Mar 02, 2024  
Academic Catalog 2022-2023 
Academic Catalog 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Master of Fine Arts in Writing

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Pacific’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program celebrates writing as an art that has the potential to make a difference in the world. With an emphasis on the creative process, award-winning writers work closely with students to support and inspire evolving craft and voice.

The low-residency format allows students to earn a graduate degree over the course of two years through five intensive residencies, coupled with guided study during four semesters. Students earn 15 credits each semester and apply those 15 credits toward the minimum of 60 required for successful completion of the program. A student may earn an MFA in Writing in fiction, nonfiction or poetry.

Each semester begins with a 10-day residency. One is held in January at the Oregon Coast and the other is held in June on the Pacific University campus in Forest Grove. Residencies include workshops, lectures, panels, classes and readings, featuring writers who act as faculty members for the program and visiting writers and publishing professionals who participate only during the residency.

At the residencies, students are paired with a writer who serves as an advisor for the independent study that follows. Student and advisor meet in conferences to develop a study plan for the subsequent guided study when the student will devote 20-25 hours each week to writing and reading.

The MFA program offers a high level of craft and conversation, upheld by the good humor and care of a community of individuals who share a passion for art. We believe in inspiration but also in revision. We believe there is no one way to write and no right way to write. Above all, we believe in quality and originality in any guise. We know that the writer’s life is a full and complex one, and the MFA program welcomes students who have full-time jobs and other obligations.


Faculty Advisors

The writers who teach as part of the faculty for the MFA program are outstanding for both their level of national or regional literary achievement and for their teaching records and abilities. They are hired as independent contractors to instruct and advise MFA students. While writers are not regular Pacific employees, they are bound by all federal and state laws as well as many Pacific University and all MFA policies. In this catalog and in other MFA materials, these writers are referred to as “faculty.”

Most faculty who serve as advisors for students teach and run workshops during the residency that precedes the semester, though the program reserves the right to assign non-residency faculty as advisors in some circumstances. During the residency, faculty members give readings, deliver lectures, conduct classes and serve on panels. Some of the visiting writers and publishing professionals also participate actively in residency events but do not serve as advisors in the following semester.

Admission: Master of Fine Arts in Writing


The MFA program seeks students who have demonstrated talent, commitment to the writing process, an openness to critique, and a dedication to individual voice and vision.

Applicants to the MFA program should hold an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution. Exceptions may be made to this requirement contingent upon the understanding that students must complete their undergraduate degree before enrolling in the MFA thesis semester. All exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and may be granted in special circumstances such as when the applicant is close to completing an undergraduate degree, has a strong writing record with published works, and shows maturity of purpose and work habit.

Admission is based primarily on the quality and promise exhibited in the application manuscript and personal essay. Applicants should address their ability to participate productively and supportively in a writing community and to sustain commitment through extended independent work periods during the guided study.

Application Process
The Master of Fine Arts in Writing program accepts new students twice a year for semesters beginning with the January and June residencies; students may enter the program at either time.

For priority consideration, submit all application materials by August 15 for the semester beginning in January or March 1 for the semester beginning in June. Applications received after these dates will be considered as space allows and may be processed for the following semester.

For information on what materials to submit, see the MFA Application Procedure & Forms page:

Non-degree-seeking students of the Residency Writers Conference (residency only) may apply for admission to the full program through the second week of the semester. In this situation, matriculation into the program would typically begin with the current semester. Since the application for Residency Writers Conference requires half the elements of an application for the full MFA program – creative sample, critical sample, personal essay – the student’s matriculation would be considered conditional upon the receipt of two letters of reference, transcripts, and a new Intent to Enroll form showing enrollment in the full program.

Transfer of Credits
Petitions for transfer of credits from another Master of Fine Arts creative writing program will be considered by the Admissions Board. In no instance will more than 15 semester credits transfer. No other credit waivers or transfers of any other credits will be allowed. Transfer of one semester’s credit elsewhere does not guarantee that the student will finish the Pacific MFA in three additional semesters. The time it takes to finish the program depends on the student’s ability to successfully complete both the critical essay and the creative manuscript.

Policies: Master of Fine Arts in Writing

Assessment occurs at midterm and semester end. For both assessments, the student and advisor each write a narrative analysis addressing the following:

  • The student’s semester performance and progress toward completion of the program
  • The number and merit of the student-advisor exchanges, as well as the effectiveness of assignments
  • Expectations and tentative plans for the coming semester as discussed with the advisor

The midterm assessments are advisory only, used by the MFA program for counseling purposes when necessary, and do not become part of the student’s permanent record. In addition, students are invited to contact the MFA director during the semester if they have concerns about their work and exchanges, especially if they anticipate problems meeting a due date. In most cases, minor adjustments to due dates can be arranged in conversation between the student and advisor..

