Learning from My Students

When I first started The W’s MFA in Creative Writing, I wrote in our Student Handbook (which I’ve been editing this summer) that the students are our colleagues, perhaps the teachers are a little further along in their writing careers (though not always older), but the students shouldn’t feel like they are any less because their experience is different. I meant it then, and I mean it today.

Of course, teachers always learn from students, no matter what level you teach, be it kindergarten or graduate school! In class, that’s the sign of a good class, in my book.

But what I’m thinking about today is about how much we learn and how much we appreciate it, when our students go on to do great (or small) things after they graduate. Today is commencement day, and five more MFAs will cross the stage: actually, only two can be there for the ceremony, but the other three will be with us in spirit!

Today, one of our recent graduates (the poet C. T. Salazar from December) announced that he did an interview with Benjamin Niespodziany at NeonPajamas. Reading it brings back memories of many things we dicussed together in the program but also of the great energy for reading and writing poetry that he brought to every class. I can see the influence of other poets in our program as well, and the ways he’s taken those influences, shaped them, and made them his own.

Reading essays by Exodus Brownlow or Katrina Byrd have the same effect. And I could link to something from each of our 15 graduates and most of our current students that would be just as moving. For a more complete list, see our program’s Accomplishments page, a page I desperately need to update, but I just can’t keep up with all the great work everyone is doing! (I’ll be asking for updates again soon!)

Learning in an MFA program doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It happens thanks to the connections we make, the conversations we have, and the brilliant work that we share with one another and with the world.

Today on commencement day for August 2019, I’m proud of the five theses and the work Thomas B. Richardson, Robin Taylor Murphy, Ashley Hewitt, Sally Lyon, and Courtney Clark have done in our program. But I am even more excited to see the work they will do and are doing out in the world. Commencement is a beginning, and we can’t wait to see what it will bring!

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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