Creative Writing (MFACW)

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Creative Writing (MFACW) Overview

Chatham’s campus-based Creative Writing program grows from the legacy of Rachel Carson '29, a creative writer known for her social conscience. Our students understand that writing is ultimately a public act with the power to affect meaningful change. Their ideas, their convictions, their writing matters. We teach students to think deeply about their places, spaces and identities, to look within and around, and then connect to the world with care and intention.
Application Deadline

July 1

The application deadline is July 1st, but the priority deadline for funding is February 15. Applications will be accepted after the deadline if space is available in the program.

Credits Required


Chatham offers an MFA (36 credit hours) in Creative Writing and an MA (30 credit hours) in Creative Writing. The majority of our students who choose a full-time academic schedule are completing either program in under two years.

Funding Opportunities

Available Assistantships

A number of teaching assistantships are available to full-time, first-year students that help defray the cost of the tuition while also earning valuable experience.

National Recognition

Top-Rated Program

In 2007, the Atlantic Monthly named the program one of the top five innovative MFA programs in the U.S,. and in 2016 Publisher's Weekly named the program one of five distinctive MFA programs in the nation.

Explore the Creative Writing Degree:

The MFACW/MACW is a broad program of study designed to prepare students for careers as writers or positions requiring similar skills, such as editing, publishing, and content development for the web; to enable students to improve their writing through interaction with our faculty and other writing students; and to become experienced critics of literary works.


  • Have a completed baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university, with an overall undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale.
    If a Student has below a 3.0 GPA, please feel free to apply if you show extreme promise through other achievements. Additional Admissions documents may be requested.
  • Six credits of undergraduate courses in writing are recommended, but not required.

Completed application for admission by the posted deadline, including:

    • Online application
    • Admissions Essay (current prompt found in application portal)
    • Curriculum vitae or Resume
    • Two official letters of recommendation, preferably written by former writing teachers or professors who can speak to your writing
    • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
    • Creative writing sample in your primary genre ranging from 10-20 pages (maximum).  It can be one creative work or several pieces combined.

Integrated Degree Program

Chatham University undergraduates applying through the Integrated Degree Program (IDP) must complete all requirements outlined on their respective admission or track tab on the IDP Portal Site. All IDP applicants should work closely with their academic advisor to ensure they are meeting all requirements according to their IDP course of study.

International Applicants

International Applicants must submit additional documentation to the Office of Admissions. A list of these documents can be found on the International Admission web page.

Chatham offers an MFA (36 credit hours) in Creative Writing.    

Additionally, Chatham offers an MA (30 credit hours) in Creative Writing. This program is distinct from the MFA in Creative Writing in that no thesis is required; therefore removing ENG698 and the genre-specific thesis seminar course. 

ENG523: The Craft of Creative Writing: Multiple Genres

This course may substitute for any other craft course for students specializing in any genre. Students will be introduced to the craft of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and will also be introduced to the workshop method and given instruction on sending out work for publication.

ENG568: Practicum: Fourth River

This course is a practicum in which graduate students publish the print edition of Chatham's national literary journal, The Fourth River. All phases of the publishing process are addressed, with a special emphasis on editorial acquisitions and copy-editing.

ENG584: The Environmental Imagination

This is a multi-genre course that focuses on the art and craft of nature and environmental writing. Students will read and study contemporary nature and environmental writing, and will be expected to generate creative work that illustrates a deep understanding of the literary tools available to writers in this genre.

View Full MFA Curriculum

View Full MA Curriculum

Photo of a garden courtyard, with a green plant growing to make a pattern over the stone. In the distance there are red brick buildings.

The Fourth River

The Fourth River is a journal of nature- and place-based writing published by the Chatham MFA program. The journal takes its name from a subterranean river beneath Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city famously sited at the confluence of three rivers: Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio. The Fourth River literary journal grew up from the idea that between and beneath the visible framework of the human world and the built environment, there exist deeper currents of force and meaning supporting the very structure of that world.

Explore The Fourth River : Checkerboard 3 - The Fourth River
Black and white photo of Rachel Carson sitting behind a desk full of books with pen in hand.

Nature and Environment

Rachel Carson ’29 is Chatham's most distinguished alumna. In her honor, students may choose from a variety of literature courses focusing on the natural world, including Ecofeminism, Wildness and Literature, Nature and Culture, and Writing about Food, as well as a course in Environmental Imagination. The Fourth River, our national literary journal, focuses on nature and place-based writing.

