What is a Low-Residency MFA?

The first Low-Residency MFA program was developed at Goddard College in Vermont by poet Ellen Bryant Voigt, who later established Warren Wilson's program in 1981. This MFA model has become more attractive than ever for graduate students in writing because it allows writers to earn a degree and focus on their work without requiring them to relocate.

The basic model combines intensive group sessions, known as “residencies,” followed by individual faculty mentorships. Once or twice a year students, faculty and guests gather on campus. These residency sessions include workshop critiques, classes, seminars, lectures and readings, and often feature guest writers and lecturers. Each student then works with a single mentor during the academic year, sending his/her work on an established schedule for extensive responses by the mentor. Most low-residency programs also incorporate some kind of field work or outside work in which students select a literary project or internship which is approved by the program's director but completed during the months when they are absent from campus.

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What makes UAA's Low-Residency MFA program unique?

Alaska's landscape is expansive and so is our idea of what it means for a writer to explore the metaphorical and physical representations of “landscape.” We offer a unique vision and creative framework that recognizes and promotes first-hand connections between humanity and the natural world, thought and experience, diverse cultures and wilderness. We invite performing and visual artists, scientists, musicians, cultural leaders, and distinguished guest writers to help us broaden our inquiries and understanding of those “landscapes.”

Through these cross-disciplinary exchanges writers gain new insights that will be instrumental in further developing their creative work. Writers also have the opportunity to take advantage of Alaska's distinctive beauty and dramatic geography through required and optional field excursions.

The University of Alaska Anchorage's low-residency MFA program is the first of its kind in Alaska and one that supports writers of all genres and encourages more voices—Alaskan and otherwise—to add to the great body of literature.

We offer a wide range and highly diverse group of writers, guests, associate faculty and core faculty (national and international). MFA students hail from Alaska and across the U.S. including writers from indigenous cultures—Inupiat, Yup'ik, Tlingit, and Native American Indians.

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How many students are in UAA's MFA program?

Each year we admit between five and seven graduate writers in each genre.  Our full student cohort is between 45 and 50 students which allows us to focus our attention on each individual student.

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How competitive is UAA's MFA program?

The program is fairly competitive. 

 

What kind of students are best suited for UAA's MFA program?

We encourage those students who have an already well developed voice in their chosen genre to apply.  These are generally experienced writers with a small body of work and are dedicated to becoming writers and living the writing life.

The structure of a low-residency program requires that students possess self-discipline, initiative, and a commitment to the rigors of graduate-level study. Ideally, students should be:

  • Able to demonstrate their potential to work at the graduate level;
  • Committed to the reading and writing schedules agreed upon by the student and faculty mentor;
  • Willing to explore a world wider than their own experience.

 

 

When does UAA's MFA program begin?

Students begin the MFA program only one time a year; the summer semester.  UAA's summer semester typically begins around the third week of May.  For more information about specific semester dates and deadlines, please check UAA's Dates and Deadline's page.

All summer semesters are 10 weeks long, total; the Residency takes place within the 10 weeks. The first eight weeks prior to the Residency students are expected to fully participate in UAA's on-line classroom called Blackboard. 

 

 

What should I expect from the Blackboard sessions?

During the first part of the summer semester students are required to fully participate in their genre's Blackboard sessions. 

The structure of each genre's Blackboard session depends upon each instructors style; however, it is generally expected that students will complete assigned readings and participate in genre specific on-line Blackboard conversations with other students several times a week. This will require that students have regular access to the internet during the entire first half of the summer semester. 

Students should plan on three summers of active on-line discussion during the eight weeks prior to the Residency.

Core faculty members usually contact students by the end of April or early May with a thorough description of their Blackboard session expectations.

 

Where is UAA's MFA Summer Residency located?

All summer Residencies are hosted on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. Most MFA students stay in the student residency halls although some do stay off campus, particularly those who live in Anchorage. Daily dining services are provided on-site. While dining service is optional, all group meals are required. Students are housed in either a quad suite (four private bedrooms with two baths) or a double suite (two private bedrooms, one bath) and are all non-smoking.

