Newswise — MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - Cornell College will kick off its first graduate degree program in nearly 100 years during the summer of 2020.

Since 1936 the college has focused solely on undergraduate programming, but soon the college will expand its offerings with a low-residency master’s in fine arts (M.F.A.) in creative writing program

“As part of the college’s long-term strategic plan, we looked at how to advance and grow the college in new markets,” said Dean of the College Joe Dieker. “We think a graduate program will create new interest in the college and will enhance our enrollment, reputation, and visibility in the country.”

The program is designed for writers who want to continue to work while earning their master’s. Participants will come to campus five times throughout the two-year journey to work with nationally recognized professional writers and Cornell faculty. The first four visits, or residencies, will last nine days and will include workshops, panel discussions, lectures, and one-on-one time with faculty. The fifth residency will include a final presentation of their work to the Cornell community.

Residency Dates:

  •  July 1–9, 2020
  • Dec. 30, 2020–Jan. 7, 2021
  • July 1–9, 2021
  • Dec. 30, 2021–Jan. 7, 2022
  • July 1–9, 2022

“A low-residency program is an educational model that builds on our reputation for individualized education and attention,” said Cornell College Professor of English and Creative Writing, Glenn Freeman, who is also the new program’s director. “The most successful students will be writers who are committed to their art, are self-motivated, and are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zones.”

After each residency, the writers return home where they’ll continue their studies with faculty support from afar. Throughout the program, they’ll create and submit packets of creative and critical work on a monthly basis and will complete an applied studies project that could include an internship. In the end, students will focus on revising all of their work into a book-length manuscript of publishable quality.

A Cornell research committee spent two years considering several different areas of graduate study before settling on the M.F.A. in creative writing. The committee decided a low-residency M.F.A. program was a good fit for Cornell’s strength in creative writing, especially because of the college’s Center for the Literary Arts and rich literary history. 

“Regionally, there are no other low-residency programs,” Dieker said. “We completed a market study that ensured there’s a desire for this type of program in Iowa.”

A Cornell faculty member and several visiting core faculty members will lead the classes. Core faculty members include nationally recognized writers such as Curtis Bauer (“American Selfie”), Shena McAuliffe (“The Good Echo”), Kisha Schlegel (“Fear Icons”), and Lily Hoang (“A Bestiary”). Guest artists joining Cornell for the first year of the program also include Thisbe Nissen (“Our Lady of the Prairie”) and Jay Baron Nicorvo (“The Standard Grand”).

The launch of the M.F.A. program is supported through generous donations made by Michael Conklin ՚69, a former Chicago Tribune writer, and his wife Honorary Alumna Diane Conklin; Margaret “Peg” Sellen Dana ՚73, retired AVP of Operations at ACT in Iowa City and the widow of Professor Emeritus of English Robert P. Dana, a two-term poet laureate of Iowa; and Mary Geisinger Nakayama ՚65, a writer of children’s literature. 

Students can request more information online at The program will accept applications on a rolling basis for admission in either the fall or spring residency of each year.