October 18, 2017
More than a decade after the debut of its Mountainview Low-Residency MFA program, Southern New Hampshire University has launched an online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. The new program opens up a world of possibilities for fiction writers who have long yearned for the opportunity to pursue an MFA but cannot attend school in a face-to-face environment or travel for residencies.
The virtual aspect of the online MFA isn't the only unique feature. The program features asynchronous video conferencing and dynamic digital annotation tools and focuses on diversity in genre and voice - and will empower students, as they develop their writing skills, to deepen their understanding of the publishing landscape and how to position themselves within it.
"The SNHU online MFA teaches students to revise and reflect on their art while learning the print and digital business models, even digital tools, they need to support their creative endeavors," said Sharon Kehl Califano, Ph.D., associate dean of programs for writing, composition and literature. "They will learn about project management software, freelance editing resources, and variant forms of writing like applying for grants."
The goal is to build solid writing skills and the ability to function well within the business of writing - and make a living while doing so. Beyond allowing a fiction genre focus of choice, students can also choose from two certificate offerings - the Online Teaching of Writing or Professional Writing - to better prepare graduates for a writing-related career. Accomplished authors, who know the business and craft of creative writing, are at the helm of the program's courses and will work closely with students to develop professional and creative skillsets.
According to Kehl Califano, "students gain the confidence and flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing literary landscape, and they practice using the actual technological tools necessary for sustaining an identity as a writer within the publishing ecosystem, bringing relevant 'real-world' application into the online classroom."
The business skills obtained through this MFA will help students find an audience for their work and support career aspirations in marketing, publishing, managing, content writing, teaching and freelance fields. Coursework also includes the fundamentals of building a writer's platform, the use of social media tools and copywriting.
"We want students to be able to leverage this degree and the skills they acquire to jobs both in and out of traditional academia," said Joan Smith, MFA, creative writing and literature lead faculty.
Supporting diversity is a goal that lies at the heart of this fully online MFA in Creative Writing. "The traditional MFA program is not feasible for a large majority of the population, nor does it benefit reading audiences everywhere," said Smith. "We are eager to break these stereotypes and make this education attainable and practical as those who have the passion for writing seek to stoke it."
By removing the geographic limitation of a required residency, barriers to access have been lifted, yet that's just the start, Kehl Califano said. The workshop experience for writers has been retooled to become more inclusive of all points of view, including those seeking to write in a wide range of fiction genres, such as Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, and Young Adult.
She said, "We believe everyone has a story to tell, and we believe that this MFA program will provide a new path for historically marginalized writers to share theirs."
Pamme Boutselis is a writer and content director in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb or connect on LinkedIn.
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