|May 16, 2002
Volume 32 Number 16
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
M.F.A. Consortium Produces First Graduate
The Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Consortium, a four-campus collaborative program, will graduate its first M.F.A. recipient this spring, Kiara F. Koenig. Koenig, who already holds both a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English literature from CSU, Chico, read from her M.F.A. manuscript April 19 in the Humanities Center.
Koenig’s thesis, “Wrestling the Angel: The Revisionist Mythopoetics of Eavan Boland,” was chosen as one of two outstanding university theses. “This is an amazing honor,” said Jeanne Clark, Koenig’s thesis adviser. “The nomination form is extensive, and a department committee, a college committee, and then a university committee each vote on the top theses.” She will receive a cash award of $500 and a plaque at graduation.
Koenig took classes at CSU, Northridge and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in addition to her classes here on campus. “I enjoyed working with the students and faculty from other campuses. I think this mix is one of the program’s strong points,” she said. For her M.F.A. internship, she conducted a six-week poetry workshop with two 6th-grade classes at Little Chico Creek Elementary. She has also taught beginning creative writing classes in the English department.
Now in its fourth year, with Chico the degree-granting institution and members CSU, Hayward; Northridge; and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the M.F.A. in creative writing is a terminal professional degree—until recently, the only one of its kind offered at Chico.
The M.F.A. program began as a partnership among Humanities
and Fine Arts, the English department, and Regional and Continuing Education
(RCE), with summer study the only required enrollment period for the degree.
Carole Oles, the coordinator of the program, worked closely with Debra
Barger, RCE, and other creative writing teachers at participating CSUs.
With the arrival of year-round-operation, the program enters a new phase
of organization and administration.
At present, 31 students are enrolled in the program,
with an additional nine admitted this spring. Though most students are
California residents, the total includes one student from Oregon and one
from Illinois. The summer-only, or low-residency, requirement of the degree
permits Californians throughout the state, non-Californians, and working
professionals to obtain the M.F.A. in creative writing without moving
or suspending their employment. It places the M.F.A. in the vanguard of
programs negotiating the mandated shift to year-round-operation.
In its relatively short history, the program has been
distinguished by the achievements of its students, who are actively engaged
in the writing life beyond M.F.A. study. These activities give national
visibility to the department, college, and university. Students
publications include the following magazines: Black
Warrior Review, Byline, Clackamas Literary Review, Ekphrasis, enigma,
Fourth Genre, Greensboro Review, Lullwater, Manzanita: Poetry and Prose
of the Mother Lode, Midwest Poetry Review, Muse of Fire, New England Review,
Perihelion, Tar River, and Troubadour
2000. M.F.A. students have also published in the anthologies Shoreline:
Poetry and Prose, Explorations of Mental Illness, and Bread and the Fields
in It: The Soul of Hunger. Random House has accepted one students
novel for publication; another student has published several California
travel handbooks and an article on the development of travel writing in
The Literature of Travel and Exploration:
An Encyclopedia. Yet another will guest edit an issue of Manoa
on contemporary Cambodian writing and has received Honorable Mentions
in the 2001 O. Henry Awards and the 2001 Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small
M.F.A. students have also given readings of their work,
chaired graduate student conference panels such as Creative Writing
1 and Voices on the Edge: Creators and Critics, and
presented conference papers at the Southwest Association for Language
Learning Technology and the fall 2001 CELT Conference at CSU, Chico. They
participated with Chico and Northridge faculty in an Associated Writing
Programs annual meeting roundtable discussion of the M.F.A. program in
Finally, M.F.A. students achievements have included
winning grants for writing residencies at Norcroft Women Writers
Retreat and awards such as the 2000 Willard R. Espy Award in Fiction from
the University of Washington, which included a $1,000 prize.
What has all of this meant for the programs first
graduate? She lists teaching experiences that have taught her as
much about myself as about writing and people as any other experience
in my life, strong friendships she expects to last a lifetime, and
moving from writing poetry to being a poet.
I have a much stronger sense of the tradition Ive inherited, both in craft and in subject, and of where my work can build on and enrich that tradition, said Koenig.
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