LGBTQ-Friendly Graduate Programs in Creative Writing

LGBTQ-Friendly Graduate Programs
in Creative Writing 2016

Two years ago, with the help of writer, Brian Kornell, we put together a list of LGBTQ-friendly graduate programs in creative writing. The list has been updated to reflect changes to existing programs and new additions.

How do we know if a program is LGBTQ-friendly? Often a creative writing program provides a description or the program’s faculty have a bio that provides detail about their research focus; this focus may include LGBTQ literature, gender & sexuality studies, or faculty may list inclusion in a queer-focused anthology. Imagine a prospective LGBTQ student from a small town desperate to share their story, to find a mentor who will guide them, to work with someone who welcomes their story. If that prospective student has limited access to LGBTQ writers, they must rely on information available online. If there are no indications of a relationship to the LGBTQ community in a creative writing program, prospective students may not feel welcomed and these prospective LGBTQ students may never know it’s a safe space for them.

Being a visible ally or LGBTQ faculty is a courageous act for many, yet for others its simply a way of being. We live in a time where being seen is important to validate and to feel actualized in society. To be seen, to be visible, as queer or queer-friendly is the first step to creating a welcoming environment for prospective LGBTQ students, faculty, staff, and the content of a writer’s work at an institution of higher education.

This list of LGBTQ-friendly graduate programs in creative writing feature faculty and/or programs that encourage students to engage with queer, gender and/or sexuality studies. In many cases, you will also notice the programs advocate or require students to get involved in the community programming.

This list was compiled using the MFA Nation 2016: A Compendium of Graduate Programs in Creative Writing published online by Poets & Writers on 19 August 2015. The list is a guide to more than 170 programs in creative writing. See it here:

It is important to note that a few schools listed have an asterisk (*) to signify through tacit knowledge that faculty are queer or queer-friendly. This means program or faculty pages are not visible as LGBTQ-friendly. We didn’t want to exclude our knowledge or familiarity with these programs or faculty and have therefore chosen to include them despite their lack of visibility as queer(-friendly) to a prospective student. We don’t want to OUT anyone, but we encourage faculty and institutions to be more explicit about their relationship to the LGBTQ community.

We need more visibly, queer and queer-friendly creative writing faculty and programs all around the country. Stand up. Let prospective students know where they can find a welcoming space for their work.

We hope you will agree, disagree, and add to this list (in the comments below) with reason and well-meaning purpose.

*American University (Washington, D.C.), MFA Program

D.C.’s only MFA program, this three year program gives students the option to focus on single or multiple genres. The curriculum integrates writing, literary journalism, translation, and the study of literature. Faculty includes Kyle Dargan, Richard McCann, and Stephanie Grant.

Antioch University (Los Angeles, CA), MFA Program

Antioch has a mission for all students to engage in some kind of social justice work. The MFA students accomplish this mission by providing writing workshops to those in the community who might have an opportunity to tell their story because they otherwise don’t have access to writing workshops.  The Antioch University MFA program features Terry Wolverton and Alistair McCartney are on faculty.

California College of the Arts (Oakland, CA), MFA Program

The CCA in Oakland offers an MFA in Creative Writing with an active visiting writer series and a growing list of successful alumni. Cross-genre, hybrid writing, and community engagement is encouraged. Faculty members who focus on diversity and sexuality include Dodie Bellamy and Opal Adisa. Twitter: @CCAMFAWriting.

California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA), MFA Program

Cal Arts offers a two-year program in Creative Writing. A dynamic program, Cal Arts offers concentrations in traditional and interdisciplinary areas, including media, technology, performance, or the pairing of a second MFA outside of writing. Faculty members include Tisa Bryant, Maggie Nelson, Matias Viegener, and Christine Werthheim.

Chatham University (Pittsburgh, PA), MFA Program

The MFA in Creative Writing is a two-year program with degrees offered in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s writing. Cultural and gender studies, as well as social justice, are the focus of faculty, Sheryl St. Germain, Heather McNaugher, Marc Nieson, Katherine Ayers, and Sheila Squillante.

The City College of New York, (New York, NY) MFA Program

The City College of New York offers two- or three- year programs in poetry and fiction. A scholarship for students working in Latina/o studies is available each year. The program features writers David Groff and Mikhal Dekel.

Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO) MFA Program

This three-year program offers degree in poetry and fiction, with opportunities for teaching creative writing and internships in editing, arts administration, and publishing. Featured faculty include EJ Levy, and Camille Dungy.

Columbia College (Chicago, IL) MFA Program

CC offers three distinct MFA programs in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. This is a two- or three- year program which offers students the opportunity to work on several literary publications. The poetry program features Lambda Literary Award winning poet David Trinidad. The current Elma Stuckey Writer-in-Residence is T. Clutch Fleischmann who focuses on transgender literature. Twitter: @DCWCCC.

