The University of Arkansas at Monticello has become the third university in the nation and the fourth worldwide to offer a master of fine arts degree in creative writing that may be completed totally online.  UAM received approval for the MFA program recently from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association and will implement the program beginning with the 2013 second summer term.

The MFA degree requires the completion of 48 semester hours of course credit, including 30 hours of ENGL 517V Writer’s Workshop. The last six hours require the creation of a thesis, a book-length manuscript of publishable quality.
Other universities currently offering the MFA degree online are the University of Texas-El Paso, National University in LaJolla, Calif., and the University of British Columbia.

“This is something UAM can do and do well,” said Mark Spencer, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and one of two core faculty members for the program. “We have the faculty in place, we have the resources, and we’re offering a program that has three very marketable qualities – it’s flexible, it offers high quality instruction from faculty with strong writing credentials, and it’s affordable. Most MFA programs cost between $50,000 and $70,000.  Ours will cost between $12,000 and $13,000, which makes it the most affordable MFA program in the country.”

Admission to the MFA program requires a bachelor’s degree from a fully accredited college or university, an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher, three letters of recommendation from writers, editors, or educators who can judge the applicant’s potential for success in a graduate level online/low-residency writing program, a 20- to 30-page sample of creative writing, a three-to-five page critical analysis exploring some aspect or element of craft in a literary work, and a personal essay addressing issues such as the applicant’s background and literary influences.

Diane Payne, associate professor of English, will serve as director of the program.  Payne is a prolific writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry and is a past recipient of the Southwest Writers’ Award first prize for nonfiction.

Spencer has authored seven books, including The Weary Motel, Love and Reruns in Adams County, a nonfiction novel entitled A Haunted Love Story: The Ghosts of the Allen House, and his most recent work, The Masked Demon.

Spencer has received the Faulkner Society’s Faulkner Award for the Short Novel, the Omaha Prize for the Novel, the Cairns Short Story Award, and four Special Mentions in Pushcart Prize: Best of theSmall Presses.

In addition to Payne and Spencer, the program will utilize part-time mentor-faculty, including:
• Nan Cohen, a faculty member in the professional writing program at the University of Southern California and a former writing instructor at Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA, Gettysburg College, and Stanford;
• Dr. Cherri A. Randall, assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown;
• Sandy Longhorn, lecturer and author of Blood Almanac, winner of the 2005 Anhinga Prize for Poetry;
• Editor and author Matthew Henriksen, adjunct instructor of English at UA-Fort Smith, whose book Ordinary Sun was nominated for Best in Poetry for the 2011 Goodread Choice Awards;
• Melinda Palacio, author, public speaker, marketing consultant, writing workshop leader and a columnist for Self Magazine who is a past winner of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference firstprize in poetry.

“This program is a wonderful addition to our graduate program,” said Dr. Jimmie Yeiser, UAM’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Dean Spencer and Diane Payne are to be commended for their hard work in making this program a reality.”