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MFA in Writing Resources

Your Resource Center for all things residency. Here you'll find guidelines, forms, graduation resources, links to Crossett Library, travel and planning resources, and more.

Student Resources

June 2019 Residency Schedule for the Public

June 13-23, 2019

NOTE: Schedule subject to change

 

All faculty, guest, and graduate lectures and readings will be held in Tishman Lecture Hall, unless otherwise indicated.

All evening Faculty and Guest Readings will be held in the Deane Carriage Barn.

Thursday, June 13

7:00 pm | Faculty & Guest Readings: Manuel Gonzales and Dorothea Lasky

Friday, June 14

Graduate Readings

4:00 pm | Asia Calcagno

4:20 pm | Katherine Lazarus

4:40 pm | Amy Lyons

7:00 pm | Faculty & Guest Readings: April Bernard and Peter Trachtenberg

Saturday, June 15

Graduate Lectures

8:20 am
Elizabeth Bailey:
The Transformation of Suffering into Lyric: Poems of Natasha Tretheway and Robert Lowell.” Poetry is not therapy—but, as Gregory Orr has written, "the personal lyric helps individual selves, both writers and readers, survive the vicissitudes of experience and the complexities and anguish of subjectivity and trauma." This lecture looks at the lyric poems of Natasha Trethewey and Robert Lowell as work that makes the unbearable bearable.

9:00 am 
Asia Calcagno: “
Something Has Tried to Kill Me and Has Failed: Black Resiliency in Poetry.” When it comes to Black poets, resilience is more than just the attachment to and healing from a form of suffering. Black poets write about their individual and collective resilience to legitimize their experiences and humanities. I explore several intersections of Blackness including gender, queer, and working-class identities to explore the depths of Black resilience in poetry and comprehend how it helps reshape the Black narrative.

9:40 am
Jennifer Carson: “
The Transcendent in the Profane: Sacred Fiction of the Secular World.” What’s the value of exploring spiritual questions through secular narrative? Can profane fiction render moments of true transcendence? I’ll examine three novels that succeed—Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, and Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable—and their relationship to a progenitor of sacred fiction, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.  

Graduate Readings

3:30 pm | Stuart Mieher

3:50 pm | Marie Mockett

4:10 pm | Unni Nair

4:30 pm | Benjamin Nokes

7:00 pm | Faculty & Guest Readings: Lisa Brennan-Jobs and Jamie Quatro

Sunday, June 16

Graduate Lectures

8:20 am
Tess Childs Page: “
Meet Virginia: Exploring the use of light, time and structure in two novels of Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway.” Beginning with the famous photograph by Charles Beresford, Virginia Woolf seen through the lens of two of her brilliant novels. Influenced by Roger Fry and modern artists of her time, Woolf experimented with art forms in writing. How did she structure the novels? How did her emotional life affect the work?

9:00 am
Lisa Cockrel: “
Narrative Heft: Examining the stories fat people tell about their lives in creative nonfiction.”There are two stories told about being fat: “I was fat and miserable, then I lost weight and now things are better” and “I used to hate my body because I am fat, but I’ve learned to love my body and now things are better.” In this lecture I’ll explore how these stories are being reified and remixed in a tiny but growing genre of creative nonfiction that I call “fat CNF.”  Work by Kiese Laymon, Samantha Irby, and Roxane Gay among others will illustrate how this development holds the potential for new and more narratives about fat lives to emerge and inform our public imagination.

9:40 am 
Jaimee Deuel: “
Now It's Quite a Different Thing: Fanfiction's Role in Literary Critique.” While fanfiction may appear to be an invention of the digital age, its presence in literary circles has existed for centuries and carries often uncredited value. We will explore fanfiction throughout history, with focus on fanfiction adaptations of Charles Perrault's "Bluebeard."