Columbia University (New York, NY) MFA Program

This two- to five-year program offers degrees in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and a joint concentration in translation. Faculty features Hilton Als whose research interests include gender and gender identity. Twitter: @ColumbiaSOA.

DePaul University (Chicago, IL), MA in Writing and Publishing

DePaul University’s MA in Writing and Publishing program stresses the importance of interacting with various ways with the larger literary community through writing, editing, and publishing. Faculty interests include gender, sexuality, and queer theory. Faculty include Lambda Literary Award winner for memoir, Barrie Jean Borich, Rebecca Cameron, and Bill Johnson González.

Emerson College (Boston, MA) MFA in Writing, Literature & Publishing

This two- to three-year program offers degrees in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The program offers opportunities to work on literary magazines and to work with local high school students. Faculty include nationally recognized LGBT writer, Benoit Denizet-Lewis, Katerina Gonzalez Seligmann, Tamera Marko, and Michael Whelan.

Florida International University (Miami, FL) MFA Program

This three-year program offers degrees in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and screenwriting. Faculty includes Lambda Literary Award winner in creative nonfiction, Julie Marie Wade. Twitter: @FIU_MFA.

*Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) MFA Program

A three-year program, FSU offers degrees in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, with a very active visiting reader series. Faculty features poet Erin Belieu (Founder of VIDA).

Goddard University (Plainfield, VT), Low Residency MFA Program

The first low residency program in the U.S., Goddard provides the opportunity to learn the craft of creative writing one-on-one with advisors—all of whom are working writers. Faculty: Michael Klein, Beatrix Gates, Rebecca Brown, and Elena Georgiou. Twitter: @GoddardMFAW.

*Institute of American Indian Arts, Low Residency MFA Program (Santa Fe, NM)

The Institute of American Indian Arts offers a low residency MFA program “to empower creativity and leadership in Native arts and cultures through higher education, lifelong learning, and outreach.” While the program has a distinct Native American and First Nations emphasis, it is open to everyone. The program features two LGBTQ faculty members: Natalie Diaz and Chip Livingston. Twitter: @lowrezmfa

The New School (New York, NY) MFA Program

This two-year program offers degrees in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s writing, with many opportunities to work with literary organizations and publishers in New York. The program features David Levithan and Tiphanie Yanique. Twitter: @NewSchoolWrites.

Mills College (Oakland, CA), MFA Program

The Mills College MFA program encourages students to pursue community work outside of their normal course of study in order to better engage with the larger world.  Faculty members include (Visiting) Writers Achy Obeja and Chelsey Hauge, Rebekah Edwards, Sarah Pollack, and Kirsten Saxton.

Murray State University (Murray, KY), Low Residency MFA Program

Murray State University allows student writers to work on their craft where they live, under the guidance of prize-winning writers. Twice a year, in July and January, students attend a nine-day residency at MSU to join a community of writers for intensive study, workshops, readings, and lectures. Faculty includes: Nickole Brown, Blas Falconer, Julia Watts, Gary Jackson, and Carrie Jerrell.

*Northeast Ohio MFA Program (Cleveland, OH/Kent, OH/Akron, OH, Youngstown, OH)

The Northeast Ohio MFA program is unique in that it is a consortium of four universities in the Northeast Ohio area, which allows students to draw upon the faculty of all the participating schools. The three-year program features Christopher Barzak and Mary Biddinger, both writers are openly supportive of LGBTQ literature and writers. Twitter: @NEOMFA.

Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ) MFA Creative Writing

Offering two-year degrees in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, NAU features faculty with research interests in gender and cultural studies including Rebecca M. Gordon, Anne Scott, and Timothy Yamamura.

Northern Michigan University (Marquette, MI) MFA Program

This program offers a three-year degree in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction with opportunities to engage the community through graduate assistantships with Passages North, the Writing Center, and the Center for Native American Studies. Faculty with research interests in gender and sexuality include Amy Hamilton, Faith Kirk, Leslie Larkin, and David Wood.

Northwestern University (Chicago, IL), MA and MFA Program

Northwestern offers both an MA and MFA in creative writing and is the home of TriQuarterly. It was chosen for this list because it features queer and queer-friendly faculty members Goldie Goldbloom, Juan Martinez, Simone Muench, and Megan Stielstra. Twitter: @NUGradWriting.

Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA), MFA Program

The three-year program in Creative Writing offers degrees in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, and opportunities to engage the community through workshop facilitation, readings and paper presentations. This program features Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Bisexual Nonfiction, Blake Bailey.

Pacific University (Portland, OR), Low Residency MFA Program

Pacific University believes that writers can and must lead full and interesting lives, the program embraces students who have full-time jobs and other obligations, helping each to design an individualized course of study to be carried out in collaboration with a professional writer. Faculty includes Ellen Bass and Eduardo C. Corral. Twitter: @pacificuMFA.

