Interview With University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Let’s start by talking about the culture at your program. What’s the location like? What are some local hangouts for writers?

Knoxville is a great place to live and work. The city is sized so one can be either downtown or in the middle of mountain nowhere in ten or fifteen minutes time regardless of where one lives. The University of Tennessee’s campus is lively and surrounded by many great coffee houses and restaurants, but most of the writers are hanging out not so much at any given place for the place itself, rather the places here are meeting points for writers to meet and informally workshop or discuss new ideas for our literary journal Grist: The Journal for Writers. I would also add that during the academic year the library is a real hangout for writers because we have such a vibrant and dynamic reading series. Our faculty does a wonderful job bringing excellent writers of an excellent variety to campus.

Tell us about your experience in class. What’s the focus of your workshops? What parts of your writing have you put the most focus on?

The focus of our workshops are, on the one hand, to help us improve our own writing and critical skills, but our faculty also do an excellent job of helping us learn to be great citizens of the literary world. By exposing us to different workshop models while asking we complete worthwhile and fulfilling assignments, the UT Creative Writing faculty members are always preparing us to be both great teachers as well as great writers.

Workshops aside, though, learning to write and teach writing is also about learning to read and talk about reading. We read constantly in workshop and flex our critical muscles in both classroom discussion and seminar papers. The University of Tennessee’s English department is, as a whole, support of the creative writer in the academic world. Professors in British literature, American literature, theory and the like are exceptionally welcoming of the “creative” in the “critical” classroom. The Tennessee faculty members have crafted a program where creative writers are also active literary critics. As I said earlier, one of my favorite aspects of this program is the commitment to preparing better citizens of the literary world and this comes from everyone in the department. There isn’t a divide here between the graduate students in English at the University of Tennessee because there isn’t a divide between the faculty. We are all here to study literature and writing and to learn from each other. An egalitarian paradise, you might ask? I’ve found it so.

What sort of funding opportunities are available? What are you teaching? How easy is it to balance your teaching and writing?
Our funding is excellent whether it be for conference travel, summer program expenses, job interviews, etc. We are extremely well supported.

As graduate students, we have the excellent opportunity to teach in an award winning composition department in our first three years. We are also afforded the opportunity to teach upper level courses such as introductory writing workshops and literature classes once we have completed our field and comprehensive examinations

What’s been your best memory of working with faculty?

I haven’t had a less than excellent experience with any faculty member at the University of Tennessee. I have been met with enriching guidance both academically and professionally. Our faculty has created a program allowing graduate students to productively push one another to be our best, while also participating in a sincerely support environment.

What’s your next step? What sort of steps does your program take to prepare you for your post-graduate experience?

Our M.A. students consistently place in Ph.D. programs and our Ph.D. candidates have a strong record of job placement both in and outside of the academy.

What tips would you give a prospective student who is considering attending your program?

Apply to the English Graduate Program at the University of Tennessee.