UAA's campus is surrounded by wooded areas, a creek, and protected wetlands. Students have the opportunity to observe Alaska wildlife on campus and in nearby state parks, sometimes in an unexpected and unnervingly close way, including moose, bears, ducks, geese, bald eagles, and beavers. UAA's Consortium Library and Providence Medical Center are within 10 minutes walking distance.  Bike paths and hiking trails into the nearby Chugach State Park are easily accessible from campus. Bikes can be rented at UAA Student Union.

Parking is available on UAA's campus during summer months for those with a $25 summer parking pass. For rental car information and other useful regional travel tips about Anchorage offerings and attractions visit the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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Which writers have visited UAA's Summer Residency?

The MFA Program strives to invite some of our nation's finest writers, thinkers, and artists to our Residency.  The following have visited our Residencies in the past few years:
  • Kim Addonizio
  • Ron Carlson
  • Gary Freeburg
  • Kate Gale
  • Ruth Gundle
  • Willie Hensley
  • Linda Hogan
  • Susanna Mishler
  • Joan Kane
  • Angayauquq Oscar Kawagley
  • John Keeble
  • Margo Klass
  • David Kranes
  • Helen Longino
  • Padgett Powell
  • Richard Rodriguez
  • Peggy Shumaker
  • Gary Snyder
  • Rebecca Solnit
  • Frank Soos
  • Curtis White

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How does the faculty mentorship structure work?

About mid-way through the summer residency, students rank their top three faculty mentor choices from their genre. The Program Director and Core Faculty make the final assignments about four days before the end of the Residency at which point students and their newly assigned faculty mentors meet to cooperatively develop a semester study plan.  This plan outlines their submission deadlines, reading assignments, specific semester goals,  expectations, and methods of communication. This  faculty mentor will then guide the student through the following fall and spring semesters.  

First year students are required to complete eight creative manuscripts during the two semesters.  Second year students are required to complete five creative manuscripts.  The third year student work schedule is to be determined based upon their previous two years of work and their thesis progress.

Students are usually assigned a new mentor at the end of each Summer Residency.  Over the course of their studies it is expected that students will work with three different mentors in their genre, although exceptions are occasionally made and students may work with only two faculty mentors.

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How much does the MFA Program cost?

Each MFA semester course is five credits and is considered full-time.  The program requires a total of 45 credits (nine courses, one per semester) over a three year period. 

Resident tuition hovers around $400 per credit making every semester's course about $2000. 

Non-Residency tuition is approximately $800 per credit resulting in each semester's course costing about $4,000.  

Please visit UAA's Tuition and Fees website for an exact description of costs.  Please be sure to calculate into your expect charges student fees that are listed on the bottom of the Tuition and Fees page.

Residency specific costs can be expected to be between $550 and $1,500 depending upon housing and meal plan needs.  Included in this amount is the $275 summer lab fee.  This estimate does not include transportation  or expenses associated with books and supplies and other personal items. 

 

 

 

Where can I learn more about financial assistance?

UAA's Office of Student Financial Assistance includes information about financial assistance, payment plans, financial aid disbursement schedules, and scholarships.

Please contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance directly for all of your financial aid questions.  You may contact them at 907-786-1480 or e-mail them at: financialaid@uaa.alaska.edu

At the moment the Creative Writing & Literary Arts program does not currently offer scholarships or assistantships.

 

Can I take more than three years to complete my MFA?

Students have up to seven years to complete the MFA based upon the rules and regulations stated in the UAA catalog for the year the student entered the program; however, taking longer than three years is discouraged.  Please see the Graduate School section of the UAA Catalog or ask the Creative Writing & Literary Arts Program Coordinator for more information about using Leave of Absences or Continuous Registration.  Note: UAA's MFA program cannot accommodate part-time students.

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Is there someone I can talk with to learn more about UAA's MFA program?

Please contact the CWLA Program Coordinator Jenny Murray at 907-786-4394 or jmurray@uaa.alaska.edu.

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Each moment is a place
you've never been. ~Mark Strand