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pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Apr 10, 2011, 8:37 PM

Post #26 of 169 (9456 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I have no dog in this fight -- I finished my MFA long ago -- but I think, Seth, when people refer to "your" rankings it is at least in part because you are their public face and (as far as I know) do most or all of the considerable work in putting them together. As far as I'm concerned, that makes them yours.

It doesn't make them your opinions, of course, but they are the rankings that you put together, and I think you're entitled to get some credit for them.

Others are free to disagree, of course.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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


umass76


Apr 10, 2011, 10:15 PM

Post #27 of 169 (9442 views)
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Re: [pongo] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Pongo,

I take your point; I think my concern is that often referring to them as "my rankings" is a way to either discredit them (by suggesting they are merely the opinions of one man) or downplay their significance (by disassociating them from their institutional sponsor). There is a group of actual people behind the U.S. News & World Report rankings, too, of course, but no one bothers to find out who they are -- no one cares. And if the rankings were not constantly under attack by those who don't really understand what they are and how they work, I think I would merely be seen as a freelance journo who collects data for the "Poets & Writers MFA rankings," and not some gent who has developed some kind of arcane methodology that makes sense to only him. The same folks who commonly use the phrase "Seth Abramson's rankings" are also strangely loath to speak of the three hard-data rankings in the rankings chart (Funding, Selectivity, Placement) or all the unranked data that would help explain a program's popularity -- for instance, does Penn State have a great student-to-faculty ratio? (yes); does it comply with the CGSR, suggesting sensitivity to the needs of applicants? (yes); is the cost of living in Happy Valley reasonable? (yes) -- and instead act naively bewildered about what the rankings could possibly be saying, as if they are _only_ constituted by the largest (two-thousand-plus strong, five-year) poll of MFA applicants ever taken.

S.

P.S. Case-in-point: An individual comes on the board and says, as has been said before, that the P&W rankings are like asking the opinion of someone who's never eaten at a restaurant what they think of the restaurant. Is there really not one person here who could point out the obvious: No ranking system ever devised relies on the self-reporting of currently in-program faculty and students regarding their own experiences, because to do so would invite self-serving responses and inject a terminal degree (no pun intended) of bias into the methodology? Why does no one ask these people to point to even a _single_ credible national ranking methodology -- in any field, at any point in history -- that does what they've suggested? Or maybe someone could point out that, in fact, one can learn _hundreds_ of things about a restaurant before ever tasting its food? Or that, in fact, a single patron's reaction to a restaurant's food is often based on personal taste, whereas reportage of immutable restaurant traits is more likely to allow potential restaurant-goers (for whom the rankings are intended) to make their own decisions? These are obvious replies, but it's much more satisfying to snipe from a distance or hide behind those doing so. It's still, after all these years, remarkable to me.


(This post was edited by umass76 on Apr 10, 2011, 10:19 PM)


silkentent
Margaret DeAngelis

e-mail user

Apr 11, 2011, 10:12 AM

Post #28 of 169 (9405 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Hi Pongo,

I take your point; I think my concern is that often referring to them as "my rankings" is a way to either discredit them (by suggesting they are merely the opinions of one man) or downplay their significance (by disassociating them from their institutional sponsor).

I think I understand the methodology behind the rankings and what the resultsmean a little better now. In terms of funding, teacher-student ratio, etc., the program does rank high -- it's small, accepts few students, and fully funds them, and it is relatively inexpensive to live in State College, as opposed to Philadelphia or New York or Pittsburgh. So if you're looking for a small program that pays you to be there, and "there" is a pleasant place (it's in the middle of nowhere but it doesn't take long to get somewhere, or even deeper into nowhere if you want to live in a cabin in the woods, and the university community is large and diverse and culturally rich, a city unto itself), PSU is a good choice. In the article, Seth writes: "Little explanation has yet been given for why the University elected to cut one of its most prestigious graduate programs." It was the assertion that the program is one of PSU's "most prestigious," as measured by me and what I know about it, given my experience as a PA resident and an informal counselor of college-bound youngster. (I've been out of the classroom since 1998, my daughter out of high school since 2004, so my interest in and need for keeping up with the college selections and admissions game has waned, but I have continued to work with college-bound youngsters until very recently.) When a kid says, "I want to become a fiction writer," I do not immediately think of Penn State. I might think of PSU if the student wants to go there and wants to study English or literature or even get a PhD in English, but in my mind, its "most prestigious" programs are in science, engineering, and medicine and allied health professions. This is perhaps because I come to an inquiry about an MFA with an extensive background in the academic MA in English and MA in American Studies (which I earned at a Penn State outlying campus in a program I truly loved). I told a friend who works in the PA state system in admissions about this. Knowing only what I told him (the stuff I've written here), he commented that the program is likely very expensive, and it's probably the "fully funded" part that is driving the decision. They want to put their resources more into the traditional English/literature program. As to the intangibles that P&W's rankings don't measure -- the look and feel of the program to someone like me who wnats craft craft craft instruction and mentoring, I just don't feel it from PSU.