Graduate Readings

4:00 pm | Rebecca Rubenstein

4:20 pm | Mark Sarvas

4:40 pm | Matthew Sosnow

7:00 pm | Faculty & Guest Readings: Jennifer Chang and Susan Cheever

Monday, June 17

Graduate Lectures

8:20 am
Jordonna Grace: “
Your Brain on Footnotes.” An investigation of that rarely-used but often-vilified literary device: The lowly footnote.* ________ *Caution to the non-inoculated! The footnote is known to be "the most contagious of literary ornaments."** **(Stuart Nadler, Nov. 2018)

9:00 am
Russell Green: “
Notoriously Abused.” "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs," Stephen King famously rants, "and I will shout it from the rooftops." Strains of this attitude are not uncommon; adverbs seem to have as much shade thrown their way as the passive voice. Setting aside whether good writing advice is ever shouted from rooftops, I will simply seek to show a little love for adverbs, with examples from Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, and Nabokov.

9:40 am                  
Jeffrey Kahn: “The Pros and Cons of Chabon.” No writer is perfect, not even one as distinguished as Chabon, and that’s a good thing.  Examining the cons along with the pros of a writer's work is far more instructive and provides more insight into our own work than simply noting what makes their writing so exceptional.
  

10:30 am–noon      
Faculty Lecture: David Gates: A Boring Big Bang: Mansfield Park's Backstory, or How to Build a Complicated Literary Universe.” Tishman.

Graduate Readings

3:30 pm | Cristina Spencer

3:50 pm | Kyanna Sutton

4:10 pm | Anamyn Turowski

7:00 pm | Faculty & Guest Readings: Alumni Fellows Keith Lesmeister, Cassie Pruyn and Walter Robinson

Tuesday, June 18

Graduate Lectures

8:20 am                  
Ariana Kelly: “
I Heart Train Wrecks.” Who doesn’t love a good train wreck? The addiction and recovery narrative is a popular genre in memoir, but as a form it poses particular questions about intended audience, structure, and identity. This lecture will examine how two writers, Terese Marie Mailhot and Leslie Jamison, contend with these issues.
        

9:00 am                  
Arnold Kozak: “A Question of Identity: Strong and Weak Agency in Baldwin’s Early Work.”
This lecture explores how James Baldwin alternated between fate and will in his characters' search for identity. Examples are drawn from his early work: Go Tell It On the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, and The Fire Next Time with themes of religious versus secular identity, creativity, and acceptance. 

9:40 am                  
Katherine Lazarus: “Ever and After.”
Poetic adaptations of fairy tales by Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, and Kate Durbin show how being human is at once a collective and an individual experience. These modern poets emphasize a lesson of integration in their revisions that follow Kurt Vonnegut’s chart in his foreword to Anne Sexton’s Transformations

Graduate Readings  

1:00 pm | Elizabeth Bailey

1:20 pm | Jennifer Carson

1:40 pm | Tess Childs Page                   

DARK KNIGHT—No Readings 

Wednesday, June 19

Graduate Lectures

8:20 am                  
Amy Lyons: “
Writing Compelling Child Characters.” How do writers craft compelling child characters in literary fiction? In this lecture I examine novels with child protagonists to explore techniques for rendering fully realized child characters that appeal to adult readers without sacrificing the child's voice, language, curiosity, and limited access to insight or information.

9:00 am                  
Stuart Mieher: “Friend of the Mind: Narrative and Memory in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.” Like many novels, Beloved uses the memories of its characters as a pathway into their pasts. Morrison does this masterfully, but she also uses memory to add depth to her characters, enable an innovative narrative structure and impart political and historical lessons. This lecture will explore Morrison’s use of memory in Beloved and the techniques she employs to make it a powerful narrative tool. 

Graduate Readings

1:00 pm | Lisa Cockrel

1:20 pm | Jaimee Deuel

1:40 pm | Jordonna Grace

7:00 pm | Faculty & Guest Readings: Dinah Lenney and Stuart Nadler

8:30 pm | Calliope Reading Series”: Voices of a Generation, hosted by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Tishman

Thursday, June 20

Graduate Lectures

8:20 am                  
Cristina Spencer: “
Beyond Transition: An exploration of craft techniques and innovations trans writers use to revise gender.” Considering the relationship between craft and culture, I will explore how trans writers are re-imagining our collective experience of gender and why I think this genre represents a cutting edge of literary invention.

9:00 am                  
Unni Nair: “
The Life and Letters of R.K. Narayan.” 