Learn About Rachel Carson : Checkerboard 4 - Nature and Environment
Photo of a young hijabi student working at her laptop in Cafe Rachel


Students interested in publishing can take The Fourth River practicum, where they have the opportunity to work as an assistant editor for our national literary journal, or our Independent Literary Publishing course, where students create and run their own literary press. There are also many opportunities for publishing internships in the Pittsburgh area, with a number of our students earning internships for Autumn House PressCreative Nonfiction, and Pittsburgh Quarterly.

Decorative image reading Faculty Listing

Program Faculty

Chatham's Creative Writing (MFACW) faculty members are accomplished teachers, scholars, practitioners, and active leaders in the field. They serve as mentors and advisors and are there for you every step of the way.

Meet the Faculty : Checkerboard 6 - Program Faculty
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Annual Reading Series

Our MFA program offers the opportunity to meet and learn from established authors of all genres. The Melanie Brown Lecturer Series is presented each year through the generosity of The Melanie and Fred R. Brown Endowed Fund, and the selection of each year's Lecturer is guided by the desire to highlight fiction writers with a strong sense of place in her or his writing. Similarly, our annual Dialogues Reading Series invites authors of international renown to visit our campus and host readings and lectures on craft.

  • Past lecturers have included: Cristina Garcia, Shaka Senghor, Renée Watson, Kaveh Akbar, Jaquira Diaz, Martha Southgate, Safia Elhillo, M. Evelina Galang, Margot Livesey, Amy Bloom, Karen Bender, Sam Chang, Stewart O’Nan, Alix Ohlin, Wiley Cash, Brad Kessler, Ann Pancake, Michael Byers, and Debra Marquart.

Chatham University students sit in lounge area at tables studying and working on laptops.

Tuition & Funding

The cost of a graduate degree consists of university tuition (per credit charge), fees, and any other personal expenses you may require for earning your degree. Chatham also offers a 20% corporate partner discount, graduate assistantships, and professional campus work positions for many graduate programs that can help make a Chatham graduate education more affordable. Our Financial Aid and Admissions offices will also work with you to understand loan and financing options available. 

Explore Tuition & Funding : Checkerboard 8 - Tuition & Funding

MFA in Creative Writing

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Holding Space on the Page

Summers at ChathamU usually mean one thing for the literary-minded among us: the MFA in Creative Writing program’s Summer Community of Writers.

Photo of Caitlyn Hunter, a young Black woman, seated between two library bookshelves with a pile of books in front of her. She is reading a book titled "Black Women Writers, 1950-1980"

‘Black is Not a Monolith’

Photo of a man closing his eyes and looking down mid-poetry performance, with a microphone in front of him
Play Video

Word Circus is a monthly reading series presented by the Chatham MFA Creative Writing Program in collaboration with Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery.

Photo of a young female student in a tie dye Chatham University shirt, wearing a mask and seated at a table in the quad on Shadyside Campus

Chatham’s MFA Program Gets Creative, Despite COVID

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MFA Student Launches Online Magazine

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Fiction is Still True: A Conversation with Brittany Hailer, MFACW ‘15

Brittany Hailer, MFACW ‘15, is an author and a journalist at Public Source and other outlets. Her new book Animal You’ll Surely Become is a genre-blending work of poetry and creative nonfiction that explores issues of addiction, sexual assault, and fractured families. Sarah Cadence Hamm, MFACW ’13, Associate Director, Brand and Content Strategy, an alumna herself, sat down with Hailer for a chat about journalism, authorship, and the Chatham community.

Photo of two students seated on Adirondack chairs outside on Shadyside Campus

Alumni Careers

Here is an overview of what some recent graduates have gone on to do, and some of the places where they’re doing it: Editor-in-Chief at Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, PA; Award-winning journalist for Public Source, Pittsburgh, PA; Acquisition Reader at Upstart Crow Literary Agency, Pittsburgh, PA; Writer and Community Specialist at ModCloth, Pittsburgh, PA; Information Specialist at USO, Frankfurt, Germany; Teaching Fellow at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA; Associate Professor at Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH; and Official Speech Writer for Tibetan President in Exile.

Do you have questions?

We make it easy to get in touch:

Call Us


Text Us

412-419-3772 (standard text/SMS rates will apply)

Email Us

Request Information

Complete our Request for Information form

Or, answer a few questions and we will be glad to help.

Expand to Get In Touch!