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jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 17, 2007, 1:19 AM

Post #351 of 764 (10536 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Clench Million wrote: "OTOH, there are programs who only get a handful of applications."

Umass76 wrote: "No, there aren't, actually. The lowest application pool I've ever seen (60) is for an MFA program in Alaska, and a) the data's old, and b) the program's small. So what research did you do to draw your conclusions here? Any?"


Hamholio wrote, quoting a letter from Prof. John Smolens of Northern Michigan's MFA program: "The first year we advertised our MFA program, we received six applications, all from people in Northern Michigan. In recent years we have received a minimum of 35 applications for the MFA."


So, this would seem to negate a couple of Umass76's assertions. Okay. I think the wisdom to soak up from this exchange is that (1) it would definitely behoove Umass76 to turn the passion meter down a few notches (that is, these vast responses that attempt to answer every little accusation that he suspects others will have (a) only create an accusatorial spirit in his readers, (b) incite in his readers a belligerent tone to match his peculiarly passionate defensiveness, and (c) present too many statements that can be investigated and potentially negated by readers who are (i) taking his cue and (ii) "playing the game"), (2) it is best to be humble when making claims and responding to dissenters, even when it is felt deep down to the bone that the available data proves one correct in making such statements, and (3) above all, as I'm sure a lawyer and a writer would verify, it is important to know your audience and tailor your message so that it can be consumed (A) with an eagerness to understand and (B) without bitter reproach, and that the mere appearance of the message does not overpower the reader, which is surely not the goal of an educational forum for a community of artists such as this.


umass76


Jan 17, 2007, 2:19 AM

Post #352 of 764 (10513 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Ryan,

All I can suggest is that you review the thread. For eight days after I posted The Kealey Scale, things weren't particularly heated. As late as January 8th I was telling Clench I didn't think the Kealey ratings were necessarily correct, that "maybe I'm right, maybe you are, maybe we both are [shrug]," and Clench hadn't yet said I was "avoiding" any issues but that we should "agree to disagree." That's not so bad, right? Then Hopper joined the discussion:

"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 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....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."

Well, the fact is, the thread hadn't been heated up to that point, it was just spirited debate. Hopper's comment was a blind-side and it changed the tone of things.

Then I inadvertantly set Clench off (I honestly couldn't recall if he went to Columbia, not being a regular of the board, and he thought I was asking him if he did as some sort of prank or joke). Hopper meanwhile continued to bang the drum no one else was banging to the effect that I "wouldn't listen" to anyone:

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

The new tone of the conversation was coming from Hopper, and no one but him/her had yet made the attack on me that "you just won't listen...". Even Hopper admitted he/she was starting stuff with me: "By the way, umass76, I'm not trying to attack you, though I'm sure I sound churlish in parts." Gussy and Fear&Loathing came to my defense and said "cut the guy some slack..."

Then we got this from Clench: "I think you are being quite disingenuous...." January 8th, 5:25PM; and, "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," January 8th, 11:23PM. And we were off to the races. Two ganging up on one. Classic. Except it was quickly three ganging up on one (bighark: "Umass, you need to drop this. Your Kealey Scale is based of the opinion of one guy. That's it. That's pretty weak"). I didn't ratchet up the rhetoric, Ryan. What I got, in fact, was the classic "public shaming" for things I hadn't actually done; consider this, from Clench:

"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 license to attack every other poster in this thread."

Huh? That was out of nowhere; my beef was with (and only with) the three folks who had ganged up on me because they didn't like TKS: Hopper, Clench, and Hark. So this notion I'd been practically physically abusing folks since December 31st was, and still is, just unfair. My feeling is, if you hate these new rankings, just ignore them. There's no need to attack me over them, as--and I'll admit this--I do respond if attacked (and certainly did, when it happened).

S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 17, 2007, 2:22 AM)


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 17, 2007, 2:43 AM

Post #353 of 764 (10509 views)
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Re: [umass76] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's an interesting exercise for which it seems you have the patience: Each of those quotes you posted must have been in response to something you had said. Find those posts that you wrote that best approximate a statement that might incite such responses, and we'll match your statements against theirs to see who may be overreacting, uninformed, or just plain unfair. If everyone else is wrong, and you're rather innocent, umass76, I think we owe it to you to admit it and adjust our behavior accordingly.

