For the past dozen years, I’ve taught in Goddard College’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program, and it’s been the most rewarding work of my life. Goddard is unlike colleges that operate hierarchically, with a pecking order of faculty “above” and students “below.” Our approach instead is one of mentorship and community. Our faculty is made up not of professors or lecturers, but of professional writers who individually advise a small number of students throughout the semester. Advisors and their advisees write in the same genres, share reading lists, and correspond about the student’s work and the challenges of the writing life. We support each other.
Unlike traditional writing programs, our students present work to their advisor each month, and in return they receive between 30 and 40 pages of editorial notes every semester. By the time they graduate, they have what amounts to a small book of craft advice written specifically for them. This process is tailored to the needs, skills, and aspirations of the individual student. We approach learning as a partnership.
One reason for that is our college’s founding vision. Goddard was established in 1938 as a response to the looming threat of fascism. Our founder, Tim Pitkin, believed that interactive, self-directed education could help build civil, democratic societies by empowering critical thinking. For the past 80 years this idea has anchored Goddard’s mission and values, which include greater access to education for students who have long been overlooked and underserved. That’s why Goddard created the very first low-residency program in 1963, making an MFA degree accessible to busy adults – of all ages – who can’t afford to relocate for whole semesters on campus but can afford to spend just two weeks a year in residency. Today all of Goddard’s programs, including our undergraduate degrees, are low-residency.
We honor Tim Pitkin’s vision in our MFA program by presenting writing as a form of personal activism. We believe that to raise your voice and write your truth is to change the world. This is true whether you’re writing a graphic novel or poetry, a libretto or a screenplay, a novel or a memoir – all of which we teach in our program. At Goddard, we view writers as powerful members of society, and we revere their power.
The Goddard partnership doesn’t end with graduation, either. Our students have been known to move across country to live near each other. Many of my former students have become colleagues and friends. And when, as happened a couple of months ago, an alumna has her choice of competing NY publishers for the right to sell her novel worldwide, our whole community celebrates her success.
If this sounds like a love letter to Goddard, I’ll confess, it is. I love our students, our alumni, our faculty, and our college. But I’m also concerned.
A perfect storm has gathered over small liberal-arts colleges in the past few years. Enrollments across the country are dropping, and expenses are rising, and these same forces are threatening Goddard, as well. That’s why the college has launched a major fundraising campaign called #Together4Goddard with an urgent goal of $1.4 million.
It’s an exciting and critical time for Goddard. We have a new president, Dr. Bernard Bull, and he’s the most energetic and capable leader we’ve had in decades. But President Bull only arrived a few months ago, and the storm was already picking up speed. The current campaign, if successful, will give him the time he needs to guide Goddard toward a stable and secure financial future while he adapts Tim Pitkin’s original vision to the new and changing demands of higher education in the 21st century.
Goddard today means different things to different people, but in the dozen years that I’ve been teaching here, the widespread love for this institution seems to center on its cooperative spirit and its uniquely supportive community. We will weather this storm if we honor that spirit and all come #Together4Goddard.
Here are some ways you can help:
Make a donation by Feb 28th
Send a check payable to Goddard College: Advancement Department, Goddard College, 123 Pitkin Rd, Plainfield, VT 05667
Make a Pledge to be paid by June 30th, 2019
Email or call in your pledge:
Bernard Bull, President, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802.322.1600
Meg Hammond, Director of Development, email@example.com, 802.322.1685
Dustin Byerly, Associate Director of Advancement, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802.322.1601
Spread the Word #together4goddard
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