Margaret DeAngelis
Markings: Days of Her Life
http://www.silkentent.com/Trees


RM2
Rosalie Mingus

Apr 11, 2011, 1:00 PM

Post #29 of 169 (9368 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

To be really honest, I don't want to add to the talky about the inherent folly, merit, and harm of mfa rankings. I just wanted to say that I don't think one can cry foul over Penn State cutting Penn State's program because their program comes out near the top of some mfa ranking in some data fields. That would be like my mom saying, oh rosalie! you can't leave your job to get an mfa and become a POET. You just made the Library of Congress' list of the 100 most successful librarians under 40 in the US!

rm


umass76


Apr 11, 2011, 2:15 PM

Post #30 of 169 (9346 views)
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Re: [RM2] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Rosalie,

I don't think that's what's being said at all. What's being said is that universities are, by and large, rational actors who operate on the basis of cost/benefit analyses. PSU wouldn't suddenly cut its Chemistry Department because the professors in that department would make the case against it and they would win: We bring money into the university system, they'd say; or, we're prestigious and we bring acclaim; or, we don't cost you much to operate (if that's true); and so on. When we see a university operating in contravention of logic -- for instance, by cutting a prestigious program that costs the university little money -- that's when we start to get suspicious. And if we're artists, we get a little angry, too, because we know the Arts are always targeted first by those who are "budget-conscious" more than they're community-conscious (or worse, given that PSU's MFA costs very little, by those who simply devalue the Arts and use alleged budgetary concerns as a cover for this).

In any case, your analogy is a bizarre one: If you were one of the most successful librarians in the U.S., I'd bet your friends and family _would_ question your decision to end your career as a librarian (as would anyone's family and friends question such a decision by _anyone_ to leave a field while operating at its very highest levels). And your response would be, "No! I'm still going to leave, because I value doing an MFA more than anything else." And your friends and family would gauge the importance of you doing an MFA -- to you; i.e., in your mind -- partly on the basis of what you're willing to give up for it. Just so, PSU's MFA: the University has to _really_ want to ax this MFA to be cutting a program that doesn't cost much and has documented prestige within its field. And given that no reason was ever given to the MFA program as to _why_ destroying them altogether was worth _so_ much to the University, it's reasonable for that question to be asked.

S.


RM2
Rosalie Mingus

Apr 11, 2011, 3:08 PM

Post #31 of 169 (9327 views)
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Re: [umass76] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I know, I know my analogies are bizarre. Thank you, thank you. Please don't say 'if we're artists, we get a little angry...' because I'm not angry. Seth, it's an MFA Program at Penn State. They're not paving over a UNESCO World Heritage Site to put up a parking lot. If a few academicians in Pennsylvania decide not to give a damn about sponsoring fiction writers or poets to spend a few years kicking it at the academy, who really cares? There are tons and tons of MFA programs out there if people decide they want that experience.

You're obsessed by all this, you know? Now, if you really want to be helpful to me and atone for calling my analogy bizarre, please tell me what kind of glue to use to glue the handle back on my favorite coffee mug. I just broke it. I'm not blaming you, but I was typing this to you when I knocked it over. Can I use regular superglue or do I need to stop by the hardware store and buy epoxy? It's ceramic, if that helps.


potshot


Apr 11, 2011, 4:17 PM

Post #32 of 169 (9305 views)
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Re: [RM2] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Whatever you get to fix your mug, don't breath in the fumes. You seem damaged enough as it is.


