Monday, March 21, 2011

Penn State's Recruitment Weekend (part one)

Greetings, current and future MFA-ers! My name is Jami Nakamura Lin (to differentiate myself from this lovely lady, who unfortunately happens to be an author) and I hail from the outskirts of Chicago. I currently am finishing up my undergraduate studies (in psychology!) at a small liberal arts school, and will be headed to an MFA program in the fall for creative nonfiction. I'll write more about me later, but for now I want to talk about Penn State. I just spent the weekend there, and they suckered me in hook, line, and sinker.

I've also been accepted to Portland State and Miami of Ohio (which is an MA creative writing program), and waitlisted at Ohio University (also an MA program). Although I love Portland, they couldn't offer me funding, and since I gots no monies, that isn't really an option. Miami of Ohio and Penn State offered me similarly generous funding offers, so money isn't really an issue in making a decision between the two.

Penn State, however, has been above and beyond helpful through this whole process. The director, Bill Cobb, put me in touch with several current students who very eagerly and thoroughly answered all my nagging, tedious questions. Every time I was confused about something, I got a response right away.

But on to the recruitment weekend!  Here is a shortened version of what happened, and I'll post a longer, less-relevant version on my personal blog later (probably tomorrow).

I knew Penn State held a recruitment weekend because I obsessively read this blog through the fall and read all of Emily Anderson's posts, but I still wasn't really sure what to expect. The weekend officially started on Friday, but because I had previous commitments, I wasn't able to attend until Saturday morning. I missed out on a reading and a pizza party. The English Department had us stay at the local Atherton Hotel, right downtown. I walked in late on an info/Q&A session for all the incoming MFA and MA/PhD students. Most of the questions were more relevant for the MA/PhD students than for us MFA-ers, and I was still feeling dislocated. But then there was a special lunch at an Indian restaurant just for the MFA students. There were six of us recruits-- two per genre. Most of the current MFA students were there, and we sat at separate tables by genre, and just got to chat with them and find out more about the program.

What really struck me was the dynamic of all the people in the program. It's very small, but from everyone I've talked to, it's a very open, encouraging community. There's no cutthroat competitiveness, and you know everyone personally. I come from a really small college with a similar sense of community, and felt really comfortable with the MFA students right away. Again, above and beyond helpful.

One of the students then gave us a mini-tour of the campus-- we got to see where readings were held, where the literary magazines were, the TA offices, a typical classroom, basically all the English-related places. A bit later, there was a faculty round table discussion where each member of the English department went around, told us about his or her area of expertise, and whatever else they felt like. That was long, but very informative. Afterwards, I got to talk to Elizabeth Kadetsky, one of the nonfiction professors, and discovered she went to school with both Aimee Bender, my favorite author, and Alice Sebold. I promptly fell over and died. In reality, I probably just gaped unseemingly. She was very gracious and helpful and remembered all these small details from my writing sample and SOP. I was amazed.

After that, there was a wine and appetizers event at the University Club across the street, where all of the incoming students, some current students, and all the faculty mingled for a couple hours (and where I gorged myself on pinot grigio and cheese cubes). I met most of the MFA faculty, and learned a lot more about the program. One thing I'm very excited about is the Writer in the Community class, where you basically go lead workshops in non-academic settings like shelters, nursing homes, etc. Since I want to be a writing therapist, this was right up my alley. I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but everyone was just so nice and genuinely interested in me and my writing. I felt so welcomed. Then two of the other MFA girls and I went downtown with a couple current MFA students who showed us around. It was a great time.

This is super long already so I'm going to stop for now-- I'll write part two later and there will be more inane rambling on my personal blog.


  1. Glad to see you here, Jami. Nonfiction is definitely representing up in these Chronicles! Tech's recruitment weekend was a total mind-blowing affair, as well. It makes so much difference when you can look these potential professors in the eye (and see if their current students are rolling theirs in the background). Can't wait to hear more about the other PSU.

  2. Wow, sounds like they really take an interest in their incoming students and offer a very warm and welcome environment. Sounds like a great place to get your MFA to me!

  3. Jami, I'm happy for you and love that you had such an awesome time in good ol' happy valley!

  4. Hi Jami! I hope my previous posts were somewhat helpful for you, but you're right that you definitely have to experience a place for yourself before really getting a handle on it. I'm sorry I missed you during Recruitment - I was around on Friday night and met the other recruits but unfortunately had too much work to do on Saturday. It sounds like you had a great visit, and I'm glad to hear you'll be coming to Penn State in August :)


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