The best part of this journey has been the writers I’ve met (published and aspiring) and some of the books I have learned about through school. An MFA in Creative Writing is a wonderful way to build your community of writers and to expose yourself to the creative process. For a low residency program like mine, it is so inspiring to go to residency and spend time with other writers, at readings, in seminars, and even across the lunch or dinner table.
How much a student takes away from an MFA program is, I think, dependent on a lot of factors. The program itself is paramount. One of the things that I like most about Lesley is the Interdisciplinary Study component. I think it is essential to consider aspects outside of your concentration in order to achieve real growth as a writer. The IS component is so flexible, you can really make it anything you want it to be, and that is wonderful.
One of the things that I think is lacking at Lesley is a defined sense of goals for a student, based on where that student is with their writing when they enter the program. I also find that, because of the low residency format, there is quite a lot dependent on the effectiveness of the faculty mentor-student relationship each semester. While I have not had a negative experience with a faculty mentor, I have seen other situations where a mentor and student clashed personally or simply couldn’t understand one another’s perspectives. Because so much is dependent on this, a prospective student considering programs should always consider this detail of a low residency program. I never really thought about how much discretion my mentors would have before entering the program. I don’t know if other low residency programs are formatted in a similar fashion, but having 9 credits with one mentor each semester could be very painful if you found it difficult to work with your mentor. A prospective student should always ask themselves how well they can distance themselves from criticism, but in this kind of low residency format it is particularly useful.
Lesley’s stated approach to faculty-student interaction during the semester is somewhat restrictive, and I think that additional interaction should be allowed. I was fortunate this past semester to have a faculty mentor who made herself available to discuss questions or concerns more thoroughly, but this is not always the case.
So, halfway through, I am still glad that I chose to do this, but I definitely look at the process differently than I did a year ago as I was preparing to enter the program. I don’t have a sense yet of how much I am learning in the program, but I do feel that it has benefited my growth as a writer and a person. I am very grateful for many of the connections I have made with classmates and others, and I know that these connections will carry forward into my future as a writer, whatever the level of my “success” may be.