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sibyline


Mar 23, 2006, 7:50 PM

Post #26 of 764 (9338 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 (9332 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 (9328 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 (9327 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

Post #30 of 764 (9317 views)
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Re: [sibyline] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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 (9313 views)
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Re: [sanssoleil] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #32 of 764 (9309 views)
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Re: [fishy] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post


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

Post #33 of 764 (9306 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post


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

Post #34 of 764 (9302 views)
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Re: [rapunzel1983] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post


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

Post #35 of 764 (9300 views)
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Re: [sibyline] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #36 of 764 (9297 views)
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Re: [fishy] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #37 of 764 (9287 views)
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Re: [sibyline] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #38 of 764 (9264 views)
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Re: [sanssoleil] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
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

Post #39 of 764 (9255 views)
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Re: [Dr. Bathybius] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #40 of 764 (9248 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #41 of 764 (9247 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #42 of 764 (9230 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] What are your rankings? [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #43 of 764 (9229 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #44 of 764 (9211 views)
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It's not how big it is, it's what you do with it. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
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

Post #45 of 764 (9195 views)
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Re: [clarabow] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #46 of 764 (9191 views)
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Re: [fishy] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #47 of 764 (9186 views)
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Re: [wiswriter] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post


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 (9176 views)
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Re: [franz] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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 (9175 views)
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Re: [fishy] U.S. News and Worst Report [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #50 of 764 (9160 views)
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