Hall Chat: Admitted Students Tour of Chicago & Q + Session

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This week I had the opportunity to meet with some of our newly admitted students, and I was so pleased to have met all of them (or you, if you’re reading)! The Graduate Admission Offices arranged for admitted students to meet with faculty members and their potential peers. For those of you who missed it, here’s the play-by-play of some of the FAQs that came up and some other valuable insider information.

The day began with a brief tour of Chicago’s South Loop, where Columbia College Chicago’s campus is located. Myself and fellow MFA candidate, Micah McCrary, thought that it would be wise to show admitted students all of the places to eat near campus and where the train stops and libraries are– you know, the very basic need-to-know stuff. For those of you who couldn’t make it, the dining options in the South Loop aren’t extremely plentiful, but here are a few of my faves that are close by: Panera, Thai Spoon, Chicago Carry-Out (offers a student discount!), Cafecito, Dunkin Donuts (on the corner, just south of where Nonfiction classes meet!) and Flacos Tacos (though we did not make it to this location on foot.) These are the places that I think are the least expensive, closest and offer a decent amount of variety while you’re on campus and need a bite to eat between classes. Also the Red line stops closest to the school are the Harrison and Jackson Stops, and the closest Blue line stops are the Jackson and LaSalle stops. There is also a nearby Brown Line stop at the Harold Washington Library.

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We also toured the 33 East Congress building, which is where all of our classes our held, as well as the 623 South Wabash building (where the Hokin Reading Hall is located and which has a nice cafe to study in and a Chase ATM), 624 South Michigan, which houses the library, and 618 South Michigan, which houses the Learning Studio and a nice second floor study space. As mentioned on our tour, The Learning Studio is Columbia College’s tutoring center, which offers tutoring to undergraduates and graduates in the areas of Science, Math and Writing. The Learning Studio hires Graduate students from the Poetry and Nonfiction programs to tutor in the Writing Center. Job postings are available after you have been given an Oasis ID number (which you will receive at orientation) and can be found on the ColumbiaWorks website usually during the first few months before the Fall semester. The job is an excellent resume booster and also allows you to see undergraduate student writing and work with student writers before you begin teaching your second semester.

Next up on the tour was a Q&A session with Graduate Admissions Director, Cate Lagueux, where we went over the cost of attendance: credit hour costs, transportation, rent, extracurricular activities, supplies and books. Good news! This information is not lost if you didn’t attend the session. You can find the cost of attendance page on the Student Financial Services website and you can check out the costs of rent in different areas by visiting the Apartment People and Padmapper websites (as mentioned in a previous post).

Students got to sit in on Jenny Boully’s Form & Theory workshop (and feel free to comment on this, as to how that went, if you attended and are reading along). I took Jenny’s Form & Theory class last Fall and it was one of my favorite classes. Jenny designs writing prompts that push you to write outside of your natural writing style. For instance, one prompt that I wrote from asked me to, “Write about a roadtrip. Include a photograph. Mention a tourist attraction and the price of something. Write this in one sentence paragraphs. Include a road sign and your deepest wish.”

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After the visit to Jenny’s class students were able to meet with Jenny to discuss various aspects of the program. Some FAQs from the Q&A that were addressed and I think are helpful to know, in case you are still weighing your decision or wondering were:

Q: Can you attend the program part-time?

A: Yes. Although, most students do attend full-time, you do have that option.

Q: What kinds of work do students typically produce or work on for their thesis?

A: As the program is only in its third year, this next fall is the first time that students will actually be working on their thesis, however, the style of work ranges from memoir to book-length personal essays to hybrid prose/poetry collections to collections of essays, and even some forms of literary criticism blended with essay.

Q: What kinds of jobs are available for a person with an MFA degree? How does Columbia College’s Nonfiction program prepare students for life in the professional world?

A: The MFA degree is a terminal degree, higher than an MA and in some fields equivalent to that of a PhD. Some jobs that people with MFAs in Nonfiction are qualified for are: teaching at the college-level (community colleges and some universities), technical writing, blog writing, freelance writing, small and large press editing, marketing and communications positions and content management and editing for websites. At Columbia, you gain teaching experience through the Graduate Instructor Program and you also have the opportunity to gain editing experience by working on either Hotel Amerika or The South Loop Review (journals both housed in the English Department). Columbia also offers several professional development opportunities, from resume and portfolio development (through the Portfolio Center) to pedagogy and educational instruction workshops (through the Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence.

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After the Q&A admitted students had the opportunity to eat pizza with myself and a few other students in the program: Dauren Velez, Matt Cwiklinski, Wes Jamison and MIcah. We shared some of our favorite classes (Graduate Literature Seminar: Postcolonial Literature, Form & Theory: Translation, Jenny’s Form & Theory class and Graduate Literature Seminar: Marginalia: Otherness in Verse) and also the reasons why we chose to come to Columbia, which across the board were the Faculty Members, the opportunity to teach and the opportunity to live in the city of Chicago.

The day ended with a very humorous and engaging reading from Robin Hemley at Hokin Hall. Hemley read who as a part of the Nonfiction Program’s reading series, a series which has invited numerous contemporary writers to read for us, including, John D’Agata, Lia Purpura, Maggie Nelson, David Shields and Sharifa Rhodes-PItt, amongst others.

I had a lovely time meeting all of the admitted students and hope that if you weren’t able to make it to the admitted students day that you will find this information valuable and wish you the very best of luck as you make your decision!