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Creative Writing (Low-Res MFACW) Overview
Chatham’s low-residency creative writing program, established in 2009, grows from the legacy of Rachel Carson '29, a creative writer known for her social conscience. Our students understand that writing is ultimately a public act with the power to effect meaningful change. For those who wish a flexible format and to work one-on-one with acclaimed writers, the low-residency MFA program will help you reach your writing goals, whether you pursue it full- or part-time. In addition, low-residency students have the opportunity to network with creative writing faculty and students during two residencies at the Summer Community of Writers held on Chatham’s stunning, pastoral Eden Hall Campus. We offer genres in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s writing/young adult. Chatham also offers acampus-based, full-residency programin addition to thelow-residency program, with the ability to move seamlessly between the two.
The deadline for the summer term (the preferred start) is May 1. A fall term start is also possible, with a deadline of July 1.
Chatham’s Low-Residency MFA is 42 credits. The majority of our students who choose a full-time academic schedule complete the program in two years.
Cost Per Credit
Cost consists of program tuition (cost per credit times number of credits) as well as any applicable University and degree-specific fees.
In 2016 Publisher's Weekly named the program one of five distinctive MFA programs in the nation, and in 2007 the Atlantic Monthly named the program one of the top five innovative MFA programs in the U.S.
Explore the MFACW Low-Res Degree:
The low-residency MFACW is a broad program of study designed to prepare students for careers as writers or positions requiring similar skills, such as editing, publishing, and content development for the web; to enable students to improve their writing through interaction with their mentors and with our faculty and other writing students at the Summer Community of Writers; and to become experienced critics of literary works.
Have a completed baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university, with an overall undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale. If a Student has below a 3.0 GPA, please feel free to apply if you show extreme promise through other achievements. Additional Admissions documents may be requested.
Six credits of undergraduate courses in writing are recommended, but not required.
Completed application for admission by the posted deadline, including:
Admissions Essay (current prompt found in application portal)
Curriculum vitae or Resume
Two official letters of recommendation, preferably written by former writing teachers or professors who can speak to your writing
Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
Creative writing sample in your primary genre ranging from 10-20 pages (maximum). It can be one creativework or several pieces combined.
Admissions Materials can be uploaded in the application or submitted to: Chatham University Office of Graduate Admission-Berry Hall Woodland Road Pittsburgh, PA 15232 Email Admissions
International Applicants must submit additional documentation to the Office of Admissions. A list of these documents can be found on the International Admission web page.
Intensive study of writing with your mentor is supplemented by two online courses.
ENG585: Travel Writing
This course focuses on the art and craft of travel writing. Students will read and study contemporary travel writing and will be expected to generate creative work that illustrates a deep understanding of the literary tools available to writers in this genre.
ENG584: The Environmental Imagination
This is a multi-genre course that focuses on the art and craft of nature and environmental writing. Students will read and study contemporary nature and environmental writing, and will be expected to generate creative work that illustrates a deep understanding of the literary tools available to writers in this genre.
The Summer Community of Writers is by far my best memory of graduate school so far, and it has blown pretty much every other workshop I've taken in the past out of the water. I hope I can experience it again in the future.
Intentional Pairing, Dedicated Space
Mentors—seasoned educators and award-winning writers from across the country—are paired with students with great intention, based on complementary interests, passions, background, as well as students’ writing goals. Students and their mentors communicate through a dedicated Learning Management System, giving the feel of a traditional class space.
Opportunities to Join Virtually
In addition to receiving comprehensive feedback on their work five times per term, low-residency students have video conferences with their mentors, access to all virtual MFACW programming, opportunities to meet with your cohort online and materials and coursework through the dedicated learning management system.
Summer Community of Writers
Low-residency students join our vibrant, supportive community of students and faculty for two sessions of Chatham’s Summer Community of Writers (SCW), a ten-day, six-credit course that brings together low- and full-residency MFA students, community members, and acclaimed national writers for an intense and exciting learning experience. Established in 2013, SCW takes place on our beautiful Eden Hall Campus with daily workshops, dynamic craft lectures, faculty and student readings, and ample time to write that many mention as one of the highlights of their Chatham MFA degree. It’s an unparalleled opportunity for low-residency students to network with mentors, faculty, and peers.
The MFACW program hosts the Emerging Black Writers-in-Residence program, which aims to support and feature the art and teaching of young Black writers. Pittsburgh writer and teacher, Cameron Barnett, will be the next Emerging Black Writer-in-Residence for the 2022-2023 academic year.
As part of our innovative creative writing field seminars, MFA students travel with faculty locally andabroad. Destinations have included Indonesia, Ireland, Chile, South Africa, Canada, and even continental trips to places like New Orleans. Recently, we've committed to exploring the hyperlocal, with destinations geared toward understanding our place in Appalachia. Program tuition goes toward these trips, making them affordable for students. More importantly, the trips are transformative for our students, whose writing becomes sharper and more nuanced when in newenvironments.
The Fourth River
The Fourth River is a journal of nature- and place-based writing published by the Chatham MFA program. The journal takes its name from a subterranean river beneath Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city famously sited at the confluence of three rivers: Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio. The Fourth River literary journal grew up from the idea that between and beneath the visible framework of the human world and the built environment, there exist deeper currents of force and meaning supporting the very structure of that world. Students have the opportunity to volunteer as editorial staff.
Recently named by The Writer magazine as the best conference in Pennsylvania, Conversations and Connections is a one-day writer's conference at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA that brings together writers, editors, and publishers in a friendly, supportive environment.
Annual Reading Series
Our MFA program offers the opportunity to meet and learn from established authors of all genres. The Melanie Brown Lecturer Series is presented each year through the generosity of The Melanie and Fred R. Brown Endowed Fund, and the selection of each year's Lecturer is guided by the desire to highlight fiction writers with a strong sense of place in her or his writing. Similarly, our annual Dialogues Reading Series invites authors of international renown to visit our campus and host readings and lectures on craft. Recent readings have been presented in a hybrid format, allowing for virtual and in-person attendees. View the readings on YouTube by clicking here.
Past lecturers have included: Cristina Garcia, Shaka Senghor, Renée Watson, Kaveh Akbar, Jaquira Diaz, Martha Southgate, Safia Elhillo, M. Evelina Galang, Margot Livesey, Amy Bloom, Karen Bender, Sam Chang, Stewart O’Nan, Alix Ohlin, Wiley Cash, Brad Kessler, Ann Pancake, Michael Byers, Debra Marquart, Sandra Cisneros, Thisbe Nissen, Hannah Tinti, B. K. Loren, Malcolm Friend, Angela Velez, Adriana E. Ramírez, Rachel Mennies, Dilruba Ahmed, Ryan Rydzewski, Beth Gilstrap.
Chatham also offers an on-ground, cohort-based MFA in Creative Writing. Students are able to switch back-and-forth between on-ground and low residency options.
Each semester, the MFACW program hosts one Emerging Black Writer-in-Residence. The resident teaches a semester-long multi-genre workshop to Chatham MFACW students. They also deliver a public craft lecture, a public reading of their work, and enter into professional mentorship relationships with Chatham faculty.
Summers at ChathamU usually mean one thing for the literary-minded among us: the MFA in Creative Writing program’s Summer Community of Writers, a days-long gathering of low- and full-residency MFACW students featuring guest lecturers and innovative workshops in the lush, inspiring surroundings of our Eden Hall Campus.
Chatham’s monthly Holding Space on the Page program is a collaboration between the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the MFA in Creative Writing program that works to amplify the artistic voices of marginalized communities while giving the Chatham community a space to reflect and write.