Pine Manor College (Chestnut Hill, MA), Low Residency MFA Program

The Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College offers concentrations in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children & young adults. The program features a diverse faculty of varied race, gender, sexual orientation, and nationality. On faculty is writer and community activist Amy Hoffman whose nonfiction has been recognized by the Publishing Triangle, Lambda Literary Foundation, & American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Awards.  Twitter: @SolsticeMFA.

Pratt Institute (New York, NY), MFA Program

This is a two-year program that encourages writing practices that are “philosophically, culturally, and politically informed.” This is a dynamic program that emphasizes interdisciplinary work with mentors, community, and collaborative seminars. Featured faculty are Youmna Chlala and James Hannaham.

Purdue University (Layfette, IN), MFA Program

Purdue offers writing workshops to the Layfette community through its Looseleaf writing workshop program. Looseleaf partners with Pride Lafayette for an LGBT-focused series of monthly workshops at their downtown community center. Brian Leung and Roxane Gay are faculty. Twitter: @PurdueLibArts.

Rainier Writing Workshop, Low Residency MFA (Tacoma, WA)

A three-year low residency program that encourages “innovative internships, community service, teaching, or other projects.” This program features Lambda Literary Award finalist Rick Barot and Barrie Jean Borich.

Rutgers-Camden (Camden, NJ), MFA Program

Rutgers-Camden offers an MFA in creative writing with the opportunity for students to work across genres. Paul Lisicky is part of the faculty of this program. Twitter: @MFACamden.

Rutgers-Newark (Newark, NJ), MFA Program

Rutgers-Newark offers courses in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. John Keene, Rigoberto Gonzalez, and Brenda Shaughnessy are part of the faculty. Twitter: @NewarkMFA.

Saint Mary’s College of California, (Moraga, CA), MFA Program

Saint Mary’s College’s MFA offers the opportunity for writers to study fiction, poetry or nonfiction. Matthew Zapruder, Brenda Hillman, and Wesley Gibson, the fiction editor of LGBTQ focused literary magazine, Bloom, are on faculty. Twitter: @SMCMFA.

San Francisco State University (San Francisco, CA), MFA Program

The program offers courses in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, and literary translation. The faculty includes Nona Caspers and Toni Mirosevich.

Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, NY), MFA Program

Sarah Lawrence College offers workshops in creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. The faculty includes Gerry Albarelli and Mark Wunderlich. Twitter: @SLCwriting.

Spalding University (Louisville, KY), Low Residency MFA Program

The Spalding University MFA program that celebrates creativity and community, not competition. Leslea Newman is on faculty. Twitter: @spalding_mfa.

Temple University (Philadelphia, PA), MFA Program

Temple offers workshops in poetry and fiction. Brian Teare is a member of the faculty.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Lincoln, NE), MA & PhD Programs

University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers an MA or PhD in creative writing. Students have the opportunity to take courses outside of the English department with Gender & Women Studies being one of the departments students are encouraged to explore. Amelia M.L. Montes and Stacey Waite are on faculty in the program. Twitter: @unlenglish.

*University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA), MFA in Creative Writing

The University of San Francisco offers workshops in poetry, fiction, and fiction. Program faculty include: D.A. Powell, Bruce Snider, and Ryan Van Meter. Twitter: @usfmfaw.

University of Southern Maine (Portland, ME), Stonecoast MFA Program

The Stonecoast MFA program is a low residency program offering courses in creative nonfiction, poetry, and popular fiction. The Stonecoast Review is a student-run literary magazine. Aaron Hamburger is featured on its faculty. Twitter: @stonecoasttweet.

Vermont College of Fine Arts (Montpelier, VT), Low Residency MFA Program

The Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts allows students earn a degree over a period of two years through a combination of ten-day, on-campus residencies followed by six-month semesters of self-created study, supported and guided by a faculty mentor. The program also offers residencies abroad in Solvenia and Puerto Rico. Rigoberto Gonzalez and Richard McCann are core faculty. Brian Leung and LGBTQ ally, Leanne Howe are visiting faculty members. Twitter: @VCFA.

Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA) MFA in Creative Writing

Virginia Tech offers an MFA in Creative Writing with the option to focus on poetry or fiction. Courses in nonfiction, new media writing, and playwriting are offered. Students also have the opportunity for editorial work through The Minnesota Review and The New River. Jeff Mann, a Lambda Literary Award winner and inductee into the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Hall of Fame, is part of the faculty, as well as serving as the current Program Director. Twitter: @VTcwMFA.

Warren Wilson (Asheville, NC), Low Residency MFA Program

Warren Wilson is one of the country’s first low residency MFA program and gives students the opportunity to focus on fiction or poetry. Its faculty features Lambda Literary Award finalist in Poetry, C. Dale Young. Twitter: @WWCasheville.

*Originally published 15 Octoboer 2014 at Luna Luna.

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