J-school master’s program expands

The new creative non-fiction graduate degree would help students create a book proposal, replicating a similar program at Goucher College in the States.

(Photo: Matthew Healy)

The journalism school is looking to expand its graduate programs with a proposed Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Non-Fiction.
The program design still is in its infancy, but it should be available by next August.
“The process is long and laborious,” said Stephen Kimber, a King’s journalism professor and a driving force behind the proposal.
“It’s like going through a labyrinth. There are all sorts of committees because this degree will be jointly offered by Dalhousie and King’s… this fall we’ll try to get it through the Senate and Board of Governors at both institutions before it goes on to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. So it’s a long, complicated process.”
It’s a two year degree with limited residency, requiring that students only be on campus a few weeks of the year and doing the rest of the term over correspondence. It will begin with 15 students and gradually grow to 25 a year as the program expands.
Students will learn primarily from a mentor, having four mentors throughout their degree, and participate in seminars and workshops over their weeks in residency to expand their skills.
David Swick, another j-school professor helping to kick start the program, is a graduate from a similar Master’s program in Creative Nonfiction at Goucher College. He says its program has influenced the model proposed at King’s, as both he and Kimber are Goucher graduates.
“I would go down there for two weeks and have all these classes. It was extremely intense,” said Swick.
“Classes went from 9 to 5, then at 7 in the evening there were the readings every night, and so everyone would hang out and drink together and it was really intense. And you’d come back two weeks later feeling like it had been six months.”
During their two years in the King’s master’s program, students will create a book proposal. That proposal will turn into the majority of a finished manuscript. An experienced mentor helps with both projects.
“What’s called creative nonfiction is the fastest growing genre in contemporary publishing. Lots of stuff is being published, lots of people want to write it,” said Kimber.
“We surveyed alumni, people who belong to professional writing groups, and our own students and we got roughly 80 per cent out of those groups expressing real interest and about 60% of those did something that I would never do unless I was really interested and that is that they gave us their email address, asking to be kept up to date on the program.”
Kimber continues to receive two or three emails a week from people who heard about the program through word of mouth or who were approached months ago, still wanting to know more.
The program would hopefully see guest speakers come to talk at the school. Swick has a wish-list of guests he wants to see.
“I’d have to say Adam Hochschild…Gay Talese, who I’ve seen at conferences before, and I don’t know if she is still traveling or not but Joan Didion would be my number one.”
This will be the last of the new programs coming to the journalism department for a while. The main goal of the school then will be to review and work on existing programs, ensuring it achieves all that it can.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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