Vermont College of Fine Arts
, known for its low-residency MFA programs, has just added to its offerings a full-time graduate program in writing. In a somewhat unusual move, the program was acquired from another university: The University of Southern California’s former Master of Professional Writing
program will henceforth be known as VCFA’s School of Writing and Publishing. Students will begin taking classes in September.
VCFA did not lay out any money to acquire the program but rather, said VCFA president Thomas Greene, “reached an agreement to relocate the program here, to Montpelier.” According to Greene, USC had decided to move its graduate programs “in a different direction”; as soon as he learned about that, Greene contacted the university about moving the program to VCFA.
Asked why his school chose this particular program for its first venture into residential graduate programs, Greene offered two reasons. The first, he said, is that VCFA “is nationally known for writing more than for anything else.” The second was the opportunity to bring a well-regarded program to Montpelier. “That was something that, when it came to my attention, I moved pretty quickly on,” he said.
Graduate students admitted to the program will be instructed not only in the art and craft of writing but in the economic realities of the creative marketplace — no easy place to stake out one’s livelihood these days. The program has resided at USC since 1971 and has welcomed writers of all types: fiction, nonfiction, screenwriters, theater and other media forms.
The new program represents the first time that full-time graduate students will reside on the VCFA campus. Incoming students will have the option to live in dorms on campus, or to reside off-campus in the Montpelier area.
Greene anticipates admitting about 25 students to the program in the first year, and hopes that the program will eventually grow to “about 200” students. When VCFA was founded five years ago, it had 232 students; now, across its several low-residency programs, it has 370.
Heading up the new program will be Trinie Dalton, who is currently on the faculty of both VCFA and USC. Also joining the faculty, according to Greene, will be authors M.G. Lord, author of The Accidental Feminist
, and Janet Fitch, whose novel White Oleander
was a best-seller in the early 2000s.
The acquisition of the USC program is an ambitious move for an ambitious college. Greene was blunt about it: “I think we are conducting, right now, one of the most interesting and grand education experiments happening in the country. … VCFA right now is having a greater impact on arts and letters in this country than any other institution since the heyday of Black Mountain College, over a hundred years ago.”
The creation of the School of Writing and Publishing, he said, “is just another piece of that puzzle.”