***In the meantime, I just want to reiterate what I think is my chief point: Writers must know their audience (otherwise, writers should just keep a diary), and the audience of this very forum seems to enjoy brief, insightful, clever responses that are not bogged down with data, defenses, digressions, and deviations in text format. If I'm accurately characterizing my neighbors in this happy little community, I believe firmly that you'll be much better received by this particular audience if your messages are crafted to their apparent tastes.***

Best,
Ryan


ecphraticknolls


Jan 17, 2007, 7:22 AM

Post #354 of 764 (10497 views)
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Re: [augustmaria] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Is the fiction side of the program substantially larger? / (or do they accept the same number of fiction and poetry applicants every year in an approximate 1 to 1 ratio?)

On a side note: I wish people would talk more about substantial questions (like mine)

…rather than pointlessly bickering. I think there have been about 10 worthwhile lines in the above exchange. I do think that a couple of the criticisms were legitimate… but most of the posts were simply prattling among offended egos. Everyone should calm down and try to be a little bit more productive for the sake of current and future applicants--isn’t that why everyone is here and participating?


ecphraticknolls


Jan 17, 2007, 7:32 AM

Post #355 of 764 (10496 views)
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Re: [jargreen] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

I don’t think most of us mind data (that is useful to the ends of the discussion), but the argument has become bogged down with all of the included parties personal quibbles.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 17, 2007, 9:56 AM

Post #356 of 764 (10470 views)
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Re: [umass76] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

umass76, while you may or may not be right that the tone from others changed after Hoppers comment, I disagree that your tone suddenly changed in response. I've found your tone to be pretty much the same since the start.
Examples of some comments made before Hooper said anything:

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.

--

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.


That is from January 5th, so you've been implying that anyone who disagrees has a secret dishonest agenda since the start.

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.

You've been "stunned" and "amazed" and blown away by the supposed accuracy of your own rankings since the start as well. I don't think you need to come back and defend these quotes, but I hope you can see how this kind of defensive tone mixed with claims of authority and insinuations against critics can be off putting.


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 17, 2007, 10:18 AM

Post #357 of 764 (10462 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Anyway to get off this bickering (and I do apologize to all the lurkers and casual readers), would anyone be interested in posting their own personal rankings on a website? I'd be willing to through up a blog site that compiled our lists from this thread. I think it might be helpful as another resource and mainly so people don't have to wade through all these arguments to see P&W people's opinions.

?


vronsky


Jan 17, 2007, 11:52 AM

Post #358 of 764 (10436 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

I think umass76 mentioned that a lot of people have been visiting this forum since he started posting. He's probably referring to lurkers like me. I just want to clarify that I'm not here for the MFA rankings. I'm just here for the drama.

With all due respect to the current discussion, does the forum moderator really think this spirited and...thorough dissection of the MFA ranking system will be useful to future forum users? If I didn't know any better, I'd say there was a whole lot of trolling going on...

And please, don't yell at me, either. Motet, I won't be offended if you delete this post. I just wanted to break the tension.


hamholio


Jan 17, 2007, 12:08 PM

Post #359 of 764 (10427 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

I am also surprised that motet posted a firm admonishment in the UVA thread yesterday, but nary a word in here, where things have gone off track, personal, and have become practically worthless for anyone applying to MFA programs this year or in the future.

This thread has been fun to watch (and participate in occassionally) since umass showed up, but it's resembled less a debate and more a beating around three or four points, obscuring the original purpose of either this thread or umass's well-meaning (if misguided/unnecessary/fatally flawed) blog posts.


blueragtop


Jan 17, 2007, 12:14 PM

Post #360 of 764 (10422 views)
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Re: [hamholio] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Man, this was interesting at first. It's just plain weird now. Sometimes I wonder if going back to school is really a good idea. Bunch of crazy nerds, I tell ya.


umass76


Jan 17, 2007, 12:46 PM

Post #361 of 764 (10405 views)
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Re: [melos] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

I think a truce would be a good idea. To be honest, the most interesting part of this thread, for me, was the part where people listed the schools they applied to. For the sake of showing I'm a real person who's actually going through the same nervousness as everyone else, here are the schools I applied to:

Brown
Cornell
Johns Hopkins
U. Iowa
U. Massachusetts
U. Michigan
U. Virginia

I can honestly say there's a heck of a lot I like about *all* these programs. Massachusetts in particular has an intriguing set-up (especially for poets): 3 years of study, great teaching opportunities, good funding, a nice small-town setting, strong poets in Dara Wier and Peter Gizzi and... James Tate. Did I mention James Tate? One of my favorite poets. Anyway, I only mention UMass because sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle--the other 6 programs have substantial kick-ass features as well, but I sense they're more widely acknowledged for these. Also, I'll say that, apart from UMass and U. Iowa, most of these programs (Brown, Cornell, UVA) are incredibly small (among the smallest anywhere), so sometimes the idea of getting in actually feels like the proverbial camel/needle situation(!)

