Generous, attentive focus on student work is fundamental to any MFA program. Students in our program benefit from the engaged attention of faculty and the support of a diverse cohort of talented peers.
Beyond the close attention we bring to student writing, our MFA program offers an intense, stimulating immersion in the many ways an author might shape, support and inform a 21st century writing life. Our faculty has distinguished itself in an array of genres and media, and we teach from our expertise in traditional and innovative genres and forms. As a program, our areas of special strength are global contemporary writing and its antecedents; translation practice and theory; US minority and immigrant writing; digital media; writing and social concerns; and literary careers and publications.
In addition to workshop and the preparation of a booklength thesis, our candidates choose from Notre Dame’s wide selection of graduate courses, including gender studies, art and art history, book arts, languages and literatures, film, television and theater. To complement their classes and writing projects, MFA candidates work on literary journals and presses, teach, facilitate outreach programs with our community partners, interact with visiting authors and artists, and conduct a reading series of their own.
Our Course of Study
Our two-year program entails eight semesters of study. A typical per semester courseload for an MFA candidate at Notre Dame is one workshop, one graduate-level literature course or other course approved by the Director, and thesis hours, dedicated to writing.
Students must take at least three workshops during their time at Notre Dame, the first two in the genre of application. After that, students may apply to the the director for permission to join a workshop in the other genre.
We also offer practicum classes on such topics as literary publishing and teaching creative writing; translation is also a special focus of our coursework and an area of faculty expertise.
In their second year, students select a thesis director from the creative writing faculty and embark on the writing of a full-length manuscript—typically a novel, book of poetry, selection of short stories or essays, etc.
All plans of study must be approved by the Director.
For all other information regarding your course of study at Notre Dame, including information about courses, grades, transfer credits, incompletes and withdrawals, please consult the Graduate Student Handbook, (MFA Section).
At Notre Dame, our faculty represents a diverse array of aesthetics and approaches to writing, media, language, and genre, as well as a diversity of ethnic and national backgrounds and immigration stories. Each year we strive to admit a class diverse by gender, ethnicity, immigration status, economic background, abilities and disabilities. And we strive to reflect this diversity in our reading series, our course work, and our events on campus and in the South Bend community.
In order to have as wide and various a conversation about writing and the arts as possible, we often sponsor events in collaboration with campus partners such as the Institute for Latino Studies’s Letras Latinas program, Gender Studies, the Department of Africana Studies, American Studies, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Department of German and Russian, The Higgins Labor Studies Program in Center for Social Concerns, and Multicultural Students Programs and Services. We are proud to be part of this vivid, diverse, multilingual conversation around arts and writing here at Notre Dame.
Recent collaborative events have included a visit by the Black Took Collective; the hosting of An Ofrenda of Voices: Celebrating the Dead, a reading by MFA students and faculty sponsored in collaboration with the Institute for Latino Studies; readings by the US Poet Laureate Phil Levine, Latino poet Dan Vera, the Cuban poet Victor Fowler and the Mexican poet Valerie Meier.
Readings and Events
Our current year’s schedule of readings and events may be found here. In past years, we’ve had events and appearances by the Black Took Collective, Jenny Boully, Raul Zurita, Paul Lopez, Margaret Atwood, George Saunders, and a diverse array of writers and artists. MFA Students also conduct their own reading series, take courses in the department of Film Television and Theater, and are asked to think critically and creatively about the role of performance in literary activity.
Our MFA program has three outreach coordinators who work tirelessly to set up and facilitate partnerships with our South Bend neighbors. MFA students currently conduct writing groups and clubs at the Juvenile Justice Center, the Robinson Community Center, and local public elementary schools, with other plans in the works. Our outreach endeavors diversify and sharpen our teaching skills, affirm our commitment to the arts as service, and help us to learn from our neighbors about the special character, history, challenges and resilience of our vibrant city, South Bend.
Our MFA program is home to The Notre Dame Review , Action Books, Revisions and The Bend. Many students and alumni participate in online journals and literary communities. Notre Dame is a great place to learn about the many ways 21st century writers publish and share their work as well as contribute to the conversation around contemporary writing taking place in print and on-line.
Fellowships and Awards
In addition to various small poetry and prose prizes for which graduate students can apply during the course of their two years here, we are proud to offer teaching fellowships in poetry and prose; the Nicholas Sparks Fellowship, an assistantship at the Notre Dame Review; an Action Books fellowship; and fellowships connected to outreach. All these fellowships are awarded by the faculty to incoming students upon their acceptance into the program.
The Sparks Summer Fellows Program offers internships at New York publishing houses and literary agencies. All enrolled students are eligible to apply.
We offer one post-degree fellowship, the Sparks Prize, a residency intended to support the writing of a prose manuscript. Any student in poetry or prose may compete for this residency in the Spring of their final year. The winner receives a stipend and remains in residency at Notre Dame for a third year while they complete their book. An outside judge selects the winner.