MFA in Creative Writing - Nonfiction
Columbia College Chicago's MFA in Nonfiction features an intensive study of nonfiction writing and the theory of nonfiction in an urban campus setting with access to Chicago's lively cultural scene.
A small, intimate graduate program ensures close attention from the faculty throughout the three-year program. The writers who teach in our program are well-published and professionally active and, importantly, they highly value mentoring both inside and outside the classroom.
Students will develop their writing and craft by taking four workshops, two classes in form and theory, two seminars in nonfiction topics, two literature courses and a seminar on the history of the essay. Electives may be fulfilled by a wide range of courses such as Composition Theory & Praxis, a creative nonfiction workshop, or an additional literature or seminar. By special arrangement, a student may fulfill elective credit with a course outside the Creative Nonfiction Program. Thesis seminars and one-on-one advising will help students complete the program with a book-length manuscript. Students will also have the opportunity to work as readers or editors on the Nonfiction Program's nationally distributed literary magazines, South Loop Review and Hotel Amerika.
An important feature of our MFA Creative Nonfiction Program, distinctive among private, arts-based schools, is the teaching experience provided to qualified graduate students. Thanks to our Graduate Student Instructorship (GSI) program, all creative nonfiction students may elect to take Composition Theory and Praxis, a semester-long course taught by exceptionally dedicated full-time, tenured faculty in the Department of English. This course provides invaluable grounding in the theoretical and practical elements of teaching Writing and Rhetoric at the undergraduate level; students are mentored closely throughout the course and, as well, when they begin (on an optional basis) teaching one section of Writing and Rhetoric the following semester. Students are paid as adjunct instructors and may teach one section each semester after successfully completing the Composition Theory and Praxis course.
Reading Series, Annual Literary Festival, and Events
We host many visiting nonfiction writers, sponsored through our annual Reading Series and Creative Nonfiction Week. Writers who have recently read in the nationally visible Creative Nonfiction Program Reading series include Carmen Gimenez Smith, Maggie Nelson, Dinty W. Moore, Amy Leach, Charles D'Ambrosio, Lia Purpura, and Carla Harryman, and many more.
Creative Nonfiction Week is an annual collaboration among the English, Fiction Writing and Journalism departments at Columbia College Chicago. The goal is to bring audiences a range of voices, familiar and new, renowned and emerging, all helping to define and redefine the genre of creative nonfiction. The five-day event offers readings and panel discussions from internationally recognized authors such as Jamaica Kincaid, Art Spiegelman, John D'Agata, Phillip Lopate, and others.
Columbia College Chicago itself is the largest and most diverse non-profit private arts and media college in the nation. Our students are therefore uniquely situated to benefit from the College's exceptional offerings in arts resources and its unparalleled array of programs of study. Naturally, graduate students at Columbia have abundant access (and inexpensive ticket prices) to exhibits, shows, lectures, discussions, and screenings by world-class performers and artists in such disciplines as dance, theater, music, film, visual art and more.
Our location in the heart of one of the most dynamic and vibrant cities in the U.S. provides many additional opportunities for writers to grow intellectually and culturally. Our downtown neighbors include The Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Public Library, Millennium Park, the Chicago Symphony, the Joffrey Ballet, Museum Campus, The Poetry Foundation, and Grant Park with its many free festivals throughout the summer and fall.
Fellowships and Financial Assistance
Please note that as a three-year program, the overall cost of our MFA in Creative Writing-Nonfiction amounts to substantially less than that of MFA programs at other private schools. We offer four Follett Graduate Merit Awards to four incoming Nonfiction students each year; the FGMA covers almost all tuition (based on 9 credits/semester) and is renewable for the second and third years. These are awarded on a competitive basis and all applicants are automatically considered for it. We also offer a one-year assistantship. Additionally, we offer a Federal Work-study award in exchange for assistance provided to the Nonfiction Program (10-12 hour per week, on average). Continuing students in graduate programs across the College may apply for the Diversity Award, the Graduate Opportunity Award, the Getz Graduate Award, the Graduate Fellowship, and for the Albert Weisman Scholarship. Tutoring opportunities in the Writing Center are available. See above for information about our Graduate Student Instructorship program, a distinctive feature of the Department of Creative Writing providing teaching experience and a bi-monthly salary (which increases with each semester of teaching) to participating students.