The Brooklyn College English Department has received a $25,000 gift to establish The Rona Jaffe Foundation Graduate Fellowships in Creative Writing. The gift will provide full in-state tuition for three creative writing students, one each in poetry, fiction, and playwriting, beginning in fall 2017.
“The Rona Jaffe Foundation is very pleased to provide support to Brooklyn College in the form of these fellowships to incoming female graduate students in the M.F.A. program,” said Beth McCabe, director of The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards and a board trustee. “They will, we hope, not only provide much-needed funding within the program, but also help attract the strongest writing candidates to apply.”
The idea to include Brooklyn College among the graduate creative writing programs that The Rona Jaffe Foundation supports originated with Alan C. Rothfeld ’65, vice president of the Foundation.
The grant is especially important to the English Department for several reasons, said Ellen Tremper, the department chair. “First, it makes it easier for us to attract a diverse group of talented students, a strong desire of the current class. Second, it helps relieve our students of the burden of repaying student loans, an obligation that persists for years and falls more heavily on arts graduates than on those who enter more lucrative fields like law, business, or medicine,” she added.
More generally, “the Jaffe grant is important because it supports the imaginative work of novelists, poets, and playwrights that gives us the opportunity to imagine others’ lives,” Tremper said. “Literary work also enables the transmission of culture, which otherwise might be lost.”
Born in Brooklyn and a lifelong New Yorker, Rona Jaffe was the author of 16 books, including her best-selling first novel, The Best of Everything, published in 1958, and Mazes and Monsters, published in 1981. In 1995, she established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program, the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Jaffe died in 2005.
Among the many recipients of The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards was Helen Phillips, a 2007 graduate of the Brooklyn College M.F.A. program in fiction, who is now an assistant professor in the department.
A committee selected by the department will choose recipients from among the most talented students applying for admission for fall 2017 and report its recommendations to the chair.