tuition waiver) is a mistake. There just isn't the same assumption with an MFA as with a BA--that you're going to finance the whole degree through massive, back-breaking loans.

Obviously I agree (at least I hope it's obvious from what I've said!) that there are some assets a school may have which can't be ranked under any scheme. For instance, the physical plant (i.e., the campus itself, with all its brick and all its grass and everything in between). How do you measure that? You don't. Which is why we need rankings--but also need other resources, as I've stressed from the beginning, to assess intangibles (that's why, for instance, people often take campus tours, as imperfect as that stratagem is). Honestly, I just can't tell whether you're making an all-rankings-are-bad argument or a these-rankings-are-bad argument; either way, I'm just not getting it.

S.


umass76


Jan 3, 2007, 12:50 AM

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F&L,
Yep. I mentioned it in the post just before the rankings post, on my blog.
S.

P.S. I'm a criminal attorney and therefore love the sound of my own voice (entirely without justification or excuse, of course).


renapoo


Jan 3, 2007, 1:00 AM

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Augustmaria,

Sorry! Didn't mean to offend. Borderline absurd in my world is not necessarily anywhere near absurd in other people's estimation. Personally I'd have trouble ranking it above Cornell or Virginia, but that's just me.

Do you really love Indiana? I decided not to apply at the last minute for two reasons-- first, because I *really* don't want to teach more than 1 class a semester, and I thought I gleaned from their website that sometimes this happens. And also, there was some weird negative energy surrounding Indiana on this board, uh, last year maybe, that I probably shouldn't have taken seriously, but you know, it adds up. Plus I'm not in love with the midwest, no matter how neato bloomington is. But if you're having a totally different experience--maybe you can elaborate on the teaching load?--I'd love to hear it, even though it's too late now for me.


augustmaria


Jan 3, 2007, 7:14 AM

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Well, I'm a first-year and living in the cushy land of fellowships that keep me from teaching more than one course a semester, but I've heard enough second-years complain about teaching comp that I am anticipating it to be sort of a drag. (First-years teach an introductory creative writing course.) But I honestly love teaching, and I don't think teaching comp will change that too much. Right now I spend 100 minutes a week actually teaching and maybe three hours a week grading and coming up with lesson plans, etc. Teaching is really natural to me, so I don't stress about it too much. I know other students in the program spend hours and hours with grading, but I've been told that you put as much as you want into teaching and that it's going to work out no matter what. This makes me sound like a complete flake, but I find it to be true.

In the spring, second-years teach two sections of comp--I'm not sure about third years. I do know that there are several ways to lighten your teaching load, namely working on the Indiana Review. But if you plan everything right, your entire third year can just be thesis hours, so I imagine that teaching would be easier when you're taking no real classes.

And the negative stuff that appeared on here about Indiana is bull. The race thing--I don't even know. The entire incoming poetry class was white. There is one non-white poet. Fiction's got some more diversity. I was accepted and I'm a young, white female from the northeast. My writing focuses on young white girls. I don't know what any of that means, and I don't really want to get into the race discussion at all, whatsoever, but in my opinion, the huge discussion that happened last year was complete, hypersensitive bull.

And Bloomington is wonderful. It is not overpriced! I have no idea why anyone would come to that conclusion. I've got a roomy one-bedroom right downtown, within easy walking distance to campus, and I'm paying around $450 a month. Now I think that's pretty good.

Plus, Bloomington is just pretty and has lots of stuff going on, the campus is gorgeous and I really am having a good time. Some things drive me crazy, and sometimes I mutter under my breath, "I should have gone to Bowling Green" but I'm getting to go to school for free, getting paid to teach (as though I know what I'm talking about at all...), and I'm being given time to get my stuff written.

Bloomington is not your typical midwest town, btw. Not that I know a whole lot about the midwest, but Bloomington reminds me of Portland, Maine. Bottom line: Indiana gives you a great stipend, yeah for a semester or two you have to teach two classes, but it's really not that big of a deal. < / trying to sell IU to applicants >


umass76


Jan 3, 2007, 4:38 PM

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I'm guessing many may have seen this already, but I've created a "quick-link" for the new 2006 Creative Writing MFA rankings. Hope this makes navigation of the rankings easier (there's still a link to the "Long Post" at the top of the page this link takes you to):

http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/...mfa-rankings_31.html

Also, there's now a permanent link to The Kealey Scale rankings on the right-hand frame of my blog:

http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/

I don't want folks who've already read through the "Long Post" to have to scroll all the way down to the rankings each time.

S.

P.S. Tom Kealey has also been nice enough to note my efforts on his outstanding blog:

http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/


jargreen

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Jan 4, 2007, 12:56 AM

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My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

Wasn't the USNWR's 1997 rankings a measure of reputation, based upon a survey of creative writing faculties across the country? Don't those people tend to know a lot about each other's programs? I've always thought that those rankings were fabulous, and I only wish they'd done another survey every five years. It was using that list that I knew where to begin my search, looking at funding, location, and faculty until I found the right fit for me.

Thanks to Umass76 for providing a modern-day reconfiguration. However, I've surprised myself by drawing the conclusion that the '97 rankings are more reliable. I loved Kealey's book, but I've come to disagree with an awful lot of what he said. For instance, when he mentioned UC Irvine as "one of the top five programs in the country, and possibly the best," he must have been talking about the handful of programs that hadn't assembled a fiction faculty yet (which also includes Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Oregon). Maryland he'd said had "An outstanding faculty. I mean, really outstanding"; you can imagine my disappointment when I found only one fiction member.

I believe that the people (faculty and students) make the program, not the money. Plenty of applicants, I'm sure, would pay to be an Iowa Writers' Workshop alum rather than go to Purdue for free. Funding, like location, should be a factor that each person takes into consideration based upon how far he's willing to go. The great programs that insult us with crappy funding--Iowa, Columbia, Arizona--should nevertheless be acknowledged as expensive great programs.

Here's how I ranked the fiction programs I researched:

1. Michigan
2. Iowa
3. Virginia
4. Houston
5. Texas
6. Johns Hopkins
7. Massachusetts
8. Washington in St. Louis
9. Minnesota
10. Columbia
11. Florida
12. Cornell
13. Brown
14. Arizona
15. Syracuse
16. Indiana
17. Illinois
18. Arizona State
19. NYU
20. Colorado State
21. Washington
22. Bowling Green State
23. Montana
24. Mississippi
25. Wisconsin
26. Oregon
27. UC Irvine
28. Emerson
29. Pittsburgh
30. Hollins
31. Southern Illinois
32. UNC Wilmington
33. Arkansas
34. George Mason
35. UNLV
36. Notre Dame
37. Utah
38. Sarah Lawrence
39. Ohio State
40. Warren Wilson
41. Alabama
42. Florida State
43. Eastern Washington
44. Iowa State
45. UNC Greensboro
46. Brooklyn College
47. Louisiana State
48. Western Michigan
49. Penn State
50. Maryland

Honorable Mention: Wichita State, Colorado, Miami, South Carolina, Cleveland State, American U, Bennington, Georgia State, New Hampshire, San Francisco State, Purdue, Mills, New Mexico State, Cal State Fresno, The New School, Vermont College, Kansas, Goddard, Texas State, West Virginia, Minnesota State Mankato, Georgia, New Mexico


renapoo


Jan 4, 2007, 1:16 AM

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I'm pretty sure Ron Carlson is replacing Geoffrey Woolf as the head of the program at Irvine. Why they aren't advertising that fact on their site, though, remains a mystery.


hamholio


Jan 4, 2007, 2:11 AM

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umass76


Jan 4, 2007, 2:12 AM

Post #143 of 764 (11387 views)
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Jargreen,

Have to admit I'm a little confused. I mean that seriously. Take a look at this comparison of your rankings, the U.S. News rankings, and The Kealey Scale, and I think you'll find that you are much closer to Kealey than U.S. News:

* COMPARISON *

Your Top 20 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 20 --> Schools in common (16/20): Michigan, Iowa, Virginia, Houston, Texas, Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts, Washington in St. Louis, Minnesota, Columbia, Florida, Cornell, Brown, Syracuse, Indiana, NYU.

Your Top 20 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 20 --> Schools NOT in common (4/20): Illinois, Arizona State, Colorado State, Arizona.

If we assume--as Kealey would, I do, and U.S. News does/do, that rankings are not exact, and that you look at "tiers" as much as specific numerical orderings--we'd have to say that, as to the Top 20 programs, you must be saying you feel the 1997 rankings are "more reliable" than the 2006 rankings because Kealey did not give Illinois, Arizona State, Colorado State, and Arizona the "Top 20 props" that you did.

Problem there: Kealey would rank Illinois somewhere between 51 and 53 (as it's one of the five non-low residency programs in the Honorable Mention section); U.S. News ranked it 72; and you ranked it 17. So Kealey is more than 20 ranking spots closer to your ranking than U.S. News was.

Arizona State: Kealey 34, You 18, U.S. News 20-29 (as U.S. News had Arizona State in a ten-way tie for 20th place in the rankings, we can't know whether ASU was the worst of those ten #20s, the best, or somewhere in between). Advantage: U.S. News, but potentially by as few as 5 spots.

Arizona: Kealey 27, You 14, U.S. News 9. Advantage: U.S. News, by 8 spots.
Colorado State: Kealey 47, You 20, U.S. News 50. Advantage: Kealey, by 3 spots.

*

Your Top 21-40 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 21-40 --> Schools in common (11/20): Washington, Montana, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Hollins, Arkansas, George Mason, Notre Dame, Utah, Sarah Lawrence.

Your Top 21-40 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 21-40 --> Schools NOT in common (8/20): Bowling Green, Oregon, UC-Irvine, Emerson, SIU, UNC-Wilmington, UNLV, Ohio State.

Not counted: Warren Wilson (The Kealey Scale doesn't address low-res programs).

Bowling Green State: You 22, Kealey NR, U.S. News 72-81. Advantage: unknown.
Oregon: You 26, Kealey 18, U.S. News 33-36. Advantage: tie.
UC Irvine: You 27, Kealey 1, U.S. News 6-7. Advantage: U.S. News, by 5 or 6 spots.
Emerson: You 28, Kealey 45, U.S. News 20-29. Advantage: U.S. News, by 9 to 16 spots.
Southern Illinois: You 31, Kealey 51-53, U.S. News 50-61. Advantage: tie.
UNC Wilmington: You 32, Kealey 48, U.S. News NR. Advantage: Kealey, by unknown amount.
UNLV: You 35, Kealey 17, U.S. News NR. Advantage: Kealey, by unknown amount.
Ohio State: You 39, Kealey NR, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: U.S. News, by unknown amount.

*

Your Top 41-50 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 41-50 --> Schools in common (5/10): Eastern Washington, Iowa State, Brooklyn, LSU, Maryland

Your Top 41-50 vs. The Kealey Scale Top 41-50 --> Schools NOT in common (5/10): Alabama, Florida State, UNC-Greensboro, Penn State, Western Michigan.

Alabama: You 41, Kealey 33, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: U.S. News, by 4 spots.
Florida State: You 42, Kealey 19, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: U.S. News, by 19 spots.
UNC Greensboro: You 45, Kealey 38, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: unknown.
Western Michigan: You 48, Kealey NR, U.S. News 46. Advantage: U.S. News, by unknown amount.
Penn State: You 49, Kealey 29, U.S. News 37-45. Advantage: U.S. News, by 4-8 spots.

*

For the Top 40 rankings at least (though the last ten rankings, too, are deceptively close), it would seem to be a draw--your rankings align roughly equally with Kealey and U.S. News, making neither one (presumably, "in your view") more accurate or reliable than the other.

Except for the one fact you're missing: where Kealey and you have listed the same schools in a tier, U.S. News often is nowhere close to your (and Kealey's) rankings. For instance, here are some notable discrepancies between your rankings for schools in each tier and U.S. News's rankings:

You (Top 20): Minnesota (U.S. News 62-71); Syracuse (20-29); Texas (30-32).

You (21-40): Mississippi (U.S. News unranked); Wisconsin (U.S. News unranked); Notre Dame (U.S. News 83-94); Montana (U.S. News 10); Washington (U.S. News 10).

You (41-50): Brooklyn (U.S. News 62-71), LSU (U.S. News unranked); Maryland (U.S. News 20-29).

Consider, that just in terms of Minnesota, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and LSU--five schools which are in your top 50--U.S. News didn't even rank three of them in the top 94 schools, and two schools were ranked by U.S. News approximately 50 spots away from your own ranking. Then there are these additional striking discrepancies: UNC Wilmington (63+ [i.e. unknown] spots of difference between your rankings and U.S. News); UNLV (59+ [i.e. unknown] spots of difference); Bowling Green (50-59 spots); Texas (25-27); Maryland (21); SIU (19-30); Brooklyn (16-25); Montana (8-13); Washington (6-11); Syracuse (5-14).

Where you and Kealey disagree (i.e., where you put schools in different "tiers"), it's often not by much. Only five schools saw discrepancies of more than 20 spots: Illinois (34 spots, the largest measureable disagreement); Bowling Green (33); Colorado State (27); UC-Irvine (26); and Florida State (23). Eleven schools saw 20-spot or less disparities: SIU (20); Penn State (20); UNLV (18); Emerson (17); UNC-Wilmington (16); Arizona State (16); Ohio State (16); Arizona (13); Oregon (8); Alabama (8); UNC Greensboro (7). Average disagreement: 18 spots, with Western Michigan being the only indeterminate discrepancy (you have WMU at 48, and Kealey goes up to about 55, so it might be as little as an 8 spot difference, depending upon whether WMU is ranked #56 by Kealey [theoretically speaking] or higher).

It seems to me that your own rankings prove that The Kealey Scale is closer to what you believe than U.S. News is, and even then the difference is exaggerated by just a few schools you disagree vehemently with Kealey on: i.e., only five schools total were more than 20 spots from where you thought they should be, and remember that 20 spots could well be "in-tier"; for U.S. News, it's twelve schools total who are beyond that margin of error. So only 10% of The Kealey Scale Top 50 rankings (5 of 50) were outside a reasonable margin of error, whereas 24% of U.S. News rankings (12 of 50) were outside that margin.

U.S. News therefore was 2.4 times more likely than The Kealey Scale to result in an "out of MoE [21-spot+]" difference with your own rankings. How does that make them more accurate or reliable, as opposed to what I think you're really saying, which is that they're more comfort(able/ing) to you, because you hate that UC-Irvine pick?

S.



(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 4, 2007, 2:30 AM)


umass76


Jan 4, 2007, 2:25 AM

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P.S. Ham and Jar, I obviously don't mind you guys knocking The Kealey Scale if you've got your facts straight. The problem is, I know Jar's understandably a bit jarred by the UC-Irvine ranking, which I think is what caused him/her to not run the numbers and instead state, erroneously, that The Kealey Scale was somehow further from his/her own private rankings than was USNWR.

Ham, in contrast, still needs to read the Introduction to The Kealey Scale (Long Post), as it addresses and puts to bed, I think, the concern that somehow USNWR is a "reputation" ranking but The Kealey Scale doesn't adequately address reputation at all:

[BEGIN QUOTE]

While The Kealey Scale is cognizant of, and takes into consideration, the U.S. News rankings in terms of their narrowly-focused "reputation" analyses, it also a) acknowledges what should have been obvious to everyone back in 1997, that the ranking system employed by U.S. News & World Report had no means (or intentions) whatsoever to make fine distinctions between programs, and b) augments the U.S. News analysis by more than a dozen additional criteria to be employed for the consideration and weighing of MFA programs....The Kealey Scale actually encompasses the 1997 U.S. News rankings, if those rankings are viewed "on their own terms": that is, Kealey believes the U.S. News rankings fairly accurately represent a single measure of the schools ranked, that is, their general "reputation." Consequently, the 1997 U.S. News rankings do have some bearing on the rankings below, in the sense that The Kealey Scale (so far as the "reputation" element is concerned) is roughly the same as, and synonymous with, the U.S. News rankings....The sixteen categories utilized in The Kealey Scale, listed in approximate order of weighting (heaviest to lightest), are:

Funding
In-State Tuition
Reputation/A (cf. 2006 approx.)
Teaching Opportunities
Faculty
One-on-One Tutorials
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Reputation/B (cf. 1997 ranking)....


[END QUOTE]

(NB: I omitted "Location" from the list above because it's not in the top ten factors for weighting, it's only the "top" factor, says Kealey, for individual decision-making about MFAs, which is quite apart from his weighting it heavily in his quasi-mathematical analysis).

So, this whole "give me a reputation ranking over a funding ranking any day" is simply hogwash.

Look, the USNWR ranking is a "reputation-only" ranking, The Kealey Scale is a "reputation-plus-fifteen-factors" ranking, and the greatest part of the "reputation" rating in The Kealey Scale is the very same USNWR ranking you guys are so excited about.

Who knew a poll from a decade ago, which was discontinued after its editors conceded its methodology was useless, would be so hard to let go of!

S.


jargreen

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Jan 4, 2007, 4:12 AM

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Umass76,

You'll have to forgive me for thinking your response a little deranged. As a fellow Scorpio, I know what it is to commit yourself to an idea and defend it mercilessly. But as you go through the tiers, you demonstrate that my rankings are much more often closer to USNWR's than to Kealey's, which makes sense as mine are based largely on faculty and reputation.

I must point out that 16 of my top twenty programs are in USNWR's top twenty too, as you've acknowledged there is a ten-way tie at #20. Some of the major points at which USNWR and I divert from Kealey is with Iowa (USNWR ranks it #1 and I rank it #2, while Kealey's book seems to indicate that it is barely a top twenty program), Indiana (USNWR and I agree that it is a mid-teen program, while Kealey has it competing for the top spot), Arizona (USNWR calls it a top ten program, I have it in my top fifteen, and you have it barely in the top thirty), and Arizona State (USNWR and I agree it's a solid top twenty program, while it is #34 on Kealey), just for starters.

Great writing programs such as Bowling Green State's and Southern Illinois's were ranked by USNWR, while Kealey apparently was unaware of them. Quite a few graduates of BGSU that are on creative writing faculties around the country would be scratching their heads at Kealey's oversight.

Kealey points out that the only explanation for Minnesota's low ranking by USNWR was that it was a very new program. Three years of full funding, a great publishing city, and Charles Baxter are good enough reasons to rank it as high as you and I did. Illinois's program did not exist until five years ago, which is why it did not make the '97 list (UIC's MA program was ranked at #72). But it's full funding, massive faculty, and association with a top-notch English department are good enough indicators of a top thirty debut, rather than honorable mention.

But, yes, as I've exhibited in several of my posts, the major question I have reading the Kealey list is, how could UC Irvine possibly be ranked #1? Surely #6 is high enough, as it is ranked on USNWR's list. Brushing this very urgent question aside, ranking Iowa and Columbia at #12 and #16 because of poor funding is misguided. That a Lexus costs far more than a Saturn does not make the Lexus a lesser car. Basing the quality of a program on funding (which would seem to more accurately estimate the value of the program) seems absurd to me, as one tends to have to pay a greater sum for the better things in life. If I would rack up $60K in debt pursuing any other graduate degree, then I'd rack up that kind of debt studying under great writers.

When I say that the USNWR rankings seem more reliable to me, it can be for several reasons: (1) They are the opinions of creative writing faculties nationwide as opposed to one man; (2) they do not factor in funding or location, which can be terribly subjective criteria; (3) they evidently factor in one very broad question rather than an assortment of questions that can be answered for some programs and are left unanswered for others; and (4) I simply have a longer history with them.

Don't get me wrong: Kealey's book is a wonderful tool, as are the nine-year-old USNWR rankings. But what I'm trying to unearth is a consensus opinion in my field as to which programs have a stronger reputation for excellence, and that makes the USNWR list a slightly sharper tool. The Kealey list fleshes out the story a bit, alerting me to those programs who have superior funding, have a universally appealing location, and just may have shot up in the rankings over the last decade.

Best,
Ryan


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 4, 2007, 4:27 AM

Post #146 of 764 (11374 views)
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Re: [umass76] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you'll see in the reply I just posted that there are some errors in your assessment of my assessment of your assessment of Kealey's assessment of graduate writing programs. In summary, I would like to point out two very substantial problems that may occur with your rankings. First, the USNWR rankings are based upon a survey of creative writing faculties nationwide; yours are based on the opinon of one man. Second, the USNWR rankings are based upon one very broad question that is applied to all programs, while yours are based upon a list of sixteen items that may be measured accurately for some schools and are likely left incomplete for lesser known programs. Thus, my little Bowling Green State gets left off.

Now, perhaps I was being oafish in posting my own rankings, but trust that it is based upon 2-3 years of obsessive research in which my opinions of most schools danced all over the map; and, if anything, I think that it demonstrated that one student's opinions can only stack up so highly to the wisdom of a panel of professors. I would expect others to believe the USNWR rankings to be more reliable than mine!

Readers, I beseech you: Can we not use both lists?

Best,
Ryan


(This post was edited by jargreen on Jan 4, 2007, 6:18 AM)


jacarty
Jessie Carty
e-mail user

Jan 4, 2007, 8:58 AM

Post #147 of 764 (11349 views)
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Re: [jargreen] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

I used both Kealy and US News in the briefest of senses.
I think all of this just comes down to personal preference. Sure you can use it as a guide to tell you where the schools are, who pays the most, who has the best reputation but we each are going to have our own guideline on what makes a good school for us.

For me, I had to have a low-res program and while I would have liked funding I wasn't going to be able to go to long residencies (ie 10 or more days twice a year) so I had to go for shorter residencies and throw out funding b/c I wanted to do this now.

Of course, I went through this whole debate when I did my undergrad. I had a personal preference for UNC-Greensboro when I could have gone anywhere in the state but everyone asked me after I got in "what you couldn't get into chapel hill?". No, I could get into Chapel Hill I just chose to go to a different school.

Anyway, I am babbling and just wanted to add this note because the debate has been interesting, but ultimately we all have our reasons why we pick a particular school to apply to.

**tosses out her two cents, now darn i don't have enough money for lunch**


http://jessiecarty.com


renapoo


Jan 4, 2007, 11:46 AM

Post #148 of 764 (11324 views)
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Re: [jacarty] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

The funny thing is, once a ranking like U.S. News comes out, or a non-ranking but opinionated book/blog like kealey's, that information/opinion changes people's opinions. UT Austin was a bit lost in the old U.S. News ranking, but Kealey brought attention to it and, if we go by the "Kealey Scale" we see that it's the number two program in the country. That means more people will hear about it, more people will apply, the pool will get more competitive, their reputation will improve, and voila! They BECOME the program that the ranking says they are. Meanwhile a good program languishing at the bottom of the list will get overlooked by people (myself included) obsessed with going to one of the best schools in the nation, and will therefore lose out on applicants and most likely become a weaker program overall.

In other words, these rankings matter more than we think they do, which is probably why Kealey decided to avoid publishing a numerical list in the first place.


hamholio


Jan 4, 2007, 12:51 PM

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ApollosQ


Jan 4, 2007, 1:31 PM

Post #150 of 764 (11287 views)
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Re: [hamholio] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

Posts on this thread need to be shorter. I'm losing all the facts in this mass of rhetoric. (Of course, I'm here, so obviously there's something worth reading.) Channel Hemingway or Twain for a moment, if you will. ;)

Can someone adequately explain to me in 100 words or less what is wrong with Iowa's funding?

It's been mentioned numerous times with minimal factual data or context. It's not that I don't believe people's assessment's thereof, but rather that I want to understand exactly what it is that is so bad about it.

(Naturally, I spent yesterday in a chaotic rush to get my Iowa application in on time, having blown off Michigan & Virginia just days earlier. Now y'all are giving me buyer's -- or idiot's -- remorse! ;p Funding's a major concern for me.)


(This post was edited by ApollosQ on Jan 4, 2007, 1:33 PM)


Dirty Deeds


Jan 4, 2007, 1:35 PM

Post #151 of 764 (10749 views)
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Re: [hamholio] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess I am a little shocked how much people actually care about these rankings or the past rankings. (no offense to anybody, specially Umass) Like many people stated (even the almighty Kealey) any ranking system is flawed and more importantly should only be used as a guide. Jargreen posted a list of his personal top programs etc... and my main reason for posting is that (do I have a point... prolly not- at least nothing that hasn't been said before) although UC Irvine is a very good program (maybe not in the eyes of some) but their fiction program is far superior to their poetry program. So with both ranking systems, there are obviously programs that don't fair to well but are really good in one genre and not another or not as strong and if they are lucky they have two solid programs.

if there was a way to rank each genre and then an overall, it might be more helpful, but there are more than just fiction and poetry offered at a lot of schools (and thus another problem)
anyways thats my two cents
i quit life
dd


jw13


Jan 4, 2007, 1:41 PM

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statcians or writers [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been watching replies in this thread increase pretty rapidly over the last few days. I'm curious why everyone is so concerned with packaging learning, knowledge and time into rankings. For me, this MFA Program thread has helped clarify my own applications and confirm that the schools I'm interested in suit my personality and writing style. I have always tried to steer clear of words like best or new, and instead focus on, "Is it me?" or "Do I believe in it?" Maybe this is an over-simplification.

But at the end of the day, when one has decided what school is the most celebrated or has the most funding or has the most accomplished faculty, will they still be writing words that they're most proud of? I hope so.

I don't mean to belittle anyone's interest, but am very curious what this debate will accomplish.


HopperFu


Jan 4, 2007, 2:24 PM

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In Reply To
Can someone adequately explain to me in 100 words or less what is wrong with Iowa's funding?


Here's a go: funding at Iowa is tiered. Approximately two writers a year recieve full fellowships for the two years (stipend plus tuition waiver). Funding, in exchange for teaching or other work is uneven for other 23 writers in each program. Those writers recieve funding running the gamut from a decent stipend and tuition waiver to almost nothing. At the end of the first year, all writers except for the fellows have their funding reviewed, meaning that your funding may increase or decrease dramatically. Iowa students - and this seems to depend on how they liked their time there, and at least partially, what their own funding situation was - have said that a) it felt really competitive and horrible, or b) that it was no big deal.
According to a frequent poster here (who is a recent Iowa alum) everybody should be able to finagle some sort of funding, and in state tuition at Iowa is relatively inexpensive.

This model of funding is compared to a number of programs that offer full-funding (a livable stipend plus tuition waiver, usually in exchange for some teaching) to ALL students.


jaywalke


Jan 4, 2007, 2:54 PM

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In Reply To
I don't mean to belittle anyone's interest, but am very curious what this debate will accomplish.


An MFA can be a leap of faith, and the belief that your particular brass ring is the shiniest may help justify it for some folks on the ledge.

It could also be a type of thinking-out-loud. In a few months some people here (hopefully) will have to decide between multiple offers in a short period of time, and having the programs ranked for yourself in advance might save a bit of stress.