S.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 17, 2007, 12:48 PM)


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 17, 2007, 12:55 PM

Post #362 of 764 (10396 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd just like to say that I'm not overly sensitive to the drama either. I mean, that's part of the reason I write: The creation or observation of drama. I just don't like having to read posts of 700-1500 words - simply representing the unrevised, unrestrained churning of the mind, which should be recorded in a diary rather than a public forum - and this underlining and bolding a bunch of stuff just denotes shouting, which is totally rude. That is, to me, when it is no longer productive.


augustmaria


Jan 17, 2007, 9:02 PM

Post #363 of 764 (10309 views)
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Re: [ecphraticknolls] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

From my impression, each year six poets and six fiction writers are accepted. So I guess if you're a poet you just have a better chance? I'm not sure how accurate the info is (well, I mean I know how many people are accepted, but I don't know how many applicantions each "side" gets...durr), but I just wanted to offer some info! :)


motet
Dana Davis / Moderator
e-mail user

Jan 17, 2007, 9:57 PM

Post #364 of 764 (10287 views)
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Re: [maggiekate] Don't yell at me, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

Although the tone has been heated at times, I haven't seen what I would consider a personal attack (although calling some unknown people a "bunch of crazy nerds" pushes the line a little). However, if you feel you've been personally attacked, I'd be happy to discuss it with you in a private message.

There have been a number of opportunities to get back on track and just when I think that things are back on track, someone comes on and once again, takes umass to task.

Don't. It's really that simple. Resist the bait. Resist having to get the very last word. But if umass says, "Let's have a truce" and then posts a resonable message of reasonable length, what do you think the predictable outcome will be of responding by taking him to task again?

You can make the conversation whatever you'd like it to be by posting what you want to discuss and discussing it with those you want to engage with and ignoring those you don't.


Edit--

Well, now I have to edit this post. My browser loaded the last page of this topic and apparently skipped the previous page and now I see where the personal attacks were.

So, here's the firm admonition as requested. Any future personal attacks will have the posting privileges of the offending patron suspended or deleted.

Clench, if you want to keep posting, you will refrain from personal attacks. This isn't the first time I've warned you about this either. We went round and round last year. But again, it will be the last time it's tolerated without you losing your login permanently.

Umass, this isn't a blog, it's a message board. Please keep you posts to a reasonable length.

As I've already said... make this thread the kind of conversation you want it to be.


(This post was edited by motet on Jan 17, 2007, 10:30 PM)


piratelizzy


Jan 22, 2007, 2:17 PM

Post #365 of 764 (10156 views)
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Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

So I was thinking like this:

If there are X number of total aggregate spots in ALL programs taken together, and there are Y total aggregate number of individual applicants seeking admission to ALL programs in a given year, what are the chances that any one applicant will be admitted to at least ONE program?

In other words, are there enough MFA slots out there for everyone who wants an MFA? Even though the most competitive programs will obviously have to weed out hundreds of applicants, is it the case that these "rejects" can find a home nonetheless in another program (speaking solely in terms of slots available, without considering other factors, e.g., strength of writing sample)?

I bring this question to this thread because the recent discussion has centered around number of applicants and available slots, at schools, etc.

Does anyone know the TOTAL number of slots in all of the programs taken together?


'sup?!


blueragtop


Jan 22, 2007, 4:22 PM

Post #366 of 764 (10118 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm pretty sure anyone can get into an MFA if they apply to enough schools. That's why I only applied to the best. With the proliferation of programs, I don't want to attend a "watered down" program with less prestige.


piratelizzy


Jan 22, 2007, 5:11 PM

Post #367 of 764 (10090 views)
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Re: [melos] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd be content to attend a school with less prestige, as long as I felt the program was solid and that I could benefit from it. The funding, in whatever guise, would have to be there, as I am not in a position to pay for a degree out of pocket.


'sup?!


