Creative Writing (MFACW & MACW)

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Creative Writing (MFACW & MACW) Overview

Chatham’s Creative Writing program 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. Their ideas, their convictions, their writing matters. We teach students to think deeply about their places, spaces and identities, to look within and around, and then connect to the world with care and intention. We offer concentrations in travel writing, nature writing, food writing, publishing, social engagement, and teaching/pedagogy to complement the traditional MFA/MA degree with genres in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s writing/young adult (low-residency only). Additionally, we offer an on-the-ground full-residency program and a low-residency (online mentorships + in-person residency) program, with the ability to move seamlessly between the two.
Degrees Offered
  • MA
  • MFA
Program School
Application Deadline


Full Residency (fall start only): July 1st 
Low Residency: July 1st for fall, November 1st for spring, May 1st for summer
We will continue to accept applications after the deadline as long as there is space available in the program.

Credits Required


Chatham offers an MFA (42 credit hours) in Creative Writing and an MA (36 credit hours) in Creative Writing. The majority of our students who choose a full-time academic schedule are completing either program in under 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.

National Recognition

Top-Rated Program

In 2007, the Atlantic Monthly named the program one of the top five innovative MFA programs in the U.S,. and in 2016 Publisher's Weekly named the program one of five distinctive MFA programs in the nation.

Explore the Creative Writing Degree:

The MFACW/MACW 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 our faculty and other writing students; 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. (Probationary admission may be granted for applicants with a GPA of less than a 3.0 who show extreme promise through their other achievements.) Six credits of undergraduate courses in writing are recommended, but not required.
  • Complete application for admission, including:
    • Online application
    • Admissions Essay
    • Curriculum vita or resume
    • Two official letters of recommendation, preferably written by former writing teachers or professors who know 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 creative work or several pieces combined. Please provide on standard 8 ½ x 11 paper. 

Admissions Materials may be submitted to:
Chatham University
Office of Graduate Admission
Woodland Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Fax: 412-365-1609
Email Admissions

Chatham offers an MFA (42 credit hours) in Creative Writing.    

Additionally, Chatham offers an MA (36 credit hours) in Creative Writing.  This program is distinct from the MFA in Creative Writing in that no thesis is required; therefore removing ENG698 and the genre-specific thesis seminar course. 

ENG523: The Craft of Creative Writing: Multiple Genres

This course may substitute for any other craft course for students specializing in any genre. Students will be introduced to the craft of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and will also be introduced to the workshop method and given instruction on sending out work for publication.

ENG568: Practicum: Fourth River

This course is a practicum in which graduate students publish the print edition of Chatham's national literary journal, The Fourth River. All phases of the publishing process are addressed, with a special emphasis on editorial acquisitions and copy-editing.

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.

View Full Curriculum

View Full Low-Residency Curriculum

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.

Our Faculty

Faculty members are accomplished teachers, practitioners, and active leaders in the field.

Full Faculty
Photo of Alexandra Reznik
Assistant Professor of Humanities, Women’s and Gender Studies Program Coordinator
Close-up photo of a student writing in a notebook in the library


A limited number of research, special project, and teaching assistantships are available to full-residency students to help defray the cost of the tuition while also earning valuable, hands-on experience. These assistantships come in the form of tuition remission and can cut the final tuition bill by over 30%.

View Funding Opportunities : Checkerboard 1 - Funding
Photo of several people gathering at picnic tables on Chatham University's Eden Hall Campus in front of a white barn.

Summer Community of Writers

The Summer Community of Writers 2020 has been cancelled due to COVID-19. See you in 2021! We have a vibrant, supportive community of students and faculty. A hallmark of Chatham's program is its 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. 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. 

Photo of a Chatham University student speaking to two inmates of Allegheny County Jail, looking at a piece of paper he is holding. Words Without Walls is written on the photo.

Words Without Walls

The Words Without Walls program, in which full-residency students have the opportunity to teach creative writing at the Allegheny County Jail and Sojourner House, is a social outreach program developed and run by Chatham MFACW students that offers transformative experiences for both students and  underserved populations.