(This post was edited by potshot on Apr 11, 2011, 4:17 PM)


umass76


Apr 11, 2011, 5:55 PM

Post #33 of 169 (9269 views)
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Re: [RM2] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I wasn't calling you "angry," Rosalie -- though honestly, with the unnecessary personal attack you are certainly making yourself seem angry. My point was that those who care about the availability of financial resources for artists do, in general terms, get "angry" (in the principled sense) when funding for the Arts is cut totally unnecessarily. But look, if that doesn't bother you, that's fine. I'm not telling you how to feel, obviously; I'm simply saying that the answer to the question "Who cares?" is this: "A lot of people."

As to whether or not I'm obsessed by this, isn't the answer to that question, "Who cares?" I believe what I'm doing helps young literary artists -- and I'm "obsessed" with helping young literary artists, yes. If that offends you, well -- you're going to break a lot of mugs listening to me, then.

S.


Swamp Thing
Jim Ryals

Apr 11, 2011, 6:25 PM

Post #34 of 169 (9259 views)
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Re: [RM2] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Super Glue will work just fine. Be careful getting it on skin or clothing, as the guy in the men's room at Walmart recently discovered.

Seth has taken a great deal of time and effort to create a workable ranking system. He's been upfront about his methodology for as long as I've followed it. For this, he's taken his lumps and, from what I've seen, upset a few high level academic mucky mucks. He's also been dismissed from time to time by people who have not bothered to examine exactly what he's done or how he's done it.

You may waive your hand and dismiss what he's done. You may ignore what he's done. I for one applaud his effort. I also can see that he would be sensitive when people say that one shouldn't bother with his rankings because he "he doesn't have the quality or quantity of information required to publish what he publishes in the form he publishes it..." He has admitted his lack of information where it impacts what he's trying to do and has worked hard to get MFA programs to be more forthcoming with things like funding and has had some notable successes. Where he has not, he's talked about it on various forums. So this quoted statement is largely without merit, and I think Seth is correct to refute it. When I saw it some time ago, I almost made a comment. However since Seth follows this board, I figured he didn't need me to defend him.

As to the fact that he uses prospective applicants in his rankings, which I surmise by the restaurant analogy is a problem for some, I can only say that when I applied to law school a couple of decades ago, I knew the rankings of the top 50 law schools by heart, their acceptance rates and who from my college was attending, as did every person applying I knew. You my dismiss the opinions of prospective applicants, but from my personal experience, I will not. People who are about to drop a significant amount of money on a choice that will have a major impact on the rest of their lives are pretty good judges in my experience, whether he or she's an applicant for a J.D., an M.B.A., or an M.F.A.

As to whether or not Seth is obsessed, over the course of my long career as a lawyer and my recent career as a writer, I have learned the most from people routinely described as "obsessed." I for one would take it as a complement, albeit back-handed.

ST



JessieB


Apr 12, 2011, 7:27 AM

Post #35 of 169 (9210 views)
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Re: [motet] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all,

Sorry to barge in on the rankings discussions, but does anyone have any information on West Virginia's program. I've done some checking into it after one person (I'm so sorry, I forget your name) mentioned that it's only an hour outside of Pittsburgh. I really like the look of it, but there's just not a lot to go on based on the website alone.


RM2
Rosalie Mingus

Apr 12, 2011, 9:53 AM

Post #36 of 169 (9187 views)
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Re: [Swamp Thing] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for the ranking context, ST. I appreciate your post and the mug is fixed. When I shovelled through my own MFA research, I was grateful for the posts and data Seth provided.

I didn't mean to make people feel upset or feel defensive or feel attacked. Apologies Potshot and UMass! It's just that the ordination of the programs--the fact that they're numbered, the form itself that is chosen, the 1,2,3--can't help but gloss the methodology issues which, to Seth's credit and honesty, he takes pains and oodles of words to lay bare and make disclaimers for.

Obsession can be terrific and you can get a lot done, but the danger is in not being able to rightly judge proportions or contexts. I speak from experience. My comment wasn't intended as an insult or a compliment.

