Nov 28, 2007, 2:31 AM
Post #745 of 1175
Re: [umass76] What are the odds?
[In reply to]
I've heard the same things about Texas that you're discussing (including from some folks who applied and got in), and so I'm a little wary of UT myself, recently. I think they need to realize that funding alone isn't enough. They need a real, actual, permanent faculty, and a commitment to having that faculty be a constant, guiding presence in their students' lives.
Well, to defend them a bit, they DO have permanent faculty to some extent--they share faculty with the UT English department, so poets work with A. Van Jordan, Judith Kroll, Kurt Heinzelman (who teaches poetics classes but also advises poetry theses) and whoever the Big Deal New Hire will be, as well as any visiting professors the English department & the Michener Center bring in (and until this year, David Wevill, who's just retired). But because of their visiting faculty schtick, it can feel like feast or famine: when there's a visiting fiction writer, there's usually not a visiting poet, and vice versa. I wish I'd known this going into the program--I'd applied to writing programs hoping for mentorship, particularly because at that point I felt comfortable writing on my own and knew I could, but also knew that I had a lot of development as a writer left to do (and I felt like the whole point of applying to an MFA program was to get a little bit of hand-holding with the process). Coming in with that expectation, I was really shocked at the lack of continuity between students and faculty members, and the fact that the program doesn't seem to be cohesive on campus (i.e. no one drops by the department to hang out, and while the English department faculty members are very accessible if you pursue meeting with them, the administrative and faculty offices are spread across several floors of two buildings, which means that it's somewhat rare to run into faculty or other students unless you make an effort to do so). All that said, my classmates are almost all incredible. I've made a lot of good friends, I'm really happy with the low level of competition and drama in the program, and most of all, I've been able to look to a small handful of the poets when I've needed advice on my writing outside the workshop setting.
I feel like I'm being a little too forthright in a public setting (my username here is also part of my email address), and may go back and edit later on. As much as I have a lot of complaints about the Michener Center, I'm really happy with it now--though I certainly wasn't for about my first year there--but prospective applicants should know what they're getting into. If you just need "time to write" and a fun peer group made up of committed writers, it's a perfect place. If you're hoping for close mentoring relationships with faculty, you're going to be very, very dissatisfied. I'm hoping this will change for poets with the new hire, though.
Anyway, I realize I've gotten far offtrack from Seth's comments!