Explore Words Without Walls : Checkerboard 3 - Words Without Walls
Photo of of a group of Chatham University students posing abroad in front of a stone temple wearing colorful textiles around their waists.

Travel Opportunities

As part of our innovative creative writing field seminars, MFA students travel with faculty abroad. Recent trips have included Indonesia, Ireland, Chile, and South Africa, as well as continental trips to New Orleans and Canada. Program tuition goes toward these trips, making them affordable for most students. More importantly, the trips are transformative for our students, whose writing becomes sharper and more nuanced when in an unfamiliar environment.

Black and white photo of Rachel Carson sitting behind a desk full of books with pen in hand.

Nature and Environment

Rachel Carson ’29 is Chatham's most distinguished alumna, and in her honor we have built a concentration in Nature Writing. Students may choose from a variety of literature courses focusing on the natural world, including Ecofeminism, Wildness and Literature, Nature and Culture, and Writing about Food, as well as a course in Environmental Imagination. The Fourth River, our national literary journal, focuses on nature and place-based writing.

Learn About Rachel Carson : Checkerboard 8 - Nature and Environment
Photo of a young hijabi student working at her laptop in Cafe Rachel


Students interested in a concentration in publishing can take The Fourth River practicum, where they have the opportunity to work as an assistant editor for our national literary journal, or our Independent Literary Publishing course, where students create and run their own literary press. There are also many opportunities for publishing internships in the Pittsburgh area, with a number of our students earning internships for Autumn House PressCreative Nonfiction, and Pittsburgh Quarterly.

Photo of Chatham University's Shadyside Campus in the spring, with two students speaking to one another beside a red brick academic building

Low-residency option

Our low-residency students work closely during their distance terms with faculty mentors who are seasoned educators and award-winning writers from all over the country. Chatham low-residency mentors have included Dilruba Ahmed, Derek Green, Paul Hertneky, Kathy Ayres, Karen Bender, Rachel Mennies, Abby Mendelsohn, Robert Yune, Melanie Fox, Sherrie Flick, Katherine Miles, and BK Loren.

Photo of many books laying open on a circular table with a pair of glasses in the middle.

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.

  • 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, and Debra Marquart.

Rolling grassy hills, historic red brick buildings, and multicolored autumn trees decorate Chatham University's Shadyside campus in Pittsburgh.

Stuart H. Hunt Memorial Award & Into the Light Writing Contest

Judged by members of The Fourth River editorial team, the Chatham University MFA in Creative Writing is pleased to announce the winners of the Into the Light Writing Contest/Stuart H. Hunt Memorial Award. You can read their work by downloading the PDF below.

  • 1st Place: Janette Schafer, for "Bubblegum Ice Cream"
  • 2nd Place: Dmitra Gideon, for "Murder/Suicide"
  • 3rd Place: Lake Angela, for "Ghetto"

Download Winning Pieces (PDF) : Checkerboard 12 - Stuart H. Hunt Memorial Award & Into the Light Writing Contest
Black and white profile of woman with dark hair and eyeliner.

Fiction is Still True: A Conversation with Brittany Hailer, MFACW ‘15

Brittany Hailer, MFACW ‘15, is an author and a journalist at Public Source and other outlets. Her new book Animal You’ll Surely Become is a genre-blending work of poetry and creative nonfiction that explores issues of addiction, sexual assault, and fractured families. Sarah Cadence Hamm, MFACW ’13, Associate Director, Brand and Content Strategy, an alumna herself, sat down with Hailer for a chat about journalism, authorship, and the Chatham community.

Photo of two students seated on Adirondack chairs outside on Shadyside Campus

Alumni Careers

Here is an overview of what some recent graduates have gone on to do, and some of the places where they’re doing it: Editor-in-Chief at Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, PA; Award-winning journalist for Public Source, Pittsburgh, PA; Acquisition Reader at Upstart Crow Literary Agency, Pittsburgh, PA; Writer and Community Specialist at ModCloth, Pittsburgh, PA; Information Specialist at USO, Frankfurt, Germany; Teaching Fellow at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA; Associate Professor at Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH; and Official Speech Writer for Tibetan President in Exile.