I will now sneak away, but I wish I had some info on West Virginia to share!

rm


Swamp Thing
Jim Ryals

Apr 12, 2011, 11:35 PM

Post #37 of 169 (9107 views)
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Re: [RM2] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't sneak away, for God's sake. You had your point and you made it. If you think Seth's wrong, I'd like to hear about it beyond one sentence criticisms.

I'll use an analogy that will offend some =

When Al Gore said "the debate is over" I said to my wife, "Science isn't about debates. It's about testing hypothesise. She called me a Nethanderal jerk, slapped me and went upstairs for a few days. But then she came down and apologized.

If you disagree with what Seth does, test it. Here. I don't think you will find a kinder group of folks to disagree with. My wife isn't a writer and doesn't haunt these forums. (fora?)

ST


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Apr 13, 2011, 8:06 AM

Post #38 of 169 (9082 views)
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Re: [Swamp Thing] Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

Anyone who disagrees with the rankings -- any rankings -- or their methodology is free to create a competing set. Nothing is stopping you.

"Go thou and do likewise," as someone said.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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


mgaby22
Margaret Gaby

Apr 20, 2011, 11:09 AM

Post #39 of 169 (8940 views)
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Re: [motet] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Hello I am new to this site, however I have come across it in my research. I am a rising senior majoring in English/creative writing at UMASS Amherst and am thinking about applying to MFA programs. Would it be a good Idea to apply right out of school? I plan on doing publishing as a career. However, my biggest concern is funding. I've heard that my school has good program, by some of my teachers and the MFA rankings, but would I have a better chance of getting because I'm already an undergrad? I really just want to have time to finish my novel and get a degree and some experience working on publishing magazine and/or teaching.

I know that University of Austin has the best funding, and Cornell is good too so is Brown and Iowa and Indiana. But what are my chances of getting into one of those programs.

So here are main concerns:
Funding/cost of living
Genre writing?
Reputation
Diversity
location
ability to take electives
campus feel

I know it's kind of a random list. If I don't get funding I'm just going to go into publishing.

Thanks!

The application season for 2012 is approaching and c
hoosing the right MFA program can be a difficult and sometimes agonizing decision. There are so many choices to be made when it comes to the type of program, cost, location, and duration. Which is best, a full-time program or a low residency? Is it affordable? How's the funding? Will you be freezing cold for most of the year or sweltering in the humidity? Can you spend three years or only two?

This topic is a good place to start answering these questions and others.


Click on this link to view the previous years Choosing an MFA thread

For a complete listing of all the active topics in this forum as well as our archives, click here: DIRECTORY - Topics in the MFA Forum

Good luck to all 2012 applicants!



pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Apr 20, 2011, 11:47 AM

Post #40 of 169 (8933 views)
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Re: [mgaby22] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
If I don't get funding I'm just going to go into publishing.


I love this line.

Most people who go into publishing need funding, you know. When I was an executive editor, hiring new assistants, I never managed to hire someone who wasn't getting financial help from Dad, because I couldn't pay enough to keep someone housed and fed. And there were gobs of applicants for each position, even if you just count the ones who could afford to take the job.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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

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


bighark


Apr 20, 2011, 1:03 PM

Post #41 of 169 (8919 views)
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Re: [mgaby22] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

1) When to apply is a personal decision. Writers routinely apply and get accepted to MFA programs as graduating undergrads. Whether you'd benefit from going straight to grad school is something you need to determine on your own.

2) As a UMASS undergrad, I'd say you're less likely to get into the UMASS MFA program than a similarly qualified writer from a different institution. Generally speaking, grad programs shy away from taking their own undergrads.

3) You state three wants: 1) Writing time 2) A degree 3) Work experience. Which of those is most important to you? Why do you feel you need to go to graduate school to get things 1 and 2? You do know you can get these things without going to graduate school, right?

4) Your "chances" of getting into a funded program are slim. Very slim. Think about acceptance rates in the range of 1 to .5 percent or less.

5) Funding? Do some research. The info is out there.

6) Reputation? A well regarded program may attract a number of really strong writers, and that's good, but if you're asking whether a program's reputation is going to help you land a job, it won't.

