Oregon State University's high residency MFA program in Corvallis has a long tradition of excellence in producing and teaching creative writing, going all the way back to the 1950s when the future distinguished novelist William Kittredge was a student here, and Bernard Malamud won a National Book Award while teaching in the English Department.

This is a distinguished past, but our present is even more remarkable. Creative Writing has never been more vital or successful at OSU than it is right now, with a nationally competitive pool of applicants in fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction, full funding for all our students through GTA positions, full tuition waivers, and a vibrant Visiting Writers Series.  Below you'll find some highlights of the program.

Full Funding

To enable our School to fully fund our incoming students, the MFA Program now offers three sources of financial support:

1.) All students admitted to the MFA program will automatically receive a standard teaching Graduate Teaching Assistantship contract, which provides full tuition remission and stipend of approximately $16,000 per year to cover living expenses.

2.) All applicants will be considered for external (non-teaching) GTA positions in academic and professional units beyond the School of Writing, Literature, and Film. Over the last five years, for example, SWLF graduate students received GTA appointments in the College of Engineering, the Division of Outreach and Engagement, the Writing Center, the Academic Success Center, the Graduate School, the Valley Library, and the Writing Intensive Curriculum Program. These positions  are suitable for applicants with an interest in public relations (including podcasting, video journalism, social media, and magazine writing) and provide full tuition remission and a stipend of approximately $16,000 per year to cover living expenses.

3.) All applicants are automatically considered for Oregon State Provost Fellowships, which cover all of resident or non-resident tuition and provides a $25,000 stipend for living expenses during the first year. All Provost Fellows receive a standard GTA contract in their second year.  We also nominate strong applicants for university-wide Graduate Scholarships to supplement the GTA contract, and we have a strong record of success in securing these awards.

In addition to tuition remission, all graduate students have the option to receive 89% coverage of health insurance costs for themselves and their dependents.

About Words: Episode 1 - Keith Scribner



Distinguished Faculty

MFA faculty have published more than 40 books, several of which have been New York Times and New Yorker Notable Books, and have received prestigious prizes, such as the National Jewish Book Award, the award for Best Poetry of the Year from the Poetry Foundation, and 6 Oregon Book Awards. Their work appears regularly in top national magazines such as The Paris Review, Poetry, McSweeney’s, and The New Yorker, and in anthologies such as Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart PrizeBest of the Small Presses. The faculty’s many national prizes for writing, such as the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Hemingway Short Story Award, the John Ciardi Prize, and the Whiting Award are complemented by a commitment to teaching and one-on-one mentorship. 

A Vibrant Writing Community

Our Visiting Writers Series brings 4-5 nationally known writers and poets to campus each year. A Literary Northwest series celebrates the burgeoning literary scene in the Willamette Valley and the Northwest.

In 2011, thanks to the generosity of OSU alumni Patrick and Vicki Stone, the biennial Stone Award in Lifetime Literary Achievement was established – one of the nation’s most generous literary prizes. Joyce Carol Oates was the inaugural recipient of the award in 2012, followed by Tobias Wolff in 2014, Rita Dove in 2016, and Colson Whitehead in 2019.

About Words: Episode 3 - Colson Whitehead


Personalized Mentorship

Most quarters, MFA students take a 4-credit literature or craft course, along with the 4-credit workshop in their genre (poetry, fiction, or nonfiction), and 4 credit hours of thesis advising, for a total of 12 credits each quarter. These classes have a maximum enrollment of 10-12 students, providing ample opportunity for direct instruction of each student. 

Students produce a thesis at the end of their second year of study. The thesis is a sustained piece of imaginative writing of literary merit. Generally, length, form, and content are to be mutually agreed upon by the student and the thesis advisor, with final approval resting with the advisor. Typically, a thesis is between 70 and 120 pages in length for fiction and nonfiction, and may be a short-story or essay collection, a novel, or a sustained nonfiction work. Poetry theses are between 35 and 48 pages in length.

Professional Development

In addition to our external graduate teaching assistantships, we also offer internships in literary editing, publishing, arts administration, and alternative pedagogies (e.g., teaching in youth correctional facilities) to name just a few. We also strongly encourage our students to travel with our faculty to the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference to meet publishers and fellow creative writers.  Oregon State's MFA Program was a co-sponsor of AWP 2019 in Portland. The biennial EdFest brings in a panel of editors, publishers, agents, and writers to address a range of topics related to professional development and literary citizenship.

Finally, we encourage our students to interact with other graduate programs within and beyond the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, including the MA in English, Environmental Arts and Humanities, Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Ethnic Studies, and the Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement. As these relationships suggest, we consider networking within and beyond the sphere of professional writing to be an essential component of our competitive program.

"What is Hyperbole?" A Guide for English Students and Teachers

Professor Elena Passarello answers the question "What is Hyperbole?" for the Oregon State Guide to English Literary Terms, a public education YouTube video series.

Pedagogical Training

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) receive sound support for their teaching and its evolution through a sequence of professional development activities, which enhance their effectiveness (and often enjoyment) as instructors.

In addition to the Assistantships offered within the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, students also have the opportunity to apply for a range of other teaching-related opportunities with the Writing Center, the Writing Intensive Curriculum program, or INTO-OSU (a program of English-oriented courses for international students).

First-year GTAs teach WR 121, OSU’s first-year composition course. Based on School needs, first and second-year GTAs with appropriate training may be eligible to teach selected sections of advanced academic writing or serve as graders for literature of film courses. Second-year MFA GTAs typically have the opportunity to teach at least one section of a lower-division creative writing course in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction.

About Words: Episode 4 - Taylor Grieshober


Post-Graduate Success

Our current and past students have published books and chapbooks with publishers including Simon & Schuster, Thomas Dunne Books (Macmillan), Hawthorne Books, Engine Books, West Virginia University Press, Forest Avenue Press, CutBank Books, and Gimmick Press. Their essays, stories, poems, and hybrid works have appeared in over 100 print and online literary journals, magazines, and anthologies including The Oxford American, Atticus Review, Prairie Schooner, The Greensboro Review, American Poets, The Normal School, Crazyhorse, Passages North, Brevity, Chicago Quarterly Review, Essay Daily, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New Delta Review, PANK, Seneca Review, The Collagist, Crab Creek Review, Witness, TriQuarterly Online, DIAGRAM, Entropy, Ninth Letter, The Minnesota Review, North American Review, Five Points, Iron Horse, Quarterly West, Sonora Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Georgia Review, Mid-American Review, Indiana Review, Pleiades, and Sycamore Review.

Learning Outcomes

In the MFA program, we recognize that the pursuit of excellence in the arts must be understood in diverse, patient, and supple ways. Some of our graduates (like many writers) will not pursue further advanced degrees or traditional academic careers, or even careers obviously linked to the creative arts. And the realities of the literary publishing world entail long apprenticeships before the first book might be expected. Therefore when the MFA discusses outcomes for our students, we keep in mind that each of our students will choose different career and artistic paths. The development and application of outcome measures must be thoughtful and individualized for each graduate. In general, students who graduate with the MFA degree will:

  • Demonstrate a rich and articulate understanding of the elements of the genre(s) in which they write.
  • Develop and employ techniques of intensive revision.
  • Make polished, creative work of publishable quality.

If you are interested in applying for our MFA program, please see the MFA Application Guidelines.

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing News