Jun 20, 2024  
Academic Catalog 2023-2024 
Academic Catalog 2023-2024

Writing, MFA

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Degree Requirements

Summary of MFA Degree Requirements

  • Full participation in five residency periods documented with residency reviews due at the completion of the student’s first four residencies, including any semester accepted for transfer from other institutions; full participation in the student’s fifth residency is documented by successful completion of a thesis review and the public reading from their creative manuscript along with a critical introduction
  • Successful completion of four semester projects with the minimum accumulation of 60 graduate credits of WRI 581 and WRI 582 documented through semester assessments and submitted revised work
  • Work with no fewer than three faculty advisors during the student’s time in the program
  • Broad, diverse, and intercultural-reading in literature and contemporary letters documented with a cumulative bibliography of approximately 80 entries, at least 40 of which are annotated
  • The ability to write clear prose and to articulate cogent response to work by other writers documented with 20-30 reading commentaries
  • A clearly written, substantial, critical essay concentrating on the creative works of one or more published authors
  • A creative manuscript of high-quality poetry, fiction or nonfiction, consisting of 30-50 pages of poetry or 70-120 pages of prose
  • Open and high-level discussion of the creative manuscript by faculty and peers in the thesis review
  • A graduate-level presentation consisting of a critical introduction to the student’s reading given during the final residency
  • A public reading of the student’s work during the final residency


A student may earn an MFA in fiction, nonfiction or poetry. A student wanting to earn an MFA degree in two genres must petition the Admissions Board to study in the second genre. Once the petition has been accepted, the usual process is to take four semesters in the first genre and three additional semesters in the second genre. Thus, the minimum time to complete an MFA degree in two genres would be seven semesters. Students must allow complete a second critical essay and a second creative manuscript.

Studying a Second Genre for One Semester

If a student wishes to explore a second genre for one semester, the student must submit a petition to the MFA Director three months before the semester begins. Students may not switch genres during a semester. Study in a second genre typically occurs in a student’s second semester and begins with a residency period workshop in that second genre. In many cases, students who elect to explore another genre should expect to attend an additional semester to fulfill requirements for the degree.

Changing Genres

Students who begin the program in one genre and then decide they would like to make a permanent switch to another may do so when the following conditions have been met:

  • The petition for the genre switch has been approved by the Admissions Board.
  • The student has successfully completed at least one semester in the new genre before the essay semester.

A student must work in the new genre for at least three semesters to earn the MFA degree in that genre. In many cases this will necessitate an additional semester of study.

Curricular Overview

First and Second Semester

  • Residency review
  • Creative work in one’s genre (or, during the second semester, in a second genre if approved by the Admissions Board)
  • A bibliography of approximately 20 works
  • Reading commentaries on 10-15 works
  • Written midterm and semester assessments

Essay Semester

  • Residency review
  • Creative work in one’s genre
  • An annotated bibliography of at least 20 works
  • A critical essay on work by published authors
  • Written midterm and semester assessments

Thesis Semester

  • Residency review
  • Creative work to complete the final thesis manuscript
  • An annotated bibliography of at least 20 works
  • A comprehensive, standard bibliography of all works read during matriculation
  • Preparation of a presentation to be given during the final residency
  • Preparation of a 15-minute reading of original work to be given during the final residency
  • Preparation for the thesis review that takes place during the final residency
  • Submission of the complete thesis, when approved, to the program archive
  • Written midterm and semester assessments

Fifth Residency

  • Thesis review
  • Graduate presentation
  • Graduate reading

Curricular Components

The twice-yearly residency periods (January and June) initiate each semester and form the foundation of a community of writers. The 10 intensive days of events provide the student with literary breadth to balance the more specific and individual focus of the ensuing semester work.

The residency schedule includes workshops, formal presentations, panels, lectures, classes, and readings, featuring faculty members and guest writers and publishing professionals. Though students specialize in a particular genre for their degrees, the residency offers opportunities to experience and appreciate the relationships among all the literary genres. This diversity is provided through residency activities and, in some cases, a multi-genre workshop.

In addition to the formal sessions, the residency includes time set aside for contemplation, writing, and informal gatherings. The residency is both a rich reward and a stimulus for the months of solo work that lie ahead.

