Some Thoughts on the Ph.D. and M.F.A. Debate

I had the opportunity to write about my experience getting a Ph.D. after an M.F.A. The article was published in The Write Life, a publication that is part of Wilkes University’s M.F.A. program. More and more, I have friends with an M.F.A. pondering whether or not they should get a Ph.D. in order to get out of adjunct limbo. My article goes into the pros and cons, including the tough job market for the Humanities. That said, getting my Ph.D. at Binghamton University was one of the most rewarding, enriching experiences of my life. It challenged me intellectually and allowed me to befriend other writers and academics that will probably be life-long friends and colleagues. With that said, there are serious considerations for anyone thinking about a Ph.D., including the job market. There are so few tenure-track positions, and openings attract hundreds of applicants. I feel fortunate for the job I have, but I always adjuncted at the institution prior to landing the job. I had other teaching experience, too.  For anyone considering a Ph.D., I want to stress the importance of getting work experience, including as a teaching assistant. I don’t advise anyone to take out debt to complete the degree because finishing it doesn’t necessarily mean a tenure-track job afterwards.

June Events/Readings

June has been a busy month for me in terms of readings and literary events. This month is also important because Wilkes University is celebrating its 10-year anniversary of the M.A./M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. I can’t say enough positive things about that program and the community it fosters among writers from across the country. Because of the program, there are reading series happening in various pockets of the country, started by current students and alumni of the program. Next week, alumni will return to campus to read.  The readings are free and open to the public. I’m sharing the schedule below, as well as an event happening tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 17 7:30 p.m. Wild Mischief: A Reading Series & Literary Gathering, Washington Square Park, Philadelphia

I’ll be reading with Carrie Reilly, Kate Budris, Die Dragonetti, and Dawn Leas. Admission is free, and there will be a short open mic after.

As promised, here is the list of the readings happening on Wilkes University’s campus all next week.


7:30-9:30: Opening reading, Maslow Salon Reading Series, Theater, Dorothy Dickson Darte Center

Special opening night—faculty w/new books and opening celebration of program alums:

(poetry, fiction, nonfiction)

Lori A. May, Cecilia Galante, Gregory Fletcher, Kevin Oderman, Dawn Leas, Lauren Stahl, Bill Landauer, Stanton Hancock, Phil Brady


7:00-9:00: Maslow Foundation Salon Reading Series at Dorothy Dickson Darte Center

(poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction)

Donna Talarico-Beerman, Chris Bullard, Monique Lewis, Jim Scheers, Jen Bokal, Tara Caimi, Barbara Taylor, Nisha Sharma, Laura Moran


7:00-9:00: Maslow Foundation Evening Reading Series, Dorothy Dickson Darte Center/bookfair:

Celebration of alums (film night):

Jonathan Rocks, Christina Aponte-Smith (Phoenix Ash), Kevin Conner, Autumn Stapleton-Laskey, Shawn Hatten, Heather Davis, L. Elizabeth Powers


7:00-9:00 Maslow Foundation Salon Reading series, Dorothy Dickson Darte Center/bookfair:

 Celebration of alums (poetry, fiction, and nonfiction):

 Lori Myers, James Craig, Amye Archer, Ginger Marcinkowski, Gale Martin, John Koloski, Laurie Loewenstein, Brian Fanelli, Sandee Gertz


7:00-9:00 Maslow Foundation Salon Reading Series, Dorothy Dickson Darte Center/bookfair

Celebration of alums (playwrights night):

Matthew Hinton, Dania Ramos, Rachel Strayer, Adrienne Pender, Dane Rooney, Kait Burrier, Cindy Dlugolecki


7:00-9:00: Maslow Foundation Salon Reading Series, Dorothy Dickson Darte Center

(poetry, fiction, and nonfiction)

Celebration of alums and special thanks to Kaylie Jones:

 Jim Warner, Joshua Penzone, Salena Vertalomo-Fehnel, Heather Harlen, Richard Fellinger, Taylor Polites, Morowa Yejide, Kaylie Jones



MFA/PhD Debate

My friend and fellow writer Rachel Strayer recently posted an interesting blog entry regarding getting an M.F.A. in creative writing as opposed to a PhD, especially if you want to teach in academia full-time. I recommend reading her post, which she wrote in a response to a blog post by Michael Nye, an editor of the Missouri Review. Check out his post, too.

Nye makes a great point that there are A LOT of M.F.A. graduates seeking full-time teaching work, and maybe a PhD makes a candidate more attractive to a school looking to hire.  There are also so many growing M.F.A. programs out there, but limited teaching  jobs. Rachel points out some of the positives of an M.F.A. It’s a terminal degree, and it puts writers in touch with a larger writing community.

  I enjoyed both posts. Personally, I’m glad  I got an M.F.A. Since graduating with one, I’ve published in journals, released  a chapbook, read all over the tri-state area, and taught poetry/creative writing classes. The M.F.A made this possible because the program expanded my knowledge of poetic movements and gave me time to hone my skills. I’m a far better reader/writer now than before I finished the program.

An M.F.A. could lead to full-time employment in academia, but other factors also  lead to that, including a school’s budget and faculty retirements, as well as writer’s publishing credits.  Furthermore, having an M.F.A. doesn’t mean one needs to be a tenure-track professor. There are also jobs in journalism, publishing, tech writing, etc.  And sometimes, the class load and committee work of full-time professors leaves less time to write.

If the circumstances are right, an M.F.A. can lead to teaching, but other factors must be considered, and other job opportunities exist, too.