LateApplicant


Jan 22, 2007, 11:13 PM

Post #368 of 764 (10028 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm with you, Pirate. Sure, it'd be great to be at a program that is a good fit for you and is also a big name. But the "good fit" should come first (provided, of course, the program is solid enough). Prestige alone won't cut it. Your writing has to "fit" the program (which doesn't mean that everyone in the program will write alike). Otherwise, it'd be like being at the best pizza school, when you're really into cooking steak. Sure, it's all cooking, but you'd better be at a no-name great steak school, than at the best (and big name) pizza school, right? Man, am I hungry... I'm dashing to the kitchen...


jargreen

e-mail user

Jan 23, 2007, 6:39 AM

Post #369 of 764 (9995 views)
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Re: [melos] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

Though I agree with melos that it'd be best to join a community of extremely gifted people who are serious about being published authors, I applied to a couple of "safe" schools because this is the first time I'm testing the waters and I don't know what other faculties will think of my rather conventional writing. When all the letters come in, though, I'd be glad to get an acceptance anywhere. Any of the schools to which I applied will be paying me to find an apartment in an exciting new city and curl up with my notebook to write, write, write, and then, at least one night a week, to commune with a dozen other people who were serious enough about this writing thing to have gone through the wretched application process. I guess I've got pretty low expectations right out of the gate, so anything short of total rejection will seem like a win-win situation to me.

Ryan


Clench Million
Charles

Jan 23, 2007, 1:31 PM

Post #370 of 764 (9937 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
In other words, are there enough MFA slots out there for everyone who wants an MFA? Even though the most competitive programs will obviously have to weed out hundreds of applicants, is it the case that these "rejects" can find a home nonetheless in another program (speaking solely in terms of slots available, without considering other factors, e.g., strength of writing sample)?


It is an interesting question. One number I've heard thrown around by a few people is 400 MFA programs existing in the country. If we assume an average of around 10 spots per program then 4,000 spots per year, which seems to me like probably around the average number of people trying to get in a year (At least, I'd think that at least 1/4th of students would apply to Iowa, and apparently they only get aroud 1,000 a year).
However, I have no idea if the 400 MFA programs number is correct. It strikes me as very high, given how many big colleges I know don't have programs, but maybe someoe else knows?

Personally I'll add my agreement to melos. It seems to me if you value what an MFA offers (access to great writers who are also good teachers, a strong peer group to look at your work, interesting craft classes, etc.) then you will want a program that is strong in those areas and thus you will want to apply to good programs. If you don't care about the quality of the MFA in those areas, why get an MFA at all? It won't get you a job and probably won't help if it isn't from a good program. I understand the desire to get paid to write, but the reality is if you are motivated to write you will write and if you don't care about the other aspects of the MFA, you'd have more free time and more money by moving to a college town and bartending a few nights a week.


Mainer


Jan 23, 2007, 2:15 PM

Post #371 of 764 (9920 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

In the AWP's Career Article (from the Oct. '05 AWP Job List -- http://www.awpwriter.org/careers/hahnscott01.htm), 400 programs are referred to as AWP member institutions. But AWP member programs include AA, BA, BS, BFA, MA, PhD, DA, and international degree programs, in addition to MFA programs. In the table on page 4 of said article, AWP member programs are broken down into degree programs. The most recent data is for the year 2004. 109 MFA programs are listed. Another indicator of actual number of MFA programs is the handy web site "A Dozen Dozen MFA Programs in Creative Writing"
(http://creativewritingmfa.blogspot.com/)

From the site:
"Now, back to the contents of this database. How did I find all these programs? The first thing I did was to look through all the members of the Association of Writing Programs—yes, the infamous AWP—winnowing out those that were (a) foreign colleges and universities, of which there were only 8 in Canada and the United Kingdom; (b) undergraduate creative writing programs; (c) MA’s in English with Creative Writing Emphases or courses; (d) Ph.D. programs; and (e) miscellaneous institutions (such as printing presses, nonprofit literary organizations, and this thing in New York City that consists of a large room with lots of little cubicles for writers to sit in and type away like monkeys in a scientific experiment). Which left—out of roughly 400 members—about 130 MFA programs, and dispels the myth that the AWP is an association of schools that offer the MFA."


piratelizzy


Jan 23, 2007, 2:35 PM

Post #372 of 764 (9908 views)
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Re: [Clench Million] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
... why get an MFA at all?


I do recognize the appeal of the best-known programs. On the other hand, I am trying to suggest that while not everyone who wants to study writing can be accepted to the top-tier schools, there is still room for those with more modest aspirations and/or skills.