During the residency, the student should expect to do the following:

  • Participate in assigned workshop sessions led by at least two of the faculty writers
  • Receive close critique of worksheet material during at least one workshop session
  • Provide commentary and critique on the work of other students in the workshops
  • Attend all workshops, lectures, panels, and craft talks in the student’s genre of study
  • Attend nightly readings and take advantage of the chance to participate as a reader
  • Meet with the assigned advisor to design the semester study plan

Semester Study Proposal
Prior to each residency, students submit a semester study proposal that includes their writing goals, specific areas of interest, and a tentative reading list. At the residency, students meet with their assigned advisors to design the formal semester study plan. Before these sessions, faculty familiarize themselves with the students’ semester study proposals and creative work.

Students are assigned to a workshop specific to their genre (poetry, fiction or nonfiction) or, in some instances, a multi-genre workshop. Their creative manuscripts provide the text for discussion and commentary in the workshops.

Each workshop includes up to 10 students from every stage of progress through the program. Two to four faculty members lead these workshops. Each student’s workshop material receives at least one close critique during the course of the workshop. The student spends the remaining workshop hours offering the same level of review to other students.

Lectures, Classes and Readings
Faculty and visiting writers offer numerous lectures, presentations, classes, and readings at the residency. Students are expected to attend all formal offerings in their genre including at least one outside their chosen area of study. Each residency will offer at least one presentation from a publishing professional.

Lectures, panels, and classes serve as introductions to an element of craft or a body of work, or both. As a result, students may discover issues relevant to their work to pursue in greater depth during their guided study. Students are encouraged to attend as many presentations as time and energy allow, and to do any preparatory reading for them. Presentations are intended for all students, and faculty members welcome participation by both poets and prose writers. Students should also plan to attend the readings by faculty members, visiting writers, and degree candidates. In addition, we encourage students to attend and participate in one of the several student readings.

Advisor Assignment
The advisor supervises the student’s independent work during the semester following the residency. Faculty advisors are chosen based on the student’s preferences and their study proposal, on material submitted for workshops, and on previous semester work, if any.

During the residency, the director and a committee of faculty members meet to review student materials and to make recommendations about advisor assignments. These recommendations are forwarded to all faculty members for the final student-advisor pairings. Students may state a preference for an advisor, but there is no guarantee that the preference will be met. It is one of the goals of the MFA program that every student works with a writer who is enthusiastic and who feels able to contribute to the development of the student’s writing. Students work with different advisors throughout the four or five semesters of study, though a previous advisor may be assigned for the final semester.

Semester Study Plan
Toward the end of the residency, the student and advisor meet in conference, normally during two strategy sessions, to refine the initial study proposal. These conferences lead to a formal, written study plan that addresses both the student’s and the advisor’s expectations for the semester work.

The study plan may include the following:

  • Goals for the student’s creative work, which may be general or specific, as appropriate for a particular student in a given semester
  • Specific elements of style, form and technique to be studied during the semester
  • Due dates, methods and frequency of the five expected student-advisor exchanges
  • A reading list that may be modified as the semester progresses
  • Additional planned projects or activities (tailored exercises, a journal, attendance at literary and cultural events in the student’s home area)
  • Other work that addresses the student’s interests, needs and developing vision

The semester study plan must be filed with the MFA office at the end of the residency or shortly after the beginning of the guided study portion of the semester. In addition, the student and advisor should each preserve copies for themselves.

Residency Review
Shortly after the residency, each student submits a written, analytical commentary on each formal activity attended, addressing the quality of the student’s own preparation and participation, as well as the relevance of the residency activities to the student’s educational goals and program learning outcomes, including attention to diverse and intercultural perspectives and a writer’s social responsibility..

Guided Study
Throughout the guided study, students send work to their advisors and, in turn, receive criticism and guidance, including specific suggestions and general advice for their developing craft and course of study. Student work sent in the exchanges includes new poetry or prose, revised work, and reading commentaries or annotations assigned as part of the study plan.

Students are expected to devote 20-25 hours each week to the semester study project, but the flexible structure of the exchanges allows them to carry out family and job commitments while still pursuing the study of writing.

Exchanges with the advisor provide balance for the solitude necessary to pursue the art of writing. Because the ongoing dialogue between student and advisor is vital to a low-residency program, students are expected to take part in five full exchanges, consisting of creative work, inquiry, and analysis, facilitated either electronically or by mail.

