Creative writing MFA program named one of most underrated in country

Listing a recognition of faculty, student efforts

KU’s creative writing MFA program may be young, but it’s starting to get noticed on a national stage. The Huffington Post recently included the program in a list of “Top 25 Underrated Creative Writing MFA Programs.” It joins universities such as Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Penn State and Ohio State on the list.

“Three years, well-funded, a light teaching load, and one of the few U.S. universities that cares enough about creative writing to host both a creative writing doctorate and an MFA,” wrote author Seth Abramson. “And did you know Lawrence, Kansas is deemed a top 10 college town nationally?”

Darren Cannady

The program may be underrated, but faculty say they are earning more recognition as time goes on.

“This list is very prestigious company indeed for our MFA program, considering how young we are compared to some of the other programs on the list,” said Marta Caminero-Santangelo, professor and chair of the Department of English. “That kind of recognition shows that we are doing a lot of things right. We are fully funding a very high percentage of our MFA students, we give them time to work on their craft and exposure to prominent, published writers, and now we’ve given them the resources to start up their own graduate-student run literary journal. The ‘25 most-underrated’ list will really help us to get the word out about our program to talented applicants who might not be aware of it.”

KU’s MFA program was launched in 2006. It has steadily grown since then, adding new faculty and programs and bringing noted writers to campus. Graduate students recently launched their own literary journal, “Beecher’s.” They have elected an editorial board and will seek national submissions.

This semester the program added a new playwright and will soon bring in a nationally renowned visiting scholar. Darren Canady, assistant professor, will teach playwrighting courses. Joshua Cohen, a prominent fiction writer, will join the faculty as a visiting professor in the spring. Cohen has written several books including “Witz” and “A Heaven of Others.” The New York Times lauded Cohen as one of the best writers of his generation and haled “Witz” as “a linguistic extravaganza that negates reader expectations.”

Caminero-Santangelo also credits faculty who have been with the program. Laura Moriarty, assistant professor of English, is a nationally renowned Kansas novelist, having written “While I’m Falling,” “The Center of Everything” and “The Rest of Her Life.” Such faculty are invaluable writing mentors, she said.

William Harris, interim director of the MFA program, said inclusion in the list is fitting recognition of the hard work of faculty and students in the program.

“What this means is that the word is getting out, that recognition for our program is coming quickly — that this is a good place to get a degree because of the support, talent and location. We have excellent teachers who care about their students and devote a great deal of time to them and have distinguished themselves as writers,” Harris said.

Campus closeup
Alison Gabriele, assistant professor of linguistics


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