Graduate Studies will return to Western State College this summer

Low residency programs

Graduate students will return to Western State College of Colorado (WSC) this summer for the first time since the late ’80s. Starting in July, studies will begin for the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in creative writing, and in August for the Master of Arts in education. Applications are now being accepted through the WSC Office of Graduate Programs.



The creative writing MFA is a low-residency program. Students will be on campus for a two-week session in late July, and then complete most of their coursework through on-line studies with close one-on-one interaction with their faculty mentor-writers. The program will take a little more than two years to complete, including three summer sessions.
College administrator and faculty opted for the low-residency program to best accommodate students’ needs.
“The low-residency approach is proving to be the most effective for writers pursuing their MFA,” said Mark Todd, creative writing MFA program director. “Writing is a solitary craft, and our program will allow students to live wherever they would like while they pursue their degree.”
This program also was designed to fill unique niches, setting the curriculum apart from other MFA programs in the country.
“Our program will focus on writing that is being made for mainstream audiences,” Todd said. “Most MFA programs focus on literary academic audiences.”
The program will offer three concentrations: mainstream/genre fiction, poetry with an emphasis in formal verse, and screenwriting.
Each concentration will have highly qualified professors and advisors who have terminal degrees in their field, a passion for teaching, and a history of being published.
“Additionally, advisors will be writers who have agents and understand the business of becoming published,” Todd said. “This is important because the business side is an essential part of becoming a successful writer.”
Todd added that he expects that there will be a diverse range of students enrolled in the program.
“I think we will have everyone from those who have just obtained their bachelor’s degrees to Baby Boomers who have that novel that they finally want to write,” he said.
The summer sessions will be scheduled in conjunction with the popular Writing the Rockies creative writer’s conference at Wes The Master of Arts in education also will be a two-year, low-residency program. A week-long, intensive summer session will take place on campus in August, with the remainder of the work done on-line with close interaction with faculty, mentors and regional coordinators.
“Our students will be those who are already working in K-12 school districts and are looking to advance through furthering their education,” said Terri Wenzlaff, associate vice president for graduate studies.
There will be three tracks in the program: teacher leadership, reading leadership, and educational administrator leadership.
“We chose these tracks because the field of education needs effective leaders,” Wenzlaff said. “Success as a K-12 teacher depends on that.”
Another philosophy of the masters in education program is to enable teachers to still teach in their schools while earning the degree.
“The use of on-line education enables us to have teachers exactly where they need to be as they earn their degree—in schools teaching,” said Nella Bea Anderson, director of the Master of Arts in Education program.
Another unique aspect of the program is that a teacher licensure is offered in conjunction with the degree. If the candidate does not already have a license, he or she can obtain one at the conclusion of the first year. Teachers who already hold a license have the option of adding an endorsement during the first year of the program. If candidates continue a second year they can earn a Master of Arts education degree.
Both programs mark a new era in graduate studies at Western. The college began awarding master’s degrees in 1923, but the program was discontinued per state legislation in 1989. A bill signed by Gov. Bill Ritter in March 2007 granted Western authority to again offer graduate degree programs. Rep. Kathleen Curry originally drafted the bill and Sen. Gail Schwartz carried the bill in the Senate. A lengthy curriculum approval and accreditation process followed the initial signing of the bill.
Interested students should inquire through the Office of Graduate Programs at (970) 943- 2885 or (970) 943-2135. Additional information is available at

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