The natural subject areas for substantive exchange are the student’s creative manuscripts and reading commentaries, the advisor’s critiques, and the subsequent revisions. In cover letters accompanying each exchange packet, the student offers reflections and questions on the process of study and receives detailed responses in return. Students who participate in local workshops or attend relevant lectures in their area are welcome to include comments on these activities in the exchange to enrich and extend the dialogue. The contents of these exchanges are not sent to the MFA office. Instead, the student keeps a log sheet recording specific projects, dates, materials sent, and comments received as part of the semester work that is submitted to the MFA office for review.

Semester Creative Project
In the packets that students send to their advisors approximately every three weeks is a manageable portion of creative work. The creative work is the heart and focus of the semester project. Manuscripts are critiqued by the advisor and returned for revision. By semester’s end, each student should have a body of carefully edited work (20-30 pages prose/10-15 poems).

Reading List and Bibliography
A writer’s natural gifts are deepened through broad reading and careful reflection about that reading. Developed with guidance from the advisor, the reading list is derived from the needs and literary background of the student and should include contemporary letters, a close examination of a few major writers in the genre, and exploration of literary traditions across cultures and from around the world..

While the reading lists for early semesters may be broad-based, the lists will place more emphasis on the focus of the critical essay as candidates draw nearer to completion of their degrees. Each semester should produce a bibliography of 20 books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or critical prose.

Reading Commentaries and Annotations
The purpose of any term’s reading list is to foster critical inquiry into stylistic and technical considerations. Thus, in each of the first two semesters, students write 10-15 commentaries about the craft of writing, based on works selected from the reading list (see above). In the essay and thesis semesters, the reading commentaries and bibliography are replaced by an annotated bibliography of all 20 books in a student’s list..

The reading commentaries need not be scholarly works, but should be 500-1000 words of clear prose in which the student examines some aspect of craft in the work. The works chosen for commentary should reflect the balance of primary works to analytical texts in the reading list. Reading commentaries are submitted throughout the semester, with two to three included, on average, in each exchange with the advisor. These become part of the dialogue, deepening the conversation between student and advisor.

Reading commentaries help students to develop rhetorical skills, as well as to make conscious observations regarding various elements of craft and the impact of these in their own work and the works they are reading. By the second semester, the commentaries are useful in locating the topic for the critical essay that comprises one piece of the final thesis project and may become rough draft material for this essay, or a way to test the emerging essay’s thesis against other texts.

In the essay and thesis semesters, an annotated bibliography replaces the reading commentaries, although, when academically appropriate, the advisor may recommend that the student complete additional reading commentaries. An entry in an annotated bibliography, unlike a reading commentary, contains only two or three sentences of descriptive or evaluative comments on a work.

Readiness for the Essay Semester
Upon successful completion of two semesters in the MFA program, the student, the current advisor, and the director assess the student’s readiness to undertake the critical essay.

Though it does not advance one toward the degree, an additional semester of broad reading and written argumentation through reading commentaries and short comparative essays (5-7 pages) often develops a student’s skills and moves the student toward a focused essay. Students considered ready to begin the critical essay have demonstrated intelligent, well considered, well written responses to their readings and have begun to define a substantial topic relevant to their creative work.

Critical Essay
The essay semester requires degree candidates to develop a polished, 10-12 page work of literary analysis that demonstrates clarity of thought and expression in English prose.

The critical essay is an opportunity to explore another writer’s work or an issue of craft in depth. We encourage students to choose texts and writers who exemplify the kinds of strategies they are attempting to master in their own work. Some students will write this essay with publication in mind. For others, the exploration itself will be the goal. But for all, the essay should contain vigorous prose that breathes feeling and honest conviction.

The essay has three purposes:

  1. To develop the ability to analyze published works
  2. To find connections and applications for the student’s own writing, including the ability to experiment with established forms, techniques, or styles
  3. To hone skills that will assist the student wishing to teach writing or publish book reviews and articles on craft

Students planning the essay generally reserve some portion of the preceding semester to formulate an essay topic, or several promising topics, in dialogue with their advisors. During this preparatory semester, students also complete much of preliminary reading if at all possible.

Students work closely with their advisors in developing, drafting and revising the essay. The essay semester study plan should incorporate exchange methods and schedules for development of the analytical writing, which must be completed by the end of the semester.