9:40 am                  
Benjamin Nokes: “Dope Style:
Thoughts on Heroin Fiction.” Degenerates. Pariahs. Anti-heroes. The Heroin Novel is perhaps the ultimate symptom of industrial excess and debauchery, but the execution of authors–Burroughs, Trocchi, Welsh, and Selby Jr.–is often safe and conventional. We will explore affinities, formulaic elements, and the language of shooting up. 

Graduate Readings

3:00 pm | Russell Green

3:20 pm | Jeffrey Kahn

3:40 pm | Ariana Kelly

4:00 pm | Arnold Kozak

7:30 pm | Faculty & Guest Readings: Chelsea Hodson and Claire Vaye Watkins (NOTE LATER START TIME)

8:30 pm | Screenings of Dietland and Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet. Tishman

Friday, June 21

Graduate Lectures

8:20 am                 
Rebecca Rubenstein: “
The ‘Reader Accomplice’: Deepening The Writer/Reader Relationship Through Modes of Play in Fiction.” When we invite our readers to become more “active participants” in our work—to become, as the writer Julio Cortázar puts it, “reader accomplices”—we invite them to read deeply and think critically. In this heightened state of engagement, our readers are also asked to consider the process of writing and the craft tools at a writer's disposal, and how these might inform a book or story's broader meaning. With a specific focus on fiction, this lecture will explore the ways a writer might use modes of play and experimentation to provoke and demand the "reader accomplice," and how, in turn, this deeper relationship helps a reader understand a writer's intentionality with their work.

9:00 am              
Mark Sarvas:  “
Making A Scene.” The scene is the foundational unit of drama, consisting of several moving parts. But too many scenes are only about what they appear to be about. In this lecture, we will examine nine layers, and then see them applied through the famous “shirts scene” of The Great Gatsby.

9:40 am                  
Matthew Sosnow: “
Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas.” Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas: how this book functions as a portal to other books and writers. We’ll also look at some elements of Bolaño's style and consider how we might employ some of his tricks in our own work.

3:30-5:00 pm           
Book to Screen Panel: Manuel Gonzales,  Susan Merrell, and Joanne Proulx, moderated by Sarai Walker. Tishman

7:00 pm                 
Faculty and Guest Readings: Sarai Walker and Phillip Williams

Saturday, June 22

Graduate Lectures

8:20 am                 
Marie Mockett: “
Liberal Bias Against Religion.” Nietzsche said that God is dead. In mid twentieth century literature, God and Christianity had a serious presence: consider the fiction of Graham Greene, William Faulkner and William Styron. Why is God absent from so much modern writing? Consider, for example, the recent Pulitzer Prize winning book "The Underground Railroad," by Colson Whitehead, which re-imagines the secret network of abolitionists--minus the presence of God, who very much motivated real abolitionists. I believe this kind of anesthetized version of history is comfortable to serious readers, because our own institutional bias against religion has sanctioned certain "voices" and "ways" of talking about God. We either want to appease the sure and knowing voice of someone like Richard Dawkins, who calls God a "vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleaners," or we take the passive, almost charming and childlike stance of a writer like Anne Lamott, who writes: "Again and again I tell God I need help, and God says: 'Well isn't that fabulous. I need help too.'" The problem is that these biases cause blindness in us as readers and writers. We are neither able to effectively parry against either the religious illiteracy of the far right, who misuses the Bible, or give voice to and take seriously the lived experience of people for whom religion is deeply embedded in their culture and paved the way to greater civil liberties.

9:00 am                 
Kyanna Sutton: “
Lifting the Veil: Subjugation, Duality, and Madness In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.” A discussion of Toni Morrison’s first novel and W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal and cross-disciplinary analysis of the black American experience in The Souls of Black Folk. We will look at the authors’ work in tandem to examine the construction of blackness at the nexus of Jim Crow America.

9:40 am                
Anamyn Turowski: “
How am I ever going to quiet my activist brain? Should I?” Navigating creativity in the face of catastrophe. Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the impending collapse of our planet.