7) Diversity? Of what? The department? The college? The town?

8) Location? Figure out where you feel you can live and narrow your choices from there.

9. Electives? Depends on the program. This information is readily available on program web sites. What non-writing courses do you want to take and why?

10) Campus feel? What's more important to you, developing as a writer or playing frisbee on the quad?

11) Just going into publishing? As what? A writer of fiction? A journalist? An editor? Ad sales? What's your end game? "Going into publishing" is not the same as writing fiction and poetry.


(This post was edited by bighark on Apr 20, 2011, 1:03 PM)


karinr
Karin Rosman


Apr 20, 2011, 4:20 PM

Post #42 of 169 (8895 views)
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Re: Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Something to consider regarding funding is that many MFA programs are accredited, meaning that you can apply for financial aid. If you don't have undergraduate debt, and if your personal debt is reasonable, it's worth considering. Also, an acquaintance of mine completed a well-regarded MBA, and the cost was considerably higher than my estimated MFA. Of course, his return will likely be higher, too.


mds2179
Michelle

May 1, 2011, 7:13 PM

Post #43 of 169 (8706 views)
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Re: [karinr] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I have officially drowned myself in MFA programs and requirements. With months left before the application submissions are started I am already losing faith in myself! At the moment I am looking to apply to 8 programs: Brooklyn College, Hunter College, The New School, Queens College, Sarah Lawrence, City College, Long Island U (Brooklyn Campus), and UNC Wilmington [I know- NY is the place for me :)]. My biggest fear at the moment is my writing sample. I'm currently an undergrad at UNCWilmington, English Major- Creative Writing minor (fiction) and I feel as if I need MORE eyes for my writing sample. Does anyone have advice/ or ideas for more eyes? Aside from my proffesors and workshop classes of course, I would love some additional comments. Since I'm applying straight out of undergrad I'm worried my writing may not be up to par as some who have had time off to work on their writing.


Good luck to those starting the process. I fear anxiety will be my closest companion during the following months.


karinr
Karin Rosman


May 2, 2011, 11:51 AM

Post #44 of 169 (8656 views)
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Re: [mds2179] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

I bet everything you are submitting has been workshopped, and seen by plenty of eyes. I say choose the work you are most confident about, and then buy yourself a beer and some pretzels. Good luck!


bighark


May 2, 2011, 12:37 PM

Post #45 of 169 (8651 views)
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Re: [mds2179] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

http://www.zoetrope.com is a good site for workshopping. Members have to review other work in order to have their work reviewed, so there's always movement on the site. Some reviewers are better than others, of course, but you will get more eyeballs on your stuff.

You should also be submitting for publication. If you're especially hungry for feedback, search for markets with reputations for personalized letters. Duotrope.com is a useful tool for that kind of thing. Start here: http://www.duotrope.com/RTstats.aspx?report=RPs&pubtype=S


mds2179
Michelle

May 2, 2011, 1:01 PM

Post #46 of 169 (8645 views)
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Re: [bighark] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Karinr, thanks for the vote of confidence :) Always nice to be surrounded by optimists.

Bigshark, thanks also for the response. I've already checked out the sites you posted and I'm feeling a little better about the extra eyes!


JessieB


May 5, 2011, 11:41 AM

Post #47 of 169 (8549 views)
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Re: [bighark] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Bighark, where on Zoetrope can you do workshopping? I clicked everywhere, but couldn't seem to find that area.


bighark


May 5, 2011, 1:29 PM

Post #48 of 169 (8538 views)
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Re: [JessieB] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

It's the "Virtual Studio" area, and you have to register to the site in order to view it.

http://www.zoetrope.com/join.cgi


JessieB


May 5, 2011, 1:44 PM

Post #49 of 169 (8534 views)
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Re: [bighark] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you!


RM2
Rosalie Mingus

May 10, 2011, 8:39 AM

Post #50 of 169 (8414 views)
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Re: [mgaby22] Choosing an MFA Program (2012) [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, there. I read this paper and saw this article. It's a short collection of thoughts and perspectives on the teaching of writing. The level of discussion on our forum is more advanced than the article, perhaps, but maybe it's of interest, anyway.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/may/10/creative-writing-courses

Be well,

rm

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