Submitting the Essay
Early in the semester, students should send drafts of the essay to their advisor for commentary and plan to submit the final draft by the essay due date. Once the advisor has signed off on the essay, either via email or letter, the student should also submit an electronic copy of the final draft to the MFA office via Moodle. The project advisor completes the Narrative Transcript form, which includes an overall evaluation of the essay, recommendation concerning its approval for fulfilling the degree requirements, and appropriate revision suggestions, if any.

When the essay is approved, or if it requires only minor revisions, the student may advance to the final thesis semester (providing the student has sufficient creative work to move forward). The student may not advance to the final semester until the essay is approved. The award of credit for the semester, however, is an independent judgment made at the term’s end and does not require acceptance of the essay.

Extra Semester
Students who need to further develop their analytical writing or who have particularly challenging creative work may request or may be advised to take an extra semester to improve their writing before undertaking the essay or thesis semester. Students who would like to explore other genres before their essay or thesis may also request extra semesters

Requirements for the Extra Semester
Extra semesters taken for credit must meet the usual expectations, including full participation in a residency, creative work and critical inquiry (if required), 20 readings, and an annotated bibliography.

Elective Semester for Special Projects
Students who would like to explore an additional literary skill or genre, such as digital publishing, screenwriting, or playwriting, may request to take an elective semester. A student must have successfully completed at least three semesters in the MFA program before enrolling in the elective semester. This option requires the student to submit a petition at least five months in advance of the start date. Students can find the petition form for the elective semester on Moodle.

Requirements for the Elective Semester
Elective semesters taken for credit must meet the usual expectations, including full participation in a residency, creative work and critical inquiry (if required), 20 readings, and an annotated bibliography.

Readiness for the Thesis Semester
Students considered ready to begin the thesis semester have a body of creative work in their major genre, though they should anticipate further revision and additional writing throughout the thesis semester. They have ideas about what they plan to produce in the name of their thesis, such as stories, linked stories or poems, a novel, a memoir, or a collection of lyric essays.

Overview of Thesis
Students may enter the final semester upon completion of no fewer than three successful semesters (including any semesters accepted for transfer from other institutions) and acceptance of the critical essay. The final semester, usually the fourth in the program, focuses primarily on creative writing and completion of an original, high-quality manuscript of poetry, fiction or nonfiction. The analytical and creative components form the Master of Fine Arts thesis, copies of which are placed in the MFA program archives and in the Pacific University Library.

Creative Manuscript
The creative manuscript consists of 30-50 pages of poetry or 70-120 pages of prose. Work included in the manuscript must have been composed or substantially revised during a student’s time in the program. Emphasis in this final project should be on quality rather than quantity and should involve careful editing and revision.

In the third month of the final semester, the student must submit to the advisor approximately one-half of the final manuscript. The advisor responds to the student’s work and describes the manuscript’s progress in the midterm assessment.

Though manuscripts will naturally include work from previous semesters, students are encouraged to continue to write new work for the volume and to be influenced by their reading and their work on the critical essay.

Reading and Critical Inquiry for the Thesis Semester
As in the previous semesters, the final semester includes a reading component (at least 20 works of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or critical prose), and these readings are listed in the annotated bibliography. The student’s reading informs the creative manuscript and furnishes material for the graduate presentation given during the final residency.

Submitting the Thesis
Student must submit one electronic or hard copy final and formatted draft of the thesis to their advisor by the thesis due date. Once the advisor has given written approval of the creative manuscript and thesis layout by either email or letter, the student may proceed with printing and binding the thesis. In addition, the student should submit an electronic copy of the final draft to the MFA office via Moodle to be saved in the student’s electronic file. The advisor completes the Narrative Transcript, which includes an overall evaluation of the creative manuscript, recommendation concerning its approval for fulfilling the degree requirements, and appropriate revision suggestions, if any. The MFA director and/or one other member of the MFA faculty or Academic Board may also read the thesis.

If these readers do not approve the creative manuscript, the student may enroll in up to two additional semesters to complete it. If the revised manuscripts from these semesters are not successful, the student will be dismissed from the program.

In exceptional circumstances an advisor may judge that a manuscript needs revisions that can be completed by the student independently. In this case, the student may petition to take a leave of absence to finish the work and will be charged a reading fee when resubmitting the manuscript. If the manuscript is approved, the student may then enroll in the final residency for graduating students. Should the readers not approve the manuscript revised during the leave of absence, the student may enroll in up to two additional semesters under the terms described above.

Following approval of the thesis, the student’s graduation is expected at the end of the next residency, pending successful completion of the semester and all required creative and analytical work.