Finally, (and I think most importantly) it helps pass the time until schools make their decisions!


umass76


Jan 4, 2007, 3:07 PM

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Re: [jargreen] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

Ryan,

Apart from the fact that we disagree about what your own calculations showed about the accuracy of The Kealey Scale (a contention on my part which you may feel is "deranged," but which I'm perfectly happy to rest on, as it's clearly correct), I really think you're a little confused about how the USNWR poll worked in the first place. Quite simply, there's a reason USNWR discarded that poll's "methodology" (such as it was) almost a decade ago, and here it is:

The poll asked various higher-education school officials--some directly linked to CW programs, some not--to rank the "reputation" of various schools on the same sort of quasi-mathematical scale elementary-school children use in their playground games: 1 to 5. It's the least sophisticated rating system one could possibly devise. Not only were these officials not told what a "5" meant, and a "4," and so on--no, they were left to each, individually, draw those conclusions for themselves (and you better believe they didn't all come to the same conclusion)--they also were told not to rank any school they didn't know well, meaning, different MFA programs received different numbers of reputation ratings (Iowa probably the most, and lesser-known schools far fewer). Finally, they weren't told how to measure reputation, or what that word even meant in this context (e.g., reputation for what? Funding students? Finding graduates jobs? Graduating talented artists?). So, the upshot is that you had school officials not necessarily "in the know" selectively choosing which schools to rank using a system whose central terms (cf. "reputation") were undefined and whose rating scale was, likewise, undefined and perhaps even puerile.

But it gets worse. Because the rankings were released in 2007, some of the data was acquired in 2006 and some in 2007; the rankings were therefore based--it's safe to assume--on how various MFA programs were doing in the, say, five years leading up to the questions being posed to school administrators by USNWR. That means the 1997 rankings are probably, at best, a reflection of where schools were in terms of "reputation" (again, a term which is undefined) between 1991 and 1996. The Kealey Scale is a snapshot of where we stand in 2007. In other words, the impressionistic scrawlings (on a ridiculous "1 to 5" scale) we see reified in the USNWR are based on observations made as many as 15 years ago.

Why would you assume, based on the now-discarded methodology I've described, that those USNWR ratings had any legitimacy at the time, let alone now? Particularly when your own calculations--and you really do need to go back and read my post again, Ryan, and check your numbers once more--confirm that USNWR simply had no mechanism, whatsoever, to assess in 1997 schools like, say, Notre Dame and Wisconsin and Minnesota and Texas and Mississippi and LSU, which are now well-respected but which were either entirely or at least "more" obscure a decade ago. Even if The Kealey Scale didn't use fifteen additional ranking factors, as compared to the USNWR ranking, the mere passage of time would make The Kealey Scale far more reflective of present reality.

I think your post betrays your biases (and your disgust with UC-Irvine; and your pro-BGSU bias): as you say, you "have more history" with U.S. News; perhaps you should believe them, then, when they denounce their own MFA rankings as useless and without merit. Likewise, you like the idea of "consensus"--so do I--but you don't draw a distinction between a ranking system where every poll respondent must reply to every question, and one in which individuals are allowed to selectively rank the programs they "know well." That strikes me as the injection of more bias, not less, into the process, whatever the "consensus-driven" nature of the overall ranking mechanism might be (i.e., if a school administrator knows nothing of a given MFA program, why shouldn't that fact be held against the program? The best programs are "well-known," right?). Likewise, a consensus isn't even a consensus at all if no one is defining the terms in the same way, or using the 1-to-5 scale in the same way. Under those circumstances--and those were undoubtedly the circumstances back in 1997--I would rather have seen a single dedicated individual apply a consistent set of criteria, with a consistent set of definitions, to a wide range of programs. Tom Kealey has now done that.

Finally, your comment that "funding" is a subjective criteria is just laughable. I can't believe you really believe that. Just because some people get funding and some don't doesn't make the criterion "subjective"--you do know that, right?; a criterion is only "subjective" if it can't be measured, and I can't believe you actually think we can't measure a school's financial activities, particularly when your own rankings-producing heroes at USNWR make such determinations all the time.

S.


umass76


Jan 4, 2007, 3:19 PM

Post #156 of 764 (10709 views)
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Jacarty and JayWalke, Dirty Deeds, jw13,

The darn thing's a guide, nothing more, and just one resource amongst many. Just because rankings are expressed in mathematical language doesn't mean they're intended to be definitive. I've never stated, here or anywhere, that any ranking system is perfect, nor that any system can be used as the sole (or even the primary!) resource in making a life-changing decision like where to go for an MFA. Nor has Kealey said any such thing. What do I hope to accomplish here? Simple: To help folks out. If this Scale helps you, use it--but don't abuse it through over-use. If it doesn't help you, ignore it. I suppose my question would be, why are folks coming to this space just to say they're going to ignore the rankings being discussed here? That's like going to a party just to tell everyone there that you dislike them passionately.

Renapoo,

You make a good point. It can definitely be a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. On the bright side, a good ranking system can also rescue a program that really deserves it: in this instance, for example, Notre Dame. Or Wisconsin. Or any one of the many programs USNWR screwed for no reason that is particularly evident here and now in 1997.

Ham,

I'm sorry to be verbose. I'd like to think I'm not just talking into thin air here, but actually saying things that advance the conversation/debate we're having. As to why I'm fighting so hard for this when the data (and any read of Kealey's Handbook will confirm this) is Kealey's, the answer is that new rankings rise or fall in the first few weeks after they come out. If the anti-ranking crowd shouts down a new ranking or new ranking system, it can disappear quickly. Likewise, if the release of a new ranking is accompanied by confusion over methodology or the employment of fuzzy math/false analogies by its detractors, people may throw up their hands and say the whole effort of learning a new ranking/ranking system just isn't worth it.

Because I know this is the crucial time for The Kealey Scale to be understood, discussed, and legitimized, I'm putting in a whole bunch of personal effort to see that justice is done to it. So, you've got me dead to rights there.


umass76


Jan 4, 2007, 3:25 PM

Post #157 of 764 (10707 views)
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P.S. To Ryan: don't forget that the undisciplined 1-to-5 scale used by USNWR in 1997 was also then used, when it came time for the rankings to be created, to make incredibly fine distinctions between programs. The example I used in The Introduction to my Long Post is that Hollins College scored a 72 in "reputation" (scaled to a 100-point scale), while UNH scored a 64, in the 1997 rankings.

That 8% difference--in a ranking system where every "voter" applied a different meaning to the numbers they chose in the first instance--translated into a 26-spot difference in the rankings. That's indefensible. A single, undefined criterion should never be used to put schools in literally different tiers of quality.


umass76


Jan 4, 2007, 3:29 PM

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HopperFu & ApollosQ,

Whatever Iowa's funding scheme, my advice (to anyone who asked) would still be to apply there. I maintain that, whatever Kealey may say, it's a top ten program and probably a top five program, even with its funding "problems" taken into account. I wouldn't advise anyone (not that I'm anyone to be advising anyone!) to not apply to Iowa because The Kealey Scale puts it at #12. Apply!

S.


Mainer


Jan 4, 2007, 5:26 PM

Post #159 of 764 (10669 views)
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This is absurd. All of it. Kealey's book impressed me because it gave me a way to determine a ranking of programs for myself. Who cares if UC Irvine is #1 or #6 on this list or that? It wasn't in my top 10, or 20, or 100, because I'm not moving to California. We all have factors in our lives to consider as we choose a program--geography is a big one for me (as are funding and faculty). I suppose it's fun to look at somebody's rankings and see where my choices fall, but I also know that nobody can objectively evaluate all the MFA programs out there. That's why Kealey avoided rankings, isn't it? As soon as the ink is dry, the rankings are irrelevant. One example of the absurdity of these arguments: how does Colorado make Jargreen's "Honorable Mention" list when the program won't even begin until next fall? If that doesn't prove the subjective nature of this exercise, I don't know what will.

Anybody who follows college football knows how flawed rankings are. Until we can get all 100+ programs in a round-robin, fight-to-the-death, cage match tournament, we'll never agree on their ranking. And even that would be flawed because poets are notorious for unethical combat tactics.

As for Iowa's funding: It's not that bad. It is competitive, but in-state tuition is available to everyone in the program. To compare it to Columbia is way off the mark.


jacarty
Jessie Carty
e-mail user

Jan 4, 2007, 6:38 PM

Post #160 of 764 (10632 views)
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** raises a white flag **

Rankings are rankings. They are subjective but informative.

Who wants to vote on a new topic?


http://jessiecarty.com


umass76


Jan 4, 2007, 6:56 PM

Post #161 of 764 (10625 views)
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Mainer,

Based on your comments you oppose all rankings, of any educational institutions. Plus all rankings in sports. Kind of sounds like you oppose all rankings ever done, right? Under any circumstances? Your logic applies with equal force to law school rankings, medical school rankings, engineering school rankings, undergraduate school rankings, business school rankings, and rankings for doctorate programs in education, the sciences, library & information studies, the social sciences and humanities, health, and public affairs. So, your comment is a little out of left-field: you don't even believe in the concept of rankings, so why pick on this ranking in particular?

Re: Iowa. It's a fantastic school, but people who keep focusing on the possibility of in-state tuition are being a little disingenuous. In most cases, you aren't eligible for in-state tuition until your second year, and moreover, we must remember that a "tiered" system of funding (like Iowa's) is one in which you could end up with nothing (nothing) in your second year (i.e., apart from FAFSA-related loans). Some of us with limited options loan-wise, and an undesireable debt-to-income ratio, are a little scared about that, and I don't think it's fair to call us all Chicken Littles.

While I agree Columbia's situation is far worse than Iowa's, it's also worth pointing out that tiered funding encourages competition between students in the workshop setting and even in the practice and performance of their art, and thus damages program cohesion. Columbia, for all its flaws, doesn't have that issue. The good news is Iowa (in the person of its director) recognizes these issues and is trying to solve them. In the meantime, I think people can be excused for feeling like Iowa might drop a few spots in esteem on the basis of problems it has that many other problems don't have.

S.


ApollosQ


Jan 4, 2007, 7:24 PM

Post #162 of 764 (10612 views)
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HopperFu, thanks a bunch. Nice and succinct.

As an aside, to chime into the ratings debate:

I too think ratings are important. I applied to Iowa because it's considered (one of) the best.
But it's easy to dismiss a set of rankings put forth by someone who hasn't gone through an MFA program yet.

I mean, Seth's list certainly seems helpful, but from what I see, he's basically like me, looking at attending an MFA program as opposed to having had the experience. Mainer's right. This is like Bobby, the young defensive tackle at the local high school, voting his top 25 college football teams. It's nice, surely fun for Bobby, and Bobby might even be insightful, but it's still little Bobby.

Kealey's rankings were better the way he wrote them: nice, loose and just vague enough that you had to think about it and gauge things for yourself. (Which, I guess, is what Seth did... except it's now posted for all of us as a measuring stick.)

The worst part about all this? Seth just HAD to post this right toward the end of the MFA application season. Couldn't do it in November, eh? Had to do it so that I saw it THE DAY AFTER I applied to Iowa, eh? Couldn't make me reconsider Virginia 2 weeks ago, could ya? Thanks a lot!

(Yes, that's a joke. Sorta. ;) )


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 4, 2007, 7:26 PM

Post #163 of 764 (10612 views)
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Re: [umass76] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

Umass76,

Understand that what I call deranged is the instinct to write over 1500 words to try to prove that one's preferences are mathematically unreliable and, in fact, biased. But here I go with my own verbose reply. I would hope that our fellow posters humor us for just a few more minutes of this fine intellectual jousting match.

You fail to address either of the main points of my reply. But first to your assessment of my assessment of your assessment of my assessment of your assessment of Tom Kealey's assessment of graduate writing programs. Yes, my rankings certainly should betray my biases. They reveal what I perceive to be the quality of each program, and how I value the variables that go into such perceptions. An illustration of this point: I believe that Michigan and Washington in St. Louis are both top-tier programs; however, I rank Michigan higher because I think they have a much better faculty. Now, if I hated everything that Peter Ho Davies and Michael Byers had written, and believed their awards were given because of some bias, I then might find Washington's fine faculty to be more appealing, and perhaps rank its program higher. Many people who've posted on this website would agree that even faculty is a subjective variable (Whom do I like, whom do I not?).

Certainly, funding can be interpreted as a subjective variable. In fact, most people make a completely subjective evaluation of their ability to pay for college. There are folks who are financially capable of paying for a Columbia MFA, or who are willing to accrue that magnitude of debt, and then there is me; I say it could not possibly be worth it. However, if I were a millionaire, I would probably apply to Columbia, because I'm convinced it is a top-ten program. The point is, whether a program can be seen as good or bad based upon how much money they have is completely unfair, and it's a big cause of my disdain for the idiotic rankings published by my heroes at USNWR every year.

As for the USNWR methodology, thank you for sharing more about that process. To tell you the truth, I would probably have asked each creative writing person to judge programs on a scale of one to four stars. That's how many of my favorite film critics judge the movies I may or may not see, so it's a quality scale I understand well. A letter grading system may be even more simple and true, though those surveyed would likely feel obligated to give too many schools an A- or B+. But I don't believe that these people are a bunch of idiots--I'll bet they understood that they were being asked about a general reputation for excellence--and I'm sure they could decide for themselves who deserves a 5, Iowa or Iowa State.

I'm not sure what is won by obsessing over our three lists with mathematical fervor, as it misses the point entirely. You're certain that demonstrating a greater mathematical likeness between my list and yours relegates the USNWR list into the hall of shame, yet you fail to take several things into consideration. First, there are in fact 16 schools in my top twenty that are in USNWR's as well as Kealey's. You were wrong about this, a principal part of your argument, and you must acknowledge it. Second, several of the programs that we studied for our lists did not exist, or were just beginning, in the mid-90s. This doesn't necessarily scare me away from the USNWR list, because I can approximate where, say, Illinois's program may be ranked today, and they still got many things right that you did not (Iowa, Columbia, Arizona, BGSU, Southern Illinois, etc.). It does, however, explain any mathematical closeness that more current lists, yours and mine, would share. Third, the priority you give to some programs that clearly don't deserve it (UC Irvine, again!) and the penalty given to others (Iowa, Columbia, Arizona) based, as far as I can tell, on how you've assessed my money situation, is completely irrational and goes a long way towards explaining my preference for the '97 list.

I want to reiterate that I do not believe that my list is the final word on things. Rather, I would expect anyone reading my list to acknowledge USNWR's as the gold standard. I hope you'll accept the silver. I'll just take the bronze. Now, whether USNWR is a suitable gold standard for us is an essential question, and it goes to the very plight of writers, that so much of our world exists in the mind and cannot be fairly or aesthetically filtered through mathematical computations onto paper. (Please excuse the bold type, which I know is very annoying in forums and emails.)

Back to your failures in addressing my reply. First, you'll have to explain to me how Tom Kealey is to be more trusted than an array of creative writing personnel. If, in fact, E.L. Doctorow or Barry Hannah or Maura Stanton or Wendell Mayo had anything to do with the USNWR survey, then I would politely reject Kealey for the larger group. Second, you'll have to convince me that asking the same broad question that can be applied to all programs is not as good as asking a set of sixteen questions, some which can be answered for more prominent programs and some which can't be answered for smaller ones. I know the faculty at Indiana very well, and each member has a massive knowledge of obscure programs across the country, having spent much time reading about each other, visiting for readings, meeting at conferences, following former classmates to their destinations in life, and so on.

The chief point of my argument is that the opinion of fellow creative writing people is important to me, as I'm hoping for success in that field. Tell me the top twenty programs by reputation, and I'll sift through them for the ones I can afford, for the name of a faculty member I admire, and for the locations I find desirable. I'm afraid that your own--more, what's the word, precise?--rankings missed some of the things those creative writing experts were already able to tell me, that diamonds in the rough such as Bowling Green State and Southern Illinois deserve a second look, and that truly great programs like Iowa and Columbia are not second-tier!

A correction I want to make from my previous message: There was an Illinois-Urbana program on the USNWR list, but it was an MA program. I was blinded by the fact that the MFA is the terminal degree which I pursue.

Best,
Ryan


(This post was edited by jargreen on Jan 4, 2007, 7:30 PM)


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 4, 2007, 7:48 PM

Post #164 of 764 (10603 views)
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Mainer,

As far as I know, the Colorado program started this year. And it has built up something of a reputation with its non-MFA creative writing program. But you're absolutely right! Ranking MFA programs is perhaps completely subjective! I think my own list is in this forum somewhere.

Ryan


umass76


Jan 4, 2007, 9:36 PM

Post #165 of 764 (10585 views)
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Ryan,

I'm sure my Kealey/You/USNWR analysis isn't perfect. I'm also sure The Kealey Scale is more accurate than USNWR97. I think the math proves it. I also think all the stuff that isn't math proves it.

But here's the bottom line, on some level:

1) I posted The Kealey Scale on my blog in the early morning hours of 12/31/06, about 100 hours ago.

2) I only "advertised" what I had done here and on my blog.

3) In the last 100 hours, this is the unique visitor count for my blog: 1,232.

4) In the 100 hours before that, the unique visitor count for my blog was this: 443.

5) The number of visitors to the rankings is increasing every day.

6) It's clear that, despite the negativity of some here, the reason for all of the above is that this new ranking has successfully tapped into something a lot of people really were looking for and/or intensely curious about: a comprehensive ranking of MFA programs that had the legitimacy of a well-considered, if unscientific methodology, and which wasn't a decade old. If you look at the comments on the first page of this very Speakeasy thread (from March of 2006), you see the recurring themes which have now caused well over a thousand people to visit The Suburban Ecstasies in the last 100 hours, even as 10 to 15 people have visited this thread to suggest the rankings aren't, after all, of much interest. Those recurring themes are these:

a) people were looking for an up-to-date ranking they felt they could trust;

b) people were willing to create their own lists through the compilation of data collected by others;

c) people wanted a "transparent" ranking whose criteria were clearly articulated, as opposed to USNWR97;

d) people strongly believed that if someone put the time and energy into it, a new ranking of MFA programs could be
constructed and could be more accurate than USNWR97;

e) people wanted this prospective new ranking to consider "funding" as a primary criterion;

f) other factors people wanted to see considered were teaching opportunities, community outreach programs, alumni publication record, faculty quality, and location;

g) people thought Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, Syracuse, and UC-Irvine needed to be moved up in the rankings;

h) people were open to the idea that Iowa may have lost its top spot amongst MFA programs nationwide;

i) people had particular respect for Tom Kealey's expertise on this subject.

Here are some sample comments (reproduced in part):

"Does anyone know where to get current rankings on MFA in Creative Writing programs?"

- J. Wegman

"I found that by going back and reading all the posts over the last few years, I was able to cobble together a pretty comprehensive list..."

- Thee Swimmer

"There are a number of problems with any MFA program rankings, the most important being that no ranking is really meaningful for you unless you know all the factors that went into it..."

-Pongo

"All this talk of rankings and how the USN&WR ones are so out of date makes me think that we who have done our research are more in the know and can come up with a better rankings list if we talk about it."

- Sibyline

"[Syracuse] is moving up in the world. I have no idea what the funding like there, though. There are a number of programs I'd probably put above.... BU, since it's a one-year deal with little funding. UMass, for example, is a three-year program that has tiered funding (much like Iowa) and plenty of opportunities for teaching (both at the college itself and neighboring universities), as well as poetry luminaries like James Tate, a famed summer writing workshop (Juniper), and an extremely well-respected literary magazine (Jubilat)."

- Big Cities
[Emphasis supplied].

"Actually, I whipped myself up into a bit of a frenzy about the U.S. News and World Report rankings. I have a copy of the 1996 listing on my computer. It was helpful for my application process because it was basically the only information out there.....Iowa is in a class by itself simply because it was ground-breaking and has the amazing history. However, with so many other good programs, I don't know if I would necessarily say it's the 'best' anymore. And the funding isn't perfect."

- Franz
[Emphasis supplied].

"[After listing a personal ranking]...I chose this listing based on the quality of faculty, location, and funding."

- Joseph C.
[Emphasis supplied].

"[Giving a personal ranking, starting with #1]: UC Irvine, Iowa, Johns Hopkins, Michigan, Brown, Cornell..."

- Lavash Lavash

"I think each program should receive scores based on A) faculty reputation, B) alumni publication record, C) funding, D) quality of lit-mag published + reading series + other/miscellaneous."

- Rapunzel 1983
[Emphasis supplied].

"Someone forgot to mention that Indiana funds all its students and the publishing record there is very substantial lately. If you're looking for the person who has probably done the most research on this topic, Tom Kealey considers Irvine the best..."

- Clara Bow
[Emphasis supplied].

"I considered funding and geographical location, but I usually looked at faculty first."

- Sanssoileil
[Emphasis supplied].

7) For what it's worth, if you look at the 2006 "Who Got In" board on livejournal.com, you'll be stunned to see the correlation between who got in where and who got rejected where and these new rankings. To be honest, I'm not sure how much can be drawn from this, but certainly some results which would have made no rankings-based "sense" in 1997 (e.g., getting accepted by Arizona but rejected by Mississippi) now at least seem to make more sense with The Kealey Scale. And while I can relate to whoever said these rankings are coming out just a tad late--many application deadlines having passed already--I'll also note that this admissions cycle may be an interesting "test" of The Kealey Scale. That is, looking at where people are applying en masse is at least a little informative (it's amazing how many people are applying, these days, to Indiana, Texas, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Minnesota, and other places which weren't really on the map in 1997 but which under, for instance, The Kealey Scale, are ascendant), as is seeing what the results are for discrete individuals applying to schools ranked in very different spots.

8) Rankings are a self-fulfilling prophecy. If most people are worried about funding (and they are), schools which have great funding schemes will get more applicants and have the luxury of being more selective. Notre Dame is probably a great example of this. Meanwhile, I suspect that programs like Columbia are becoming secretly unpopular--that applications are way, way down, as is "yield"--which diminishes the actual quality of those programs in terms of their present student resources.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 4, 2007, 10:15 PM

Post #166 of 764 (10578 views)
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Umass76,

That's really fabulous news! Your rankings are great. Please review my posts to find the complete repudiation that you believe is there; and be sure to quote me. I disagree vehemently with a few things, and overall I'm still a very big fan of the '97 rankings. I found those rankings by doing a search for "Top MFA Programs," and if I'd found your rankings instead, I would have been pleased and well-informed.

I just think that Iowa and Columbia are getting screwed, and UC Irvine can't possibly be near the top with only one or two full-time faculty (tell me you agree with this), and Bowling Green State is revered as one of the nation's best programs, not an "honorable mention." Those are very substantial differences that I have with your rankings, and so I prefer the USNWR list (now more than ever), despite all those other agreements you and I have. Now, if I don't have the right to find those things to be more substantial than a minute mathematical advantage that your list may have, then perhaps I am not welcome in the Suburbs.

"All this talk of rankings and how the USN&WR ones are so out of date makes me think that we who have done our research are more in the know and can come up with a better rankings list if we talk about it."
--Sibyline

Best,
Ryan


Mainer


Jan 4, 2007, 11:16 PM

Post #167 of 764 (10559 views)
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Re: [umass76] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

Umass,
I don't think I'd say I'm opposed to all rankings. In fact, in my original post I wrote of the importance of establishing one's own rankings according to one's own circumstances and preferences. I like seeing other people's rankings, too. Even yours. My point is that in the case of CW MFA programs, I don't see the point of arguing over where a program is ranked, especially in regard to five or six spots on a very fluid scale. There are simply too many factors at play to accurately rank programs (e.g.: faculty transience, visiting faculty, even the quality of classmates' writing and critique). I admire the work you put into your rankings--and the work you're putting into defending them, but I'm a writer not a statitician. I don't mean to "pick on" your rankings. I simply find the arguments they have created to be absurd.

Now, to prove I'm a good sport and not rankophobic, I present my rankings of the top 11 programs in the USA for me. My ranking uses three tiers (with programs listed alphabetically within the tiers). The factors I considered don't apply to anyone but me, so I won't bother identifying them here.

TIER ONE
Indiana
Iowa
Minnesota
Texas

TIER TWO
Colorado State
Illinois
Notre Dame
Purdue

TIER THREE
Bowling Green
Minnesota State, Mankato
Western Michigan


augustmaria


Jan 4, 2007, 11:28 PM

Post #168 of 764 (10553 views)
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Re: [Mainer] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Mainer, are you a Mainer? That is, are you from Maine?


Mainer


Jan 4, 2007, 11:30 PM

Post #169 of 764 (10551 views)
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Re: [augustmaria] My Fiction Rankings [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm in Maine, but I'm from away. I moved here 7 years ago.


(This post was edited by Mainer on Jan 5, 2007, 12:39 AM)


bighark


Jan 5, 2007, 12:12 AM

Post #170 of 764 (10542 views)
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1) The US News ranking is 10 years old. Let it go. I mean, you don't have to be a research scientist to realize that the list is no longer accurate.

2) The "Kealey Scale" was written by some guy on the internet. Big whoop. The rankings provided by this scale would be a lot more interesting if the author didn't state that the list contains no original research and then proclaim half a dozen times that entire methodology is completely unscientific.

We're talking about art school, people. Relax. Go write some sestinas or something and come back in March when you have some good news to share.

bighark


blueragtop


Jan 5, 2007, 12:19 AM

Post #171 of 764 (10535 views)
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I agree. Both of these ranking systems are pointless to me. I'm looking for the program with the hottest women.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 5, 2007, 12:26 AM

Post #172 of 764 (10534 views)
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I suppose that more than anything else, bighark, we debate these sorts of things because it's fun. Because we can't just write all the time, we can't read or watch TV or search for porn all the time. Some of the time it's just plain fun to vigorously, violently, compare notes on something we find neat and important.

Ryan


laughingman


Jan 5, 2007, 12:31 AM

Post #173 of 764 (10531 views)
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I agree. After I heard that Ron Carlson had left for UCI, I wasn't going to apply to Arizona State. Then a friend told me that ASU is a perennial top-five in Playboy's "hottest student body" list and I was like, "Hell yeah!"


(This post was edited by laughingman on Jan 5, 2007, 12:35 AM)


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 5, 2007, 12:44 AM

Post #174 of 764 (10525 views)
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I've heard that the women of southern California are the only reason to apply to UC Irvine.


sibyline


Jan 5, 2007, 4:08 AM

Post #175 of 764 (10512 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

like, totally, you know, like, oh my god, like, anyways...


Tapeworm


Jan 5, 2007, 4:41 AM

Post #176 of 764 (11233 views)
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I'm awaiting my "Women of the MFA" calender pin-up. Oh momma.


writerle


Jan 5, 2007, 10:13 AM

Post #177 of 764 (11204 views)
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That's not stereotyping now is it? Why all the California bashing? You people really ought to get a life.


sibyline


Jan 5, 2007, 10:29 AM

Post #178 of 764 (11196 views)
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Re: [writerle] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

are you like saying that like anyone who totally talks like a valley girl is like automatically dumb or something? 'cause that's totally like saying that like anyone who talks in a southern accent is like totally dumb. 'cause i mean, like, i totally did not make any implications about intelligence in my response. any stereotypes conjured are totally like your own. i mean like, i have a life. i totally don't know if you have a sense of humor though.


