8/2/16 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University culminated its 10th Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Summer Residency on July 28 by recognizing 17 students who have completed their MFA degrees and will graduate at the University’s winter commencement in December. A total of 51 students completed the summer residency program.
The 17 students included Ashland’s first fiction-writing MFA graduate, Katlyn Stechschulte, as well as students in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction.
The 17 graduates hail from Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York and North Carolina. Nine will receive MFA degrees in Creative Nonfiction and seven earned MFA degrees in Poetry. Their number also included Angie Orlando of Kent, Ohio, who is both blind and deaf and has written compellingly about her experiences while earning her MFA.
“Angie’s words exhibited humor and courage,” said Dr. Dawn Weber, dean of AU’s College of Arts and Sciences, who honored the students at last week’s recognition program. Weber noted that the ceremony included faculty thesis advisors’ reading short excerpts from each student’s creative thesis.
“Family members also attend, often with a bouquet of flowers in hand,” Weber said. “The written words of our students were at times powerful, haunting, beautiful and heart-breaking.”
Ashland’s two-week MFA residency brings students and faculty from across the nation to Ashland for what has emerged as a nationally recognized graduate program in Creative Writing. Poets & Writers, a top creative writing magazine that rates MFA programs across the nation, found in 2013 that AU’s low-residency program ranked second in job placement, fourth in fellowship placement and 11th in selectivity among 47 U.S. low-residency programs.
Ashland’s Honored Visiting MFA Graduate Faculty joined students at Ashland during the two weeks from as far away as California, Washington State, Colorado and as near as Ohio and Ashland’s own campus. These faculty members have published more than 60 nonfiction books, novels, essay collections, poetry volumes, chapbooks and books of short stories. Several are widely recognized as critical writers and/or editors of distinguished journals or university press book prize series.
An independent agency that ranks higher education degrees for economic return on investment ranked AU’s low-residency MFA as its top value program: “Of all the low-residency creative writing MFA’s, Ashland University’s is probably the most prestigious,” concluded Iris Stone of Bestvalueschools.com. “AU has a strong reputation for launching careers in creative writing and publishing.”
As evidence, graduates of the Ashland MFA program already have published some 20 of their own books since completing the program and the list is growing. Recent titles of graduate publications may be found at https://www.ashland.edu/cas/master-fine-arts/student-alumni-publications.
With support from the Ohio Arts Council, the Ashland MFA also annually brings to campus well-known professional writers during the MFA residency, each of whom offers readings and workshops, as well as visiting individual classes. This year’s headliners included Gretel Ehrlich, author of bestselling nonfiction books, a novel, and two collections of poetry. Ehrlich is both a Bellagio and Guggenheim Fellow and has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Time, Harper’s, The Atlantic and National Geographic.
J. Allyn Rosser was the visiting poet for the residency and is the author of four collections of poetry. She has received poetry fellowships from Lannan, Guggenheim, the NEA and the Ohio Arts Council. Her poems are widely published in top journals and magazines and in four editions of Best American Poetry.
This year’s fiction writing guest was Steve Almond, author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including The New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. His short stories have been featured in Best American Short Stories and Best American Mystery Stories.
Fiction writing has now joined Creative Nonfiction and Poetry as the third genre to be featured by the Ashland University MFA. The initial two genres of graduate study were established 10 years ago and grew out of the University’s long hosting of the Ashland Poetry Press and River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative.
The Ashland MFA’s visiting writer program for the MFA is supported in part by a grant from The Ohio Arts Council, which announced this week that Ashland University’s grant award for next summer already has been approved and that it will increase by nearly 50 percent. The grant makes it possible for members of the Ashland community as well as Ohioans beyond Ashland to attend the MFA readings and workshops free of charge.
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###