Assessments completed by the student and advisor at the end of the semester become part of the student’s official record and the narrative transcript is used to assign credit (the MFA program does not use grades). Students receive a hard copy letter of credit/no credit and a copy of their narrative transcript prior to the next residency.

Award of Semester Credit
Semester credit is granted only in 15-hour units and requires documentation by way of the semester study plan, residency review, midterm and final semester assessments, semester bibliography, analytical and creative work, and a log of exchanges. These semester assignments require a minimum time commitment of 20-25 hours of study per week. After the faculty advisor has evaluated the student’s semester work and has recommended credit in the Narrative Transcript, the MFA program reviews the student’s semester portfolio. If all is in order, the program awards credit. Prior to the next residency, the student is advised of the award of credit in a letter from the director. Comments and counsel for the student regarding the upcoming semester may be included.

Students who attend only a portion of the residency or who participate in the residency but fail to complete all semester work will receive no credit.

Students who complete semester requirements but whose analytical or creative work does not meet program expectations may be granted credit even though the work falls short of the criteria for the granting of the degree. Decisions about the awarding of credit are made between the final due date for receipt of semester project evaluations and the next residency, as are decisions regarding whether or not a student will continue on in the program.

A student whose analytical or creative work does not demonstrate the competency to advance to the next semester may enroll in up to one extra semester or take a leave of absence to develop the necessary skills. If the revised manuscripts from this additional semester of work are not successful, as determined by the Admissions Board, the student will be dismissed from the program.

Due Dates and Extensions
Students are responsible for turning in required work by the assigned due dates and recording their exchanges with their advisors in a log. All semester work must be satisfactorily completed by the end of the semester to receive credit. Students who fail to meet due dates with their advisors or the MFA office and who fail to make other arrangements for completing work lose their right to further exchanges and to credit for that semester. In such cases, students may be required to take an additional semester to complete the unfinished work and earn the required credit toward the degree.

In exceptional circumstances, a student may petition the MFA Academic Board for an extension of due dates to earn semester credit. For details, see below under Incomplete Grade.

Academic Standing, Probation and Dismissal

Students receive ongoing assessment throughout the residency and the guided study. While most excel in the program, those students who find they are unable to complete their work or who have other academic concerns should contact the MFA director or their advisor immediately to discuss a plan of action. This might include a Petition for Exception to MFA Policy, an accommodation arranged through the Office of Accessibility and Accommodation Services, or other options.   A student who fails to complete the degree requirements as outlined in the MFA Handbook or whose work does not demonstrate graduate-level competency is not permitted to progress in the curriculum. Student status and attending action plans are identified and described below.

Acceptable and In Good Standing
The student demonstrates all of the following:

  • Satisfactory progress in completing assignments and meeting deadlines
  • Satisfactory progress in the development of analytical and creative writing skills
  • Adherence to University and MFA rules or procedures
  • Appropriate professional/ethical conduct and attitudes

Notice of Concern
A student may receive a “notice of concern” if an advisor, faculty or staff member expresses concerns about the student’s performance in any of the areas defined above. A notice of concern is designed to bring the student’s attention to an issue (e.g., failing academic performance; missed deadlines; inadequate or problematic communication with MFA advisors, faculty members, and/or program staff) so that the student may address and improve the performance in the area of concern and thus avoid receiving an academic warning or losing their acceptable academic standing. The MFA director sends a notice of concern to a student via email and/or the letter of credit. This notice may include an action plan for remediation.  Students who receive two notices of concern within a semester and do not improve their performance will receive an academic warning.

Academic Warning and Suspension
A student who receives an official academic warning is no longer a student in good standing and must address the issue(s) to the satisfaction of the advisor, staff member, and/or director within two weeks of receiving notification. The academic warning includes a plan of action for any one of the following:

  • Failure to meet deadlines and/or failure to contact advisor or MFA staff within three days of missed deadlines
  • Incomplete work
  • Insufficient progress in analytical or creative writing skills
  • Failure to comply with University or MFA program rules or procedures and/or unprofessional/unethical behavior

A student who does not address the issue(s) within two weeks of receiving the academic warning, or who receives additional notices of concern or academic warnings for other issues, will be suspended from the program for the rest of the semester and receive no credit.

Academic Probation

A student who receives an academic warning and/or who is suspended from the MFA program will be placed on academic probation and will be given one semester to regain good academic standing. A student on probation must have an approved plan for addressing one or more of the following:

  • Repeated failure to meet deadlines and/or failure to contact advisor or MFA staff within three days of missed deadlines
  • Incomplete work
  • Insufficient progress in analytical or creative writing skills
  • Failure to meet the terms of an action plan designed as the result of an academic warning
  • Lack of compliance with University or MFA program rules or procedures and/or unprofessional/unethical conduct at a level of greater magnitude than that considered to warrant a warning

A second semester of unacceptable performance will result in academic dismissal from the program.