JKicker
Jonathan

Jan 5, 2007, 12:00 PM

Post #179 of 764 (11175 views)
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hahaha


umass76


Jan 5, 2007, 12:11 PM

Post #180 of 764 (11171 views)
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Ah, now I see why everyone wanted to stop talking about rankings...this is so much more productive(!) I'm certain all the folks who wanted to shut this conversation down are now long gone from this thread, their mission accomplished. Ah well. As I said, it's a resource, and now it's there whenever people want to use it or even glance at it as a curiosity.
S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 5, 2007, 12:43 PM)


JKicker
Jonathan

Jan 5, 2007, 12:48 PM

Post #181 of 764 (11155 views)
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Productive... in a way Sib's post could end up being more productive if I end up getting rejected from all the schools I've applied to! We should all laugh more.

Anyway, while I'm talking, I like UMass's list. I like reading people's lists. I don't give it much more credit than anyone else's list though. I've made my own list and its very long and complicated and full of mathematical representations of my own personal biases. I plan to post it once I finish applying...but actually at the moment I've lost one of my most important statistics sheets....I'm afraid I mailed it to Michigan...at least they'll know I wasn't lying when I said I thought they had one of the best faculties in the country.

Anyway I just wasted a bunch of time rambling to Melos about FSU and my idiotic methodologies so I must be off!

xoxo


JKicker
Jonathan

Jan 5, 2007, 12:54 PM

Post #182 of 764 (11150 views)
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I hope that didn't across as dismissive toward umass's list, because I don't want that. I do appreciate all the work umass has put into his list and, more importantly, all the work he's done to defend it. You guys have generated a couple of informative pages for future MFA prospectives to add into their meat grinders while they are trying to guess which schools will be the best for them. PLUS I have something interesting to read while I enjoy my donuts and milk.

However more valley girl speak is always welcome, in my humble opinion.


sibyline


Jan 5, 2007, 1:13 PM

Post #183 of 764 (11140 views)
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woah, dude. lighten up. and for the record, i'm a little blonde woman from socal so i feel like i can make fun of my own peeps. it's a message board, not a courtroom. i think i've proven well enough here that i can make substantive arguments when the situation calls for it. i've also talked in the past about the value of updating the current rankings. i don't think kealy's rankings are perfect (um, michener center has no permanent faculty, which i think is a huge problem), but at least they reflect the development of various mfa programs in the past ten years. like, hello?

and i think it should be, "men of the mfa's." i already have a couple of people in mind. :)


blueragtop


Jan 5, 2007, 1:14 PM

Post #184 of 764 (11138 views)
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Umass, obviously I was messing around, but I have looked at your rankings, and I think you did a good job. I just wanted everyone to chill out...it's not even Feb. yet and people are kinda wacked out.


writerle


Jan 5, 2007, 2:20 PM

Post #185 of 764 (11108 views)
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Ha, Ha. Actually, the stereotype I was referring to was the assumption that everyone from SoCal talks like a valley girl. Didn't that end like twenty years ago? I've lived in SoCal all my life and I've never met anyone who talks like that. Where exactly do you find these "peeps" of yours?


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 5, 2007, 2:42 PM

Post #186 of 764 (11097 views)
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Quote

Finally, your comment that "funding" is a subjective criteria is just laughable. I can't believe you really believe that. Just because some people get funding and some don't doesn't make the criterion "subjective"--you do know that, right?; a criterion is only "subjective" if it can't be measured, and I can't believe you actually think we can't measure a school's financial activities, particularly when your own rankings-producing heroes at USNWR make such determinations all the time.


umass76:

While I wouldn't call funding "subjective," I think it is a lot more complex than some people are making it and while I liked Kealey's book and the Kealey Scale post, I think some of the funding discussion is actually confusing. Some problems I see with the funding talk:

"Funding" and "cost" are being conflated. Funding is theoretically the the amount of gift money the program has available combined with the amount of work money (funding dependent on teaching or journal work or whatever). However, many programs give out tons of money but due to the high cost of school (private big city school) are said to have bad funding. OTOH, a state school program with little actual gift money is often said to have good funding just because the neutral cost is lower in those schools.

Funding is also a mixed bag at most schools. How do you rank school A that funds everyone equally, at half-tuition each, against school B that funds a few people fully, but where most people don't get any funding?

The last point is my big problem with Kealey's and the KS rankings. Kealey seems to really overvalue programs that offer free rides to a handful of people. NYU does that, but has weak funding beyond that. Yet I see its funding regarded as better than programs which cost a lot less for the average student. Likewise with Amherst, which IIRC gives full rides to a fair number, but a lot get left out.

I think this is an area where Kealey's funding obesssion seems to get things out of balance.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 5, 2007, 2:43 PM

Post #187 of 764 (11097 views)
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Stereotypes are fun and comforting [In reply to] Can't Post

Honestly, it's good to be talking about something other than what fonts and margins to use for writing samples and whether to use handwriting on an envelope or a mailing label. All of which are important questions, but may also compound the nervousness. Best of luck, all!

R


blueragtop


Jan 5, 2007, 3:11 PM

Post #188 of 764 (11076 views)
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The funding issue is as simple as you wanna make it. For me, it's very simple: I will not pay for this degree. Why you ask? Simple, too. I don't think it's a good investment to going into debt for writing. And I know for a fact that a good portion of these schools use MFA programs as cash cows.

Shoot, look at Alabama. They just gave Nick Saban $40 million dollars. I love sports, but c'mon, Alabama doesn't seem to wanna shed that "dummy school" persona do they. Point is, these schools are swimming in money. I'll be damned if I give a billion dollar university like Columbia my money. I can write at home.


(This post was edited by melos on Jan 5, 2007, 3:15 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 5, 2007, 3:12 PM

Post #189 of 764 (11076 views)
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Quote

The chief point of my argument is that the opinion of fellow creative writing people is important to me, as I'm hoping for success in that field. Tell me the top twenty programs by reputation, and I'll sift through them for the ones I can afford, for the name of a faculty member I admire, and for the locations I find desirable. I'm afraid that your own--more, what's the word, precise?--rankings missed some of the things those creative writing experts were already able to tell me, that diamonds in the rough such as Bowling Green State and Southern Illinois deserve a second look, and that truly great programs like Iowa and Columbia are not second-tier!

I think this paragraph of Jargreen really sums up my own feelings on the rankings. While the UNWR rankings and ones like it are less mathematical and perhaps more "subjective" (a term that is really being misused a lot here, I think) than TK's or Kealey Scales's, I find them to be more accurate and helpful because they rank essential factors (reputation, faculty, publication success of students, student body etc.) that are hard to determine yourself.

In addition to the funding confusion I talkeda bout in my last post, I think that that factors like funding, program size, and such are best determined by the individual themselves.

I don't personally care what an individual thinks the correct amoutn of money to spend on an MFA is or the what not. I can find the funding informaiton myself and decide what I'm willing to pay. Likewise I can decide myself what locations are worth applying to, what program size I would prefer, etc.

What I'd like from rankings is a list of the QUALITY of program, as best as it can be determined, which gives me a guide to then narrow down with my own subjective criteria. Reputation, publishing success, and stuff like that is impossible to figure out from program websites or really for myself. I NEED something like the people the UNWR surveyed to tell me those factors and how the schools rank and then allow me (and every other individual) to narrow down our lists by our own subjective needs in regards to location, funding, etc.

I also agree that Columbia, Iowa and BSGU are getting screwed.


Quote
I'm also sure The Kealey Scale is more accurate than USNWR97. I think the math proves it.


Personally, I think it is your emphasses on "math" that is the problem (such as it is a problem. I thought your TKS ranking was helpful and I'm glad they are out there, I just have a few issues with it, like Jargreen.)

Interestingly enough, like I said above, I think it is the use of "objective math" that actually makes TK's and TKS rankings too subjective. TK and your subjective weightings of funding, location and the like confuse things. By my reakoning at least.

Shit, I gotta run.
peace


sibyline


Jan 5, 2007, 3:29 PM

Post #190 of 764 (11064 views)
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um, hello? it's like a parody?


writerle


Jan 5, 2007, 3:36 PM

Post #191 of 764 (11059 views)
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I'm going to be mature and end this now so everyone can get back to the important stuff. Just keep in mind that there is a fine line between parody and insult.

I wish everyone the best of luck. I was in the same position as many of you this time last year (or so) and now I am happily entering my second semester of an MFA program (not in California, by the way) that suits me perfectly. It can be done. Just try not to get bogged down in all the small stuff.


renapoo


Jan 6, 2007, 1:15 AM

Post #192 of 764 (11006 views)
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Sib raised an interesting point about Michener. Sure, they give you $20,000 for three years in a cool city, but who exactly are you studying with? Maybe faculty isn't so important because you don't know whether a good writer is a good teacher and because they go on leave a lot, but I'd be interested in seeing which programs people think have the top faculty. In my estimation UVA is way out front, but I worship at the altar of Ann Beattie. Then maybe Michigan and Cornell and JHU and Iowa...? Sadly, Irvine and Michener are kind of question marks, even though those are among my top program choices. Anyone else care to chime in on this question? (go on, rank em, I know you want to...)


blueragtop


Jan 6, 2007, 1:40 AM

Post #193 of 764 (11003 views)
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I think Virginia has the best fiction faculty. They have some serious star power. Everyone says Michigan has a great faculty, but other than Peter Ho Davies, I don't see anyone so great. Harty and Orringer don't impress me. JHU has McDermott but Dixon is leaving. Columbia probably has the most people I'd like to work with, but I don't ever count them in these lists because I could never afford to go there.

For some reason, I like the faculty at Amherst a heck of a lot. Noy Holland and Sabina Murray are award winners, and the new guy Chris Bachelder, is something most of these schools are lacking: a relatively young up and comer.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 6, 2007, 4:11 AM

Post #194 of 764 (10992 views)
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I love this question, renapoo. I truly believe that the people make the program. We’re all getting sick of these lists, but here’s a list of fiction faculties I’d already put together to help me narrow ‘em down. Ryan

1. Michigan ... Check out their philosophies of the workshop on the UM website. I think these are my kind of people. Peter Ho Davies is one of the great short story writers. Michael Byers is not bad. Nicholas Delbanco is considered to be a teaching giant. Eileen Pollack, too.
2. Houston ... Perhaps more awards have been won by this faculty (Robert Boswell, Antonya Nelson, Chitra Divakaruni, Daniel Stern, Robert Phillips) than any other.
3. Iowa ... Marilynne Robinson has two Pulitzers. James McPherson has one. Then, there's the beloved Ethan Canin. And visiting writers.
4. Virginia ... Ann Beattie has written eight novels and seven short story collections! She is the bomb. John Casey has a National Book Award.
5. Johns Hopkins ... Stephen Dixon has published more short stories than any other American. Every book Alice McDermott publishes wins a plethora of awards. Tristan Davies and Jean McGarry are also the tops.
6. Texas ... I'm just going on the faculty that amassed in Austin this year. Outstanding. Michael Adams is a really terrific writer. James Magnuson and Rolando Hinojosa-Smith each have ten novels. Peter LaSalle, Elizabeth Harris, and Zulfikar Ghose are widely published. Laura Furman is the editor of the O. Henry Award anthologies.
7. Brown ... This just looks like a large, competent faculty. Robert Coover, Meredith Steinbach, and Brian Evenson have many awards between them. Thalia Field, Carol Maso, and Renee Gladman appear to be those fine "experimental" writers we all hear about. What is experimental fiction, anyway?
8. Minnesota ... This is all about Charles Baxter. His stories drive me insane they're so great.
9. Columbia ... Lots of people here that probably never teach. Richard Ford seems to headline the group with his Pulitzer and PEN/Faulkner Award. Nicholas Christopher has published at least fourteen books of fiction and poetry. Ben Marcus and Binnie Kirshenbaum widely publish too.
10. Florida ... David Leavitt is a terrific writer and, I've heard, a top-notch teacher/mentor. Mary Robison and Padgett Powell are also quite accomplished.
11. Cornell ... Alison Lurie has a Pulitzer, I believe. Then, there's Alice Fulton, but she's mostly poetry, right? Add Dan McCall and Molly Hite. Pretty solid.
12. Arizona ... Large group. I've heard great things about Fenton Johnson and Jonathan Penner. I have a grudge against C.E. Poverman, because of his pissy assessment of the MFA and what it can do for you. Get out of town with that negative shit.
13. NYU … E.L. Doctorow.
14. Massachusetts … I’ve heard Anthony Giardina is the best teacher around. Seems like an extremely solid, if not spectacular, bunch.
15. Indiana … I know these people well. Tony Ardizzone and Alyce Miller have won the Flannery O’Connor Award. Samrat Upadhyay is the first Nepali writer to be published in the West, and he leads an amazing workshop. Crystal Wilkinson is thoroughly published and awarded, and is a delightful person. Maura Stanton went to Iowa, was friends with Raymond Carver, has published numerous works of fiction and poetry, won several awards, and is very, very sweet. John McCluskey Jr. wouldn’t let me in his graduate workshop.
16. Florida State … This is a stacked lineup, and leading off is Robert Olen Butler.
17. Syracuse … I’ve heard things about George Saunders. Good things. And bad things. Arthur Flowers serves as a very nice complement, or compensation.
18. Colorado State … A very underrated faculty for a very underrated program. Look at this pedigree: Leslee Becker comes from Iowa, David Milofsky from UMass, Stephen Schwartz from Arizona. All are widely published. But the best-known would be Judy Doenges; she’s swell.
19. Arizona State … T.M. McNally has written some great stuff. Melissa Pritchard has a lot of awards. But I think there’s only three permanent fiction faculty.
20. Washington U in St. Louis … Marshall Klimasewisky is very popular. Not the most widely-published or awarded faculty, but I get the impression that they really excel in the classroom.


(This post was edited by jargreen on Jan 6, 2007, 4:52 AM)


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 6, 2007, 5:16 AM

Post #195 of 764 (10981 views)
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Sorry for the confusion, to those of you who viewed my faculty list immediately after I posted it; I just had to change my rankings for JH, Cornell, and UMass, which were not well-informed. Okay, unless I do another line here, that's probably my last list tonight. R


augustmaria


Jan 6, 2007, 6:46 AM

Post #196 of 764 (10973 views)
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McCluskey is a great guy and ran a wonderful workshop. It was also a workshop full-to-the-limit with MFA students, which is probably why he had to tell you no.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 6, 2007, 7:37 AM

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Thanks for letting me know, augustmaria! How do you think I sized up the other Indiana faculty members?


Banyon


Jan 6, 2007, 8:14 AM

Post #198 of 764 (10965 views)
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20. Washington U in St. Louis … Marshall Klimasewisky is very popular. Not the most widely-published or awarded faculty, but I get the impression that they really excel in the classroom.



I'll chime in on this. I just took a fiction class with Klimasewisky, and he is a really amazing teacher. He can make you feel good about your writing while at the same time being very critical and helpful. I got four pages of single-spaced, typed comments on the first story I gave him, and that was for an undergrad class. I'm sure his grad classes are even better.

Before anyone asks, I haven't had any contact with the other writing faculty at Wash U (which is unfortunate, since I am applying for the MFA in poetry, not fiction...).


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 6, 2007, 12:40 PM

Post #199 of 764 (10934 views)
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Quote
Anyone else care to chime in on this question? (go on, rank em, I know you want to...)


As far as fiction goes, for my personal tastes Columbia has the best faculty, which is a large reason I choose to come here.
They have a lot of hip, young, interesting authors (Ben Marcus, Sam Lipsyte Gary Shtyngart, Rebecca Curtis, Paul LaFarge) as well as older, established writers (Binnie Krishenbaum, Richard Ford, Maureen Howard, etc.) Probably the most diverse faculty out there (helps a lot that its such a large program).

After that, I agree with the people saying that UVA is up there. They aren't exactly the professors that interest me the most, but the likes of Anne Beattie and Deborah Eseinburg are people you can't go wrong with.

Syracuse would up there thanks to George Saunders and Mary Gaitskill. Two of the best out there.

Brown's faculty interests me. Coover, Everson, etc.

Florida gets up there with Padget Powell and stays with Leavitt and Robinson.

Iowa seems quality, but they seem to favor an aesthetic that is traditional and not as diverse or interesting as I would like it to be.

Those are the only ones that come to mind. I used to think JHU had a good faculty, but aht opinion was almost entirely based on Dixon, so they'd be off my list now that he is leaving. A lot of big programs seem to honestly just have one big name who probably doesn't teach (NYU with Doctorow, FSU with Robert Olen Butler, etc.) and then a bunch of other people I've never heard of.


laughingman


Jan 6, 2007, 12:55 PM

Post #200 of 764 (10931 views)
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Not sure if it was an accident or you did it on purpose, but you left Mary Gaitskill off of your assessment of Syracuse. She's kind of a big deal with novels, short stories, frequent prize anthology nods, etc.

Also, I'd point out that Texas State at San Marcos usually has a *REALLY* great Mitte chair (Denis Johnson and Tim O'Brien in the last three years) and they have a list of great names who they send your work off to be critiqued by (though, admittedly, I'm not really sure how this works or how much feedback you get). I've heard that Tom Grimes, the program director, is great, and he was friends with Charles D'Ambrosio at Iowa. They still interview and plug one another and I kind of think that D'Ambrosio--who has been visiting writer/workshop teacher at Iowa and Montana in recent years and recently published a collection of essays (Orphans) and his new collection of short stories "The Dead Fish Museum"--might be one of the Mitte chairs in the next few years. If not him, maybe one of the well-known visiting faculty members from Michener @ Austin--there seems to be some kind of pipeline or association between the two programs. (I think that both D Johnson and T O'Brien were at Austin right before taking Mitte Chair positions.)

-laugher


mingram
Mike Ingram

Jan 6, 2007, 1:33 PM

Post #201 of 764 (11478 views)
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I've been following this thread (well, okay, mostly skimming), since I was in a similar position a few years ago and am also a person prone to overanalysis.

In the end, though, it seems to me that what matters in an MFA program is something like:

1. Improving your writing.
2. Opening career- and publishing-related doors.

#1 is pretty hard to pin down. I suppose it's why people talk about quality of faculty, quality of peers, amount of funding (giving you TIME to write), etc. But there's no one magic formula that works for everyone. Some people, when given a bunch of unstructured free time just freak out completely, can't write anything, drink to excess, and cry late into the night. Whereas other people can relax and get a lot done. Some people want to take lit classes, some don't. Some like the thrum of big cities, some people want to be off in the country with no distractions.

#2 is perhaps what the USNWR rankings were after, as measured by reputation. Reputation, of course, isn't the only thing, and probably isn't even the main thing, but you're kidding yourself if you think it doesn't matter at all. One thing about having gone to Iowa: everyone has an opinion about it. Some people find it impressive. Some people hate me because I represent some imagined literary establishment they think they haven't been granted access to. I know the latter sounds ridiculous -- is ridiculous -- but it's not hyperbole. I've seen people get all scowly and look like they want to punch me right in the face.

So, anyway, I guess I'd throw my hat in with reputation, since it's perhaps easier to measure, and then people can decide a) how important that is to them, and b) what else is important. It's easy enough, after all, for an applicant to find out what it's like to live in Ann Arbor, or who teaches at Austin, or how much money they'll get from Cornell. Easier, in fact, then deciphering how all those things have gone into computing a rank. Moreover, I think the people who are interested in rankings -- and not everyone is -- are largely interested in them as a measure of reputation -- i.e., what do other people think about this program.


blueragtop


Jan 6, 2007, 2:26 PM

Post #202 of 764 (11465 views)
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The C.E. Poverman thing actually impressed me. I liked what he said. It shows me that that program has some balls, and that the writing is the biggest thing there. It's not like he said anything shocking.


umass76


Jan 6, 2007, 3:15 PM

Post #203 of 764 (11459 views)
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Mike,

I, like you, am the sort of person who tends to want my rankings to focus--to the extent I'm going to focus on rankings at all--on those measures of a school which are most intangible, which I really need the advice of others to determine (it's like notions of "good governance": government allows us to accomplish important civic objectives together which we could not realistically accomplish separately; just so, rankings, in the assessment of difficult-to-assess institutions).

The first problem, of course, is that writing about and talking about "reputation" is a top-heavy prospect: it's fairly easy to come to a consensus on the top few schools, but how confident should I be when I am told, in 1997, that the University of Utah is the #16 school in the country, and the University of Colorado #50; that the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee is #72, but the main campus doesn't deserve to be ranked at all? It's not quite the same thing as someone swearing up and down that Cornell University offers a better MFA program than a school with far less visibility, history, overall cultural capital, and resources such as (totally random example) Pacific Lutheran.

The second problem is that such rankings are self-fulfilling. One can't rest on the assumptions of USNWR 97, because to do so is to essentially conduct free advertising for USNWR 07. If we keep reifying judgments made in 1997, they're likely to be--perhaps doomed to be--repeated in 2007. After all, a good reputation is self-enacting and self-promulgating over time; in contrast, more objective measures can have their changes (improvements or steps backward) independently assessed at any specific moment in time. How much of people thinking the University of Houston is the second-best school in the country--when it has never attained anything like this distinction for any of its other graduate or undergraduate programs--is the product of USNWR telling us so in 1997 and us not being able to forget it?

In creating new rankings, I'm sure Kealey realizes he's reshuffling the deck and creating an entirely new hierarchy of schools, one which will stick, at least to some degree, until the next such assessment, whether that comes today, tomorrow, in a month or in a year. Already, even just since 2006, you see the emergence of schools like Texas and Indiana and Syracuse and Minnesota and Wisconsin and Notre Dame as top-flight schools in the general opinion. That's not the doing of USNWR, who ranked those schools much lower in 1997 than they are "ranked" in people's minds now; that's the doing of people like Kealey. So: if you say you're a glutton for "reputation" scores, how does the fact that The Kealey Scale and other published assessments like it are, even as we speak, overturning the old hierarchies and making the conventional wisdom as to "reputation" obsolete, change your opinion? Does it? Don't these new rankings become relevant and influential, in some sense, simply by existing? Could we ever again expect to see the same rankings that we saw in 1997, the moment people started publicizing Notre Dame's excellent financial aid package? Is it really possible for people to come on this site and every other site and bad-mouth Columbia's miserly financial aid package, and then for someone to come on here and say that Columbia's reputation remains perfectly untouched (#4) despite of all that bad press?

Writing new rankings is undoubtedly about entrenching a hierarchy; but if the rankings are more intelligent in their design and more creative and sensitive in their scope than those which preceded, is it such a bad thing to temporarily entrench a new hierarchy? That's how progress gets made, right? Indeed, new rankings are easy to "check" as to accuracy. No one who has read the savage attacks on Columbia on this site and elsewhere should have been surprised to see the school's reputation suffer and its ranking drop accordingly, as "reputation" (even in 1997) was a catch-all piece of terminology that, we must assume, encompassed everything about a school, including its reputation for generosity toward its students. Likewise, as people began writing that Utah wasn't giving many people money, that Notre Dame was, that Syracuse had top professors, that Indiana was actually an incredible experience overall, the rankings of these schools were changing right under our feet.

If you were to ask me about the weak spots in Kealey's rankings, I'd probably point to the absence of schools which everyone is talking about excitedly: BGSU, Southern Illinois, Illinois, and a handful of others. In the next rankings of Top 50 schools we'll probably see these schools between #35 and #50, and then the community will, across countless web-boards and in countless small coffee bars, "react" to those new numbers and thereby lend them (or take away from them) a certain amount of validity. So, I'm very cautious of anyone talking about Columbia being the #4 program in the country when, well, the tone of modern-day discussion of Columbia is not the tone you assign to the #4 program in the country.

That applies, to a much lesser extent, to Iowa. Mike, for better or worse I went to Harvard Law School, and have been around countless discussions of law schools, and people simply don't express the mixed feelings about HLS that I hear now about Iowa (until, that is, they're HLS graduates, and then many people have mixed feelings). That doesn't mean Iowa isn't stellar, it just means that the top schools in any field are going to be, on some level, the schools which engender the most universal feelings of awe and respect. Iowa encourages its observers, and universally at that, to all sorts of awe and respect, but that phenomenon has been slightly dulled of late, there's just no denying it. The discussions and comments are there for anyone to see. And thus it shouldn't have been wholly surprising to see Iowa drop a tad (though the tone of the discussions before and after The Kealey Scale makes me believe it dropped around six to eight spots too far), and a school like Texas--which I have heard almost nothing negative about, ever--move past it. That doesn't mean that 7 out of 10 students who get accepted to Iowa won't still go there(!) It just means that "funding" moves the ball--it changes people's opinions, and since reputation is predicated on the opinions of people, reputation will change with changes in funding.

Just my two cents.

S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 6, 2007, 3:22 PM)


augustmaria


Jan 6, 2007, 5:06 PM

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Very well, from what I've encountered. I haven't met many of the faculty as of yet. But on the poetry side, I've been told that Maurice Manning is a total dreamboat.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 6, 2007, 5:10 PM

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In creating new rankings, I'm sure Kealey realizes he's reshuffling the deck and creating an entirely new hierarchy of schools, one which will stick, at least to some degree, until the next such assessment, whether that comes today, tomorrow, in a month or in a year. Already, even just since 2006, you see the emergence of schools like Texas and Indiana and Syracuse and Minnesota and Wisconsin and Notre Dame as top-flight schools in the general opinion. That's not the doing of USNWR, who ranked those schools much lower in 1997 than they are "ranked" in people's minds now; that's the doing of people like Kealey.


Kealey might soon have some influence with ihs rankings, but I think you overestimate his influence. I know a lot of people in various MFA programs aroudn the country, and a lot of people who are looking into them (and who thus ask me for advice and opinions on schools).

I honestly haven't met anyone in person who knew of TK's site or who were influenced by his rankings, until they were directed there by me. Syracuse has been considered top flight for awhile, but I haven't heard anyone in real life talkins about Minnesota or Wisconsin, much less Notre Dame.

All i'm saying is that most people who are looking at MFA programs aren't getting their information from people like Kelaey, for good or bad. They are getting it more form the USNWR rankings or from the general reputation of schools, as told to them by professors in undergrad.


Quote
So, I'm very cautious of anyone talking about Columbia being the #4 program in the country when, well, the tone of modern-day discussion of Columbia is not the tone you assign to the #4 program in the country.


The talk of people like Kealey and the attacks (quite often misinformed, frankly) on Columbia and similar top schools on these kinds of internet sites might very well start hurting its reputation, but I don't think their influence has shown up yet in the general writing world. The people I meet in real life talking about programs they want to go to continue to list ones almost identical to the 97 rankings.

