Dec 02, 2023  
2023-2024 APU Catalog 
2023-2024 APU Catalog

Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, M.F.A.

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The purpose of the MFA program is to provide an engaging, rigorous, and culturally responsive learning environment for emerging writers and to showcase and support the work of Alaskan, Indigenous, and Northern writers. The low-residency MFA is a 36-credit program combining intensive, individualized study with on-campus summer residencies. Summer residencies—approximately 2 weeks in length, and introduced by online learning sessions—are comprised of workshops, seminars, lectures, panels, and readings. In summer residencies, students engage in the process of giving and receiving constructive feedback, all while nurturing an artistic intuition to guide them on the right track beyond their studies. Fall and Spring semesters in the program involve one-on-one, mentor-directed study plans, advancing individual writing goals. As they work through individualized study plans, students hone their craft with the goal of producing publishable works. 

Over the course of two years and three summers, students gain a comprehensive understanding of their chosen genre (fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry) along with their place among the notable writers who have gone before them. Through residencies on APU’s campus, the program strives to honor the Dena’ina people and their traditional lands upon which APU sits, as well as Alaska Native storytelling traditions that have thrived and continue to inspire.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the degree, students will have:

  • Produced a polished book-length manuscript of creative work in their chosen genre of study (fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry).
  • Demonstrated disciplinary understanding of the elements of craft that distinguish their genre.
  • Developed appreciation for Alaska Native traditions of storytelling and other Alaska-based narrative traditions
  • Expressed the distinctive qualities of their own style and voice.
  • Identified productive research and methods to gather and present information ethically and accurately.
  • Synthesized information, applying it in a real-world setting, and assessing results to refine the thesis.
  • Used effective oral and written communication to present an overview of their completed thesis.
  • Demonstrated understanding of the publication process as it applies to their manuscript of creative work.


The low-residency MFA admits students to the Summer semester only. The admissions deadline is April 1.

The general requirements for admission to graduate studies at APU are found in the Admissions section of the catalog. In addition, there are supplemental requirements for the low-residency MFA as follows:

  1. A portfolio of the student’s best creative work.
  • Poetry: Ten pages of poetry. Only one poem per page. 
  • Fiction: One story; 15 pages or less in length (double spaced) or a chapter of a novel accompanied by a brief synopsis. 
  • Literary Nonfiction: One piece; 15 pages or less in length (double spaced), if part of a larger work accompanied by a brief synopsis.
  1. Personal Statement that highlights the applicant’s strengths and interests. This essay is reviewed by the Program Director as a demonstration of writing competence, critical thinking, and the ability to articulate goals. 
  2. Two letters of recommendation addressing your capability to complete advanced work through a Master of Fine Arts program. In addition, letters should address your critical thinking, analytical and communication skills. Recommendation letters must include the writer’s address, telephone number, title, and relationship to you. Letters should be dated within the past twelve months. 
  3. No Standardized Test Scores required. 

Students are adequately prepared for low-residency MFA entry if they have earned a bachelor’s degree in any field, and have demonstrated proficient writing ability in their portfolio and personal statement. 

Low-Residency MFA Format and Program Delivery

The Master of Fine Arts is a 36-credit program of individualized, mentor-directed studies with three summer terms, each inclusive of a low-residency requirement. The program includes three areas of study: Fiction, Literary Nonfiction, and Poetry. Students maintaining full-time enrollment status can complete the program in 2 years, over the course of three summer semesters (with residencies) and four Fall/Spring semesters of one-to-one mentorship. Maximally, students have up to 7 years to complete the program.

Master of Fine Arts Degree Requirements (36 credits)

The program consists of three areas of coursework, with courses structured in 3 and 5 credit increments for each course and study plan. A total of 36 credits is required as outlined below:

CRWR 60100-60300 Graduate Writer’s Workshop must be taken two times in the same genre (fiction, literary nonfiction, or poetry). Failure to attend a residency will result in a delay of graduation by one year. Should any student find themselves in such a situation, they will be given the opportunity to continue their studies in MAP, with the possibility of retaining their mentor, as they complete all thesis components still required of the MFA program. In this case, the student would then receive a Master of Arts degree upon graduation, not a Master of Fine Arts degree.

CRWR 60500 Form and Theory and CRWR 69900 Thesis will be taken more than once, as designated by unique, documented, and approved individual study plans.

Successful completion of CRWR 60400 Thesis Writer’s Workshop includes approval of the thesis (with craft essay, creative work, and annotated bibliography) and the colloquium presentation.

Academic Study Plan and Self-Designed Courses

Learning outcomes and activities in CRWR 60500 Form and Theory are structured through the program’s required study plans.  The study plan is used by the student and the mentor as a guide for the fall and spring semesters. The study plan must be approved by the student, the mentor, and the program director prior to the start of the semester. The semester study plan is a fully developed outline that includes quantifiable learning outcomes that are then assessed by the mentor through narrative transcript evaluation.

Study plans will designate that students remain in contact with their mentors on a bi-weekly basis. Plans will also include deadlines at least once a month, when students will submit completed assignments and pages of creative work, for which they will receive ongoing feedback from their mentors.

For every semester of CRWR 60500 Form and Theory, the study plan will include the following requirements:

  • submit 60-80 pages of prose, or 20-30 pages of poetry, with the intention of incorporating some of it into the creative manuscript section of the thesis
  • submit 20-30 pages of critical analysis focused on the assigned reading list, with the intention of incorporating some of it into the craft essay section of the thesis
  • read 10-12 books or manuscripts and complete an annotation for each, to be compiled later in the annotated bibliography segment of the thesis, with a growing appreciation for Alaska Native, Alaskan, and/or Northern Latitude traditions

In CRWR 69900 Thesis, students focus solely on completing the sections of the thesis itself deriving from work completed in prior semesters: revising and polishing the final draft of the creative project; drafting and editing the craft essay; refining and finishing the annotated bibliography; and preparing the culminating colloquium presentation.

MFA Mentors

Students may express interest in working with specific mentors; however, the pairing of students to mentors will ultimately be decided at the discretion of the director and mentors, based on fit and teaching load considerations. The student can request a change in mentor, just as a mentor can request a change in student, for the sake of better furthering the goals of the student’s creative project and/or scholarship.

Student Evaluation

The Low-Residency MFA at APU is not a traditional letter-graded academic program; rather, it is evaluated as Credit/No Credit, with narrative evaluation on the transcript. “Credit” is understood to represent a grade of B- (2.67) or better. Students receive a narrative evaluation of their progress at the end of each fall and spring semester for each semester study plan. At the end of the summer session, they receive a narrative evaluation based on their participation in the online component and the residency period. These evaluations, in turn, become part of the student’s official transcript.

In these evaluations, mentors (and thesis committee members) document and comment upon the student’s learning outcomes. Success or failure is measured in relation to the accomplishment of goals and outcomes as established in individual study plans. In the case where a student does not meet the academic standards of the university or the study plan objectives, ‘No Credit’ is recorded on the transcript, and no academic credits are awarded.

Students are expected to perform at the graduate level and to demonstrate written and oral communication, critical thinking and analytical skills, as well as content knowledge and the ability to apply theoretical concepts consistent with a graduate program.

Required Courses:

Minimum Graduation Credit Hour Requirement: 36

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