Many thanks to Jeff Mann at Virginia Tech’s MFA program for answering a few questions. Virginia Tech’s first graduating class earned their MFAs in 2008 and the program and soared to one of very high ranking. Learn a little more about this special program.
Can you describe the general course of study at Virginia Tech? For example, how heavily does it focus on writing as opposed to teaching or working at one of the literary journals?
The major focus is on writing: we require 15 hours of writing workshops. MFA students also take Literary Editing (a course in which students choose creative work for The Minnesota Review), as well as courses in form and theory and literature. They’re required to take 11 hours in composition pedagogy. After completing that requirement, they teach freshman composition classes. In their final semester, they usually get to teach Introduction to Creative Writing.
Virginia Tech is ranked very highly for a program that only graduated its first class in 2008. What about the program do you think draws such high regard?
I think it’s a combination of factors: the members of our faculty are diverse and accomplished, and our students are fully funded through Graduate Teaching Assistantships (around $16,000 annually).
Some people might be surprised to think of Virginia Tech as a place to get their MFA. How would you describe the creative and educational community for writers there?
The writing community here is active and congenial. The MFA program hosts two different reading series — the Visiting Writers Series and the Speakeasy series — plus there are local reading series as well: Polyperformance and Connecting Ridges. Because our MFA program is small (eight faculty members and around 21 students at any one time), there’s a lot of faculty/student interaction.
As a highly selective program, with only six or seven new students accepted per year, what is it that you look for in a successful applicant?
We look for a high quality of writing of course, but also appreciate emotional maturity, experience, and an amiable nature. We’re also interested in including diverse voices and perspectives.
If you could give one piece of advice to current or prospective MFA students, what would it be?
Writing is difficult. Receiving respect for your writing is often even harder. Be patient, stoic, and persistent.