Columbia, Michigan, Iowa, Johns Hopkins... These are the programs I hear most often talked about, outside of the insular MFA internet world. When I was first thinking of applying and asked my undergrad professors, it was those programs that were recommended. I remember someone in this thread claiming that applications to schools like Columbia and Iowa have been dropping. This simply isn't true. They are getting more applications than ever these days.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 6, 2007, 5:35 PM

Post #206 of 764 (11427 views)
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I just think it was more sadistic cynicism, which is very common, I think, in our crowd. Poverman's little essay was supposed to be a philosophy of the Arizona program; you know, how they conduct workshops, what kind of students they like to attract, how committed they are to ME. (It's all about me.) Instead, he just told me everything I already "know," and am completely sick of hearing. I truly felt as though someone was telling me don't do it! Well, I didn't. I didn't dare apply there. But I am getting an MFA somewhere, so that I can be paid to write for 2-3 years in a fantastic new city. After that, it's my life; but at least I have the minimal qualification for some kind of paying teaching position, if I work hard to earn it, and sell myself well, and practice patience and tenacity, and perhaps find a religion. What's the worst, though, is that Poverman's little essay seemed incomplete; as if he was just getting going with a good explanation of the MFA's shortcomings and was about to begin extolling its potential benefits, but he just kind of stopped. He just didn't have anything positive to say. And you know what my momma said about people who don't have anything good to say? It was just a very poorly written statement. It just completely turned me off, I guess. That was my reaction. Please don't take this as hostility towards you; it's all reserved for Poverman's nasty little note.


blueragtop


Jan 6, 2007, 5:48 PM

Post #207 of 764 (11423 views)
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Jargreen,

There's no hostility here, lol. People are a little on edge these days, and that's understandable. Rankings are what you make of them. Would I have liked to apply to Columbia? Of course. But in my eyes, it's not a good investment, so I don't even rank it. Doesn't mean it's not a great school for other people.


piratelizzy


Jan 6, 2007, 8:22 PM

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In Reply To
and i think it should be, "men of the mfa's." i already have a couple of people in mind. :)


Kealey, for starters. I can't say for sure, cuz alls I've seen is the pics. But yeah, Kealey's picture says he's a hottie.

Yeah?

I'm also oddly attracted to Padgett Powell's picture. He's cute in that older, earthy uncle kinda way.

You ladies enrolled in MFA programs now, tell us how hot your male classmates are?

Yeah?

PS - I'm going stir crazy from trying to finish these applications at the last minute. But late this morning I officially sort of sighted the end of the tunnel (now that I only have five apps to go).


Fear&Loathing


Jan 6, 2007, 8:32 PM

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"Uh, hey, baby." - Butthead


umass76


Jan 6, 2007, 9:18 PM

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When someone here says, entirely without irony--

"The people I meet in real life talking about programs they want to go to continue to list ones almost identical to the [19]97 [USNWR] rankings"

--I worry for us. For all of us. That this comment should be taken as some sort of support for the USNWR rankings, and not an indictment of them, is incredible. I mean, yes, it's amazing how similar people's thinking in 2007 is to the "best thinking" of 1997, isn't it? What a coincidence! That the 1997 rankings--the only ranking of MFA programs ever done by a "professional" organization--should coincidentally reflect the "independent" opinions of college graduates a decade later is, in fact, truly something else. And not a good thing, either.

Most of the folks who apply to MFA degrees these days say, "Well, I've got my own opinions and valuations [NB: which coincidentally perfectly reflect the "received wisdom" of USNWR], so I don't need any [NB: new] rankings." Okay, great! Those folks would have, I suppose, no place in this conversation, as they'd have no need to rely on others [NB: except USNWR] to develop their "personal" opinions. This thread, however, is really designed for those who do want and need some assistance and some guidance re: which programs to apply to, who do believe that "facts on the ground" have changed in a decade, even if--and isn't this the perfect tautology?--the most-relied upon rankings of 2007 are the most-relied upon rankings of 1997, because the only institutionally-sponsored rankings of 2007 are the only institutionally-sponsored rankings of 1997.

Certain schools in the Harry Nilsson-esque "everybody's talkin'" clique of schools--e.g., Johns Hopkins, UC-Irvine, University of Texas--are what they are primarily because of their fiction "reputation." So I do find it a little ironic when people who (I suspect) are fiction-writers come onto the thread and rather smugly intimate that no new rankings are needed because U.S. News's 1997 fiction-biased rankings are just fine, thank you. Meanwhile, aspiring poets are looking at, say, #6 Cal-Irvine and thinking, "Um, whaaaaaaa...?"

I can't independently know how popular Kealey is. I know this: Google the phrase "mfa rankings" (as tens of thousands do a year), or anything like that phrase, and Kealey tops the list. That means he's being read. Widely. I also know this: when Tom linked to my website recently, my daily visitors' list exploded almost exponentially. Which, again, means he is being read. Any circle of writers where the preeminent reference-point is still USNWR97 is one which might benefit from reading a little bit of what can be readily found on-line about MFA programs.

This thread, for instance, has had more than 2,000 unique views in the last week; meanwhile, MFA programs will probably admit somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 new students this year. Given the small size of the aspiring-poet/writer community, there is ample evidence that this space and others like it are central hitching-posts for the gathering of information on MFA programs. Likewise, I'd point out that many of us (myself included) aren't twenty-one year-olds who just finished college and can easily point to English professors who've guided us on our path toward applying to this-a-one or that-a-one MFA program; I'm 30, a practicing attorney, live nowhere near a major cultural center, and I haven't been in an English classroom in nearly a decade--folks like me need these sorts of fora because, really, other options for information-gathering are limited, and we don't want to become like all those MFA grads who mutter into their beer, "If only I'd known..."

S.





(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 6, 2007, 9:19 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 6, 2007, 9:40 PM

Post #211 of 764 (11370 views)
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I worry for us. For all of us. That this comment should be taken as some sort of support for the USNWR rankings, and not an indictment of them, is incredible.


Uh, it wasn't meant as as an indictment OR as support of the USNWR rankings.
I think you might be getting a little defensive and knee jerk in your responses.

I was merely disagreeing with your factual claims (such as that x or y program is getting less applications) which I know to be false.


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Jan 6, 2007, 9:49 PM)


umass76


Jan 6, 2007, 10:35 PM

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Clench,
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to overreact. I'm just not sure why else you'd mention that everyone you know who talks about MFA programs pretty much has the same opinions as U.S. News did ten years ago. If you were trying to say that they only have these opinions because they read USNWR97 back in 1997 and since then have remained ignorant of all other (often countervailing) information, why didn't you just say so and make your opinion on the matter clear? I'm not trying to take anyone's words out of context, just to understand where folks are coming from.
S.

P.S. I think the reason I was confused is because you comingled the question of where people "are getting their information from," the notion of "the general reputation of schools, as told to [students] by professors [in college]," and comparing Kealey's rankings to things you hear in "real life." So when you said, "the people I meet in real life talking about programs...continue to list ones almost identical to [USNWR]," it seemed to me that you were saying USNWR97 is synonymous with what "professors" independently believe, and what people in real life (as opposed to "just" on the pages of USNWR) believe, and thus it has some kind of internal validity. The quote:

"All I'm saying is that most people who are looking at MFA programs aren't getting their information from people like Kelaey, for good or bad. They are getting it more from the USNWR rankings or from the general reputation of schools, as told to them by professors in undergrad....the talk of people like Kealey and the attacks (quite often misinformed, frankly) on Columbia and similar top schools on these kinds of internet sites might very well start hurting its [Columbia's] reputation, but I don't think their influence has shown up yet in the general writing world. The people I meet in real life talking about programs they want to go to continue to list ones almost identical to the 1997 rankings."

I hope you can see why I was confused.


umass76


Jan 6, 2007, 10:36 PM

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P.S. I admit I've said a lot here; did I really say that I knew applications were going down at Iowa and Columbia? Can you tell me where I said that? If I did, I'll retract it--I don't have that information and don't think I ever claimed to have it. I hope you'll be as fair--and non-knee-jerk?--with me as I'm trying to be with you. I also want to point out that while Columbia has indeed been discussed in terms of how it presents itself to prospective students, nothing which was said here in that context was misinformed. [Largely because it's just my opinion, and therefore not based on some sort of objective "information" which would/could "prove" me wrong; and any funding information was simply taken from the school's incredibly-offputting website]. Anyway, I've never claimed to know anything about life inside the program, and haven't said so, either. If there's defensiveness here, I imagine it would most likely present itself in the form of anyone here who's in the Columbia MFA program. Are you?



(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 6, 2007, 10:41 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 7, 2007, 12:03 AM

Post #214 of 764 (11345 views)
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Quote
If you were trying to say that they only have these opinions because they read USNWR97 back in 1997 and since then have remained ignorant of all other (often countervailing) information, why didn't you just say so and make your opinion on the matter clear?

No, I was saying that I disagreed with your comments that Notre Dame and others have suddenly become top flight schools in the "general opinion" while the likes of Iowa and Columbia have sunk a lot. I haven't found this to be true. I was suggesting that the drastic shifts in reputation haven't occured like you are presenting them, at least as far as I can tell.

You have claimed that your rankings are far more accurate and reflective of the general opinion, but I was saying that with a few adjustments the old rankings are more reflective of the general opinion (for better or worse). I wasn't saying this was as a resault or not as a resault of the old rankings.

That's all.


Quote
did I really say that I knew applications were going down at Iowa and Columbia? Can you tell me where I said that?

---
Meanwhile, I suspect that programs like Columbia are becoming secretly unpopular--that applications are way, way down, as is "yield"


Perhaps I shouldn't have said your comments have all been "false," since I guess technically you have expressed most of them as "opinions." But I have a lot of what you have said to be inaccurate, which is all I was pointing out.
Again, I'm glad you took the time to make your rankings and I think they will be helpful to a lot of people. I just have some issues with them and a few points you've made in here.

peace


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 7, 2007, 12:34 AM

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"Men of the MFAs"? I'll give you one you may not have thought of -- David Kirby, the poet at Florida State.

http://www.davidkirby.com
http://www.english.fsu.edu/faculty/dkirby.htm

I met him when he came to Bloomington for the Indiana Writers Conference. Very handsome fellow.

But he's dangerous, ladies. Dangerous.


(This post was edited by jargreen on Jan 7, 2007, 12:37 AM)


umass76


Jan 7, 2007, 12:40 AM

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Fair enough, Clench. Just to clarify, though, I don't think Iowa and Columbia have sunk "a lot"--I think I said their reputations have suffered "slightly." As to applications, I did say that I "suspected" applications were way down at Columbia (not Iowa): my reasoning being that now, unlike ten years ago, there are plenty of programs out there which offer much more money, so there's less and less reason to apply to a school whose website FAQ basically says (actually, I find what's there slightly more offensive than this): "fend for yourself." I think we'll never resolve the debate over "general [present] opinion," as it can't be measured; I'm comfortable, though, that if you go to places like livejournal.com and see where people are applying, you'll see that it matches up nicely to The Kealey Scale--nicely, not perfectly--and that USNWR97 is no longer particularly "predictive" of behavior (though it definitely still has an impact, and to the extent The Kealey Scale is not wildly different, remains at least marginally reflective of modern mores). As to whether The Kealey Scale is more "accurate," that's a little subjective--I've no doubt, though, that it's more relevant to the real concerns real students have about applying to MFAs in 2007, and more sensitive to the facts on the ground right now, which are that some fantastic funding is available out there at programs with every bit the level of actual (real-world) quality as the top schools in USNWR97.

S.


bighark


Jan 7, 2007, 1:55 AM

Post #217 of 764 (11312 views)
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Tom Kealey did not publishing rankings. Tom Kealey published innuendos. Frankly, that's about the most elegant and useful form of discussing quality in creative writing programs that I can think of.


sibyline


Jan 7, 2007, 10:35 AM

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i think evaluating faculty is extremely difficult to do in ranking terms, because it's not only the reputation of the faculty but how they teach, as well as the kind of writing they encourage. i feel like i can only say things about people with whom i've had personal experience.

at cornell, allison lurie is both extremely smart and conscientious. i actually initially thought the michigan faculty would be more conducive to my writing (peter ho davies and nick delbanco are fantastic), but the addition of j. robert lennon and ernesto quinones has really enhanced my experience here. john lennon especially has made a big impact of me, and i didn't even know he was teaching here when i applied. now he's my thesis committee chair. then there are helena viramontes, maureen mccoy, stephanie vaughn, and a couple of ph.d. faculty who also write fiction. lots of faculty to go around for eight grad students.

among faculty from other schools, alice mcdermott has the amazing quality fo being both brilliant and extremely generous with her teaching. i worked with her at sewanee. mike winegartner at fsu has a really authoritative style, but he had really insightful things to say about my work. i had a bad experience with anne beattie at a writer's conference where she turned what was supposed to be a lecture into a reading, though i don't know if that reflects at all on her commitment to teaching.

i've heard ron carlson give an impressive craft lecture and he's going to be directing the irvine program. e.l. doctorov teaches once every two years at nyu and if you ask for him as your advisor he only meets with you once, but gives you extensive comments on your manuscript (according to a friend at nyu). have heard mixed reviews about antonya nelson, though she seemed really nice when i interacted with her. richard bausch is quite inspiring if not particularly detail-oriented. :)


sibyline


Jan 7, 2007, 10:41 AM

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In Reply To
Kealey, for starters. I can't say for sure, cuz alls I've seen is the pics. But yeah, Kealey's picture says he's a hottie.

In Reply To

ha ha. i was actually thinking more along the lines of current students but faculty would probably work too. everyone was swooning over ron carlson when i was at the napa valley writers conference and i've always thought peter ho davies is attractive (i was laughing to myself when i wrote him an e-mail telling him i'm going to cornell, thinking: "omg i'm turning down peter ho davies!"

as for current students, my discretion prevents me from being too public about my thoughts on that, though at the risk of alienating his wife, hopperfu is definitely my nominee for cornell representative.


Moonshade


Jan 7, 2007, 5:47 PM

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My two cents: School ranking, funding and faculty are important, but the most important thing is the writing, the writing and the writing. And getting what you've written, published. With our without an MFA.


wilmabluekitty
Wilma Weant Dague

Jan 7, 2007, 10:28 PM

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And David Kirby is jsut as nice as he can be. One of my regrets, among many, is that I didn't audit the class with him that I planned to when mu hubby was a student at FSU. Heck, I totally regret not trying for an mfa when I was there and had the chance. Whatever else you say, FSU has a huge, diverse writng faculty and every reading I went to(student or faculty) it seemed that everyone got along well even though they were diverse writers.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 8, 2007, 1:28 AM

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I'm comfortable, though, that if you go to places like livejournal.com and see where people are applying, you'll see that it matches up nicely to The Kealey Scale--nicely, not perfectly--and that USNWR97 is no longer particularly "predictive" of behavior


Well this is what I was trying to disagree with in my post. I think that, for better or worse, I'd say the USNWR is more predictive than your rankings, at least amongst the top universities. Iowa almost certainly still gets the most applications, yet it does not even rank in your top 10. Certainly you don't think Washington at St. Louis, a program I've never heard mentioned ever in real life or often on sites like livejournal.com, gets more applications or has the buzz of Iowa, NYU or Amherst (to name some ranked lower)? From what I can tell and from what I've heard, the programs that get the most apps are pretty much the same as before. Iowa, UVa, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Michigan, etc.

This is not to say that rankings SHOULD be predictive, or that the reputations of schools are deserved or not, I merely think you are overstating your case in these posts.

But perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree.


umass76


Jan 8, 2007, 8:04 AM

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Clench,
Again, these are not "my" rankings. I based the rankings on Kealey's analysis and weighted factors and, in many spots, on his exact statements of valuation/ranking. Also, let's just agree that neither one of us knows who gets how many applications: I've heard, for instance, that Brown gets 700, I've heard Iowa gets 1100, but those were on the same sites you're saying aren't reliable for information like this. So, I subjectively guessed that Columbia's applications were down since 1997, you subjectively guessed that Iowa still gets more applications than any other school. Maybe I'm right, maybe you are, maybe we both are. [Shrug]. The reason you probably haven't considered Washington University or talked about it with your friends is the same sort of reason poets rarely talk about Johns Hopkins: poetry isn't what the school's reputation is built upon, something you'd be in tune with if you were a poet (if I understand it, you are not). Likewise, Washington University--which boasts poets Carl Phillips and Mary Jo Bang on the faculty--is a top destination for poets, but not necessarily fiction-writers. It's interesting that you knock the ubiquity of WU in MFA discussions (you say you never hear of it, I say I often do), when U.S. News, which you say is predictive, ranked the school higher than The Kealey Scale did. So if anyone would predict WU would be discussed widely, it'd be USNWR, followed closely by TKS.

I also must point out how convenient the "examples" from your last post are: for instance, if USNWR has some predictive capabilities, you'd expect to see people talking about Utah (#16) incessantly, right? And BU (#10)? And Emerson (#20)? We don't hear that kind of chatter. Yet we hear constant discussion of Texas, Syracuse, and Indiana, schools ranked much higher on The Kealey Scale than in USNWR (average ranking: #5 on Kealey Scale, #22 in USNWR97). Frankly I'd love to see a listing of schools which are constantly being talked about which are not on The Kealey Scale but are on USNWR (one excellent way to determine if the latter is more predictive), or see a listing of schools which are not currently being discussed anywhere but which TKS holds in high esteem, while USNWR "rightly" ignores.

I don't think you answered my question about whether you go to Columbia, and whether that might explain your preference for a ranking which has that school at #4 instead of #16.


HopperFu


Jan 8, 2007, 8:30 AM

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First of all, Clench has stated about a zillion times on the boards that he goes to Columbia and that he things it is an excellent program.
Second, this argument is ridiculous.
The US News&World Report rankings are not worth following simply because of their age: the number of MFA programs has increased approx. four times since those rankings and faculty and funding at the schools ranked has changed dramatically.
The rankings that you have come up with are also severely problematic. Any ranking scale that doesn't put Iowa in, at the very least, the top five, is not based in reality.
Using comments here and from LiveJournal are not particularly convincing. It's sort of like those movie ads that feature people coming out from a show going, "it was the best movie ever!" Aside from the fact that people are biased towards the school they go to, the real measure of reputation has little to do with us.
Rankings are based, essentially, on three things: 1) what important outsiders think of the school, 2) the faculty teaching at the school, 3) funding, and 4) what people who have gone to the school think
1) it matters what agents, editors, publishers, and people who do the hiring think of the reputation of the schools. Some of that is based on publication histories, some of it is based on nepotism, some of it is just random. But it really doesn't matter that much what Kealey says or what anybody here says. No agent is going to read a cover letter and think, "hot shit, they went to Indiana!" in the same way that they would if they went to Iowa.
2) big name faculty can make programs. Even if they don't teach much, are bad teachers, or are completely unavailable, they are sexy on the faculty list. But faculty switch schools, schools hire, and sometimes a no-name faculty member can become a big deal. Michael Cunningham wasn't a humongous draw before "The Hours."
3) funding is not simply about whether or not you believe an mfa is worth paying for. Funding is also reflective of the schools reputation, the experience it's alumni had, and, perhaps most importantly, the importance that the school itself places on the program. As a graduate, if a school says, "we think there is something so intrinsically valuable that we are willing to pay you to come here," that says something different than if you have to shell out the money yourself. And yes, funding is usually tied to work, and some funding - where you teach three courses a semester or whatever - can be worse than no funding
4) depending on why you want an mfa, this may be the most important criteria. If you believe you'll become a better writer and learn a lot, then this is probably the most important thing to figure out, because former students can tell you if a program is conducive to learning or not

Rankings will also change dramatically for individuals depending on why they want to go to an MFA program.
1) Simply want time to write? Find a program that has good funding unemcumbered by work requirements and is almost all workshops with little lit requirements
2) Think it will help you get published? Go for a big name school. That is, a school that has a big name where it matters: the publishing world.
3) Hope an MFA will make you a better writer? Look for a mix of everything, but particularly a school where students seem happy AND challenged.

I think this is ultimately a quixotic quest. If it is fun for people to chat about, go for it, but it's not worth getting in these heated arguments. And frankly, umass76, I've mostly stayed out of this because any time anybody has been critical of your ranking scale, you've gone into total defensive mode and have not particularly been open to any arguments about it. Understandable, given the time you put into it, but I think this particular ranking scale is actually kind of damaging. You've ranked schools - perfectly good schools, schools that, like Indiana, I thought seriously about going to - as ridiculously high.
I think that there could reasonably be some sort of tier system - which is what Kealy actually did, though I disagree with where he placed a number of schools - but particularly when you get past about ten or fifteen schools, it's very difficult and becomes quite individualized.
But again - and this is coming from somebody who turned Iowa down and who thinks that funding is paramount - any ranking system that doesn't put Iowa as a top, if not THE top school, is broken.


augustmaria


Jan 8, 2007, 9:24 AM

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Can we stop using Indiana as an example of a ridiculously overrated program and maybe instead use another program that doesn't have students who read this board? Writers are so hyper-sensitive.


HopperFu


Jan 8, 2007, 9:41 AM

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Sorry, it's not actually - at least in my case - a slight against Indiana. And I'm not sure that it's riduculously overranked, but rather that it's hard to justify putting Iowa fifteen or whatever spots lower than any school.
As far as Indiana goes, it was actually on my list of top-ten schools that I was going to apply to.
I've heard that once your class graduates it will be an awesome place! You guys are really dragging it down. ;)


blueragtop


Jan 8, 2007, 1:07 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

The "Kealey Scale" isn't bad, but ultimately, I agree with HopperFu. I can't take it seriously when Iowa isn't ranked in the top 10. Sorry, there aren't 10 or 11 programs that are better than Iowa. I just don't buy it. Funding is the probably the most important factor for me, and I still included Iowa in my list. Iowa is probably the only school I would go to if I got it, but wasn't totally funded. They give all their students instate tuition and I think that shows a lot of commitment on their part. I don't care what anyone says, it's still one of the top 3 programs in the nation.

It's also unfair to compare Iowa to program like Columbia. In my opinion, and it's just my opinion, Columbia is a cashcow. They seems to be great businessmen over there. They draw people in the with the Columbia brand name and with the big name faculty, and then you have loans for the rest of your life. I've given Columbia some credit on this board, but let's be honest, what that program does to students funding-wise is ridiculous. Yeah, Sam Lipsyte is cool and all, but if I'm going 60 grand in debt or possibly more, I need a little more than Sammy Lipsyte or Ben Marcus. Maybe if they bring Ray Carver back from the dead...Sorry, I just can't respect a school that doesn't respect the craft. In my opinion, making "writers", people who have made a commitment to art, pay absurd amounts of money is borderline ridiculous. Its simple: Columbia is expensive and they bring a ton of students every year. They want to make money. If you're a trust fund baby, that's cool, but I don't think many people on this board know Ted Turner or Rupert Murdoch.

The Columbia people always need to justify their program. And if I was going there, I'd be justifying it too. For that kind of money, I'll convince myself it's worth it too. I respect schools that put their money where their mouth is. Writing is important to them, so they make a financial investment.


ApollosQ


Jan 8, 2007, 1:12 PM

Post #228 of 764 (15579 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

Now, this is useful. People's opinions on faculty. Breakdowns like this are something I would've loved to see 2 months ago. Ryan, it appears you defiinitely did better research than I did.

Realizing the hotness of Arizona State's student body might've come in handy too. But hey, their deadline is Jan. 15, so there's still time!


In Reply To
I love this question, renapoo. I truly believe that the people make the program. We’re all getting sick of these lists, but here’s a list of fiction faculties I’d already put together to help me narrow ‘em down. Ryan




umass76


Jan 8, 2007, 1:45 PM

Post #229 of 764 (15561 views)
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Re: [melos] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

Guys,

I think I can explain the defensiveness. It's not just the fact that I spent time on this, though obviously I'd be lying if I failed to acknowledge that compiling Kealey's observations into a ranking was time-intensive. More importantly, though, you have to look at it this way: look at the constant, on-going firestorm the USNWR rankings have been. For years. In every field, educators have issued public statements as to the validity (generally or mathematically) of the rankings, in some cases refused to participate in the information-gathering stage of the USNWR process, have advised prospective students to ignore the rankings, and so on. Every ranking USNWR has ever done has been controversial in the world of education, and controversial with a capital "C."

When I set out to compile a new ranking of MFA programs--largely because, to be frank, people were absolutely begging for one (though having gotten one--as anyone could have been predicted--now no one is satisfied)--I knew that I actually had far more controversy ahead of me, in a sense, than U.S. News. Obviously not in terms of volume (this thread's had about 2,500 views since 12/31, yet of course I don't think the debate is much, much larger than that) but in terms of degree of controversy. For three major reasons:

a) While Tom Kealey may have literally written the book on MFA programs, he's not a cultural touchstone/institution as USNWR is;

b) I don't have the resources, nor does Kealey, to make these rankings the product of a comprehensive scientific methodology; and, most importatly,

c) artists, unlike practitioners of most other crafts/professions/what have you, don't believe anything can be ranked, ever, and believe process and methodology and math and ranking are an anathema to Art.

So, sure, I geared up for a major fight here, and--knowing I would be the only person to defend the rankings against the inevitable onslaught--I set my tone accordingly. The notion that you can be facing the natural opposition to ranking which exists across all fields (that even USNWR experiences), plus have the three handicaps articulated above, and then congenially and casually and even flippantly discuss new rankings is simply unrealistic. It's my "job"--because I posted the rankings, and I knew I would be the only one to defend them as legitimate if it came to that--to have responses ready for the false information and false arguments which I knew these rankings would face. For instance, while I have said repeatedly that I personally think Iowa should be well within the top ten MFA programs in the country, I have also been forced to correct those who would

a) misstate Iowa's funding scheme or the availability of in-state tuition for first-year students,

b) refuse to acknowledge that some of Iowa's reputation is based on the 1997 rankings, making (if we're not careful) its continued ascendance a veritable fait accompli, and

c) misstate, as just happened in this thread, silly little easily-checked facts like whether

i. TKS says Iowa is "fifteen or whatever spots lower than any school" (it doesn't, it says there are 11 schools ahead in the rankings, and then acknowledges that if funding is not a major issue for you, you can bump Iowa up into the Top 10),

ii. whether Indiana can be said to be "ridiculously high" in TKS, when it's only 11 spots higher than it was in USNWR when no one complained,

iii. whether you can call a ranking "ridiculous" because you think Iowa should be "in the top five" and TKS has it a mere seven spots lower, with the suggestion that readers of the rankings should close that gap if funding isn't an issue for them, and

iv. whether you can criticize TKS for putting Indiana at #5 and then say "it was in my top ten schools to apply to," or similar forms of dramatic irony.

If this entire thread establishes one thing, it's that complaints about TKS come down to only three issues:

1. Is Iowa too low?
2. Is Columbia too low?
3. Why isn't the school I personally like, ______________, in there somewhere?

#3 is an issue with every single ranking that's ever been done, and TKS does alright there because the only complaints on this note have been from SIU, Illinois, and BGSU students or enthusiasts, and frankly those schools are in the Honorable Mention (rank: #51 to #55) section of the rankings, and everyone concedes these programs are only recent bloomers. Note: because there were 100 MFA programs in 1997, and there are 400 now, being in the top 50 now is far more valuable and meaningful than it ever has been. So, being in the top 50 now is not like being in the top 50 in 1997; folks who complain about where their schools are rankedin TKS don't realize that being in TKS Top 50 is like being in USNWR Top 12.

#1 is a non-starter because everyone--even, in the last few comments, a vocal critic of TKS!--admits that if funding were a major issue for them (as TKS assumes is the case for the "average" prospective student), Iowa wouldn't be/wasn't their top choice, and it would simply be a question of "where" they would slot it in as to the rankings. Those who say Iowa is the clear number one simply reject, wholesale, the premise of TKS, which is that funding matters. Ironically, those who don't like to see Iowa drop are actually okay with Columbia (and fifteen other schools in TKS) dropping for the very same reason (i.e. funding), and usually by the same (or a much higher!) amount than Iowa did.

