2010-12 MFA Chloe Krug Benjamin takes a break from student-teacher conferences. Photo © Oliver Bendorf, 2011-13 MFA.

SPOTLIGHT: Poetry MFA Alexis Sears
Alexis Sears is the author of Out of Order, winner of the 2021 Donald Justice Poetry Prize, forthcoming from Autumn House Press in 2022. She earned her BA from Johns Hopkins University and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 2019. Currently, she teaches 9th grade English in Oakland, California.

2011-12 poetry fellow Laura Eve Engel and 2011-13 MFA Hannah Oberman-Breindel, hard at work. Photo © Oliver Bendorf.

Contact Us

MFA Administrator Sean Bishop
Program in Creative Writing
Department of English
600 N. Park St, H.C. White Rm 6195
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706

fax: 608-263-3709

MFA Teaching Opportunities

In addition to full tuition remission, faculty-level health insurance, and other direct financial support, all MFA candidates have the opportunity to teach one section of "ENGL 207: Intro to Creative Writing" each semester of their first year. For this work, the Department of English compensates the MFAs at the approximate rate of $14,680 annually. In each section of ENGL 207, MFAs will teach 17 sophomores the basics of literary craft, using a syllabus of the instructor's own design. If that task sounds daunting, please don't worry!; all first-year MFAs will meet weekly with Program Coordinator Sean Bishop, beginning well before the start of classes, to discuss their triumphs and struggles in the classroom and to learn the ins and outs of teaching creative writing.

In their second year of the MFA, graduate students will teach "ENGL 100: Freshman Composition," which is a core requirement for undergraduates at the University. Here, too, there will be ample training prior to the start of the semester, and a wealth of ready-made assignments for instructors to use if they choose.

Financial Aid

There is no application process for financial aid. All accepted MFA candidates regardless of residency or nationality receive tuition remissions (i.e., free tuition), teaching assistantships, generous health insurance (the same as faculty) and other financial support. In addition to the approximately $14,680 paid to each MFA annually in exchange for teaching, every MFA candidate will receive another $9,320 in scholarships each year (paid out in early September, early February, and late May), for an annual total of $24,000.

Renk Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in Poetry

One poet will be awarded a Martha Meier Renk Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in Poetry upon admission to the program. During each semester of the first year, the Renk Fellow will receive the same teaching assistantship (i.e., teaching English 207), tuition remission, and generous health benefits as the other MFAs in Poetry. During the Renk Fellow's second year, they will continue to receive total financial support equal to their peers, but unlike their peers they will be relieved of the responsibility of teaching.

The Marr & Derleth Prizes and the Stern & Knowles Awards

Each spring, a combination of outside judges and Program faculty award two prizes and two awards to MFA candidates on the basis of exceptional writing samples and demonstrated teaching expertise. The deadline for the Marr and Derleth Prizes is typically in early March, and these prizes are given out in a ceremony at the end of April. There is no application procedure for the Stern & Knowles Awards, which are also awarded in April.

The Marr Prize in Creative Writing ($1,000) is awarded annually for the best poetry or fiction submission by an MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin.

The August Derleth Prize ($1,000) is awarded annually to a graduate student in any discipline for work on Wisconsin regional literature, or for writing in any genre to which August Derleth contributed (fiction, poetry, essay, creative non-fiction, etc.).

The Jerome Stern Teaching Award is awarded to an MFA student for outstanding teaching in "English 207: Intro to Creative Writing." The Richard Knowles Teaching Award is awarded to an MFA student for outstanding teaching in "English 100: Freshman Composition." The exact amounts of these two awards can vary, but is generally no less than $200.