news releases

2005.12.16 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: tkaldahl@mail.unomaha.edu

University of Nebraska MFA in Writing Program Set to Meet
in January; Ted Kooser to Participate

Omaha - Imagine if you were an aspiring poet and you could spend 10 days in one place in the company of Ted Kooser, the U.S. poet laureate, and other prize-winning, professional poets who have gathered to talk to you about the craft of poetry, to encourage you to write, to work with you individually on your writing proces.

Imagine if you were a young fiction writer and you could spend 10 days with Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominees who would encourage you with advice and personal attention to your work.

Then imagine that when the 10 days were over you were able to return home knowing that you will spend 16 more weeks communicating with one of those writers or poets of your choice in a one-on-one mentorship.

Twenty such aspiring writers don’t have to imagine this chance of a lifetime. The program that makes all of this happen is the University of Nebraska MFA in Writing, a graduate fine arts degree program sponsored by the Writer’s Workshop of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and the English Department of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK).

As members of the University of Nebraska MFA in Writing program, graduate students will be spending those 10 days in January at a resort lodge in the company of 15 professional writers and poets, including Kooser, for an intense symposium on the art and craft of writing.

Twice a year, in summer and winter, Nebraska City, Neb., and the Lied Conference Center play host to a unique literary event that brings professional writers and graduate students of writing together from several states for 10 days of inspirational lectures, workshops, readings, conferences and social events.  The next session in Nebraska City is set for Jan. 6 to 15.  Students from Utah, Connecticut, Georgia, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas meet and find mentors among published writers from Illinois, Indiana, New York, Florida, Missouri and Nebraska. 

At the end of their 10-day sojourn in Nebraska, students and mentors return to their homes.  There they begin a working relationship by Internet and e-mail in which the students submit packets of original writing and critical work to their mentors for critique and further development during their semester-long distance seminar.

“This is an exciting alternative to a traditional master’s program where the student must uproot her life at home and spend two or three years on a university campus working with the few resident faculty at that institution,” said Richard Duggin, director of the MFA program.  “In a low-residency program, the students need rearrange their lives only for the ten days at the beginning of each semester, when they travel to Nebraska and participate in a unique and stimulating series of literary events that prepare them for a semester of work at home.” 

Jenna Lucas, administrative director of the program, agrees.

“A wonderful aspect of such an advanced degree program is that the students can return to their homes and family and employment, and organize their time independently to work on the writing project they designed with their faculty mentors at the residency,” Lucas said.  “And what better place to ‘go to class’ than at the Lied Center in Nebraska City?  It’s a breathtaking, beautiful facility with great dining, a swimming pool, hiking trails.”

Nebraska City has become a community that is embracing the arts through such organizations as the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and the Cider House Theatre.  According to Duggin, the city has been very receptive to this new arts venture by the university. 

The program is the first of its kind in the Midwest and the first Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing in Nebraska. 

“It is also the first low-residency program offered by a public university,” Duggin said.  “Others, located primarily on the east and west coasts, are sponsored by private colleges.  They have been tremendously successful in training writers, who are adding their voices to the chorus of contemporary American literature.”

One of the distinct advantages of this method of presenting a graduate program, Lucas said, is that faculty can be recruited from other campuses in the country and brought to Nebraska for the same 10-day period as the students.  They are linked with students at the residency to work out an independent writing and reading project when they return to their home states and campuses. 

“Some of the faculty come to the residency to participate as ‘visiting writers.’  Their contribution to the program is similar in value to bringing to a resident campus a guest lecturer or performing artist to enhance the students’ exposure to the best in their art form,” she said.  “We are able to bring to our program writers from our own region or from anywhere in the country.

"This winter, Ted Kooser, U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, will be join the MFA faculty, as will fiction writer, Richard Dooling.

“Can you imagine the good fortune of those students who will hear Ted Kooser speak on craft, who will talk with him, have him read their poems and offer his advice?” Lucas said.  “Or Richard Dooling, whose success as a fiction writer has taken him into film and television scripting.  We have, joining our faculty, writers who have won major awards for their work, including winners and nominees for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.”

The program was inaugurated in August of this year.  The first residency joined 12 students and 13 visiting and teaching faculty.  By the winter residency of 2007, Duggin said he anticipates a student cohort of 40 to 45 students and 20 faculty members.  Information on the program can be obtained online at www.unomaha.edu/unmfaw or by phone at (402) 554-3020.

For more information by mail, contact Jenna Lucas, MFA administrative director, at:

MFA in Writing

310 WFAB

6001 Dodge St.

Omaha, NE 68182-0324

 

 

 

 

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