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University Launching Undergraduate Creative Writing Program 

By Edwin Smith 

University of Mississippi

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

For almost 20 years, the University of Mississippi has had one of the nation’s premier MFA programs in creative writing. This fall, the university is launching a companion bachelor’s degree program – the first of its kind in the SEC. 

This new program will complement the College of Liberal Arts’ creative and fine arts programs in theater, film, art and music. Students will learn to write in multiple genres: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, screenwriting and more. 

Dustin Parsons, senior lecturer in the Department of English, has been named the first director of the program. He will be joined by new faculty members Sheila Sundar and Michael X. Wang, as well as Jake Skeets, a Diné (Navajo) poet who will be the visiting Grisham Writer-in-Residence for the year.  

“We have many students who are eager to learn about the craft and profession of creative writing,” said Caroline Wigginton, chair and professor of English. “These students in the program intend to become professional authors – such as novelists and poets – or to work in the editing and publishing industry. 

“In addition to these more traditional writing professions, our students will be well-prepared for other careers in the creative fields, including video game design, film and television development, marketing, long-form journalism, web content creation, and travel, food, and nature writing, to name just a few fields.” 

Parsons holds a MFA from Bowling Green State University and is the author of “Exploded View: Essays on Fatherhood, with Diagrams” (University of Georgia Press, 2018). He teaches in many genres but specializes in creative nonfiction, graphic writing and fiction, and digital editing and publishing. 

“My short-term goals for the BFA in creative writing involve enriching the artistic experience on our campus,” Parsons said. “The program will enrich the life of this campus, bringing successful, published visiting writers, developing our undergraduate magazine, and supporting student readings and publication.  

“It will also intensify the offerings we have in writing at the undergraduate level.” 

Parson’s long-term goals include training students to read like writers, making them better at a fading skill –– reading comprehension. 

“We hope to graduate confident communicators who succeed in a variety of professions,” he said. “The idea of thinking ‘creatively’ really is a sought-after skill these days, and competent writers of content for all different disciplines will have little trouble on the job market when they graduate.” 

The curriculum is writing- and workshop-intensive, offering students many opportunities to develop their writing in community with other BFA students, Wigginton said. 

“Every year of the program features cohort classes in such subjects as introduction to creative writing; introduction to form, craft and influence; and introduction to digital editing and publishing,” she said.  

“Students also take creative writing courses in an array of genres. They learn about a variety of literatures so they can build a portfolio of literary influences and hone their style. They pursue electives in other theories, histories and practices of artistic expression.” 

The program concludes with a yearlong, thesis-style course sequence that includes developing a major creative writing project, workshopping with fellow senior BFA students and learning how to find an agent, publish and give public readings.  

“The BFA program in creative writing in the Department of English will provide a select group of students with an incredible opportunity that few other universities offer,” said Lee Cohen, Liberal Arts College dean. “It also further establishes the University of Mississippi as the creative educational hub in the state and region.” 

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