“Rigorous & Distinctive”: AWP Assesses Us

In 2009, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), the national professional organization in the realm of creative writing, undertook a comprehensive assessment of our MFA program.

Representatives of AWP attended a portion of our March, 2009 residency on Whidbey Island and conducted extensive interviews with faculty, staff, and students, as well as observing workshops, lectures, readings, and more.

They completed their report in the summer. The material below has been excerpted from that report.


“This committee concluded that the MFA Program at Seattle Pacific University has an excellent core faculty and talented administrative leadership. The students at SPU are well-served by the rigorous curriculum and the program’s distinctive mission. The program’s emphasis on spirituality gives it a unique position among AWP’s 500 member programs. This emphasis offers great opportunities for the program to attract and retain gifted faculty and students.”

The Faculty

“The core faculty of the program…are accomplished writers and experienced teachers who are exceptionally well qualified to teach in the program.”

“In our observation of workshops and lectures…professors were well-prepared, thoughtful, and efficient in the execution of their classroom duties. Students did not register a single complaint, and many noted that one or more of their mentors had gone above and beyond their duties, and on more than one occasion. This is the highest compliment the faculty could receive.”

The Curriculum

“The curriculum at SPU’s MFA in Creative Writing meets and surpasses AWP’s hallmarks for rigor and intellectual engagement.”

In regards to “extensive literary study…SPU’s program surpasses many in both its philosophy and the structure of its curriculum…. We would hazard to say that not one of AWP’s other 500 creative writing programs had assigned the works of Erasmus to all their students this past semester. As one student said proudly, ‘This program is many things; it’s a classics program too.'”

The Faith Component

“SPU has founded the first MFA in Creative Writing that meets this (spiritual) need, and as a result, it is likely to enjoy national preeminence within this context for many years to come.”

“The program’s emphasis on spirituality was cited repeatedly during student and faculty interviews as one of the motivating factors for their presence at SPU.”

“A writer of faith is often the oddball of his or her seminar, and it is not unusual for his/her subject matter, allusions, or cultural references to be met with misunderstanding or indifference from both faculty and fellow students, even those whose teachers and students are trying their best to see beyond their own cultural horizons…an excellent full-fledged MFA program that excels in providing for this artistic community was long overdue.”

The Students

“The atmosphere among the students was collegial and warm.  Clearly, the students felt a strong bond with their mentors and the program.  We have never visited a program where all the students were so unfailingly polite… It was clear- and heartwarming- that the students wanted the visiting committee to have a favorable impression of the program and its faculty.

“Students felt a strong allegiance to the program’s mission.”

“The program has the promise that its graduate writers will go on to publish significant work… We expect that the program’s alumni will go on to publish widely.”