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mingram
Mike Ingram

Jan 6, 2007, 1:33 PM

Post #201 of 764 (10603 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 (10590 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 (10584 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

Post #204 of 764 (10561 views)
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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

Post #205 of 764 (10561 views)
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Quote

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 (10552 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 (10548 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

Post #208 of 764 (10522 views)
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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

Post #209 of 764 (10513 views)
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"Uh, hey, baby." - Butthead


umass76


Jan 6, 2007, 9:18 PM

Post #210 of 764 (10501 views)
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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 (10495 views)
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Quote
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

Post #212 of 764 (10483 views)
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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

Post #213 of 764 (10482 views)
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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 (10470 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

Post #215 of 764 (10460 views)
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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

Post #216 of 764 (10456 views)
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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 (10437 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

Post #218 of 764 (10407 views)
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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

Post #219 of 764 (10406 views)
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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

Post #220 of 764 (10350 views)
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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

Post #221 of 764 (10307 views)
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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

Post #222 of 764 (10286 views)
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Quote
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

Post #223 of 764 (10267 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #224 of 764 (10264 views)
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Re: [umass76] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

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

Post #225 of 764 (10253 views)
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Re: [HopperFu] Lists that actually matter [In reply to] Can't Post

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.

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