Say I want to be a better writer and look at MFA programs as the way to get that done. Maybe my dreams are of getting a foot into the world of publishing as an editor or a freelance writer of some sort, not necessarily as the next "Big Thing." I am not sure that (if I could wedge my way into an Iowa, for the sake of argument) I could get that done at any school where I end up being out of my league. So I see the application process as a kind of "sorting" process--I think someone else on this board has already suggested a "sorting hat" (Harry Potter) analogy. If the most exclusive places won't take me, who's to say I won't still make great strides in a solid program where my real deficiencies can be addressed?

I think that individual fit is the key. It feels too reductive to say "The only MFA worth getting is an MFA from a top school."

Now, so--like most people here, I bet--what I did was to try to cover all of my bases. I would love a Cornell or an Indiana, but applied to a mix of places just to even the odds.


'sup?!


umass76


Jan 23, 2007, 4:21 PM

Post #373 of 764 (9869 views)
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Re: [Mainer] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

Mainer,
Hey there...I've been working off the same claim--that there are 400 MFA programs--but at the conclusion of my research (for the new MFA rankings I did) my sense is that the total isn't that high (and that the figure came from the number of AWP member schools), though I think (and this is just my opinion) that the 130 figure is also wrong. There were approximately 100 programs in the USNWR rankings in 1997, and *way* more than 30 programs have been started in the last 10 years. I came across several dozen new programs just *randomly* in doing my research--many at very, very small or less well-known schools--so I'd have to guess there are closer to 200 now. And climbing fast.
S.


Mainer


Jan 23, 2007, 5:18 PM

Post #374 of 764 (9845 views)
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Re: [umass76] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

Umass,
How do you know *way* more than 30 MFA programs have started since '97? I would hope that your interest in creating new rankings would compel you to research the facts available.

From the same table I referred to earlier (http://www.awpwriter.org/careers/hahnscott01.htm), the number of AWP MFA programs increased from 83 to 109 between 1998 and 2004--that's 26 programs. Again, not all programs are AWP members, but how many new programs would forego membership? My guess is not that many. Further, the largest growth spurts in number of MFA programs over ten year periods was (again, referring to the AWP chart) from the mid-80s to the late 90s, when the number of programs doubled roughly every 8-10 years. That trend has levelled somewhat in the past 8-10 years.

Of course the 130 number is wrong (it's based on the 2006 AWP Catalog, so it only considers AWP programs), but it's a lot closer to the correct total than 400 (especially since it's obvious that the "400" is a misunderstood number taken from the AWP's membership roster). Not every program belongs to AWP, but I'm skeptical of those that don't. They probably advertise on matchbooks and urinal billboards. Can anybody here even name a non-AWP program?


libbyagain


Jan 23, 2007, 5:19 PM

Post #375 of 764 (9844 views)
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Re: [piratelizzy] Hmm... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd second (third, fourth, whatever) the notion of "fit," Lizzie--and also add "timing." My story of a Ph.D. from a very-strong program might clarify this idea. The school was terrific; but during my tenure there it had many problems that didn't come to light nor get corrected for a few years. These days, I'd in no way dissuade anyone from going there, based on what I hear of it, but I've lived to regret my own experience there. Sadly, I'd say that I mis-timed, and not because of any mistakes I made in choosing, which I could reasonably have foreseen. During the same era, a former colleage attended a program I myself would never have been attracted to--its reputation was just not great shakes, but for her it was local, convenient, affordable, do-able. And, as it turned out, too, her program was both hungry and nurturing. It supported and forwarded her in ways I'm green with envy to hear of, and to see results of.

Not to say, "choices are a crap-shoot," but I think that relying on reputation alone (as I did--not to say anyone here is doing same) is certainly no guarantee of individuals' happiness nor success. "Know thyself," is a good idea. Had I known myself a tad better, way back when, I think it would have been obvious for me to look for a different program.

On the up-side, my graduate training taught me to be a very different person than those I encountered, there. Nowadays, I work hard with and for students who are fabulously talented, as I perhaps also was, and who are not in an extremely-competitive program (god only KNOWS that's true, of where I work. . . ) and who can also be forwarded quite successfully, with good mentorship and a bit of finessing of various and sundry--not at all rocket science, for any mentor who's willing and available; but, many "mentors" (imo and imexperience) are not.

Elizabeth

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