Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How was the economy impacted your program?

by Whitney Gray

It's no secret that the economy has effected colleges and universities. For awhile, I was able to ignore it because it didn't directly effect me. It wasn't until I was accepted to the schools that I realized how serious the financial crisis was. Thankfully, I was able to pick up some federal funding that doesn't have to be paid back (whew!), but I've noticed other things happening with my program.

Our budget for readings has been cut dramatically, and at one point, I was preparing myself for a year without readings. Thanks to some generous donations (mostly provided by staff members!), we have been able to hold several readings, including one by Tracy Kidder. While we haven't been able to have extravagant receptions, we at UNCG have made due with homemade chocolate covered strawberries and the occasional pot-luck supper.

On the business-end of things, UNCG's program has been dealing with the loss of two poets. One moved on, and the other is taking leave for this semester. This has left our only poet to carry the weight of workshop, teaching undergraduate courses and holding tutorials with the second year students. As of now, we are searching for a replacement, which is quite obviously a delight and a relief.

Things seem to be on the upswing. If UNCG can continue to support the MFA program, our budget for recruiting may once again flourish. I'm hoping for the sake of new applicants that the financial troubles schools face don't result in hiking up application fees. (I think I read somewhere that Columbia's fee is $100+?!) I do want to say that I don't feel like I've been missing out on anything so far. I was worried that lack of teachers and lack of money would result in a dull semester, but it has been anything but.

So, what about you? Have your programs been faced with tough decisions or sacrifices because of loss of funding? Are you turning to fund-raising to help support the "extra-curricular" activities of your programs?


  1. I was just thinking about that. Due to the cuts in funding we (at UVA) go without readings. We are lucky to still have a visiting writer (Tony Hoagland) coming this semester.

  2. I will totally go fan girl on you and say, ZOMG, Tracy Kidder!

    (Funding is terrible.)


  3. as an undergrad alum for UNCG, hopefully more of us can jump in and support some of the readings. i need to connect with some of my peeps!

    you guys do have some good alumni readings coming up :) i have to promote rhett trull and her reading on 10-29. I'm hoping to make it there for that.

  4. OSU's MFA program has, thus far, not been too heavily affected much by the economic downturn. We've lost money for some ancillary graduate administrative appointments, but we still have our literary journal (though that is probably the one thing that is in some danger), teaching appointments, readings, and other wonderful perks.

  5. Oh, J.T., since he's visiting you have to read Hoagland's essay "On the Fear of Narrative - The Skittery Poem of Our Moment." It really helped my thinking about linear vs. non-linear narratives.

    Whitney -- thanks for sharing and I hope the situation at UNCG continues to improve. I was one of the shortlisted ones there, and they were very nice to me over the phone throughout the process but were upfront about their funding woes. I'm glad you made it, though, and I'm happy where I ended up though I love the Carolinas and would like to spend a spell near the coast there.

  6. P.S. To my knowledge, so far the Program at UO hasn't been affected by the economy. We have a lot of support from the University Administration and some endowments that protect fellowships. They're hiring another poet this Winter. I'm sure there's been some strain, but luckily it hasn't hurt the program.

  7. Thanks for the Hoagland referral, Monica! I forwarded a link to the rest of my class. In case anyone else is interested.

  8. I've heard talk of money troubles, but I can't say anything for sure about the MFA program at Penn State. I do know that the incoming class of MA students is much smaller this year than previously. The program is committed to fully funding everyone, so with a smaller budget, that translated to fewer new students. The MFA contingent is small anyway, so no MFA spots were cut. I'm grateful that they make funding a priority!

    And, I think Tony Hoagland's essays are brilliant! He has a great essay on satire which I forget the title of at the moment. I'll have to check out the link from Monica too.

  9. Jessie--I met Rhett at the annual BBQ earlier this summer, and I have to say, she is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Ever. I can't wait to hear her reading!


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