#2 is not a little bit hilarious because only Columbia students seem to be defending Columbia. Everyone else just comes on here to explain why they couldn't afford to apply there--thereby reiterating/reifying (even while complaining about!) the valuation done by TKS. If you won't apply to Columbia, stop saying it "absolutely" deserves to be a top five school. What you're really saying, in effect, is that while funding is an issue for you, you don't ever want to see rankings in which the ranking system presumes that other prospective MFA students are just like you and care about funding, too.

C'mon! That is ridiculous.

S.


HopperFu


Jan 8, 2007, 2:31 PM

Post #230 of 764 (15536 views)
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Re: [umass76] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Quote
I think I can explain the defensiveness....

we all know you put a lot of time in, and that's appreciated, but the problem is that your reactions are usually precipitate and though verbose and well written, tend to indicate that you are not actually considering challenges to your ranking system


Quote
this thread's had about 2,500 views since 12/31....


they aren't unique hits. each hit by every user is counted. I'm probably responsible for 100 hits on my own. I'm doubtful that there are more than, say, 150 people reading this.


Quote
So, sure, I geared up for a major fight here, and--knowing I would be the only person to defend the rankings against the inevitable onslaught--I set my tone accordingly.


Um, often when you are the ONLY person defending something, it means you are wrong. And tone begets tone.


Quote
...the false information and false arguments...
... misstate, as just happened in this thread, silly little easily-checked facts like whether ... TKS says Iowa is "fifteen or whatever spots lower than any school" (it doesn't, it says there are 11 schools ahead in the rankings, and then acknowledges that if funding is not a major issue for you, you can bump Iowa up into the Top 10),

um, I think that implied in the use of the word "whatever," is that I didn't take the trouble to actually check where it is ranked. And we're almost all reacting to where you, umass76, ranked schools (though you've based them somewhat on Kealey)


Quote
misstate Iowa's funding scheme or the availability of in-state tuition for first-year students,


Iowa students on this board have repeatedly said that funding - in varying degrees and amounts with varying responsibilities - is available to all students


Quote
refuse to acknowledge that some of Iowa's reputation is based on the 1997 rankings, making (if we're not careful) its continued ascendance a veritable fait accompli, and

dude, check the history books. Iowa's reputation as the top school started way back when Flannery O'Connor was part of the faculty. Way the hell before 1997. If they stay there is going to be dependant on Lan Samantha Chang. Not much of anything else.


Quote
[Hopperfu is wrong because he criticizes] TKS for putting Indiana at #5 and then says "it was in my top ten schools to apply to," or similar forms of dramatic irony.

um, again, I think I made it quite clear in my post that there are a number of criteria for ranking, and that it was in MY top ten list. For a number of reasons, location and funding were extremely important to me, and past my top three schools, quality of life became paramount.


Quote
If this entire thread establishes one thing, it's that complaints about TKS come down to only three issues:

1. Is Iowa too low?
2. Is Columbia too low?
3. Why isn't the school I personally like, ______________, in there somewhere?

I'd agree with number 3. We all think that wherever we are going is the best. But the other two numbers are more symptomatic of problems than the actual problems themselves.


Quote
#1 is a non-starter because everyone ... admits that if funding were a major issue for them ... Iowa wouldn't be/wasn't their top choice....


Iowa has funding. Not for everybody, and not in the same amount. And it is a school that people are often willing to go into debt for. Regardless, most people apply there because it is the/a top school, and most people hope they are admitted with funding


Quote
...Those who say Iowa is the clear number one simply reject, wholesale, the premise of TKS, which is that funding matters...

Again, no. You are rejecting wholesale what everybody keeps saying: Iowa has funding. It is tiered, but it exists.
And while funding matters, IT ISN'T EVERYTHING! If it was, we'd all be going to law school. Hell, if funding was everything than Cornell would be the easy #1 and Michener would probably be a consensus #2


Quote
If you won't apply to Columbia, stop saying it "absolutely" deserves to be a top five school. What you're really saying, in effect, is that while funding is an issue for you, you don't ever want to see rankings in which the ranking system presumes that other prospective MFA students are just like you and care about funding, too.

In my book, Columbia's major problems are funding AND location. But they have an amazing faculty. For some people - in fact, quite a few people on this board - funding is not an issue. If you love New York and you have money in some form, Columbia is worth looking at. I'm not sure where it should be ranked, but they get something like 50 students a year, so there are obviously enough MFA students who don't care about funding. [Edited to add: I would say, if you've got the money and are willing to live in NYC, than you need to look at Columbia. Big 'ifs' for some people]



So here's the basic problem, umass76: you've spent a whole bunch of time making this ranking system, and because of it, you are defending it - and its results - regardless of what other people say. Okay, so you moved Iowa, but doesn't that in itself show that the ranking system you came up with is flawed?
Reputation matters. Funding matters. Faculty matters. What the alumni/current students think (in terms of both effectiveness and happyness) matters.
You can't rank based on location, sorry (though Gary, Indiana would probably rank low for everybody). I can't live in New York. Clench can't leave it behind.
Again, though, rankings will really depend on WHY somebody wants to go to an MFA program. If you just want time to write, a program with great no-strings-attached funding is the place to go. If you want reputation and publishing contacts and have money, Columbia. If you want to work with Pulitzer Prize winning writers, Iowa's not a bed bet (though I'm guessing they'll retire soon enough).
All this ranking should be is a starting point for people to start making their lists of schools to apply to. A more realistic list would include caveats:
Iowa (but funding can vary and cause a sense of competition. People love it or hate it)
Columbia (NYC, you'll almost certainly go into debt, huge admitted class, but access to publishing scene)
Cornell (incredible funding, great support, extremely hard to get in, only a few big name faculty)

But whatever. One of the reasons I've mostly stayed out of this is because I don't really care. I already made my choice.
And it doesn't matter where we rank anything: the rankings are going to rise or fall mostly because of the publications of students and alumni. That's the bottom line. Whatever school you go to, umass76, whether it's ranked 1 or 400, is going to get a huge bump if you win the Pulitzer...


(This post was edited by HopperFu on Jan 8, 2007, 2:35 PM)


HopperFu


Jan 8, 2007, 3:11 PM

Post #231 of 764 (15518 views)
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Not trying to sound churlish... [In reply to] Can't Post

By the way, umass76, I'm not trying to attack you, though I'm sure I sound churlish in parts.
I guess my big concern with this is that for the people who do go on P&W looking for advice, I worry when I feel they are being given what I feel is hurtful advice. We all look to rankings as a way to figure out which of the 400 schools to apply to. I think it is much more harmful when we underprivilige certain schools than when we overrank others; I'd like to hope that once people actually hear from schools they do the research on their own to figure where to go, but they have to actually apply in the first place.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 8, 2007, 4:56 PM

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Quote

I don't think you answered my question about whether you go to Columbia, and whether that might explain your preference for a ranking which has that school at #4 instead of #16.


As Hopper said, I've hardly been hiding the fact that I go to Columbia (started last fall). I even mentioned in during this discussion. I think it is a little silly too imply that I have some secret twisted motive to disagree with this or that rankings. It isn't like I was born into Columbia and have to defend it out of family honor. I CHOOSE to go to Columbia. I choose to apply because I believed it was one of the best and one of the very best for my situation and I choose to go there over other schools when that time came.

For the record, I've disagreed with TK's rankings since he published them, before I went to Columbia, and my criticisms of it and your KS aren't limited to Columbias placement (in fact, I don't think I ever complained about that. I'm not sure where I would rank Columbia personally. Probalby somewhere between #4 and #16.)

I have more of a problem with Iowa's ranking on that list than Columbia's.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 8, 2007, 5:25 PM

Post #233 of 764 (15478 views)
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Quote


If this entire thread establishes one thing, it's that complaints about TKS come down to only three issues:

1. Is Iowa too low?
2. Is Columbia too low?
3. Why isn't the school I personally like, ______________, in there somewhere?

I think you are being quite disingenuous. These are NOT the only complaints, much less the only complaints in this thread. If you are annoyed by people's responses (and your tone and random ad hominems imply such), maybe you should realize that it is annoying for us to have all of substantive points ignored so that you can go on a long defensive rant.

I'm not here, nor is anyone else, to bash you or your list. We are merely providing our own opinions, as this is a community discussion board. It is also a place where MFA hopefuls come to decide where to apply, and I (or jargreen or hopper or whoever) disagree with sometime said, I might want to put my own opinion out there so people can see another side.

Anyway, my big disagreement with the Kealey rankings, and the TKS, is not one of those issues but this:
If the scales only ranked programs with full funding they would make sense, but since they rank programs with partial and low funding, everything gets confused. It is one thing to say "if you need funding, you should apply to these programs" but to rank the QUALITY of programs based in this case with such weight given to funding creates problems after the application stage.

Specifically I mean this: What if you don't get funding at one of these programs with better fundign than Iowa or Columbia or wherever? Kealey ranks weaker programs over stronger programs due to minor changes in funding, but this is irrelevant to someone who doesn't get funding at either or gets equal partial funding at both. I guess I shouldnt' name specific schools, since august is right, writers are sensitive types and I don't want to sound like I'm insulting schools. But virtually no one would choose a school over Iowa if the cost was roughly equal.

This is why I agreed with jargreen, schools should be ranked on other issues and then the individual should sift through them and make their own list based on their funding and location needs.


Quote
#2 is not a little bit hilarious because only Columbia students seem to be defending Columbia....If you won't apply to Columbia, stop saying it "absolutely" deserves to be a top five school.


Wait, which is it? Only Columbia students defending it, or people who won't apply defending it?
FWIW, Tom Kealey himself has said plenty of positive things about the program and claimed that it, alongside Iowa and UCI, was one of the three programs that catch people's attention in the publishing world.


For the record, I don't believe I'm defensive about Columbia in general. The only thing that bothers me and makes me feel defensive is the fact that people act like Columbia is really unique in its bad funding. I dislike the funding situation and I completely see why it would knock the school of many peoples application lists. But it is annoying to see it being the only school brought up to bash for fundign with (as Tom Kealey estimates) about 1/3 of schools have weak to no funding. Even weirder, I see some schools praised for funding that to my knowledge is almost as bad as Columbia's (for example, your KS lists NYU as having "average" funding but Columbia as having "very poor" when they have pretty similar funding. The only difference is NYU fully funds like one or two students a year.) I also believe there is some slight misinformation, as people act like Columbia has zero funding, when this isnt' true. THe funding is very bad, and I won't praise it, but they do give partial funding to a fair amount of students and some lucky few get a TAship and full funding + stipend. Luckily, Ben Marcus is doing some new things to help funding, so this situation should get better quickly.


FinishTag


Jan 8, 2007, 6:06 PM

Post #234 of 764 (15464 views)
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Re: [umass76] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

umass76/Seth

i really enjoy reading your poetry...it's quite good, complex, often entertaining; i think about some of your phrases hours later. While I understand your motivation for compiling "the list", I don't understand your motivation for writing such long-winded defenses of it. Please put all that time energy back into writing poems. The world, at least the poetry-reading world, will be better off for it.


Fear&Loathing


Jan 8, 2007, 8:05 PM

Post #235 of 764 (15437 views)
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Re: [FinishTag] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

  This is the "random" kealey scale. Using the "=randbetween(1,50)" in excel, I have invented a random scale of the USNWR97 cut. The random rankings are to the right of each name. On the left before school names is the kealey scale ranking. Iowa state, Mississippi, Utah, New School, UGA, Florida State and Brooklyn should be considered by last minute appliers.


6. University of Virginia 1 , 7. Syracuse University 1 , 31. University of California at Davis 1 , 46. Iowa State University 3 , 36. University of Mississippi 4 , 12. University of Iowa 5 , 25. University of Wisconsin at Madison 5 , 35. University of Utah 5 , 14. New York University 7 , 49. Texas State University 8 , 26. The New School University 9 , 42. University of Georgia 9 , 19. Florida State University 10 , 43. Brooklyn College 10 , 24. Sarah Lawrence College 11 , t50. Eastern Washington University 12 , 39. George Mason University 14 , 8. Johns Hopkins University 15 , 9. Brown University 17 , t50. University of New Hampshire 18 , 5. Indiana University 22 , 2. University of Texas 23 , 18. University of Oregon 24 , 23. Boston University 24 , 32. University of Pittsburgh 25 , 48. University of North Carolina at Wilmington 26 , 4. Cornell University 27 , 16. Columbia University 27 , 28. University of Arkansas 27 , 29. Penn State University 27 , 21. University of Washington 28 , 3. University of Michigan 29 , 27. University of Arizona 31 , 10. University of Houston 32 , 17. University of Nevada at Las Vegas 32 , t50. University of Cincinnati 32 , 41. Louisiana State University 33 , 20. University of Minnesota 35 , 34. Arizona State University 36 , 15. University of Florida 37 , 44. Purdue University 37 , 47. Colorado State University 37 , 37. University of Notre Dame 38 , 30. Hollins College 40 , 1. University of California at Irvine 42 , 40. University of Maryland 42 , 38. University of North Carolina at Greensboro 45 , 45. Emerson College 45 , 13. University of Massachusetts at Amherst 46 , 22. University of Montana 47 , 11. Washington University at St. Louis 49 , 33. University of Alabama 50 ,


(This post was edited by Fear&Loathing on Jan 8, 2007, 8:19 PM)


gussy

e-mail user

Jan 8, 2007, 8:48 PM

Post #236 of 764 (15417 views)
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Re: [FinishTag] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

Hopper Fu sensibly says: "All this ranking should be is a starting point for people to start making their lists of schools to apply to. A more realistic list would include caveats:
Iowa (but funding can vary and cause a sense of competition. People love it or hate it)
Columbia (NYC, you'll almost certainly go into debt, huge admitted class, but access to publishing scene)
Cornell (incredible funding, great support, extremely hard to get in, only a few big name faculty)"


Now, I believe both Umass 76 and Kealey would very much agree with this. I think they even said something along those lines explicitly. Anyway, it doesn't matter who said it first, my point is that both "sides" of this discussion agree with Hopper's words above, and I think that pretty much settles the whole thing, doesn't it? There remains Hopper Fu's worry about the pernicious effects of underranking programs like Iowa. My guess is that given Iowa's prestige, the TKS-based rankings won't hurt it. And I doubt that Iowa's terribly underranked, provided we accept the TKS criteria. Again, you don't think funding should be that important? Iowa immediately bumps into the top 10, or even the top 5 -- and then basically you're going by sheer reputation, which leaves Iowa untouched. (In this connection, Clench has interesting observations about how "funding" is perhaps too coarse-grained a criterion, and maybe it'd be interesting to try to refine that...)

On a slightly different note, I think people might react against the TKS -- or at least against some of its results, e.g., getting Iowa out of the Top 10 -- because they may be thinking of reputation, and not in terms of the other criteria. And if we go by reputation only, then placing Iowa outside the Top 10 is indeed absurd. But again, the TKS doesn't go by reputation only.

One more thing: Hopper: I agree with a lot of what you say, but, Why do you think the TKS would hurt Iowa and potential applicants? Don't you think its reputation is widespread enough? I think it's almost universally known ("universally", well, that's a bit of an exaggeration :); let's say, "within the world of MFAers and prospective MFAers"), within the world of MFAers, then, it's known that the TKS places quite a bit of weight on funding, and that whatever "misplacements" in its ranking (viewed from the perspective of reputation) can be accounted for by funding issues or any of the other TKS criteria. In other words, when TK and the TKS-based rankings made by UMass76 leave Iowa outside of the Top 10, it's widely known that that's because of the caveat you mentioned above -- tiered funding and its resulting competitive atmosphere. So I'm not so sure it'd hurt Iowa or potential MFAers that much. But perhaps I'm missing something?

Anyway, I don't intend to defend UMass76 by saying this, but I think that once we explain the alleged problem of getting Iowa outside the Top 10 (i.e., it should certainly be Top 5 if we go by reputation only; it's alright to get it out of the Top 10 if we accept the TKS criteria and the problems with tiered funding), then I would have thought we'd all agree that the TKS rankings are a very valuable tool that we should all be grateful for. Of course, it's just a tool, and it should be used as a starting point for one's own research, not as some sort of revealed truth. Which brings me back to the quotation of Hopper above. (Then, well, the discussion got sort of derailed because of the tone of UMass76's responses and all that... hey, but come on, let's cut the guy some slack -- he's a lawyer, for goddsake! :))


Fear&Loathing


Jan 8, 2007, 9:09 PM

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Re: [gussy] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

Agreed, cut the guy some slack. It could be psychosomatic. It could be a dry spell. I like some of his poems. He probably writes like hell fast and rips through those responses faster than Britney Spears throws out her underwear.


(This post was edited by Fear&Loathing on Jan 8, 2007, 9:11 PM)


umass76


Jan 8, 2007, 9:22 PM

Post #238 of 764 (15399 views)
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HopperFu,

Clearly, my tone has overwhelmed the substance of what I've said--a circumstance for which I can only blame myself. I know that my tone has overwhelmed my substance because that must be the case, as nothing about the way you've characterized what I've said previously suggests that you actually read what I said in the first instance--at least not with anything but anger, righteous indignation, and/or derision.

"[Your responses] tend to indicate that you are not actually considering challenges to your ranking system."

God, if anything it's the opposite. Anyone reading this thread can see that I've exhaustively attempted to confront any and all "challenges" to Kealey's ranking system in a thorough and thoughtful way. You disagree with what I've said and that's fine; asserting that I'm "not actually considering" your challenges because I disagree with them is specious at best.

"I'm doubtful that there are more than, say, 150 people reading this."

You're probably right. Yet I've also told you (in response to a claim that Kealey wasn't well known) that in just the last week literally hundreds of "unique visitors" (as in, actual unique visitors) have visited the rankings on my site through the link on Kealey's site. That does suggest he gets substantial traffic. Likewise, I've told you that I've had, by now, over 2,000 "unique visitors" to my site since I posted the rankings 7 days ago. Let's be clear: I didn't do this for "hits." But if someone's going to claim that this ranking hasn't or can't generate interest because it's done by a single guy (Kealey) who nobody's heard of, well, I'm telling you that both of those claims are flat-out wrong.

"When you are the only person defending something, it means you are wrong."

Dude, you're saying this to a public defender? I'm the only person defending something every single day: my client. I hope you'll excuse me for not buying into this maxim.

"And tone begets tone."

This I agree with, and my tone's been largely regrettable.

"We're almost all reacting to where you, umass76, ranked schools (though you've based them somewhat on Kealey)."

Actually, all of the major arguments relating to the rankings have centered around the top twenty spots in the rankings, which are very much a product of Kealey's handbook.

"Iowa students on this board have repeatedly said that funding--in varying degrees and amounts with varying responsibilities--is available to all students."

That's great! And I've never said otherwise, either.

What you won't acknowledge is that my comment above wasn't about Iowa not having any funding scheme at all; I was saying that a lot of people have been saying "in-state tuition makes it cheap!" and not informing folks that in-state tuition isn't necessarily available for first-year students. That's all I said. Am I wrong?

"[Quoting me]: 'You refuse to acknowledge that some of Iowa's reputation is based on the 1997 rankings, making (if we're not careful) its continued ascendance a veritable fait accompli...' Dude, check the history books. Iowa's reputation as the top school started way back when Flannery O'Connor was part of the faculty. Way the hell before 1997."

Yes, I'm sure it was also the top school back when it was the only school. But seriously, I never said USNWR was the basis for Iowa's reputation; what I said was that "some" of its reputation came from being ranked number one in the first-ever ranking of MFA programs a decade ago. I'm not sure how you could think otherwise, lest you also think that (for instance) everyone knew Boston College Law School was a top twenty-five school before it was ranked there by USNWR. The bottom line is, yes, Iowa has always had a stunning reputation and I've never intimated otherwise. But to be generally respected as a top school and to be installed as without question the top school--both at a time when there were 100 schools nationally, and now (according to you) when there are 400 schools--doesn't just happen by word-of-mouth. Not in our modern information culture/economy.

"[Indiana made my top ten because] I made it quite clear in my post that there are a number of criteria for ranking, and that it was in my top ten list. For a number of reasons, location and funding were extremely important to me, and past my top three schools, quality of life became paramount."

Fair enough(!) I think I've said about twenty times on this thread--and so shouldn't be asked to say it again--that rankings are just one resource, you can use them or not use them, and if you use them don't abuse them. Likewise, I think I've made clear that everyone can and should and does create their own personal weighting system for judging schools--as do prospective law students, prospective medical school students, and so on. That's not unique to poets and writers. What TKS does is give people a single resource (of many) they can use or not use, which so happens to make a considered judgment based upon exactly the same types of factors you based your own personal rankings on.

"Iowa has funding. Not for everybody, and not in the same amount. And it is a school that people are often willing to go into debt for."

Agreed! Jeez, can't you take "yes" for an answer? How many times do I have to tell you and others how much I respect Iowa, and how it's in my own personal Top 10, before you stop lecturing me about how great it is? Kealey was more down on Iowa than I was--I've said this 100 times. I still don't think that sinks his ratings, and to suggest that one "bad" ranking sinks a ranking system is to show that one knows nothing about rankings.

"You are rejecting wholesale what everybody keeps saying: Iowa has funding. It is tiered, but it exists."

I admitted that about 100 times.

"And while funding matters, IT ISN'T EVERYTHING! If it was, we'd all be going to law school."

No, you wouldn't. Because law schools don't give any money to anybody. So if funding were everything, you'd...I don't know...rely on TKS? Or any other ranking system which weights funding as an important factor? Oh. That's right. There aren't any. [Okay, I apologize for the OTT sarcasm, but c'mon...if we cared about funding, we'd go to law school? Where did that observation come from? You've actually proven my point: because we won't make any money after graduation, funding matters tremendously. We won't be able to repay sizeable loans; in contrast, if funding were everything that would...well, have no impact on which law school you went to...because you'd make plenty of money after graduation and could pay back your loans, in theory, even if the school had given you squat in aid].

"If you love New York and you have money in some form, Columbia is worth looking at."

Okay. I'm happy for those people, actually. It's nice to not have to worry about money in this life. And I really admire a school which presumes you have that luxury.

"Reputation matters. Funding matters. Faculty matters. What the alumni/current students think (in terms of both effectiveness and happyness) matters."

Yes! You get it! Yes, that's why TKS has sixteen weighted factors instead of USNWR's one. Because reputation alone isn't a sufficient criterion.

"Again, though, rankings will really depend on WHY somebody wants to go to an MFA program."

Agreed! And I never said otherwise. The right way to use rankings is to make them work for your values. But you have to be working from a ranking system which has more than one value (for USNWR, "reputation") to do that.

"All this ranking should be is a starting point for people to start making their lists of schools to apply to."

Woo hoo! You do get it! I said that from the very start. Maybe now you'll see why I can't understand your intense frustration? When we agree on all the basic principles of how to use rankings?

S.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 8, 2007, 11:23 PM

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Quote
Anyone reading this thread can see that I've exhaustively attempted to confront any and all "challenges" to Kealey's ranking system in a thorough and thoughtful way. You disagree with what I've said and that's fine; asserting that I'm "not actually considering" your challenges because I disagree with them is specious at best.


I'm afraid I gotta go with Hopper on this one. I don't see how you've really responded to most of the criticisms listed. Certainly you haven't responded to any of the substantive ones I posted. All I've really seen you do is take a quote, often out of context, then go on denouncing it in a fairly insulting tone (allow me to quote one of your early responses to Jargreen:

Quote

Finally, your comment that "funding" is a subjective criteria is just laughable. I can't believe you really believe that. Just because some people get funding and some don't doesn't make the criterion "subjective"--you do know that, right?;

) followed by a long discussion of your perfect your rankings are (I know you say they aren't meant to be perfect, but then you turn around and say that your rankings are more accurate as well as more predictive as well as more in line with common opinion as well as more mathetmatical as well as more, etc.)


Quote

"We're almost all reacting to where you, umass76, ranked schools (though you've based them somewhat on Kealey)."

Actually, all of the major arguments relating to the rankings have centered around the top twenty spots in the rankings, which are very much a product of Kealey's handbook.


Perhaps I'm wrong, but I've read the book as well as the blog from day one, and IIRC Kealey only vaguley ranks schools with comments like "perhaps the best" or "certainly in the top 10" (notice that saying Iowa, or whatever, are at least in the top 20 doesn't negate the possibility of them being in the top 10 or even top 5). I also only remember Kealey commenting on about 10 or 12 programs, leaving about half of his theoretical top 10 empty.


Quote
and to suggest that one "bad" ranking sinks a ranking system is to show that one knows nothing about rankings.

There goes that tone again.
Given the context, one totally off ranking can certainly sink a rating. Would anyone following the NFL this year trust your ranking of the top 10 teams if you left the Chargers out?


bighark


Jan 9, 2007, 12:14 AM

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Umass, you need to drop this.

Your Kealey Scale is based of the opinion of one guy. That's it. That's pretty weak.

First of all, Tom Kealey did not rank anything. He made some hints and innuendos, but he did not assemble a hard ranking. How on earth can you build anything useful from that? Even Kealey did intend to actually rank schools--even if his rankings were right--what makes you think that your interpretation of his unranked rankings are correct?

Furthermore, Kealey's research, if you can call it research, is sloppy. He provides no lists or figures or data. If Kealey says a program's funding is good, you have to take his word that it's good. He doesn't say how much "good" is supposed to mean or what you have to do get that money.

I think funding is super important, don't get me wrong, but the Kealey Scale amounts to little more than hearsay and junk science. To insist that this list is accurate or even valid is just ridiculous.


umass76


Jan 9, 2007, 12:14 AM

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Alright, Clench, you win. You've repeatedly misstated and/or flat-out ignored things I've said, as have one or two others here, and repeatedly attacked my tone while the initial "attack" in this thread was a blatant "attack"--in knee-jerk fashion--on a ranking you still don't show any signs whatsoever of actually understanding or caring to understand. And not because I haven't explained it (you'll notice most folks here are saying I've done more than enough explaining) but because you either mischaracterize or misstate or ignore what I say and then make irrelevant and unrelated side-points which cause you frustration when I belittle them or claim them to be (as they are) irrelevant to what we were just talking about and what the main thrust of the discussion is. [E.g., whoever said Iowa gives no funding? Whoever said Kealey's Iowa ranking was correct? Whoever said that the USNWR rankings no longer have any value or cache? Whoever said rankings should be the sole resource used by prospective MFA students? I don't believe and didn't say those things, but I had to expend a lot of energy pretending as though I did so we could have a back-and-forth discussion here which vaguely resembled one that sane people might have. So if I got, as Al Gore might say, a little "snippy," it's partly because it felt like someone threw ten water balloons in the air just to see how many I could juggle. I think it's all too easy to attribute the lack of productiveness in the conversation wholly to me. So, good luck with that, I guess. Fortunately there's really nothing at stake in this conversation, as no one is being "misled" (as someone intimated) if they follow the advice I've been trying to give all along: rankings are just one resource, use but don't abuse them, and so on and so on and so on...].

