Creative writing minor moves to English department

Students looking pursue a minor in creative writing will now have to head to the English department, effective this fall.

Starting Fall 2008, the creative writing minor will be absorbed by the English department as the Department of Creative Writing and Literary Arts moves from a full-time faculty department to a low-residency Master’s of Fine Arts program.

Instead, the English department will oversee the minor – the fourth individual minor of its kind within the department, said Suzanne Forster, associate professor of English. She is managing the merge of the minor into the English department.

Forster said that with the department moving to low-residency status, the full-time faculty needed to run the undergraduate program would no longer be available. The core faculty of the creative writing program will only be available on a 60 percent contract, which would not allow them enough time to conduct graduate classes and coordinate the minor.

The minor and its classes will still retain the CWLA prefix, but they will be housed and administered by the English department.

The change was a surprise, Forster said; she knew about the transition in the department’s graduate program but hadn’t considered what would happen to the minor.

“I knew they were going to low residency, but I didn’t think about what that would mean to the undergrad program,” she said.

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The move is not an unfamiliar one. The creative writing minor was initially part of the English program. Forster said that as the size of the English department increased, several other schools were splitting degrees. Forster noted that when the move was made, several developmental education classes, such as English as a second language and American Sign Language, were also part of the English department. As the department restructured, the creative writing minor left.

But like the creative writing minor, the ESL and ASL classes were also phased out into independent departments to make the English department more manageable. With the absence of these two options, the English department gained more time and resources to take on the creative writing minor again.

Kathleen Tarr, program coordinator for the low-residency MFA program, said the move is a good thing. She said that the move would not affect the graduate writing program or the curriculum for the minor.

“They will continue to offer a large variety of undergraduate creative writing courses,” Tarr said. “All those classes will continue, and they might even add more.”

With the exception of CWLA 490, all classes will progress as scheduled. CWLA 490, noted in the catalog as “The Writer’s Craft,” will be substituted by any of the English department’s genre classes, depending on the students’ specialization in poetry, fiction or non-fiction.

The dissolution of the creative writing minor also brings into question the fate of the literary magazine Understory.

Understory is the literary journal produced and created by graduate students within in the creative writing department, open to submission from any UAA undergraduate. With the department restructuring, the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society as well as the Seawolf writing tutors will be taking charge of Understory.

Mary Harris, president of UAA’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, said the two groups are currently working toward plans for next year’s publication.