The MFA Thesis work is among the most important work that a student will undertake during their time in the MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics. This work is directed and encouraged by a Thesis Advisor, a Second Reader, and a Salon Culture. In the second year of the program, all MFA students are encouraged to participate in a Salon Culture, during late fall, throughout the winter, and early spring quarters, both as a writer and as a listener / commentator. Students may present their work up to two different times.
Students need to be active and deliberate in developing their work, beginning once their first year work of core courses is completed. In order to complete a thesis that represents the best work of which you are capable, students are encouraged to be mindful in their interactions; to seek out, evaluate and incorporate useful critiques; and to attend to thesis timelines and institutional expectations.
The thesis advisor serves as a student’s primary advisor during their second year of study and chairs the student’s thesis committee. In this role, the thesis advisor supervises 15 credits of independent thesis work (BCWRIT 700 Creative Writing) over three quarters of the second year.
Students will have an opportunity to prioritize their selection of thesis advisors and are encouraged to be aware of thesis advisors’ areas of expertise and also of thesis advisor working styles. At the outset of the relationship thesis advisor and student should clarify a basic timeline and set of expectations with respect to the initiation and completion of thesis work.
Overreaching thesis responsibilities on the part of the thesis advisor in the direction of the thesis should include:
- A set of recommended source texts as well as questions that the student should consult
- Advice on the focus on the thesis work, although the direction of the thesis remains with the student him or herself
- Timely commentary on a student’s work according to a mutually agreed on timetable set out at the beginning by the advisor and student. While this timetable may change over time, students can expect timely feedback only when they themselves keep to and / or deliberately modify the timetable through conversation with their advisor.
Second readers serve on the student’s thesis committee, and in this role, will be one of the two “signers” of your thesis when it is complete and ready for final review. Second Readers may have a more or less active involvement in development and direction of any one student’s thesis, as determined by the needs and desires of the student and the Thesis Advisor. Their primary institutional responsibility is to make sure that your thesis meets minimal MFA requirements with respect to its standard of quality.
One of the many ways for you to interact with your thesis advisor is through the Salon Culture, where you might learn of useful directions for your thesis that you may wish to incorporate into your thesis. If in fact, you find that your Second Reader or other faculty in the Salon seem to be giving you rather different advice than your thesis advisor, you are responsible for addressing these discrepancies either through resolving them at a higher level in your own work or discussing them with your Thesis Advisor. Keep in mind that the Thesis Advisor is your main advisor, and Second Readers are there to be helpful to you, as their own often busy working schedules permit. In some instances, your Second Reader will only become active in your thesis at the conclusion of your project.
The Second Reader is responsible for providing timely feedback to the student and Thesis Advisor at the time of thesis completion (May 15). The Second Reader will minimally provide you with the message that you should proceed to complete your thesis with the Thesis Advisor or may in fact note minimal changes that need to be met in your thesis before completion of your degree. Often, Second Readers provide a paragraph or two providing holistic feedback on the work and / or a set of larger set of questions for future development of the student’s work.
Students enter into and assume responsibility for working agreements with both their thesis advisors and their second readers.
Minimally, students need to take responsibility for:
- seeking out needed advising (see mentoring memos: link )
- committing to creative process and production
- timely submission of work to thesis advisor and reader, as agreed, or as dictated by program deadlines
When deadlines agreed-upon with advisors and readers are not met, students may receive only minimal feedback. Failure to meet program and Graduate School deadlines for filing and submitting work (link to Graduate School page on ETD) will delay graduation.
Salons are excellent opportunities for reading your work publicly and for informal commentary. Salons are not workshops—but rather a place where you can air your work and engage in conversations about the project you are undertaking. As part of your presentation, you should feel free to indicate what kind of feedback you are looking for, either at the beginning or at the conclusion of your reading. Salon Cultures will present you with a “real-life” opportunity to find out just how various commentaries and ideas regarding your work can be. It is your responsibility to evaluate this commentary. It is advised that in signing up for a Salon that you encourage both your Thesis Advisor and Second Reader to be in attendance. While this may not always be possible, if you are in doubt as to any critiques you may receive at a Salon always discuss these with your Thesis Advisor.