University of Mississippi

Why the University of Mississippi?

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OleMiss MFAs often get involved in community outreach and activism.  Here are some of our program poets taking part in 2012′s “100 Thousand Poets for Change,” getting poems into the ears and hands of Oxford residents.  Photos provided by Milly West.

The University of Mississippi is a public, comprehensive, research institution that exists to enhance the educational, economic, healthcare, social and cultural foundations of the state, region, and nation. As the oldest public institution of higher learning in the state and as a Carnegie Research University (high research activity), the institution’s primary functions are the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge through a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs and public service activities. The University’s main campus at Oxford emphasizes a traditional, residential educational experience, with a central College of Liberal Arts. The University educates students to assume leadership roles in the state, nation, and world through its nationally recognized programs of undergraduate, graduate, and professional study. Its teaching, research, and service missions are characterized by equal access and equal opportunity to all who qualify.

Oxford is a literary town that likes its writers, from William Faulkner to John Grisham, and at the University of Mississippi, we try to create more of them. Encouragement is key: we have a small faculty and staff, and each incoming class is limited to about a handful of students who receive a lot of individual attention. We boast a solid program that provides a grounding in both writing and reading, the cornerstones of an author’s craft.

The Center for the Study of Southern Culture is situated in the restored Barnard Observatory on campus and offers one of the few programs in the nation to focus exclusively on Southern culture, from the origin of the blues to the nature of grits. The Center is home to the Southern Foodways Alliance, which holds the Southern Foodways Symposium each October.

The Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, now past its 30th year, attracts scholars from all over the globe for a week of Faulkner appreciation around the end of July. Topics range from scholarly criticism on the Bard of Yoknapatawph a County to the Faux Faulkner Write-Alike Contest.

The Yalobusha Review, the university’s annual literary journal, is a joint project of the English and Art departments. At over 120 pages in plus-size format, it’s run by MFA graduate students but draws on material nationwide, featuring fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, interviews, artwork, and photography.

The Yokshop is a three-day event near the end of June, featuring fiction and poetry workshops, panels, readings, lectures, and a catfish dinner.

The Marshall County Correctional Facility Writing Project is a volunteer on-site creative writing class for inmates, sponsored by The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. The MCCFWP is usually taught by MFA students.

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 OleMiss MFAs participate in Broken English.  Photos provided by Guy Catelli.

The M.F.A. Reading Series is a student-organized activity featuring writers from within the MFA program here. Once a month, two writers from the M.F.A. program give a reading at a night spot on the Square. This is an opportunity for the featured writers to knock everyone’s socks off with some great material. It’s also a chance for the writer to feel the rush of reading in front of an audience, and for some, it will be their first time to do so. In addition, the reading series is a good way to meet other writers in the community and show mutual support. It’s a chance to get away from the computer and have a good time!

The Outreach Series is a student-initiated program in which graduate students in creative writing volunteer time and talent, through various community-service activities, to bring about positive social change beyond the university setting. Outreach activities are coordinated by the Outreach director (a voluntary position that changes each semester) and are carried out by students. Activities may include teaching community writing workshops, visiting and reading at retirement homes, donating and delivering books for libraries, and judging writing contests.

The Oxford Conference for the Book is an annual event that pulls in authors, editors, agents, and publishers for three days every Spring. Designed for both readers and writers, it can put you in touch with an author you admire or give you help on marketing your poetry collection.

Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference and Workshop Held every other year on campus, this conference gathers the top creative nonfiction writers and instructors in America to discuss memoir, personal essay, immersion journalism, and the writing life.

Southern Writers, Southern Writing is a three-day conference hosted by the university’s graduate students every July.

Incoming student Caroline Williams visits with Ann Fisher-Wirth, Tom Franklin, and Beth Ann Fennelly at the last reading series event of the season, a reading by poet Dave Smith.