Friday, July 10, 2009

Changes Afoot in the Land of Academics

I've only mentioned my status as a grad student at Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction program a hundred times on this blog. So this week, when an exciting and major change was announced to the students, I decided I should bring a discussion on this subject - the change and what it means - to the Five Scribes.

First, I applied to Seton Hill two years ago and began work on my Master of Arts in January 2008. For the past year and a half, I've had a blast in the academic setting even as my craft improved drastically. But since January, I've felt the impending bummer of graduation approaching. Don't get me wrong - I have a hankering to graduate and move along, but at the same time, I truly love the program, the learning opportunities, and the camaraderie. I began three months ago to look into PhD and MFA programs. Why?

The Master of Arts degree is a stepping stone as much as it's a final destination. Many are content with an MA in their field and rightly so. But the Master of Fine Arts is a terminal degree. That means you can't go any further in your education in that field. There are a couple PhD programs in creative writing out there, but those programs focus on literary fiction rather than popular fiction, which is where my heart is. Most of the PhD programs I'd be willing to jump into are for literature and English. While the PhD is very much *the* terminal degree, an MFA is also considered one.

Being the complete whore for academics that I am, naturally, I want this terminal degree. I want the opportunity to study popular fiction as much as I want to write it. Also, if I need a day job while I'm waiting to hit the top of the bestseller lists, I can teach. The MA qualifies me to teach at community colleges and possibly find adjunct positions at four-year colleges. The MFA, however, opens the field. I could teach at a four-year university or at a community college or in my back yard. I'd have options.

So when Seton Hill announced that they have received approval from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to convert the MA to an MFA, I immediately signed on.

If you check out the SHU WPF website, you'll see the changes already publicized. There's an additional courseload of online classes during the term, an additional term, and an additional residency, and it seems as if the structure of residency might change, as well.

Not all of the details are available yet. In the meantime, take note. There is officially one more MFA program dedicated solely to genre fiction.


Edie Ramer said...

That's awesome! Congratulations, KL!

Donnell said...

K.L., amazing. I admire your tenacity for learning and you will be a fantastic teacher. This means we will have to address you as Dr. Grady ;) How are you doing with your thesis?

KL Grady said...

Thanks, Edie and Donnell.

I won't be a Dr though. Not yet. ;) Have to get the PhD to qualify for that title.

Thesis is done. I'm just trying to get it revised and ready to send for thesis approval. Then I think I'm going to write a romance novel for my new piece. :)

Leslie Ann said...

Fantastic opportunity and I'm glad you're taking the next step onward. So...what kind of courses are you going to take now? And do you have to do another thesis? I would assume so.


KL Grady said...

LA - the extended time will help those who are busy pounding out one of those epic 650pg fantasy tomes. Those of us who *have* finished our thesis will be required to start a new project, and we should graduate with a completed, market-ready novel and a market-ready proposal (or a novella or short stories). Which, you know, I'm totally down for. :) I'm even good to finish a second book, but I'll have a full year to do so. Others will only get one extra semester.

As for the new courses required: three "readings in the genre" courses, a "writing about popular fiction" course, and a "teaching popular fiction" course. There are other tweaks going on to the modules we take during residency, too, such as a new required critique course (from the point of view of critiquing as an instructor as well as a writer). We'll still have required chat sessions on various topics during the semester, but I'm not sure how much that's going to change, either.