And while we're having this discussion, 90% of the people who know about Kealey are reading TKS rankings and (apparently) coming back to them again and again (nine full days after I posted the rankings, visitors are up 500% with Kealey's site being the largest referrer by a factor of 10; so, you can understand, I hope, why I'm skeptical that "Clench" and "Hopper" represent any large demographic here). By which I mean: regarding TKS, there's evident and substantial interest. If you guys don't see it and aren't willing to discuss TKS point-by-point, which is what I've done in every post here--yes, very good, like the lawyer I am (one might say derisively)--that's totally fine with me. Seriously, I really do wish all you guys the best, and think you should value schools however the heck you want to. It's no skin off my back.

I'm certain I wasn't the best person to roll out a new ranking system; I did my best, certainly got too heated under the pressure, and don't handle well people less inclined to debate than to needle pointlessly. The bottom line, though, is that the rankings are out and the opinion seems to be about 10-to-1 that they are at least worth the consideration of a serious and lengthy read.

Cheers all,
S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 9, 2007, 12:20 AM)


jaywalke


Jan 9, 2007, 12:33 AM

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In Reply To
I'm skeptical that "Clench" and "Hopper" represent any large demographic here.


Excellent work "Clench" and "Hopper." Back into the hive mind. There will be a little extra honey in your stalls' oat bins for tonight.

I've come up with my own ranking system that factors in decent football games in the locality divided by the availability of a decent deli and the preponderance of good bourbon, which sets Michigan firmly atop the rotation. Any takers? [For those sad souls in Manhattan: Yes, the Carnegie is good. No, it's not as good as Zingerman's. Yes, really. As a matter of fact, I have lived in both places. Thanks for asking!]

Cheerleaders who can write magic realism get quadruple points. I can also be bribed with cash (or single-barrel bourbon or a world-shaking reuben like those at Zingerman's, or a combination of the two -- pardon me, semi-coma as I ponder the possibilities, with or without the cheerleader).

All that said, I'm applying to the program in my backyard, because I've spent 20 years moving and now I'm done. No ranking neccessary--it's this one or a low-residency. Voila!


(This post was edited by jaywalke on Jan 9, 2007, 12:34 AM)


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 9, 2007, 1:13 AM

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This is the major problem with Kealey's otherwise compassionate and insightful book (and rankings), and whenever I see Kealey criticized it is for this very reason: He places simply too much emphasis on funding. I believe that his reasoning for Iowa's being about ten to fifteen spots lower than I, and most of the writing world, think it should be is that the competitive funding creates some sort of disharmony. Well, the last thing I want is for my MFA program to be about teamwork, cheering, favors; in fact, if my classmates come to workshop bitter and hypersensitive, then they might just find more problems in my work that I need to address. If my classmates are tools that can be used in crafting my best stories, then shall they be the sharpest tools in the box! Now, what was I saying? Oh, yes. I'm very impressed when a school actually thinks so highly of its creative writing program, its faculty and its students, that it stacks fifteen thousand dollar bills right out there on the table. But there are a great many programs that I consider top-notch (great curriculum, great faculty, great students, great publishing success) who are not, for whatever reason, so generous. Iowa, Columbia, and Arizona, among others, are penalized so severely as to render his assessment of these schools inaccurate, disingenuous, and, frankly, very haughty.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 9, 2007, 2:02 AM

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I am, as you know, one of those enthusiasts for Bowling Green State and Southern Illinois, and I have to remind you that neither of these schools is a "recent bloomer," as you contend "everyone" would agree. Southern Illinois received the thirteenth highest score in the '97 USNWR rankings (3.1), and BGSU received the fifteenth highest (2.9).

But Bowling Green probably reached its peak in the 70s (and shortly before and shortly after), when the following people were associated with the MFA program, either as faculty or students:

Allen Wier, who directed the Alabama MFA program
Tony Ardizzone, who directed the Indiana MFA program
Dara Wier, who currently directs the MFA program at UMass
Anthony Doerr
Jim Daniels
Carolyn Forche
Barbara Paul
Marshall Klimasewisky, the star professor at Washington U in St. Louis
James Baldwin, who was on faculty for a couple of years
Jim Powell, the greatest undergraduate creative writing lecturer who ever lived, in my opinion

Southern Illinois turned out Robert Coover in the 60s, I believe. He now headlines the MFA faculty at Brown.


Original quote by umass76:

#3 is an issue with every single ranking that's ever been done, and TKS does alright there because the only complaints on this note have been from SIU, Illinois, and BGSU students or enthusiasts, and frankly those schools are in the Honorable Mention (rank: #51 to #55) section of the rankings, and everyone concedes these programs are only recent bloomers


HopperFu


Jan 9, 2007, 8:44 AM

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HopperFu,
Clearly, my tone has overwhelmed the substance of what I've said--a circumstance for which I can only blame myself. I know that my tone has overwhelmed my substance because that must be the case, as nothing about the way you've characterized what I've said previously suggests that you actually read what I said in the first instance--at least not with anything but anger, righteous indignation, and/or derision....


Yeah, that's the whole "tone begets tone" comment I made earlier...


Quote
Anyone reading this thread can see that I've exhaustively attempted to confront any and all "challenges" to Kealey's ranking system in a thorough and thoughtful way. You disagree with what I've said and that's fine; asserting that I'm "not actually considering" your challenges because I disagree with them is specious at best.


I'd agree that you are confronting arguments, which is different than actually considering them.
But the point is not your tone nor my tone, nor is it how many people are following your rankings - though I would think that having a large number of people should actually increase your willingness to accept challenges to your weights and measures - but rather that these rankings are based on what are ultimately only your opinions (as viewed through the lens of Kealey).
That is something you have stated, however, your arguments in defense of your rankings are so verbose, angry, and full of self-justification, that I think you are giving yourself and these rankings a heft and sense of authority that they don't deserve.
This is problematic because many people do NOT put a ton of research into figuring out where to apply. If they did, they wouldn't need rankings based on funding, location, faculty, course work, etc. They would have determined these things for themselves. The only thing they would have problems determining for themselves would be a) the reputation of a school, again, as measured by agents, editors, and publishers, not us, and b) the historical efficacy of a school (which is a problematic measure at best)
What these rankings do, essentially, is encourage people to apply to schools based on information that is readily accesible, while burying the information that is not.
If there is an answer to this, it would most likely a ranking system that did not try to rank schools equally based on a standard set of criteria, but rather one that had different types of rankings, for example, one ranking based on reputation and publishing history, another based on time to write (say funding and workload), and a third based on quality of life (student happiness, funding, location, whatever). Not to mention that Poetry and Fiction lists are not always the same.
But there are about ten schools, give or take, that almost every writer should consider applying to. Though they may strike many or all off their list for a variety of personal reasons - program size, funding, location, professors - these are still schools that EVERYBODY should give consideration to applying to. A ranking system that rates every school on a system of universal criteria means that, by neccessity, some of these schools get excluded consideration because of their relatively poor rankings. I believe this is a disservice to applicants.


mingram
Mike Ingram

Jan 9, 2007, 9:42 AM

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Nobody pays out-of-state tuition at Iowa, in either their first or second year.

Whether the program communicates that effectively is another matter entirely. The biggest problem with Iowa's funding isn't really the amount of it, but how confusing and non-transparent it is, even once you're in the program. When I was deciding on schools, I most seriously considered Florida and Iowa. The money was the same for me at both places, but it took me about two minutes to understand the funding scheme at UF, whereas I'm still not completely sure I understand the one at Iowa.

Anyway, sorry to interrupt the debate. As you were...


Aubrie


Jan 9, 2007, 11:08 AM

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Let's play a fun, new game.

Why don't we all list our first choice (or couple of first choices) school, and the reasons why.
I think this might be even more helpful for potential MFA applicants when they come back and look through our threads from 2006-2007.

I know that I found this board invaluable when I was deciding which schools to apply to -- way more so than USNWR's or Kealey's rankings.

So. Who wants to go first?

(I'm still putting my thoughts together on mine)


ecphraticknolls


Jan 9, 2007, 11:10 AM

Post #248 of 764 (15293 views)
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Quote
If there is an answer to this, it would most likely a ranking system that did not try to rank schools equally based on a standard set of criteria, but rather one that had different types of rankings, for example, one ranking based on reputation and publishing history, another based on time to write (say funding and workload), and a third based on quality of life (student happiness, funding, location, whatever). Not to mention that Poetry and Fiction lists are not always the same.


I was reading all of this as it came up--although, I didn’t want to get in the middle of anything. However, I was basically thinking the same thing. It would be useful to have rankings that allowed students to judge what was most important to them. Maybe even a system where prospective applicants can weigh various aspects of the process based off of how important they consider various factors to be.

The more dynamic and protean the ranking system is, the more useful it actually is in practice (rather than simply puffing up or deflating the reputation of particular schools based off of which number they fall on).


renapoo


Jan 9, 2007, 12:10 PM

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In Reply To
Why don't we all list our first choice (or couple of first choices) school, and the reasons why.
I think this might be even more helpful for potential MFA applicants when they come back and look through our threads from 2006-2007.


I'll play!

1. Irvine: AMAZING reputation, Very good funding, Strong (but small) faculty, Great Location

2. U Virginia: Strong reputation, Very good funding (teaching only in the 2nd year), AMAZING faculty, good location

3. Cornell: Strong reputation, Excellent funding (up to 5 years), Strong faculty, AMAZING Multidisciplinary Areas (English, Philosophy, etc.)

4. U Texas/Michener Center: Strong reputation, AMAZING funding, questionable faculty, Great location, success of recent graduates (Stegner & FAWC fellows)

And then in the next tier would be Michigan, Brown, and Iowa. I'm sure the top 4 spots will shift around in the coming months, but for now, that's my list and I'm sticking to it.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 9, 2007, 1:07 PM

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Quote
You've repeatedly misstated and/or flat-out ignored things I've said, as have one or two others here, and repeatedly attacked my tone while the initial "attack" in this thread was a blatant "attack"--in knee-jerk fashion--on a ranking you still don't show any signs whatsoever of actually understanding or caring to understand.


Can't say as I buy the "Jimmy did it first!" defense. It didn't work with my mom when I was a kid and it soured me on the idea. I'm not sure I read the "initial attack," I don't visit this site every day, but just because someone initially attacked you four pages ago doesn't give you liscence to attack every other poster in this thread. If you want to justify your tone against Jargreen (the initial attacker?), ok. But because you thought jargreen was a meanie doesn't mean you should insult HooperFu and every other poster.

I'm not sure what else to say here excpet we see things quite differently. I've presented several issues I have with the ranking system that have been completely ignored by you. I don't mind that in itself, but it is a little annoying for you to ignore all my (and some other posters) arguments and then turn around and declare things like "The only arguments anyone has given are that Iowa or Columbia are too low. Those peopel are just silly!"


Quote

And while we're having this discussion, 90% of the people who know about Kealey are reading TKS rankings and (apparently) coming back to them again and again (nine full days after I posted the rankings, visitors are up 500% with Kealey's site being the largest referrer by a factor of 10; so, you can understand, I hope, why I'm skeptical that "Clench" and "Hopper" represent any large demographic here).


I'm very glad for you. Good job.
But you should keep in mind that I visited your site from Kealey's and perhaps Hopper did as well. Merely because people are visiting rankings doesn't mean they do or don't have the same disagreements as me and hopper.


HopperFu


Jan 9, 2007, 1:08 PM

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[edited to add: given that I sort of suggested doing this, I'm embarrased that I didn't step up to the bar first. The only excuse was that I was busy this morning. Writing. Heh.]

I tried to find my list from last year and couldn't so here are a few. Upfront, I'll start with Cornell, since I'm biased toward it for any number of reasons, but these are some of the schools that I would encourage EVERY applicant to at least consider:

Cornell
Good: BEST FUNDING of any program I know of, very good faculty (though not many huge names) with ridiculously high ratio of faculty to students (there are eight students and this year eight fiction faculty to choose from for committees) that means faculty are extremely generous with their time (plus most of them are incredibly nice), supportive environment, very reasonable workload, decent name recognition among industry, most selective program in country (increases your chance of strong colleagues), cool town, associated with extremely well-regarded lit mag
Bad: We don't have as many huge name writers on faculty.


Okay, so after Cornell, I'll try to tier it:

Reputation

Iowa
Good: biggest, baddest of them all. Iowa name gets you noticed. Current faculty includes two Pulitzer Prize winners, plus Ethan Canin (who people rave about) and Samantha Chang (who I have worked with, and she's excellent), at the very least you should apply so that you know that you tried (plus, if you get in and turn it down, it's kind of a cool feeling)
Bad: huge entering class (25 each for poetry / fiction), funding is uneven, many students have reported profs as being unavailable outside of workshop, alum have either loved or absolutly hated it, associated English program unremarkable at best

Columbia
Good: publishing history, some big name profs, location means that if you are at all decent with networking, you'll meet people
Bad: minimal funding combined with huge tuition plus cost of living means that you may graduate $100k in debt. Huge entering class. Some reputation for cut-throatedness (as in mean, not as in honest critiquing, though I'm not sure how accurate that is)


Places to be Happy

Cornell

Michigan
Good: good rep as well, Peter Ho Davis spoken of with reverence, very good funding, people love Ann Arbor
Bad: no real star power on faculty

Alabama
I don't know a lot about the program, but one writer who does a lot of visiting gigs said she's never been to a place where the students seemed happier

Virginia
Good: faculty, funding? (sort of: see bad)
Bad: funding? (it was a little unclear to me, but I believe that it is almost impossible to get proper funding the first year if you are out of state)

Wash U in St. Louis
Good: faculty (not big names in fiction), funding, small and supportive program
Bad: no real publishing history that I'm aware of, St. Louis doesn't exactly rock

Off the top of my head, those are some of the programs that I'd suggest people look at....


(This post was edited by HopperFu on Jan 9, 2007, 1:13 PM)


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 9, 2007, 1:16 PM

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Quote
e places simply too much emphasis on funding. I believe that his reasoning for Iowa's being about ten to fifteen spots lower than I, and most of the writing world, think it should be is that the competitive funding creates some sort of disharmony.


My major issue with Kealey's rankings, other than the issue I explianed above, is that I'm unsure of why he punishes some schools but not others for similar funding. I see him and others rag on Iowa for tiered funding, which is justifiable even if I'm not convinced it is much of a problem, but I've never seen him attack other programs that give out different funding. UMass Amherst, NYU, etc. there are a lot of programs that Kealey speaks highly of which fully fund some students and don't fund others. Why does Iowa get knocked down so far and these others don't?


ecphraticknolls


Jan 9, 2007, 1:21 PM

Post #253 of 764 (10883 views)
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Okay, I’ll play too.

1. Iowa Writer's Workshop
I -really- like Mark Levine, and I’m also interested in working with Robert Hass. The reputation. I also am interested in taking classes in the English Department’s Modernism concentration

2. University of Oregon
Garret Hongo and Joseph Millar. Mmmm. Also John Lysaker, Peter Warnek in the philosophy program. I also really like the area.

3. University of Washington
Richard Kenney and Linda Bierds. Good location.

4.University of Florida
I would like the challenge of taking a class under William Logan. Sidney Wade is also interesting.

5. Colorado State
Simply because I people who go here seem to have really gotten a lot out of the program. Maybe not as high of a reputation as others--but I would really enjoy going here, I think.


FSU, Notre Dame, Indiana, Montana and Michigan also caught my eye for various reasons. Faculty first, funding second. Also, Michener… reputation and funding.


schambers1980


Jan 9, 2007, 1:34 PM

Post #254 of 764 (10876 views)
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I don't want to say that you guys are being neurotic... but you guys are being neurotic.


laughingman


Jan 9, 2007, 1:35 PM

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I think I touched on this a few pages ago--It's because of Iowa's visibility. There are unhappy students in every program, I'm sure, but the only ones that you hear about are the unhappy students at Iowa--consequently, it gets blown up and everyone thinks that there is some huge disharmony issue at Iowa, when everything I've been given to understand from iowa students in the last few years (from a friend, from this site, and from some blogs on the net) is that things are mostly copesetic.

I've heard rumor there were some tensions among classes in the early- and mid-nineties, but, c'mon. That was ten years ago. You can bet I'd be pretty effing flattered if I got an offer for one of the last-tier funding spots at the writers' workshop.

Also (and I touched on this a few pages ago, too), it's kind of funny to think that the way the Kealey Scale works, the only thing Iowa would have to do to climb up to a top-five slot would be slash its acceptances. They give out enough money to fully fund ten students or so if they cut the other fifteen acceptances, and then those ten are happy happy happy and the fifteen malcontents who had the sub-par funding suddenly have a different complaint... Personally, I'd take the lackluster funding and spend my time worrying about soaking up the genius from the pulitzer prize winners, the famous visiting writers, and the new literati of my generation.

-laugher


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 9, 2007, 1:45 PM

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Well since I'm here, I might as well post my thoughts on the best schools.
I'm not going to rank them, I'm just going to post what strike me as the elite in no order.
So The Top Tier (in no order)

Iowa.
Pros: What needs to be said? Along with UCI and Columbia, a school whose name dropping apparntly gets you out of the slush pile at many magazines. The faculty is quality and well regarded. The publication history of students is superb and the number of amazing writers it has produces is crazy. An MFA degree doesn't provide you with many tangible benefits, but Iowa seems like a name that will give you concrete help if you continue in the literary world. Also, unlike Hopper, I like its class size. Well regarded in all three genres.

Cons: Bad location, not the best funding although cheap in state tuition. Honestly, I feel like Iowa has started to really narrow itself aesthetically. The student work seems to be all in that character driven realism with ephiphany ending post-Carver school. Nothing wrong with that stuff, but I'd prefer more diversity of faculty and students. The university in genreal is weak.

UVA. Pros: Small, but quality faculty. The town is great, maybe the best college town of its size in the country. Seriously. Good funding whose details I forget. The university itself is great with lots of resources.

Cons: I don't think there are any outright cons to UVA. There are, for my money, better locations, better faculties and such, but UVA isn't bad in any areas.

Cornell. Pros: The one school I'd add to my applications if I had to do it again. Amazing funding, good faculty, students seem happy and the student boyd seems strong, great university.

Cons: For my money, the class size is way too small. Like Hopper said, the faculty could be a little bigger in names. Location isn't the greatest, though not bad.

Columbia. Pros: Every aspect of this program is excellent except for the funding. The faculty is the best for my money (lots of hip interesting authors like Lipsyte, Marcus, LaFarge as well as more established and traditional writers like Maureen Howard and Richard Ford), the location is top notch and being there really plugs you into the literary and publishing worlds if you wish to be, the student body is like the faculty, very diverse stylistically. Publication history of students is right up there with Iowa. Associated university is excellent. Excellent in poetry, fiction and non-fiction.

Cons: The class size is a little too large. Would be perfect at 2/3rds its size. Funding is very weak, although things are improving under Marcus.

UCI. Pros: I don't know too much about this program, but its always listed with Columbia and Iowa as the best in reputation these days and the publication history is top notch. Small program, but a lot of good writers coming out of it. Good funding.

Cons: Horrible (for my money) location. The associated unversity doesn't really stack up against most of the others on this list.

Texas/Michener Center. Pros: This school seems to have forced itself into the top with Michener centers amazing funding. Great location and funding.

Cons: Who teaches here?

Michigan-Ann Arbor. Pros: Seems like a strong school in every area. Good reputation, good faculty, good funding.

Cons: Not the best location and not the best university on the list.

---

Those seven are what strike me as the top tier.
I don't know what the second tier would be, but it would include these:
Brown (maybe too narrow of a focus to be in the top tier), Johns Hopkins (departure of Dixon really hurts its fiction in my eyes) and Syracuse.


renapoo


Jan 9, 2007, 2:04 PM

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In Reply To

Virginia
Good: faculty, funding? (sort of: see bad)
Bad: funding? (it was a little unclear to me, but I believe that it is almost impossible to get proper funding the first year if you are out of state)


No, UVA's funding is good! Something like $7500 stipend and a tuition waver for ALL first-year fiction writers and something like $16,000 & a waver for poets (because they accept fewer of them). Then in the second year everybody teaches either a cw class or a comp class and gets paid, I dunno, $10,000-ish? (i think it varies from year to year)


HopperFu


Jan 9, 2007, 2:27 PM

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Ah, I'll defer to you. I ended up not applying last year. I thought you had to pay tuition out of your stipend, which is reasonable if you are in state, but not so much out of state... I didn't look super closely.


SweetJane


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Jan 9, 2007, 3:26 PM

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In Reply To

No, UVA's funding is good! Something like $7500 stipend and a tuition waver for ALL first-year fiction writers and something like $16,000 & a waver for poets (because they accept fewer of them). Then in the second year everybody teaches either a cw class or a comp class and gets paid, I dunno, $10,000-ish? (i think it varies from year to year)


According to the website, no tuition waivers are given. Instead, the stipend covers all of the tuition and "allows for a stipend." Since tuition costs are different for in-state/out-of-state students, I would imagine that there is a sizable difference in the size of the stipend after tuition costs. I have no idea what the difference is, though. The confusion over the funding there is, for me, the only draw back in a program I have otherwise fallen in love with (it has quickly become my top choice, and I'll totally cry if I don't get in).

Here's my list of my-top-choices-and-why. Keep in mind that funding and location are huge concerns for me.

University of Virginia - Love just about everything about it. Great, exciting location in an area of the country where I've always wanted to live that's only six hours (rather than a world) away from my significant other. Low cost of living. Promising funding. Nice, moderate program size. Great faculty. Solid reputation. Only drawback is that I'm not entirely clear how much of a stipend I'll have left over after paying for tuition fees as an out-of-state student, and I don't want to take out loans to attend an MFA program. On the other hand, I saw someone on this board indicate that the course load might be light enough in the first year to pick up a part time job. With several years of waitressing experience under my belt, I might still be able to squeak by.

University of Wisconsin - Location! Madison sounds like an amazing place to live. Low cost of living, and if I want to rough it and live really cheaply, there are plenty of coops in the city. Good funding (full tuition waiver, health care, 12000 a year stipend). I'm not really that impressed by the faculty, though, and the teeny tiny program size could either be wonderful or awful.

University of Oregon - Again, location--see just about everything written about Madison above. Funding is great. I have heard some iffy things about faculty feuds, and I really only like Dorianne Laux's poetry. And although I love the idea of the west coast, home sickness is a concern for me.

University of Florida - Logan! I love the idea of studying under someone who tells it like it is. Location seems okay. The website has alumni postings, and I get the feeling that there is a terrific community between students. But, the website is also shoddily designed and I found it impossible to get anyone on the phone in both the English and grad departments when I had some questions about the program. I already attended one state school plagued by red-tape, and I'm not too sure if I want to attend another.

Also applying to, and feeling less enthusiastic about: U Wash (Seattle), U Montana, U Iowa.

So, there you go. I'm not sure if this is helpful to anyone who's not a liberal, "hippy dippy" (as my very New York sister puts it) poet. I'm certainly sure that a lot of people would never consider the availability of cooperative housing when they tally the cost of living in a city! If nothing else, I guess this is an indication of how subjective this all is.


SJ

"Oh, all the poets they studied rules of verse
and those ladies, they rolled their eyes"


renapoo


Jan 9, 2007, 3:52 PM

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According to the website, no tuition waivers are given. Instead, the stipend covers all of the tuition and "allows for a stipend."


Ah, my bad. I was just reading the Nov/December P&W and it says: "Although the stipends vary slightly from year to year, depending on the number of in-state students, all students receive a tuition remission and free health insurance." But I guess I mis-read "remission" as "waiver." I'm not really sure what "remission" means, to be honest.

Oh well! I guess we'll just have to cross our fingers and see how much money they have available this year.


Lglabor


Jan 9, 2007, 4:27 PM

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In the interests of beefing up the "everyone has her own set of criteria" camp, I'll list a few of my favorites. They are Indiana, Brooklyn College, Southern Illinois, and the new programs at Rutgers-Newark and Queens College-CUNY. For me, the ideal program has a faculty of great writers of whom at least as many are women as men and at least as many are people of color as white, and a good many of whom are writers whose work has a progressive political bent. The ideal program is geared, or at least explicitly welcoming toward, student writers from working-class backgrounds, students of many nationalities, and older students with life experience. I think UMass-Amherst may also belong on my list but I'm not sure; I love that Chris Bachelder, an exciting young novelist whose work is very political, is now there, and I have a vague memory that Martin Espada is too but I may be wrong on this.

On the one hand I do like the view some have expressed that we should put together our top choices list based on our own sets of critera (like the ones I've listed for myself above, which seem to be different than those of most others on this board), and then, once that list is in place, go through and figure out the finances. On the other hand, the reality is that most of us regular working people who write and would love to study writing can't possibly seek an MFA without serious financial support so funding can become the single most important criterion, forcing us to apply to programs that otherwise aren't so appealing. However, it's not as either-or as all that, I think. My impression is that several of the schools that meet my criteria offer pretty decent packages.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 9, 2007, 5:51 PM

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Quote

University of Virginia....Low cost of living.


I must say that cost of living is something that always confuses me. Prior to moving to NYC to go to Columbia I was living in Charlottesville and living a similar lifestyle (most of my friends were UVA grad students), however I was pretty much spending the same amount of money. Several times in this thread and in real life I've heard people say how insane the cost of living in NYC, but I honestly can't tell what that means. My rent at Columbia is only about 75 dollars more than my rent in Charlottesville and while one can certainly find a cheap place with multiple roomates in Charlottesville, I know people doing the same in NYC. Pizza is two bucks a slice in both places, groceries are about the same. Restaurants are pretty much the same, if you ignore the insanely expensive NYC ones. You have to take a subway in NYC, but you have to own a car in a town like Charlottesville which is more expensive. Beer is a buck more at a bar in NYC though.

I put UVA in my top 8 programs and I love Charlottesville, so I'm not knocking it here. I'm just surprised to see Charlottesville listed as a low cost of living area. I don't really see how living there would cost much less than NYC, at least if you are living a typical 20s/30s grad school life (which you might very well not be.)

Is cost of living calculated by what the average amount spent is? Or by what the cheapest comfortable living would be? Sorry if this is a little off topic, just something that struck me.

EDIT:

You know what, I just looked this up and Charlottesville has the highest cost of living in Virginia after NoVa and while Manhattan is higher, the other bouroughs of NYC are lower. Guess that clears up my confusion and I guess you shouldn't expect a low cost of living at UVA.


(This post was edited by Clench Million on Jan 9, 2007, 6:07 PM)


SweetJane


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Jan 9, 2007, 6:53 PM

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I'm basing cost-of-housing primarily on information gleaned from craigslist and from being familiar with NYC housing costs. I have no problem sharing rooms or living farther from campus to cut down on costs, and that definitely has an impact on how-cheap things will be. Those I know living in New York City (my sister, in Long Island City, Queens, sharing a 1bdrm and my best friend, living in Williamsburg, sharing a 3bdrm railroad) are both paying over six hundred dollars a month before utilities for their shared rooms, and my sister has had no luck finding a decent 2 bedroom in Queens or Brooklyn for less than $1500.

