Chatham University

Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing Curriculum

Chatham University's Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing (MFA) program is 39 credits hours that can be completed in two years with two summer residencies of 10 days each. The program is very similar to Chatham University's highly acclaimed residency program with the same innovative focus on nature, environment, and travel writing. It is the premier graduate program for nurturing creative writers interested in the environmental imagination and place-based writing. Alumna Rachel Carson, a creative writer whose work demonstrates both lyricism and social conscience, inspires the program.

Program Structure

The low-residency program is different from the residency program in a few ways. First, in lieu of writing workshops each term, students take mentorships with a publishing writer. Second, although the literature and content courses students enroll in will be the same as those taught in the residency program, they will be taught in an electronic classroom environment. Third, low-residency students must complete two residencies of ten days each in their first and second summers. Residencies will take place on the Chatham University campus in Pittsburgh and will consist of intensive workshops, craft lectures, panels, and readings with well-known creative writers. Low-residency students have the opportunity to take one of the creative writing field seminars along with the residency students, although the field seminar is not required. Field seminars include additional fees for travel and lodging and will vary depending on the location.

Program Requirements

39 credits

Mentorship 1 12 credits
Mentorship 2 12 credits
Summer Community of Writers 1 6 credits
Summer Community of Writers 2 6 credits
One content course, this may be literature, publishing, field-seminar, or internships 3 credits


In lieu of writing workshops each term, students take mentorships with a publishing writer. Click to see a detailed description of the mentorships.


Student must write a thesis, which will be a collection of poems, stories, essays or a novella or novel. They must pass a final oral board on the thesis, and read from the thesis at the second residency.


Residencies of ten days each normally take place August 1-10. Students will be housed at the beautiful Marriot Spring Hill Suites Bakery Square located five minutes from the Chatham campus. Details about lodging will be provided at least two months ahead of time. The residency will consist of workshops, craft lectures, panels and readings with some of our mentors and other well-known writers. Graduating students will be asked to read from their theses at their second residency session. Sessions often include a trip to a nearby sites such as Falling Water or Nine Mile Run.

Students will need to register for the summer residencies by June 1 each year. A detailed schedule of each residency along with names of participating writers and editors will be published six weeks before the residency.


Students will be assigned an advisor who will assist them in making sure they are taking the right courses and proceeding on schedule to complete their degree.

Transfer Credits:

We will possibly accept up to six hours of graduate transfer credit if it is in an area relevant to the requirements of the program.