MFA Coursework & Program of Study

An innovative MFA program at Iowa State University that fuses creative writing workshops, interdisciplinary coursework, and intensive field experience to help writers cultivate an understanding of the imprint of place, the natural world, and the environmental imagination on the poems, stories, and essays we create.

The MFA in Creative Writing and Environment requires a total of 54 credits of coursework.

Area of CourseworkCoursesCredits
TOTAL 54 minimum
CORE COURSEWORK
Engl 550: Creative Writing: Craft & Prof Practice
(required in first semester)
Engl 551: Master Workshop (required in fifth semester)
Engl 543: Environmental Literature or any literature graduate course with emphasis on environment, ecology, or science
9
CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOPS
Workshops in Scriptwriting, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry as well as Special Topics in Creative Writing and Creative Writing Graduate Study and Travel.
Students may choose from these workshops and may repeat any up to a maximum of 12 credits for each course.
Every genre workshop offers a component on environmental or place-based creative writing.
Choose from the following:
Engl 552X, 554, 555, 556, 557, 595b


12
ELECTIVES IN CREATIVE WRITING
Courses in Special Topics in Creative Writing, Teaching Creative Writing, Creative Writing Internship, Practicum in Literary Editing, and Creative Writing Graduate Study and Travel.
Students may take a graduate course in literature, linguistics, or RPC instead of Engl 557 in this category with approval of the POS committee.
Choose from the following:
Engl 557, 558, 559, 589, 595b
6
ENVIRONMENTAL FIELD EXPERIENCE
Students design and complete a field experience relevant to their writing interests.
Students may repeat up to a maximum of 6 credits, but only 3 credits can be counted towards the degree.

*See links below for MFA Guidelines for Completion of Engl 560 and the MFA Environmental Field Experience (Engl 560) Proposal Form
Engl 5603
ENVIRONMENTAL COURSES IN DISCIPLINES OUTSIDE THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT
Students design, in consultation with their adviser/major professor, a self-tailored core of interdisciplinary courses that allow them to pursue fields of knowledge relevant to their writing projects. Selections can be made from any Iowa State University courses with an environmental focus offered outside the English Department.
These courses may be at the graduate level and they may also be 300- or 400-level non-major undergraduate courses used in accordance with English Department and Graduate College policy.

The MFA Environmental Courses Outside English Petition should be submitted for approval before taking environmental coursework, and a complete petition submitted by no later than week 7 of the student’s second semester of coursework even if it is a preliminary petition to be updated later.

*See links below for MFA Environmental Courses Outside English Petition and the
List of Suggested Environmental Courses Outside English
Choose courses that total 12 credits. 12
ELECTIVES IN LITERATURE
Student may choose from any graduate literature courses in the English Department.
Choose from the following:
Engl 521, 522, 523, 531, 532, 533, 534, 535, 538, 539, 540, 541, 543, 545, 546, 561, 590a, 595a
3
OPEN ELECTIVE IN ENGLISH DEPT
TAs may use Engl 500 or Sp Cm 513 to fulfill this requirement.
3
INDEPENDENT THESIS RESEARCH
Students work intensively with a major professor one-on-one to complete an MFA thesis.
Engl 599: Creative Component is not an option.

*See link below for MFA Thesis FAQs
Engl 699: Thesis Research 6

The links below provide additional information about specific requirements mentioned above.

Curricular Policies and Guidelines

Environmental Field Experience

Students are required to engage in an environmentally based internship or field work experience during the program. This work is to be somehow related to the content of their thesis. They will design, propose, and complete a field experience relevant to their writing interests.

Environmental Courses Outside the English Department

Students design, in consultation with their assigned program adviser or major professor, a self-tailored core of interdisciplinary courses that allow them to pursue fields of knowledge relevant to their writing project. Selections can be made from any ISU courses outside the English Department with an environmental focus. These courses may be at the graduate level; they may also be 300- or 400-level undergraduate courses that are used in accordance with English Department and Graduate College Policy. Students provide an overview and rationale for their selection of outside courses as well as an argument for how each course contributes to their understanding of environment and thus is relevant to their plan of study.

MFA Thesis

Students write theses that are composed of their own imaginative writing.They make a proposal for a book-length thesis to be approved by their major professor by the end of their third semester in the program. Thesis work produces one document—the thesis itself, which  is considered a work of publishable quality.

Program and Student Learning Outcomes

Program Outcomes

  • Train writers in the process, craft, aesthetic, and professional demands of creative writing, including grounding in all major literary genres: poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, and scriptwriting.
  • Encourage writers to identify and explore the influences of place, the natural world, and the environmental imagination in their stories and lyric expressions.
  • Ground students in the literary traditions and techniques of the genres in which they will write and the literature and theory of the environmental imagination.
  • Offer writers access to the educational resources of a Research I institution and the nation’s first land grant university to broaden and deepen their understanding of a complex and rapidly-changing cultural and natural environment and the application of that understanding to their works of imaginative and critical writing.
  • Mentor students through the process of designing, researching, writing, and refining original, publishable- and performance-quality imaginative literature, including a full-length manuscript of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and/or scriptwriting that is grounded in a firm grasp of craft, technique, and literary tradition, as well as an understanding of the environmental imagination.
  • Provide training and opportunities in other elements of a professional literary life, including teaching, literary journal editing, reading series and arts administration, land stewardship, and outreach.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate understanding of craft and professional practice through coursework, workshops, and completion of refined imaginative literary manuscripts in multiple genres.
  • Identify, research, and examine—through coursework, fieldwork, and literary practice—the natural world and the environmental imagination.
  • Broaden and deepen understanding of literary and theoretical traditions of the major genres and the methodologies of craft analysis and practice.
  • Broaden and deepen understanding of the cultural and natural environment through significant coursework in environmental courses available at Iowa State University both within and beyond the MFA program and English Department.
  • Design, write, workshop, refine, and defend a significant body of publishable- or production-quality imaginative writing, including a full-length thesis manuscript, which demonstrates professional understanding and application of craft and technique, literary tradition, and the environmental imagination.
  • Gain practical training and experience in creating and fostering a healthy literary community and sustaining a professional life in letters through teaching and research assistantships and internships, literary journal editorial internships and positions, as well as land stewardship, reading series, and other outreach opportunities.