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Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Department of Languages and Literatures

The College of Arts and Sciences

The Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing is a low-residency program in poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction, with intensive 12-day summer residencies and course delivery via the Internet during fall and spring semesters.

Mission Statement

The low-residency Ashland University Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing will enhance talent in the areas of creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry in order to provide students with the aesthetic tools to embody, in writing, a deep understanding of human experience, both within the context of the personal self and within the broader cultural and spiritual contexts that define the self. The program will also guide student writers as they pursue publication, and potential employment, as active members of the American literary community. Student writers will develop their practical and artistic pursuits through the program’s emphasis on a sustained and committed devotion to writing; through deep and wide reading; through mentorship with established writers who are also devoted teachers; and through participation in workshops, seminars, lectures, and readings-all of which will enhance the students’ shared sense of belonging to a community of writers.

Student Learning Outcomes

Student will:

  • Compose poems, creative nonfiction, and/or fiction which displays a mastery of literary techniques and approaches.

  • Revise their own work and critique the work of others.

  • Analyze and critique contemporary literature in their genre.

  • Compose, edit, and compile a thesis-length manuscript.

  • Identify and evaluate the characteristics of their own creative work, especially their thesis, and the process by which that work came into being.

Interim Dean

Daniel McDonald, College of Arts and Sciences


Christian Kiefer, Director of MFA Program

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program Admission Procedures

Students seeking admission to the Master of Fine Arts Program must submit:

  1. All required Graduate School application materials

  2. Writing sample (10–15 pages of poetry, 20–25 pages of creative nonfiction, or 20-25 pages of fiction),

  3. Two letters of recommendation

Admission is based on the following:

  • Acceptance into the Graduate School

  • A writing sample deemed by the MFA faculty to be of sufficient quality for admittance to the program

Applications for the Master of Fine Arts Program are reviewed on a rolling basis. The priority deadline is February 1 for summer residency admission and September 1 for January admission. The admission period will formally close on May 15, but applications will be considered until June 15 as long as space is available.

Visit the Admissions page of the Master of Fine Arts Program Web site to complete an online application:

Curricular Structure

Each non-residential course load during fall and spring semesters is 3-9 credit hours. Each summer residency is 3-4 credit hours. The program is designed to begin and end with a summer residency. Students must complete three summer residencies and four semesters of non-residential course work to complete the degree.

Degree Completion Timeline

The minimum length of time to complete the Master of Fine Arts Program is two years and two weeks. The maximum length of time to complete the Program is four years and six months. Once the maximum allotted time has passed, students must reapply for admission. Any credits earned prior to readmission cannot be used toward the fulfillment of the degree.

Transfer of Credits

No more than nine credit hours of graduate creative writing classes can be transferred into the MFA program.

Academic Policies-Thesis Guidelines

Faculty mentors for English 701 will serve as thesis advisors through to the completion of their advisees’ degrees. Thesis advisors will recommend for a thesis defense only those manuscripts that realize fully or largely the character of a volume informed by unifying aesthetic traits.

A thesis will be ready for a defense when it is clearly defined by one or more of the following:

  • common controlling ideas or interaction between ideas;

  • specific aesthetic effects that provide a sense of balance, order, or unity;

  • distinct relationships of one poem to another, one essay to another, one story or narrative segment to another, in the body of the thesis as a whole.

Receiving the S-Satisfactory grade in ENG 701 indicates that the faculty mentor recommends the thesis for defense. Faculty mentors may assign the SR grade to a nearly complete thesis that is of such quality that the student’s advisor expects a passing grade will result after the student completes final revisions. The U grade will be used if the thesis shows little sign of promise, even with the possibility of further revision.

Submitting the Thesis

Within two weeks following the completion of the spring semester, the following material needs to be submitted to the Administrative Director:

  • Final draft of thesis, approximately 50-60 pages of poetry or 125 pages or more of prose. Students who complete a semester of cross-genre study may petition to submit a multi-genre manuscript.

  • List of 50 texts (most of which are books) that have informed the student’s growth as a writer. List texts alphabetically by author. It is not necessary to include more than title and author. Texts are not limited to assigned readings within the coursework or duration of the program.

  • Five-pages (double-spaced) introduction in which the student defines ways a smaller (5-10) select group of texts informed the process of developing the thesis. Each student should think of this essay as the act of defining a literary genealogy, in the form of 5-10 texts, from which the thesis descends. Students should define in this paper specific effects or techniques that they have learned through the experience of reading particular authors and particular texts.

Non-Residential Courses

Non-Residential Courses in the Master of Fine Arts Program are designed as mentorships: students will work individually with one faculty mentor per semester and will work collectively with other students assigned to the same mentor. Throughout each of the four non-residential semesters (English 631, 632, 633, and 701), students will interact with their mentors via e-mail and online forums. Students will work individually with faculty mentors, and collectively with other students, in enhancing their ability to write and effectively edit poems and prose, and in developing the ability to read and write critically in response to canonized and contemporary authors in their chosen genre. Each faculty mentor will work with no more than five students during the four non-residential semesters required by the program.

Summer Residencies

During summer residencies (English 501, 502, and 503), students will work at Ashland University with Master of Fine Arts faculty and with visiting writers by attending workshops, lectures, seminars, readings, discussion groups, and individual conferences.

Course of Study

Course Number and Title



English 501: Residency I



English 631: Mentorship I (non-residential semester)



English 632: Mentorship II (non-residential semester)


ENG 631

English 633: Mentorship III (non-residential semester)


ENG 632, 502




English 633: Mentorship III (non-residential semester)


ENG 632, 502

English 651: Composition/Rhetoric


12 semester hours of English at the 400-level

English 502: Residency II


ENG 501, 631

English 701: MFA Thesis (non-residential semester)


ENG 633

English 503: Residency III


ENG 701

English 504: The Craft Talk


ENG 633




English 652: Supervised Teaching


ENG 651

Total Hours



Courses and Descriptions

See ENG Courses