In contrast, a quick browsing of Charlottesville craigslist seems to present quite a few options in the $300-$400 range. Of course, the cheapest places are outside of Charlottesville (I spotted a 3 bedroom farmhouse a half hour outside of the city for $650 total a few days ago). In any case, haven't looked at the overall cost of living, but it seems to me that you get a little more flexibility in housing in Charlottesville than you would in NYC. Also, it seems to me that gentrification is having a serious impact on rents in the more accessible parts of Queens and Brooklyn and I wouldn't be surprised if, over the next few years, cost of housing increased dramatically in those areas.

You're probably very well right about the cost of everything else, though. Since I'm already paying New Yorkish prices for food and transportation in New Jersey (well, more for transportation, since I have a car), my more immediate concern for comparing budgets is rent--I'm pretty much used to paying an arm and a leg to eat!

(As a note, I just took a look a cursory glance at some cost of living information, and while prices might be similar, Charlottesville's much lower retail tax would definitely have a positive impact on going out to eat and the like. Though it would screw up my ability to calculate a tip.)


SJ

"Oh, all the poets they studied rules of verse
and those ladies, they rolled their eyes"


__________



Jan 9, 2007, 7:51 PM

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Wost. Thread. Ever.


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augustmaria


Jan 9, 2007, 8:07 PM

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It frustrates me when comments like these are made. It just makes the whole thing even less productive, and I thought that this thread was looking up. I'm enjoying reading all the different lists. Keep them coming!


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 9, 2007, 8:21 PM

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>>If you want to justify your tone against Jargreen (the initial attacker?), ok. But because you thought jargreen was a meanie doesn't mean you should insult HooperFu and every other poster.<<


And I was being nice and supportive of umass76 and his rankings! I merely came to the conclusion that I'm more interested in rankings based upon reputation for excellence, as decided by a panel of creative writing experts. When my preference was attacked as being, somehow, mathematically unreliable and, in fact, biased, I came back with some very fine rebuttals, in my opinion, most of which were NOT responded to. But I've always said that the Kealey list factors in all sorts of variables that make it extremely helpful for folks who haven't done all that research.

Okay, moving on ...


Aubrie


Jan 9, 2007, 8:39 PM

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I agree augustmaria. I thought we could try and steer the conversation away from the bickering about Kealey/umass rankings and move towards something that would be (more? even a little bit?) helpful for future applicants.

And I think so far everyone's lists have been really insightful. So I suggest to keep them coming as well.


Fear&Loathing


Jan 9, 2007, 8:51 PM

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Ain't that the truth.


Rambler


Jan 9, 2007, 9:03 PM

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I agree with augustmaria. I was really scrolling along enjoying the ride, hearing about everybody's hopeful schools and glad to see some fellow lurkers jumping in the game. I offer my support.

1. Northwestern Univ. - For purely personal reasons. The program is pretty new, an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage. NU is reputable and in a cool part of Illinois (Chicago's northern neighbor, Evanston). And I like the double concentration. Plus, I'm a Cubs fan.

2. Warren Wilson - For fiction. I live in SC, so even for a low-res., this would be incredibly convenient.

3. Queens - For fiction or stage and/or screen writing. Any info on this program would be valued. Their deadline is coming in March.

That's it for me. My decision making comes down to the life logistics as well as reputation. My husband is finishing a Ph.D., so the only place I'd move is to Chicago, where I grew up. Also, as far as I'm aware, there is only one MFA program offered in Creative Writing in SC. And I don't live close to Columbia.

I read this post religiously. And I find the posts incredibly helpful. So while my list might not make sense to any other readers, I want to put it out there as a show of support for the game.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 9, 2007, 9:55 PM

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Here are the eight schools to which I applied, listed in order of how badly I want to be accepted:

1. Michigan ... One great professor can change your life in areas that you never thought needed change. Maybe Peter Ho Davies will be that professor, maybe he won't. Otherwise, the funding is amazing, it's five hours from my family, Ann Arbor seems like a nice little town, and Detroit (a ghetto paradise that is oddly majestic and stimulating to me) is a half-hour away.
2. Florida ... I love, love, love this faculty (Padget Powell, David Leavitt, Mary Robison). And I love, love, love the beach.
3. Johns Hopkins ... Stephen Dixon's leaving is very poopy news, but perhaps he'll drop by for a visit. I can't wait to call Baltimore my home; it is a beeeeautiful fucking city. But this school is here mainly because of the name, I have to admit.
4. Washington U in St. Louis ... This program is all about letting you write. Just write. Plus, the architecture on campus is really lovely. St. Louis may be the nation's most violent big city, but it has a remarkable literary history (Twain Chopin Eliot Tennessee Williams Burroughs Nemerov Marianne Moore Inge Angelou Franzen Pulitzer).
5. UMass ... I can't wait to live in New England. Plus, I am liking this faculty the more and more I hear about them.
6. Bowling Green State ... A peaceful location for writing, a great program for teaching. They keep spitting out MFA program directors (Indiana, Alabama, Massachusetts, more to come).
7. Illinois ... A five-year-old program that funds every student, has a large and diverse faculty, and is associated with a top-notch English department. And it's like 90 minutes from my mommy.
8. Southern Illinois ... This is, I suppose, my safe school. I have a friend who goes there and loves it. They fully fund all students and offer great teaching opportunities. But Carbondale doesn't have any great ghettos.

I must say, if I'm not able to go to a school that communes peacefully with nature, then I want a school that is within driving distance of the most devastated slums. You may wonder about my fascination with impoverished innercity places (or my choice to continue to refer to them as "ghettos"). Abandoned buildings and neglected streets are, to me, full of stories: What kind of lives used to be lived there? How are the people there now different from the people that were there before? Why did things change? What does the future hold? What other secrets are concealed beneath those consuming images? (But for all the inspiration that I extract from the innercity, I can't say that I haven't paid some of my dues there; in a previous lifetime, working to provide social services and to organize in the iconic slums of Indianapolis.)

Here are the schools that I seriously considered but did not apply to, and the reasons why:

Iowa ... This I regret immensely. I was completely duped by the negative hype started by Tom Kealey and some disgruntled (unsuccessful, I presume) graduates. I would pay a $250 late fee if I could apply by the end of the week.
Indiana ... I love Bloomington dearly, but I got to get out of this place.
Minnesota ... I was scared by the cold. Has global warming hit Minneapolis yet?
Arizona ... I truly believe that their funding does not warrant my traveling 2000 miles to go to school.
Oregon ... I truly believe that their faculty does not warrant my traveling 2400 miles to go to school.
Arizona St., Colorado St. ... These also were too far from home, despite my liking them very much.
Syracuse ... I simply lost interest.
Mississippi ... I don't know exactly why I didn't apply here. Maybe I forgot.
Brown, NYU, Cornell ... I couldn't make the deadline.


(This post was edited by jargreen on Jan 9, 2007, 10:22 PM)


laughingman


Jan 9, 2007, 10:31 PM

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Where I applied:

Cornell- I want to see what sibyline and Hopperfu look like.
Minnesota- the funding and Charles Baxter sounded good; I'm hoping the city turns out to be really, really great (i hear it is).
Syracuse and Virginia- 'cause everyone else was applying.
Montana- I was like "A good program? In Montana?" and then I looked it up online (the city and the program) and it's beautiful and I have a huge crush on it. Part of me hopes I get in there and nowhere else so that I can go... but alas I would probably take most of my programs over it :(.
Iowa- Reputation alone.
Washington at St. Louis- "The Ivy League of the Midwest?" great funding, great city.
Amherst- I like the proximity to Boston and New York, love the size (am I the only one who would prefer a big program like Iowa/Montana/Amherst to a small one?) and love the three year duration.
Indiana- with everyone on the board badmouthing it lately, I kind of hope their application numbers drop so I have a better chance of getting in to this three year program.
Austin- Greed
Purdue- Three years in a good city.
Arkansas- Great Reputation, reputedly beautiful, three year program, tiered funding- but hey, a chance for a Walton Fellowship. Oh, and they read your manuscript for free before they decide if they want to charge you to apply.


Where I'm applying next year if I don't get in this year:
Madison- Lorrie Moore etc, etc, etc
Arizona- Tucson looks great, for one, funding is looking up with the new fellowships (25k!), and I'm a little perturbed I was lead to believe this program was on the decline by the Kealey book.
Greensboro and Wilmington- I just like N Carolina, and both have great reps (one established, one on the rise)
Florida- now that its January, both Florida and FSU are looking especially good.
San Marcos- Mitte Chair, adjunct readers, three years, city located between Austin and San Antonio, chance at Rose Fellowship, etc

I didn't apply to Michigan, JHU, or Houston because I didn't want to waste my time fooling around with their language requirements. I won't apply to any of the New York City schools for funding reasons.

-laugher


(This post was edited by laughingman on Jan 9, 2007, 10:41 PM)


renapoo


Jan 10, 2007, 12:53 AM

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I love this post! Things I agree with:


Cornell- I want to see what sibyline and Hopperfu look like.
Don't we all! Especially with that MFA calendar Sib is nominating H-fu for...


In Reply To
Austin- Greed

Totally. Greed. I don't really want to go there, but could I turn it down? 60 grand? Damn.


In Reply To
Madison- Lorrie Moore etc, etc, etc

Madison breaks my heart. Luckily that have that post-mfa fellowship thing, so Lorrie and I still have a chance...

Also, G. Saunders at Syracuse won the "genius" macarthur grant recently, if anyone cares. Not sure how that will change the program, but he's gone from being a kind of underground superstar to a totally recognized superstar. But I didn't apply there because I didn't want to live in Syracuse (sorry, I've heard it's nice, but I'm from PA and hoping to find a new and exciting climate)


__________



Jan 10, 2007, 1:08 AM

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Sorry. I was referring only to the bickering w/ the 'worst thread' remark. Where are my emoticons? I jest, I jest!

I do think a good approach might just involve multiple lists--divide schools into three or more categories, i.e. Best Funding, Best Connections, Most Time To Write, etc., as a starting point. That way, you'll get the sought after info, plus satisfy this desire to rank everything. Many folks I've spoken with, are, as Hopper Fu observes, driven by one big factor, and reading any monolithic ranking system might just confuse things...


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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Jan 10, 2007, 1:11 AM)


hamholio


Jan 10, 2007, 2:23 AM

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I'm happy this thread turned into something more productive -- Let's hope it stays that way! Perhaps the power of the collective lists is defeating the bludgeoning force of the one list. ;-)

I might contribute my own thoughts when it's not one in the morning.


wiswriter
Bob S.
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Jan 10, 2007, 8:20 AM

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I just skimmed this thread and almost passed out. This is predictable coming from me, but really, any MFA ranking that doesn't include low-res programs is ridiculous from the start. Somebody up there put Warren Wilson 40th on their list. Warren Wilson is harder to get into than Iowa. Has anyone checked the low-res faculties? Charles Baxter, hello?

I'm at my last Bennington residency and there's a writer buzzing around doing a story on the top programs for The Atlantic. He's visiting a bunch of places. I'm just praying he doesn't do a ranking.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 10, 2007, 8:58 AM

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That was my list, which was really just for my own research purposes; I wasn't considering low-res programs. But I'm curious now. I think I may have ranked WW, Bennington, and others too low. Two wonderful writing professors here at Indiana got their MFAs at low-res programs: Crystal Wilkinson at Spalding University in Kentucky, Alyce Miller at Vermont College.


ecphraticknolls


Jan 10, 2007, 9:57 AM

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I don’t think that most MFA applicants are all that interested in the low-res option… although, an information source for those who are interested would be welcome.

Why don’t you rank some of the low-res programs, and give people a little information about each of them. I think it will help in shifting this thread back from all the pointless bickering.


HopperFu


Jan 10, 2007, 10:25 AM

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Actually, a lot of MFA students are interested in low-res, but they rarely overlap with non-low res.
Almost all people who are interested in low-res are interested in almost exclusively low-res because, for whatever reason, the low-res model is the only one that works.
I'd agree with ecphraticknolls that if you are interested in ranking them, there are quite a few people who would appreciate that, though perhaps that should be in the low-res thread?
I do know that low-res programs, even more so than traditional residency programs, have the problem of sorting the real schools from the cash-cow schools, and there has been a huge explosion in the number of low-res programs. Some of them are truly excellent, but there are some that are, essentially, designed to make money for the host institution. So if you want to rank, with your reasons, go for it.
But it doesn't make a lot of sense to rank - however or whatever that means - with traditional residency programs. The applicant pools rarely pull from the same group.


ecphraticknolls


Jan 10, 2007, 12:01 PM

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I know that there is a definite section of the application pool that considers the low-res option (or is held to it because of obligations), I just think that it is more of a marginal thing percentage wise. There is no question that some of these programs are very good--but, the vast majority of MFA applicants, based off of the way the application numbers seem to fall (taken from my own unsystematic observation, mind you), are looking for the one-on-one, face-to-face of the traditional workshop MFA.

I also have to agree with you that it is like comparing apples and oranges--making it rather pointless to stick them together in the same ranking system

When it comes down to it, it is just nice to have the information out there for perspective applicants.

It would be nice if there was both information comparing low-res programs, as well as information that might make some people consider including them in their list of applications. I actually was thinking about including a couple, but since it wasn’t a necessity for me, and because I was confused about how much of the funding works (will I be able to rely on the FAFSA for a chunk of my living expenses?) I ultimately decided against applying to any low-res programs.


GDClark
George David Clark
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Jan 10, 2007, 12:14 PM

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Re: [HopperFu] My Schools [In reply to] Can't Post

There were several posts yesterday and this morning concerning UVAs funding and I thought I might be able to clear things up with "concrete" numbers. As a poet in this years class (one in-state student) I get $1800 and change in stipend each month--this is after tuition, fees, etc. Plenty to live on in C-ville and put a little away for post-MFA unemployment. On the fiction side (also one in-stater) the stipend came out around $1100 a month, if I'm not mistaken. They also received a Christmas bonus.

The stipend amount changes each year based on number of in-state students, but even last year when everyone was out-of-state, poets were getting $1700.

No one's getting rich off UVAs funding, but it's plenty to live on. You won't need to get a job unless you want an excuse to avoid the keyboard for a few more hours a day.

Hope that helps.


(This post was edited by GDClark on Jan 10, 2007, 12:21 PM)


bighark


Jan 10, 2007, 1:09 PM

Post #281 of 764 (10104 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] My Schools [In reply to] Can't Post

ecphraticknolls,

I don't know if I would agree that the number of Low Res applications are marginal compared with those sent to traditional programs. Judging by the pace by which Low Res programs are proliferating, I would say that Low Res program directors wouldn't agree with that statement either.

Also, I think students looking for one-on-one, face-to-face faculty mentorhsip at traditional MFAs are likely to end up disappointed.

Traditional MFAs are not set up to run that way. You may find a generous faculty member from time to time, but the fact of the matter is that faculty at traditional MFA programs are not expected to provide that one-on-one level of support. They have workshops to run. You may get some face-to-face time in the workshop setting and maybe within office hours, if they're offered, but one-on-one mentorship is not a selling point of traditional MFAs.

Having said that, one-on-one mentorship is the Low Res MFA's stock in trade. Not all Low Res programs feature one-on-one mentorship, some are starting to embrace the workshop model of their traditional cousins--but a majority do. It's a big reason why Low Res alumni speak so highly of their programs.

Anyway, while I think that ranking MFA programs of any sort is kind of silly, I do think that Low Res program ought to be considered when we're discussing reputation and quality.



ecphraticknolls


Jan 10, 2007, 1:25 PM

Post #282 of 764 (10095 views)
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Re: [bighark] My Schools [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, many of the traditional MFA programs have, or sometimes require, independent study and readings (this is a lot of face-to-face time). I always try to visit my professors during office hours, I think it is one of the means to get the best out of your education. And trust me, in some of these places where the they only accept 5-10 students per year, there is more than enough time to get to know your instructors.

And I don’t doubt that the low-res programs are becoming more popular--there seem to be more of them every year. However, the number is a lot less than the large number of traditional MFAs.


SweetJane


e-mail user

Jan 10, 2007, 2:50 PM

Post #283 of 764 (10069 views)
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Re: [GDClark] My Schools [In reply to] Can't Post

This is wonderful and makes me happy. Thanks for the information!


In Reply To
No one's getting rich off UVAs funding, but it's plenty to live on. You won't need to get a job unless you want an excuse to avoid the keyboard for a few more hours a day.

Hope that helps.



SJ

"Oh, all the poets they studied rules of verse
and those ladies, they rolled their eyes"


renapoo


Jan 10, 2007, 5:31 PM

Post #284 of 764 (10035 views)
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Re: [GDClark] My Schools [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Plenty to live on in C-ville and put a little away for post-MFA unemployment.


Yes! Real numbers, god love em.

And even though I'm a fiction-writer, somehow it seems fitting that poets get more money. Writing in general is a hard thing to make a living at; with poetry writing, it's nearly impossible. Why NOT pay them more in grad school?


umass76


Jan 10, 2007, 6:35 PM

Post #285 of 764 (10009 views)
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Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Here:

http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/...a-rankings-2007.html

The good news is, there's no realistic chance that I'll be defensive about this one: it's a popularity/general reputation poll, pure and simple, and it's taken from data on this site and Live Journal. Obviously a lot of people will disagree with the conclusions I drew from this data, but I'm not looking to be contentious about it and will try to avoid being so.

All I think (humbly! this is just my personal opinion) is this: 135 people "participated," which is actually quite a lot I feel, and, as noted at the link, 37 of the top 48 schools in TKS and this new poll are within eleven spots of one another, which immediately struck me (when I suddenly realized it, after compiling the data) as astounding from a "confidence"-level perspective (to use a bit of poll-speak).

But again: this is a popularity/general reputation poll, not a "quality" ranking which takes into account particular criteria, so I don't know that there's much here to ruffle feathers. It is what it is, I think. And it's just a compilation of data; I didn't create or interpret or alter the data, I'm just reporting what [you all] said. So, again, I think it is what it is, and not more than that. Take it for what it's worth--I think it's an interesting curio, in any event.

Cheers, all (not looking for a fight I swear!),
S.

P.S. You'll notice Iowa has recovered its rightful place, now that we're just talking "reputation"(!) :-)


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 10, 2007, 11:33 PM)


laughingman


Jan 10, 2007, 6:53 PM

Post #286 of 764 (9998 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

*puts a talley mark on umass76's side of the board*

Nice work. Might I assume my very own little list was included? *blushes* Nice to be included.

I won't call it authoratitive or definitive, or anything... but it certainly is VERY interesting. A great tool for people applying to programs next year.

-laugher


augustmaria


Jan 10, 2007, 8:08 PM

Post #287 of 764 (9970 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah! The mysterious "University of Indiana" has shown itself. I wonder where that school is located? Maybe in Bloomingtown?

(I keed, I keed.)


bighark


Jan 10, 2007, 8:19 PM

Post #288 of 764 (9965 views)
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Re: [augustmaria] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Is that anywhere near Notre Dame University? The one run by the Jesuits?


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 10, 2007, 11:15 PM

Post #289 of 764 (9927 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

That is a pretty interesting blog post (although the link is incorrect there). I can't say as I find schools eleven spaces off to count as close. I'd say anything more than 5 spots is a pretty large gap, and 10 or so is a huge difference. Sure there are 400 MFA programs, but there are only 30-40 (if that) that have any real reputation or get any real amount of applications, so when ranking MFAs we are really just shuffling around those ~35 programs.

Still, interesting. Thanks for putting it together.


umass76


Jan 10, 2007, 11:40 PM

Post #290 of 764 (9918 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

The link has been fixed now, thanks.

I've actually been surprised at how many MFA programs there are that people are aware of and/or willing to talk about. If there were 400 programs actively getting numerous applications (which I'll agree there is not), 11 spots would be a 2.8% difference in "score" between two programs. My research suggests there are maybe 110 or so (and yes, I'm rounding toward this number to make the math easier) programs which ought to be taken quite seriously, which would make 11 spots around a 10% difference in "score."

More importantly, though, I guess my feeling--and I don't have any way to back this up, it's just a hunch--is that when you see a 10% difference in "score" between two admittedly unscientific rankings, you're probably within the margin of error. I think that, for a 10% difference to not be within the MoE, we'd have to think (paradoxically) quite a lot of these rankings, and feel that their MoE was less than 10%. Even as a supporter of these rankings in the broadest general sense, I'd have to concede there's at least a 10% MoE, one reason I felt 11 spots' difference in "score" was not, for these rankings, necessarily statistically significant.

Best,
S.


umass76


Jan 10, 2007, 11:44 PM

Post #291 of 764 (9916 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

P.S. I'll be putting out a composite TKS/LJPW ranking shortly, just so that folks can see what up-to-date, funding-heavy (TKS) and reputation-heavy (LJPW) rankings would look like if conjoined. I think people will find the TSE Composite Rankings interesting, as they do seem to be approaching--if not there yet--a sort of "consensus" ranking a lot of people actually might feel very good about (as a curio, if nothing more; not, I admit, as a particularly deliberative or dispositive rubric--some will see it that way more than others, as always).

S.


JKicker
Jonathan

Jan 11, 2007, 1:14 AM

Post #292 of 764 (9900 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Another nice list. I'm composing a comprehensive list of MFA resources for my undergraduate to give to future MFA candidates and your blog will definately be on the list. Speaking of which, it's probably been posted but what is the link or name of the mfa livejournal community that you pulled your info from? I wasn't aware there were any other big community sites besides this one.


HopperFu


Jan 11, 2007, 7:44 AM

Post #293 of 764 (9882 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
...when you see a 10% difference in "score" between two admittedly unscientific rankings, you're probably within the margin of error...

I think Clench's point (and if not, at least mine), is that the "big difference" has less to do with factuality than it does with the emotional impact of rankings. Ten or eleven spots might be within the margin of error, but usually when somebody is thinking, "hey, what are the top schools?", they look for the top ten or the top twenty-five. So it's not being off ten spots out of 400 or even 100 ranked schools, but rather what it does when you are looking at the very top of the list.
I mean, it can't really matter that much if a school is ranked 76 or 86 in terms of applications - at that point you are probably dealing simply with impulses and almost pure personal preference - while it makes a huge difference in terms of the impact if you rank a school 1 versus 10.

Not that we can do anything about the imperfect nature of this. Well, I guess we could go back to attacking each other. That was *fun*.


SabraW


Jan 11, 2007, 8:51 AM

Post #294 of 764 (9875 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey, but the attacks offered some amusing reading.

What I find interesting in all of this is that none of the rankings seem to list student success rate post-graduation. Someone who is banking on getting a degree from a "top 10" program and finding themselves earning a living wage after they're done, might be surprised to learn that quite a few award-winning and published writers from "top 10" programs end up adjunct teaching for quite some time. Also, the supply and demand issue has to come into play. How many CW teachers are needed? There's going to be a point of critical mass and I think 400 programs is getting quite close.


umass76


Jan 11, 2007, 9:18 AM

Post #295 of 764 (9866 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Hopper,
This may surprise you a bit...but I actually agree with you. 11 spots has a significant "emotional" impact. I think the only distinction I would draw--which makes, in a sense, my "MoE" analogy inapt--is that we're not talking about one unscientific ranking being 11 spots "off" from the "truth" (in which case that difference really could skew that "truth"), we're talking about one unscientific ranking being, at most, 11 spots off from another unscientific ranking. That is, because we can't know which if either is correct, it's not entirely surprising to see a larger MoE because there needs to be more "space" for the "truth" to be somewhere in the middle...i.e., if there's an 11-point disparity, perhaps each ranking is "only" 5.5 spots off, which would be close enough to the "truth," I think, to satisfy Clench and others.

In any event, because I do agree with you that 11 points is very different from 5 (or 5.5), I created The Suburban Ecstasies Composite MFA Rankings--

http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/...fa-rankings-tse.html

--which average TKS and LJPW in an attempt to hone in on a more accurate reading of where the schools stand in the general opinion, when both reputation and funding are concerned. The TSE Composite seems interesting to me because it softens the effect of some Kealey-specific findings (Texas is top 10 but not #2; Syracuse is top 10 but a little lower; Iowa is no longer two spots from the top 10, but rather two spots from the top 5) and softens some unusual LJPW findings (UMass is again in the top 10 but not #3; Notre Dame is top 25 but not top 10, which feels more "right") while allowing the widely-acknowledged top schools to flourish: i.e, Virginia, Michigan, Cornell, Indiana, Irvine, Texas, Iowa, Brown, Syracuse, UMass, Johns Hopkins, Houston, Columbia, and NYU are all now within the top 15 schools (which, again, with 400 schools, is in the top 1.5% of schools, a pretty rarified class, and the top 15% of schools even if we only acknowledge 100 highly competitive programs). I think, because of the LJPW, I feel a little more confidence than before about some of my gut instincts, like that Texas and Irvine are top 10 but not two and one, respectively, that Iowa deserves to be top 10, and that schools like Houston and JHU and Columbia and NYU are still enormously respected but may not (just conjecture here) be considered top 5 schools as they were ten years ago. Though again, top 15 ain't bad at all.
S.


Glinda Bamboo


Jan 11, 2007, 9:36 AM

Post #296 of 764 (9862 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

I would also like the link to the livejournal MFA community/pages. Thanks.


renapoo


Jan 11, 2007, 9:41 AM

Post #297 of 764 (9860 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Not sure what UMass was working with, but here's the 2007 livejournal page:

http://community.livejournal.com/who_got_in/25331.html

with a link to the 2006 forum up at the top where it says "...last year..."

(This post was edited by motet on Jan 11, 2007, 5:10 PM)


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Jan 11, 2007, 5:06 PM

Post #298 of 764 (9787 views)
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Re: [renapoo] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

renapoo, I'm editing your post to make the livejournal link "hot".

Dana


HopperFu


Jan 11, 2007, 5:22 PM

Post #299 of 764 (9771 views)
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In Reply To
renapoo, I'm editing your post to make the livejournal link "hot".

Dana


You've got mad skillz, Dana. Thanks.


JKicker
Jonathan

Jan 11, 2007, 9:57 PM

Post #300 of 764 (9725 views)
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Re: [renapoo] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks Rena! That link is hot in multiple ways...ah yes another night's worth of MFA reading.


renapoo


Jan 11, 2007, 11:43 PM

Post #301 of 764 (11112 views)
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Re: [JKicker] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't want to brag, but most of my links are hot. With a little help from a moderator, of course.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 12, 2007, 3:18 AM

Post #302 of 764 (11093 views)
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Quote
My research suggests there are maybe 110 or so (and yes, I'm rounding toward this number to make the math easier) programs which ought to be taken quite seriously, which would make 11 spots around a 10% difference in "score."


I guess this is just our difference of opinion. I wouldn't insult these programs by saying they shouldnt' be taken seriously, but I think that if we were say doing a ranking of the top 30 programs there are really only 44 or so that could seariously make a claim to be in there. It is like if we were making a list of the top skylines in the world. I guess technically every city has a skyline, so there are a billion candidates, but I can't imagine more than 15 or 20 having any real claim.

Like Hopper said, this is an issue that gets more important as we go up the list. An 11 spot difference in the 50s doesn't mean much. But an 11 spot difference in the top 20 is a huge difference, at least it strikes me that way.

