Brooklyn College M.F.A. Outshines Columbia, Sarah Lawrence

Oct. 20, 2009

Brooklyn College’s prestigious M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program was ranked 15th in the Poets & Writers article "Top Fifty MFA Programs in the United States: A Comprehensive Guide" in the November/December 2009 issue. The program came in above highly acclaimed curricula at Columbia University (ranked No. 22) and Sarah Lawrence College (ranked No. 31). Poets & Writers polled more than 500 current and prospective M.F.A. applicants to compile the list, which also includes the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Brown University, Cornell University and NYU. There are currently 140 fiction and poetry M.F.A. programs in the country.

English Department Chairperson Ellen Tremper says of the achievement, "We were very pleased to be named one of the five 'up-and-coming' M.F.A. programs in the country in the summer 2007 issue of The Atlantic. We are now even more thrilled to have been ranked among the top 15 programs by Poets & Writers. We knew we were terrific all along, but it’s great to know that the world concurs!"

The Brooklyn College Creative Writing M.F.A., which was started in 1974 by Jonathan Bambach, Peter Spielberg, and Mark Strand, is a two-year program that offers degrees in fiction, poetry, and playwriting. Esteemed faculty have included Poetry Program Coordinator Julie Agoos, Louis Asekoff, National Book Award winners John Ashbery and Allen Ginsberg, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham, Susan Fromberg-Schaeffer, Amy Hempel, Lisa Jarnot, Joan Larkin, Rick Pearse, Sapphire, Marjorie Welish, and Obie Award winner Mac Wellman. Distinguished graduates of the program have been featured in such well-known publications as The Best New Young Poets, Best American Short Stories, O. Henry and Pushcart.

According to Professor Emeritus Louis Asekoff, former coordinator of the M.F.A. Poetry Program until he retired last spring, the limited enrollment workshops, one-on-one and small group tutorials, interdisciplinary seminars – led by a cadre of accomplished and widely acclaimed poets, fiction writers, playwrights – balance tradition with innovation, a respect for what has gone before with a desire to "make it new."

"The program has always prided itself on being an intimate and affordable one, whose first commitment is to its students. The goal was to give our diverse student body the time and space to develop, and to discover, through imitation and innovation, the writers they each individually can be," Asekoff adds.

"Brooklyn College offers a supportive program in a borough brimming with creativity and diversity, a hotspot for writers," agrees Helen Phillips, an adjunct lecturer in the English Department’s Creative Writing Program who recently received a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. "Students celebrate one another's successes, and the overall feel is one of encouragement rather than competition."

"It was good to see that Poets & Writers, by ranking Brooklyn College’s M.F.A. program No. 15 in the country, has come to recognize what our faculty, students and alumni have long known," says M.F.A. Fiction Program Coordinator Joshua Henkin. "We believe that our true ranking is much higher than that, and we look forward to having the rest of the country recognize this, too, before long."

Back to BC News