Thesis Review
At the final residency, degree candidates receive responses to their thesis during the thesis review. The student meets with a group comprised of the faculty advisor (or a faculty member familiar with the candidate’s work) and two fellow degree candidates chosen by the graduating student and the MFA director. In addition, degree candidates may serve as fully participating members in up to two such thesis groups for other candidates. If a student believes that alumni would be more appropriate for the committee than classmates, the student may request them. If a student is unable to find a good match, he or she may also request a smaller committee.

The thesis review is a roundtable exchange about the candidate’s creative manuscript. This is not a thesis defense but is instead an exchange of ideas relating to the intent, aesthetics, and future of the work. Members of the committee come to the review with a marked manuscript prepared to participate in constructive discussion. Comments may be both descriptive and evaluative and may concern theme, style, possible revisions, and directions for future work. The candidate may ask questions about problem areas of the volume, plans to expand the work, and venues for publishing. In addition, candidates should be prepared to converse about the evolution of the work, important influences and issues of form raised by the thesis, as well as relationships between the creative manuscript and the critical essay.

Graduate Presentation: Critical Introduction
At the final residency, the graduating student presents a 15-minute critical introduction for his or her reading. During the residency, the graduate is given copies of the evaluations submitted by fellow students and faculty members.

Graduate Reading
Graduates give 15-minute public readings of their creative work.

Graduating Student Interview

Following their successful completion of the program, and following the fifth residency, graduates will be invited for a 30-45 minute interview with the program director or assistant director, where they will have an opportunity to reflect on their time in the program and to assess their achievement of their artistic and professional goals. This interview will also allow the MFA to assess student achievement of program learning outcomes, including attention to diverse and intercultural perspectives and social responsibility.

Masters of Fine Arts Program Learning Outcomes

All Pacific students, in all programs across the University, are inspired by a guiding mission to “Think, Care, Create and Pursue Justice in our World.” These concepts—Think, Care, Create, Pursue Justice—have been shaped into five categories of broadly shared Institutional Learning Outcomes.

  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Application of degree knowledge and skills
  • Social Responsibility
  • Diverse and Intercultural Perspectives

Taking these Institutional Learning Outcomes as our guide, and using the University mission’s concepts as an organization principle, the MFA in Writing works toward these core Program Learning Outcomes. Upon completion of the program, degree recipients will demonstrate mastery-level rhetorical skill and imaginative originality in creative works. Specifically, students will be able to:

  1. THINK
  • Summarize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate texts throughout the program in workshop commentary, reading commentaries, bibliographic annotations, and the critical essay.
  • Articulate how a piece of literary art employs elements such as diction, syntax, sound and rhythm, metaphor, imagery, architecture, tone of voice, point of view, narrative voice, dialogue, setting, scene, aspects of the writer’s imagination, free association, transitions and leaps, logic and illogic, titles, what sews a work together, and what is most individual about a work.
  • Collect applicable information about the world of magazine and book publishing from agents, publishers, marketing representatives, faculty members, and alumni who are already publishing.
  1. CARE
  • Find and establish a diverse community of writing partners with whom they may continue their literary conversations long after they graduate, taking suggestions and inspirations from one another, sometimes writing in concert.
  • Constructively apply student and faculty comments and criticism to their writing, revision, and editing, and adapt and apply these lessons to the work of others.
  • Provide detailed, well-supported peer critiques and suggestions for revisions in workshops and thesis review committees.
  • Demonstrate mastery-level rhetorical skill and imaginative originality in creative works, and write for a variety of audiences.
  • Discover imaginative connections between and among ideas rooted in originality of language, style, theme, structure and subject matter.
  • Demonstrate greater proficiency in the writing of fiction, nonfiction, and/or poetry through effective uses of elements of prose such as point of view, voice, plot, setting, imagery, scene, and dialogue and/or effective uses of elements of poetry such as rhythm, metrics, detail, voice, tone, imagery, and structure.
  • Read widely across cultures and internationally and explore the expressions of the human condition in diverse world views.
  • Recognize how their own cultural biases inform their responses to work by writers with other world views, both within our community and in the wider world of literature.
  • When writing across difference, demonstrate a well-informed understanding of their own assumptions and the culture they are describing, including its history, values, beliefs, and practices.


Program Details


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: http://www.pacificu.edu/as/mfa/admissions/applicationprocedure.cfm.

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.

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