I stopped taking math classes in high school, so this talk of margin of errors and such flies over my head. What I meant wasn't really that the math was off or the margin of error was too big. It was more like... well, let me go back to my NFL comparison. Every week during the regular season different sites like ESPN or Sports Illustrated come out with "power rankings" of the 32 teams. Those lists are never identical, but most teams rank within 1-3 spots from the others power rankings. There is also a site called ABQ rankings which has a statistical model instead of the subjective lists on other sites, and again teams aren't ranked too far from each other. A difference of 11 spots would be astrounding in that context. Obviously its a little easier to rank teams, who have win and loss records, but 11 places still stirkes me as a big difference of opinion, at least when dealing with the top 30.


Quote
perhaps each ranking is "only" 5.5 spots off, which would be close enough to the "truth," I think, to satisfy Clench and others.


Well I don't think you need to satisfy me and I'm certainly not looking for the "truth." I just thought it was kind of odd how astounded (I think you used that word) to see so many schools "only" 10 or so spaces off. To me that is a big difference. That doesn't mean your original ranking looks more right or more wrong, it just looks different.


Quote

What I find interesting in all of this is that none of the rankings seem to list student success rate post-graduation.

SabraW,

Well, success is hard to define here. You go on to talk about CW teachers, but while I and many others here are probably interested in that, it isn't what everyone in an MFA program is looking to do. I do agree with you though, and when I making my own little list I definitly took into account publication success (as far as I could tell for programs, which isn't far).

It does seem like that is an important factor in gauging a programs worth.


umass76


Jan 12, 2007, 12:54 PM

Post #303 of 764 (11036 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Clench,

Thanks for clarifying/restating. For some reason it didn't hit me that you were particularly concerned about the top twenty, though indeed I see now you said that. The good news is, the LJPW/TKS margin of error (MoE) is much smaller for the top twenty than for the schools below that in the rankings, so your concerns should (I hope) be assuaged, I hope. Two points on that:

1) Whereas 77% of the top 48 schools in TKS and LJPW are within 11 spots of one another, that confidence-interval jumps to an incredible 91% for the top 21 schools (i.e., 19 of 21 are within 11 spots); more importantly,

2) That 11-spot MoE is very, very misleading, particularly for the top twenty-one schools. Here's why: the average MoE for the "matching" nineteen (of the top twenty-one schools in the LJPW and TKS) is a scant 4.63 spots. The average MoE for all of the top twenty-one schools in LJPW (including, now, Notre Dame and Ohio State, which are more than 11 spots "off") is just 7.29 spots on average.

Hope this clarifies any confusion.

I should note, also, that almost the entirety of the MoE mentioned in point #2, above, comes from six schools, which are (in order of greatest to least affect on the MoE for the top twenty-one): Ohio State (N/A), Notre Dame (28 spots), Iowa (11), UMass (10), The New School (9), and Irvine (8). Ironically, at least half of these MoEs say a lot more about the oddities of the LJPW than the validity (or lack of validity) of TKS. For instance, which ranking seems more likely for UMass: the #3 of LJPW, or the #13 of TKS? #9 for Notre Dame (LJPW), or #37 (TKS)? As for The New School, Kealey's clerical error left it out of his Handbook--a human mistake, nothing more--and there's just no way to ascertain whether the ranking I gave it (#26 in TKS) is WKWD (What Kealey Would Do). That said, I can agree that Iowa and Irvine essentially swapping spots--as between TKS and the LJPW--does emphasize Kealey's weighting of "funding" as a criterion, one reason I created the TSE Composite, which now (I think more realistically) puts Irvine at #5 and Iowa within even the most modest MoE of that, at #7.

I tend to think of Ohio State as one of just a handful of Kealey's "dropped balls." It's perfectly excusable to have SIU, Illinois, and BGSU just bubbling under in TKS when maybe they deserve to be between 35 and 50, or to miss a mid-40s school like the Art Institute of Chicago, or to put the University of Georgia twenty spots higher than USNWR97 when the LJPW shows it off the radar completely, but the Ohio State omission is simply inexplicable, I think. Maybe I misread something somewhere along the line, and there's an explanation for it? I just don't know.

S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 12, 2007, 12:57 PM)


umass76


Jan 12, 2007, 1:29 PM

Post #304 of 764 (11021 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

P.S. Clench, another way to look at this--i.e., just how close Kealey came to the general consensus of prospective MFA students here and at Live Journal--is the chart below, which shows the schools Kealey (i.e. TKS) was within 6 spots or less of (in terms of the LJPW Reader Poll):

1 spots (7): Indiana, Cornell, Syracuse, Columbia, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado State
2 spots (0): [None].
3 spots (4): Michigan, Brown, NYU, Arkansas
4 spots (4): Virginia, Texas State at San Marcos, UNC at Greensboro, Brooklyn
5 spots (3): Johns Hopkins, Hollins, Wisconsin
6 spots (4): Houston, UC Davis, Arizona, Sarah Lawrence

That's 22 schools with a ridiculously-low 3.36 average MoE, well within the (not unreasonable) five-point MoE you said would probably be most compelling to MFA prospective students. Included amongst these 22 schools are at least 18 we'd probably all consider "highly" competitive (i.e., in the top twenty-five to thirty MFA programs).

S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 12, 2007, 1:31 PM)


wiswriter
Bob S.
e-mail user

Jan 13, 2007, 8:43 AM

Post #305 of 764 (10949 views)
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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

This is starting to look like the creative writing Bowl Championship Series.

I think there's nothing wrong with rankings so long as people use them as a general guide to which programs are good and don't get too bogged down in the prestige of getting into program x vs. program x-minus-1. I think the fairest, simplest and most accurate ranking would be to go by the admission rate. It would favor the smaller programs but maybe it should. It's pretty easy to go back over the history of the Speakeasy and get a general handle on which programs are the toughest admits. For years not a single person got into Cornell or Brown. Then there would be a tier with Iowa, Warren Wilson, Columbia, Virginia, Houston, Hopkins, Irvine. Among the newer programs, Wisconsin. The other selective low-residencies would be Bennington and Vermont College, though I imagine there will be others soon with the proliferation of programs and the rising application numbers.

I guess I agree that it's kind of silly to rank low-res against residential with so little overlap in the applicant pool. It's just weird to see all these rankings without mention of what may be the most selective MFA program in the country. And the omission of a certain New England rival offends my sense of school spirit.


Purple Frosting


Jan 13, 2007, 11:03 AM

Post #306 of 764 (10925 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] Shall we try? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been following this list for a few months, and this is my first time contributing.
One thing I've noticed is that the programs which are considered "top 10" or even "top 20" for fiction do not necessarily coincide with the "top 10" "top 20" lists for poetry. Close scrutiny of the MFA programs clearly reveals that various programs are much stronger in one genre than the other. It seems to me that the majority of participants in this discussion of rankings have been fiction folks. I think we might see a very different ranking if we were to make a specific one for poetry. In any event: I want to specialize in poetry. The factors that led me to apply to the places I chose to apply to were largely subjective: I have read almost all of the poetry by almost all of the poetry faculty at approximately the top 20 MFA programs, and I was quite struck by the marked differences in my responses to the poetry. I found that some of the professors' poetry, even if they were well-known, big-name, etc., simply didn't resonate for me - didn't move me. And I found that some of the professors who are not well-known and who don't presently have wide "name recognition" blew me away. I guess it's a matter of taste, which there's no real accounting for, or "chemistry", kind of like in a relationship. And I know that people have warned me that I should not base my decision too much on the faculty, since faculty move around, take leaves, retire, etc., but the reality is, that if several members of a program are writing poetry that I love, and at another program I can't even find one poem by one faculty member that "speaks to" me, I think that says something about whether that program would be a good "fit" for me. Also, while I know that people have often said that a good writer doesn't necessarily make a good teacher and vice versa, I just have this deep feeling of not wanting to spend 2-3 years of my life being taught poetry by poets whose own work I don't admire or respond positively to, at least a little bit.
Another factor for me was that I would really like to do at least a certain amount of cross-genre work, and it's pretty hard to find programs that let you do that - i.e., at least to be permitted to take one workshop in a second genre.
And a third factor for me, a very subjective one I admit, is that although intending to specialize in poetry, I would like to be in a program and/or a university in which playwriting exists as a field of study - either within the MFA itself or at least, within the university's department of Theater or English, simply because I like associating with playwrights and I am interested in doing some experimental work which combines poetry with drama.
Anyway, sorry for being so longwinded (very unpoetic!), but here is the list of places to which I've applied, in a very rough approximation of my present sense of my order of preference, along with a few comments:

University of Houston (extremely impressive poetry faculty, both at present and in past years - was number 2 in the USNWR 1997 rankings, and I'm really surprised that it's not being given a higher ranking in the most recent discussions on this list - they seem to have some really exciting things going on.) (note: Kimiko Hahn is no longer there, she has gone back to New York, and Ed Hirsch is no longer there, he is now heading the Guggenheim Foundation. This means they have no women in their poetry specialization, though they do have some great women in the fiction specializtion, and they seem to bring in visiting writers who are women on purpose, presumably to make up for the present lack of women in the regular poetry faculty caused by the departure of Hahn. Amazing history with the playwriting program, Edward Albee was there for about 15 years and did a lot of teaching and training and his influence there still seems strong.)

Hunter College (also has an extremely impressive poetry faculty, some very exciting recent books by nearly all of them, affordable, just feels like a very dynamic, up-and-coming program)

University of Virginia (faculty, especially Charles Wright, whose work is truly extraordinary; funding; location) Note: Rita Dove is going to be on leave for 2007-2008, which means those going to UVA in poetry would only get to study with her for one year.

New York University (faculty whose poetry is wonderful, and community outreach opportunities)

Columbia University (reputation, networking, faculty)

New School (faculty, reputation)

Iowa (reputation, assumption that quality of the students in the workshops will be very high because the program is so selective, feeling a part of a strong literary community with a very rich history of involvement in literary life, presence of playwriting program at same university)

U. Texas Austin Michener Center (exciting and rare cross-genre opportunities, funding, location, reputation)

U. Mass. Amherst (location, community outreach opportunities, thriving literary community in the surrounding area, faculty)

Brown University (reputation, presence of playwriting program within MFA, some cross-genre opportunities)

Adelphi University (I like the poetry by faculty, cross-genre opporunities, presence of playwriting program within MFA)

Brooklyn College (presence of playwriting program within MFA, location, small community atmosphere in program and people who have been involved in this program have spoken favorably about it)

Boston University (has got several of the most outstanding poets in the country, all of whom I would love to work with, but is only one year and is not an MFA, it's an MA, which are the factors that cause me to list it low on my order of preferences. If based on faculty quality alone, it would be my number 1, because I really love the poetry of Robert Pinsky, Louise Gluck, Roseanna Warren, and Derek Walcott, all of whom are on the faculty of this program. The program also has an amazing history, and a very strong track record of publication by students.)

So, there it is.... I should add that as I am presently living outside of the U.S., I have not been able to visit any of these programs in person, attend any open houses, talk to any present students, etc. So, my impressions are based mainly on what I've been able to glean from the Internet and of course, from reading the poetry collections by the faculty members.
I must say that I feel a bit dismayed that others on this list don't seem to have as deep a respect as I do for Houston's program. I am curious about why. They've got Mark Doty, Nick Flynn, Tony Hoagland, and Adam Zagajewski - what more could you wish for? - they've also had amazing visiting poets. My sense is, as mentioned above, that the main reason is that more folks in this rankings discussion are from the fiction genre and not the poetry genre.

Any chance of a "rankings" specific for poetry?

I hope this information is of some kind of interest to somebody out there......

Bye for now!


Purple Frosting


Jan 13, 2007, 11:08 AM

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Re: [umass76] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry, I can't recall who mentioned this so I am just replying to somebody on this thread at random:
regarding Robert Hass at U. Iowa: to the best of my knowledge, Robert Hass is a visiting faculty at Iowa for this academic year only, i.e, 2006-2007. He is not a member of the permanent faculty. I don't think that anybody who is entering Iowa in fall of 2007 would have the chance to study with him. Likewise with Brenda Hillman, to the best of my knowledge.
Is anyone able to provide any clarification on this?


LateApplicant


Jan 13, 2007, 2:13 PM

Post #308 of 764 (10882 views)
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Re: [Purple Frosting] Another New MFA Ranking [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Purple,

Interesting comments. Two things, though: 1) I'm not sure Houston is as overlooked as you say it is. As far as I know, it's got a good reputation, and -- to address your concern about these new rankings -- it's on the Top Ten at lleast on one of the three rankings that Seth (umass76) has compiled. Off the top of my head, I'd say it's # 10 in one of them; can't remember about the other two; 2) I'm not sure either about the rankings having a fiction bias. Isn't Seth a poet? (I don't know whether he's applying to poetry MFA programs; haven't looked back, but I assume he is). Still, you're right that maybe two separate rankings (poetry/fiction) would be interesting. Some programs are strong in both fields, but others aren't.


umass76


Jan 15, 2007, 10:08 PM

Post #309 of 764 (10770 views)
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Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

...I did another new "ranking" of MFA programs, though this one is not truly a "ranking" so much as a series of Indexes (specifically, Selectivity Indexes). Also, it uses hard data only, so it should (I hope) not be particularly controversial. It has limited usefulness as anything more than a curio, something I admitted in the introductory remarks which precede the Indexes. The Selectivity Indexes can be found here:

http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/...ng-mfa-rankings.html

I should say that one reason I did this (despite having limited data to work from) is because, as schools release new information (particularly this spring), it will be possible to add new indexes and/or make the existing ones more accurate.

One thing I found, in doing these Indexes, was that a school we've all been talking about quite a bit--Columbia University--fared incredibly poorly, which might help to explain why it was #4 in 1997 but (depending upon which if any of the new rankings you acknowledge as having any validity) is now #13 (TSE), #15 (LJPW), or #16 (TKS). [NB: The surprisingly high placement of other schools, like Wisconsin and SIU, and even Texas, is also becoming clearer now]. Specifically, it seems evident from the hard data collected in the Indexes that, at best, Columbia is the 23rd most selective program in the country, but is, more likely, much lower than that. [NB: I say this because only 25 of the nation's 400 programs were included in the Indexes, and while I admit that my "200 standard minimum APP" (you'll have to read the Introduction to the Indexes to understand this) likely only applies to the top fifty to seventy-five programs, that still leaves a lot of room for Columbia to fall to, say, between 30th and 35th in terms of selectivity].

Now, I can hear folks saying that "Columbia accepts more people than other schools, and shouldn't be punished for that," but remember, these are simply Selectivity Indexes. It's not necessarily any sort of judgment on the school. But that said, I'll also point out that Columbia isn't necessarily to be given a pass for accepting more people than other schools do and consequently giving their accepted students (or many of them, at least) less funding than they need. In fact, it lines Columbia's pocket to accept more students than almost any other program (because they're taking $35,000/yr. from each student, minus the occasional fellowship or grant or stipend). It seems to me unrealistic to claim that the only reason Columbia accepts so many people is because--say--they want to make their unique MFA experience available to everyone. Do schools really think that way? I'm not sure they do, or even, necessarily, that they should (if it comes at the pecuniary expense of all the school's admitted MFA students).

Anyway, not trying to start an argument here, just wanted to post the link to the Indexes and mention a few interesting things I think they show. Cheers,
S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 15, 2007, 10:31 PM)


ecphraticknolls


Jan 16, 2007, 1:21 AM

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Great tool!

I would like to see it be more extensive, though. I think such an effort could potentially help students tier their applications in the future.


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 16, 2007, 1:32 AM

Post #311 of 764 (10719 views)
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HOW DARE YOU?!! [In reply to] Can't Post

When I first decided to get an MFA, Columbia was my #1 choice, even above Iowa (mainly because I wanted to live in New York City rather than Iowa City). But I quickly knocked Columbia off my list entirely, as I realized I'd be going many tens of thousands of dollars into debt. I also had a lot of questions about their apparent business practices, as you've outlined, umass76. But I don't think that Columbia is any less of a school simply because it accepts 10.8% of its applicants, as compared with Houston's 8.9% or even Johns Hopkins' 5.5%. Because it also received the second or third most applications of any school on this list, I'm sure they're able to recruit the cream of the crop. So a school that ranks low on this particular list wouldn't necessarily be performing "incredibly poorly," if I'm interpreting you fairly. Other than that, this is a neat list, and of course I'm glad to see my SIU up there with the likes of Iowa, Virginia, and, yes, even UC Irvine.

Ryan


umass76


Jan 16, 2007, 8:54 AM

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Hey there Ryan,

I don't know, maybe "incredibly poor" isn't the right adjective. It just struck me that Columbia, relatively speaking, fared poorly against schools (e.g. Brown) with more applications per year but an acceptance rate one-fifth as low (or Iowa, which Columbia [I think] sees as a natural rival, but which gets 66% more applications and accepts at a 40% lower rate). I think those are interesting discoveries, given that a) in rankings such as USNWR97, Brown, at least, was ranked 16th and Columbia 4th (which at a minimum suggests, broadly, that Columbia was, at the time, more selective), b) I'm not sure more applications necessarily means more quality in the applicant pool (that is, I think schools which get 550 applications, like the University of Virginia, and even schools which get 325 applications, like the University of Washington, may nevertheless get the same number of top applicants), and c) there really isn't enough data yet to draw conclusions to the extent we might like to draw them--for instance, if all the MAX schools actually get about 550 or 600 applications a year (which is entirely possible), it makes Columbia's acceptance rate seem more and more like an outlier, and less susceptible to a simple explanation like, "they get more top applicants than [insert listing of forty of the top MFA programs in the country]."

If I had to guess, Columbia has to accept so many students because its "yield" is low; many students who get accepted there just can't afford to go. But that's just a guess.

I'd love to expand the list--and will do so if folks have more data that they can share with me--but for now it'll have to stand as is, which is, as I said, as an interesting curio and not too much more.

S.


HopperFu


Jan 16, 2007, 9:01 AM

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In Reply To
...I did another new "ranking" of MFA programs, though this one is not truly a "ranking" so much as a series of Indexes (specifically, Selectivity Indexes). Also, it uses hard data only, so it should (I hope) not be particularly controversial. ....

Hey Seth, this is kind of interesting, but the problem is that your data, hard or not, is fundamentally flawed. And again, whether or not you preface this with the idea that it's simply a "curio," the problem is that - with your verbose elaboration of methodology - your rankings garner some veneer of absolutism and accuracy.
One fundamental flaw in your data is that you don't seperate fiction and poetry, which affects some programs more than others: Iowa had between 750-775 fiction applicants last year. Using those numbers, their acceptance rate changes significantly.
A second flaw is your assumption of a base of 200 applicants. There are a number of programs - of the top of my head I can think of two that have been championed by you as 'up and coming' - that had less than 100 applicants in recent years. Again, that fucks up the rates signficantly.
The third flaw is that some of the numbers posted by programs are a) out of date, or b) basically estimates by the program

And, of course, you didn't include a number of schools. As a cheerleader for my own school, I'll point out that Cornell is - by a fairly large margin - the most statistically difficult school to get into.

Again though, my biggest problem with ALL of these rankings that you have done is that even though you'll usually have a sentence or two saying why they are flawed, you'll also have about twelve paragraphs saying how accurate they are based on your methodology; the numbered rankings that you then post then come across with an aura of validity, as if you are somehow an authority on MFA programs rather than one of the chattering masses like the rest of us.
All I know is that when I have talked to people who seem like they would have an idea of which schools are hot - actual professors, editors, agents, published writers - the schools they talk about don't line up closely with any of your lists, and the "rankings" swerve back and forth depending on what you are looking for.

I'm tired of this argument though. [edited to remove an unintentionally snippy comment that I made and to add: I'm done arguing about rankings]


(This post was edited by HopperFu on Jan 16, 2007, 9:05 AM)


umass76


Jan 16, 2007, 9:45 AM

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Hopper,

I know we don't agree on any of this, which is probably why--as you said--there's no point in arguing about it further. I'll simply tell you the reason I started doing all this: because prior to these rankings, there was a generally chaotic atmosphere surrounding MFAs, as no one had collected any hard data, let alone done anything to synthesize it. The rankings I've done line up perfectly with the categories of information they intended to show: for instance, which schools, working off the 1997 rankings, also have strong funding (TKS); which schools a large sample (140+, and counting) of prospective MFA students are applying to; a composite ranking which conjoins these two measures (funding and popularity); and Selectivity Indexes which give a little more hard data about certain schools. This is far, far more data than the "chattering masses" had on 12/30/06, just seventeen days ago, and that's why thousands of people are looking at the rankings and using them as one [very small] resource in their decision-making process. Unlike you, I've found that these rankings match up almost perfectly with the schools people are talking about. I agree with you, however, that it will take longer for rankings run just two or so weeks ago to filter into the professorial or agent class you've referenced. Those classes are still working off a) personal anecdotes (which they always will), b) the 1997 rankings, and c) their own genre biases (for instance, in poetry everyone is indeed talking about UMass these days, and the rankings reflect that; if you're in fiction, you might wonder why UMass is where it is and why the rankings seem to indicate it's a big deal, but there's a simple explanation of "genre bias" which "fixes" that problem of perception). I can tell you that, as a poet at least, these rankings match up perfectly with what I've seen in the field, and as you know, I've been around the block (especially in terms of publishing work) a few score times or so, so I'm not totally green (not saying you are, just saying that I'm not some number-cruncher who's never been out "in the field," so to speak; far from it). As for fiction, all I can say is the top fiction-leaning schools in the rankings are the same ones I happen to see discussed on these and other boards. [Shrug]. What can I say beyond that?

As a lawyer and amateur sociologist, I don't want to operate in an atmosphere where people make comments the numbers simply do not support, as those comments are usually made out of [harmless, unintentional] bias. For instance, it is statistically impossible that your comment about Cornell is accurate or true ("I'll point out that Cornell is, by a fairly large margin, the most statistically difficult school to get into"). In years past, people would have had to take your word for it, or, alternately, decide you weren't trustworthy and ignore you (albeit they'd have no real basis to make either determination about you, and so they'd be stuck in a "chaotic" atmosphere of unanchored, disorganized information). Now they can look at some hard data, and ask: If Brown has a 2.1% acceptance rate with a 20% smaller class than Cornell (and the second most reported applications in the country), how could it ever be possible that Cornell, with that 20% larger class, has "by a fairly large margin" the lowest acceptance rate? In order for that to be the case, we'd have to see Cornell showing far and away the most applications in the LJPW Reader Poll (as that Poll gives us some indications of where applications are going). It isn't, however, albeit that it's up there. But even if it was far and away #1, by definition it could only have a 2% lower acceptance rate than Brown (because Brown is at 2.1%) at most (which isn't the case, because Iowa's acceptance rate would then be forty-eight times higher than Cornell's). So, unanchored statements which aggrandize to the benefit of one's alma mater would no longer be believed in an atmosphere where numbers are available.

Likewise, you say the rankings don't reflect the schools people are talking about. Well, respectfully, the LJPW Reader Poll proves you wrong: TKS was highly predictive of which schools people were actually applying to. And, in the same sense Clench said Columbia was one of the five most selective schools in the country--and we now know that claim to be significantly off the mark--we can use the rankings and polls as tools (nothing more) to evaluate claims. Needless to say, we'll find some (as I do yours about Cornell; it's an admittedly kick-ass school, however) wanting.

Rankings and polls are seen as threatening to people. I know that. Even students at a school ranked #10 in the country in 1997, and ranked #4 here (TKS), will feel as though they're having an injustice done to them personally. And certainly so will students in other schools (like Columbia) who don't like what the data shows, either. But let's be clear: I never said the data I gathered wasn't useful, or wasn't, even, incisive and ground-breaking in spots. I simply said it shouldn't be abused by being taken further than it can go. And I do stand by that.

Best,
S.


umass76


Jan 16, 2007, 10:06 AM

Post #315 of 764 (10670 views)
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Re: [umass76] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Hopper, look, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that post to sound as argumentative as it may have. I just don't want you, or anyone else, to have a false impression of what's happened here thus far:

1. I did a ranking based upon the opinions of the man who "wrote the book" on MFAs, and thus has done more independent research than any of us, particularly as to the funding angle. I made clear that TKS was based on Kealey's work, not any sort of consensus. If you go back and read the introduction, you'll see how clear I made that.

2. I was criticized because I had done a ranking organized around the opinions of just one man.

3. In direct response to the criticism I took a "poll" of actual prospective MFA students, with a decent sample size, to see where they were applying. I made clear everyone knew what the sample size was and made clear this was really just a popularity poll, and that the poll couldn't look at the reasons behind individuals' applications to particular schools.

4. For curiosity's sake, I did a TSE Composite ranking which conjoined the funding-weighted TKS and the popularity-weighted LJPW Poll. I said outright that the poll wasn't scientific at all and was mainly just a curio. I did not write a lengthy defense of that ranking, and I think everyone here knows that.

5. Purely in the interest of providing hard data, I did an index of acceptance rates, stating clearly where the numbers were coming from. Again, I did not write a lengthy defense of the index, and fully conceded that the data was incomplete--not because of my laziness, but because of the various schools' secrecy (which is their right). What I will do, here, is note that the two primary criticisms I think you made, apart from the foregoing, is that we can't trust data from the schools (in which case, we can't trust any rankings, including the 1997 reputation scores which came from the schools and were far, far more "fudgeable") and that the "200 standard minimum APP" is wrong. The one extrapolation I've probably made in this whole thing is that I do think the LJPW can provide a rough guide as to whether or not the minimum APP is fair; that is, if schools in the top 50 of the LJPW (which tracks applications) regularly receive 500+ applications, what is the chance that other schools similarly ranked (again, in terms of how many applications they're getting) are under 100 in terms of their applications?

I guess what I'm saying is, can you name a single school from the TSE Composite top fifty ranking which receives fewer than 100 total submissions, across all genres, per year? And can you tell me where you got that information? If you can, I will amend or adjust the Selectivity Indexes accordingly.

[As to your criticism that poetry and fiction aren't separated, I think that's just being unfair to me--it's raising the bar needlessly because it's a standard you know that I, and even the schools themselves, could not possibly reach. While any individual school might know their separate admissions rates, that's not data which is publicly available, it's not data anyone not on the hiring committees knows, and it's certainly not data other schools have available to them when filling out "reputation" forms as they did for the USNWR97 rankings].

Best,
S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 16, 2007, 10:07 AM)


renapoo


Jan 16, 2007, 10:28 AM

Post #316 of 764 (10656 views)
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Re: [umass76] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey-- haven't had a chance to check out the new "selectivity" ranking yet, but I was wondering about this PWLJ poll you keep referring to as "hard data." Did you just go through last year's posts and see where people were applying? Because that doesn't sound like a method that would get an accurate cross-section of applicants, seeing as P&W and LJ are online communities. It's pretty likely that tech-savvy applicants would be more likely to apply to an experimental school like Brown than, say, someone who writes sonnets and has never touched a keyboard. And that's the person that got left out of your poll. So what I'm saying is, the nature of the places you took the "poll" data from probably skews the rankings.

I suppose the only direct way to get the real info is to contact schools directly; however I seriously doubt that a lot of them would tell you their numbers.

And this is not meant to be a slam on your rankings--just something I thought of.