MFA Diversity and Inclusion

We are committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity in the MFA Creative Writing program.

Fostering Diverse Voices

The Creative Writing faculty members and staff believe a respect for policies and practices that foster diverse voices and viewpoints, and that protect all members of our community against discrimination and maintain appropriate professional boundaries, is integral to the success of our students and our program. To that end, our program is committed to proactively fostering diversity and inclusion throughout its curriculum, admissions, hiring, and day-to-day practices.

The Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity

Consisting of members of the faculty as well as student representatives, the committee was formed to help us support these goals.

The Statement on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

From time to time, our program produces a Statement on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity to reaffirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The Conversation

The Conversation is a chance for us to share important ideas on diversity, inclusion, and equity with our passionate literary peers. Each segment takes up a different theme and is organized by an MFA student, or group of MFA students, in tandem with an MFA faculty member. It is intended to inspire us in our professional work as committed artists, teachers, and community members. The Conversation will be an investigation and celebration of our vital and evolving ideals as a creative writing program. It will be an egalitarian conversation among ardent practitioners in a diverse field.

Many Voices

Many Voices provides social and professional support to graduate students of color in the University of Arizona’s creative writing MFA program. Our goals include: increasing professional development and networking opportunities for students of color; promoting community-building; advocating for a more diverse creative writing MFA program; disseminating information to UA writers of color pertaining to academic, financial, and social needs and supports, networking opportunities, literary events, and professional opportunities; serving as a liaison between faculty, staff, student organizations, and the community at large; increasing opportunities to study literary works by writers of color; and fostering the creative development of writers of color at the UA.

Here to listen

If anyone feels discriminated against, our Program Director is always available to talk about any concerns you may have or to answer any questions. You can also contact the Creative Writing Faculty Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (Kate Bernheimer, Susan Briante, Manuel Muñoz, Aurelie Sheehan). If you feel that you’ve witnessed or experienced discriminatory conduct, all of us are good points of contact for your concerns. You may also report your concerns to the Office of Institutional Equity. The University’s policy strictly prohibits retaliation against an individual for reporting perceived discrimination or participating in a resulting investigation. Don’t be silent!

Past and Upcoming Conversations

The Conversation on Syllabus Diversity

Organized by Danielle Geller, MFA candidate in Nonfiction, and Julie Iromuanya, Assistant Professor of English, they asked us to read David Mura’s essay “Ferguson, Whiteness as Default, and the Teaching of Creative Writing” in advance of the event.

The Conversation on Gender Bias

MFA Candidate in Fiction Eshani Agrawal and Associate Professor of English Manuel Muñoz were our conversation guides. They asked us to read “Scent of a Woman’s Ink” by Francine Prose as a starting point.

The Conversation on Reading Contextually

Miranda Trimmier (MFA candidate in Nonfiction), Raquel Gutiérrez (MFA candidate in Poetry and Nonfiction) and Associate Professor of English Susan Briante will lead a talk about effective strategies we use--or could use--to foster productive classroom discussions about intercultural texts. How do we talk about creative work that engages with potentially polarizing issues (like race)? And how do we teach our students to become more critical readers and writers?

MFA Program Statement on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

“The concepts contained in words like ‘freedom,’ ‘justice,’ ‘democracy’ are not common concepts,” writes James Baldwin. “On the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.”

So, too, might we consider words like “equity,” “diversity,” and “inclusion.” In March 2016, University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart called for a Diversity Task Force, stressing an understanding that such a project could help “all of us build a campus environment that values diversity and inclusion as core tenets of what it means to be a Wildcat” (see the UA Diversity & Inclusion site for more information). This is an important step in anticipating campus-wide initiatives that advance our understanding of these concepts and their benefits to our campus. It is also an important call for us as creative writing faculty to consider what makes a better and stronger working environment for all.

As we welcome the new academic year, we ask what equity, diversity, and inclusion mean to the wide range of experiences and approaches that shape literary art. We recognize that the vitality and risk of art encourage us to produce differing and unique points of view. At the same time, we exist as an interconnected community that relies on discussion, debate, and appreciation to thrive. What is the writer’s role as an individual practitioner, and what is the writer’s role within the community? How do we intersect and what are the invisible currents that shape our lives? We believe that thinking about these questions is central to our program’s development as a place where writers assemble and grow.

Audre Lorde describes difference as “a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark.” As working artists, our MFA community understands how essential and significant this concept is to the literary art we practice and teach. As a faculty, we embody a commitment to difference and embody it in diverse ways. We recognize that the core tenets described in this statement are vital to our primary commitment: the respectful mentoring, advising, training, and supervising of early-career artists. Each of us is in a unique position to consider carefully how the integrity of those interactions affects not only an individual’s artistic production, but also the spirit of openness and community that we support.

Signed, the University of Arizona Faculty in Creative Writing:

Kate Bernheimer, Susan Briante, Chris Cokinos, Alison Deming, Julie Iromuanya, Fenton Johnson, Farid Matuk, Ander Monson, Manuel Muñoz, Aurelie Sheehan, and Joshua Marie Wilkinson

August 2016