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General Information

The MFA degree offers an intensive program of writing in small, core workshops and seminars taught by established writers. In workshop, students engage in close readings and critiques of their peer’s work, while seminars may focus, for example, on a formal element, regional tradition, historical period, the works of a seminal writer or two, or a literary movement.

Prospective students must apply to the genre in which they want to focus: fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Core workshops are taken in the student’s primary genre, while writing electives allow students to explore other genres. The degree requirements also include eight credits in literature, critical theory, or rhetoric and composition. The MFA emphasizes faculty mentorship throughout each student's coursework and thesis completion. Engagement in Portland's vibrant community of writers is also central to the development of our students' work.

Many students come to the MFA with a background in English literature, writing or journalism, but others have backgrounds in the social sciences, sciences, and fine arts. Our program is further distinguished for the diversity of its student body, including a range of ages and life experience, as well as for its flexibility. The program can be completed in two years of full-time coursework, but students have up to four years to complete the degree in order to accomodate those who must attend part-time or want to take additional courses.

Course of Study

MFA students are required to take 48 credit hours of coursework as listed below. They must also complete a creative thesis of high literary merit, pass a written examination based on the thesis and an advisor-approved list of 30-40 texts, and pass an oral examination in defense of the written examination and creative thesis.  

The MFA curriculum consists of four core workshops: WR 521 (Fiction), 522 (Poetry), and 523 (Nonfiction); two writing seminars; two writing electives; two classes in literature (one of which may be in critical theory or rhetoric and composition); and eight credits of thesis work. The MFA core workshops are restricted to MFA students in the strand.

All students are required to take the core workshop in their first two terms.

Additional requirements for the MFA degree are:

  • The completion of a creative thesis of high literary merit. Fiction and nonfiction students may work in long or short form and the thesis may be a collection of short pieces or a full-length work.
  • A written examination, based on the thesis and an advisor-approved list of 30-40 texts studied during graduate coursework, in which students will be asked to address specific questions of literary history, theory, craft, and technique.
  • An oral defense of the written examination and creative thesis.
  • 48 credit hours of coursework (courses are 4 credit hours per quarter/term), comprised of the following:
Four MFA core workshops (WR 521, 522, or 523) 16 credits
Two writing seminars 8 credits
Two writing electives (one of these courses must be a workshop or seminar in the program) 8 credits
Two courses in literature, one of which may be in critical theory or rhetoric and composition 8 credits
Thesis 8 credits
Total 48 credits

Core Workshops: 16 credits

 Students are required to take the Core Workshop a minimum of four and maximum of six times in their genre.

  • WR 521 MFA Fiction Core Workshop
  • WR 522 MFA Poetry Core Workshop
  • WR 523 MFA Nonfiction Core Workshop

Writing Seminars: 8 credits

Students can choose from the following or other similar discrete-numbered courses in their genre as approved by their adviser.

  • WR 507 Seminar (Topics will include: Fundamentals of Fiction, Forms (Poetry), Translation (Poetry), Techniques in the Novel, The Longer Poem, Description, Writing Postmodern Fiction, Writing Hypertext Fiction, Reading for Writers, Research for Writers, Technique in the Short Story.)
  • WR 516 Screenwriting
  • WR 528 Advanced News Writing
  • WR 556 Forms of Nonfiction
  • WR 557 Personal Essay Writing
  • WR 558 Magazine Writing
  • WR 559 Writing the Memoir

Writing Electives: 8 credits

At least 8 credits from WR courses, one of which must be a workshop or seminar in the MFA program.

Electives in Literature, Critical Theory, and Rhetoric and Composition: 8 credits                        

Two courses chosen from any of the courses in graduate courses in literature, either ENG or WLL, at the 500 level (one may be in critical theory, or rhetoric and composition).

Thesis: 8 credits

  • WR 503 Thesis

All courses listed, aside from Thesis, are 4 credit hours per term.


Applicants to the MFA in Creative Writing must provide satisfactory evidence of preparedness to undertake advanced work, which would include a B.A. or B.S. degree from a regionally accredited college or university.The application deadline is January 3. Apply to the MFA Program.