A student may be dismissed from the program for any one of the following:

  • Failure to meet deadlines and/or failure to contact advisor or MFA staff within three days of missed deadlines for more than one semester
  • Incomplete work for more than one semester
  • Insufficient progress in analytical or creative writing skills for more than one semester
  • Academic probation for more than one semester at any time in the program
  • Failure to meet the terms of an action plan designed as the result of an academic probation
  • Flagrant or intentional violations of the University or MFA program rules and procedures and/or inappropriate, unprofessional/unethical or illegal conduct

Students who have been dismissed may reapply to the program after a period of absence, depending on the circumstances of dismissal. Decisions on student status are determined by members of the MFA faculty and/or Admissions Board. Students may appeal status decisions within 10 days of notification of the original action to the MFA Board of Directors, which includes the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Accreditation and Awarding of the Degree
Pacific University and the Master of Fine Arts in Writing program are accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The Master of Fine Arts degree is granted by the Pacific University President and the Board of Trustees upon recommendation of the Academic Board of the MFA in Writing program and the approval of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Auditing Students
Alumni, current students, and applicants accepted into the MFA program may choose the option to audit an MFA semester at the discretion of the program and as space allows. Students who request this option typically attend a residency and adapt their semester study plan to focus entirely on their creative manuscript, although faculty will encourage students to include some readings in their semester work. While auditing students enroll in, pay for, and participate in MFA residencies and guided study, they are not required to complete assignments or turn in a portfolio at the end of the semester. Students must declare the audit option before the end of the add-drop period; once the audit option has been declared the course cannot revert back to the graded option.

Students who audit receive no credits and this is reflected on a transcript as ‘AU’ instead of a grade. Course auditing is not applied toward degree requirements even if the student returns to the program in the future as a degree-seeking student.

Non-Degree-Seeking Students
Alumni, current students, and applicants accepted into the MFA program may choose the option to study as non-degree-seeking students at the discretion of the program and as space allows.

Earning Credit As a Non-Degree Seeking Student
Non-degree seeking students may earn 15 credits for each full semester (residency and guided study). These students must complete all academic requirements as outlined in the MFA Handbook and Pacific catalog. While the non-degree seeking student may earn credit, it does not apply to the MFA degree until the student is enrolled as a matriculated, degree-seeking student. Students switching from non-degree seeking to degree seeking must have approval from the Admissions Board.

Transfer Credit
Request for transfer credit is evaluated on an individual basis. No more than 15 credits can be transferred.

Credit Load
Students must register for 15 credits for each semester. Part-time enrollment is not allowed.

The MFA program does not award graduation honors.

Grading System
All courses are graded Pass/No Pass.

Add/Drop/Withdrawal Schedule
Students may add or drop through the second week of the semester. After this time and through the 65% mark of the semester (approximately three months into the semester), students may withdraw and receive a W grade on the transcript. After this point, students not completing the course will earn a No Pass grade.

Readmission Policy/Process
Students who leave the program before earning the degree may be able to apply for readmission if their situations have changed. See the Program Director for more information.

Time Limits to Complete Degree
It is generally expected that all degree requirements will be completed within three years, although exceptions can be granted by the Program Director.

Incomplete Grade
In exceptional circumstances, a student may petition the MFA Academic Board for an extension of due dates to earn semester credit. In this case, the student would need to complete the Student Petition for Exception to MFA Policy/Incomplete Grade and submit it to the program director, who will offer a recommendation to the MFA Board. The MFA Board will review the petition and either approve or deny it. Students may petition to earn credit only when a portion of semester coursework has been completed satisfactorily and health or other emergency reasons prevent the student from finishing all requirements by the established due dates. The petition should detail the circumstances that led to the request as well as dates and plans for completing the semester work. The advisor and the student should agree upon a timeline for the completion of all work, with the following limitations:

  • Fall semester Incompletes must be completed by the following April 15 to earn credit.
  • Spring semester Incompletes must be completed by the following November 15 to earn credit.

If the agreed-upon course work is not completed in the period allotted and an extension has not been granted, no credit will be given for the semester. Please note that extensions on due dates may incur additional fees, jeopardize credit, or delay decisions about advancement toward the degree.

Tuition: Master of Fine Arts in Writing

Annual tuition $21,060 (Fall 2022 and Spring 2023)
Audit (guided study), per credit hour $702
Fall room & board $900
Spring room & board $900
Books and supplies $800 (estimate)
Graduation application fee $100


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