10:30 am-12:00 noon        
Faculty Lecture: Claire Vaye Watkins:
"Revisiting Kate Chopin's The Awakening.” Tishman

3:00-4:30 pm           
Faculty Lecture: Craig Morgan Teicher:
Prose That Reverses: On Prose Poetry and Poetic Prose.” Tishman

Graduation Ceremony

7:30 pm | Commencement Ceremony, Usdan Gallery
Commencement Speaker: Sarai Walker

 

General Residency Notes

Residencies are 10 days long—the dates for 2019 are: June 13-23, 2019

Registration is on Thursday and classes begin on Friday morning and end nine days later on Sunday with the final workshop. Most students arrive Thursday afternoon and depart on Sunday afternoon or evening. Please be sure you leave yourself enough time to be in attendance for the entire final workshop before departing to catch your flight or train. You are welcome to stay until Monday, 11:00 am.

Our Campus

Prior to your arrival, take some time to download the campus map, and familiarize yourself with the surrounding Bennington area.

Our Offices

The Writing Seminars Offices are located in Barn 106.

Arrival/Departure

  • Arrive in time to register (noon–5:00 pm): If you will be arriving after 5:00 pm, you can pick up your registration packet and room key at Campus Safety (a small red building on the left at the main entrance to campus).
  • Parking: Please do not park on street in front of the residence halls except to unpack. Please park only in designated areas. Parking maps will be available at registration.
  • Registration: noon–5:00 pm, in the Barn 100; light refreshments will be served.
  • Dinner: 5:30–6:30 pm in The Student Center
  • Faculty Readings: 7:00 pm, in Tishman Lecture Hall (January term) and in Deane Carriage Barn (June term)

Departure Day

The last academic event is 9:00–11:00 am on Sunday; most faculty and students depart on Sunday afternoon or evening, but all are welcome to stay until 11:00 am on Monday. When making transportation arrangements, please be sure to leave enough time to be in attendance for the entire final workshop.

**Note: There are no overnight accommodations for students before Thursday and after Sunday night of each residency. There are also no accommodations at any time for pets. Overnight guests are not encouraged or accommodated easily, but if you must host a guest for a night, please talk to someone in the office.

How to Get Here (Travel and Shuttle)

The Office of Student Life will provide shuttle service from/to the Albany airport, train, and bus station. Reservations are due by noon on Wednesday, June 5 for incoming shuttles, and Wednesday, June 19, for departing shuttles. You can mail a check before you arrive to Bennington College, 1 College Drive, Bennington, VT 05201 attn: Student Life or pay with a check, cash or your Bennington Card once you arrive on campus. Cancellations made after the deadline are nonrefundable. Add funds to your Bennington Card (you will need your five-digit student ID number).

If you are delayed for any reason or there are any changes to your itinerary inform Campus Safety immediately to avoid delaying other riders.

Passengers are responsible for the shuttle fee for all reservations not canceled prior to the deadline.

Shuttle schedules

Please use these pickup times to coordinate your arrival in Albany in order to avoid longer waiting times. To make a reservation, use this reservation form.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Departs from Albany to Bennington College
  • Train Station at 11:00 am
  • Bus Station at 11:25 am
  • Airport at noon
  • Arrives on campus approximately 1:15 pm
  • Train Station at 4:00 pm
  • Bus Station at 4:25 pm
  • Airport at 5:00 pm
  • Arrives on campus approximately 6:15 pm
  • Train Station at 8:00 pm
  • Bus Station at 8:25 pm
  • Airport at 9:00 pm
  • Arrives on campus approximately 10:15 pm

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Departs from Bennington College to Albany
  • 12:15 pm departure from campus
  • Train Station at 1:25 pm
  • Bus Station at 1:40 pm
  • Airport at 2:15 pm
  • 1:30 pm departure from campus
  • Train Station at 2:40 pm
  • Bus Station at 2:55 pm
  • Airport at 3:30 pm

Monday, June 24, 2019

Departs from Bennington College to Albany
  • 10:00 am departure from campus
  • Train Station at 11:10 am
  • Bus Station at 11:25 am
  • Airport at noon
Reserve Your Shuttle

Coordinating your own ride

If you need or prefer to coordinate a ride yourself, OR if you are coming in early or late and need a way to get to Bennington, please contact

  • KT Transportation, 518-728-5030. Approximate cost $70.00 for up to two passengers (now accepting credit and debit cards)
  • AJ Transportation, 802-442-7129. Approximate cost $95.00 (includes gratuity)
  • Global Link Travel, 802-442-8400. (Now accepting credit and debit cards)
  • Upstate Green Cab, 518-956-0332. Approximate cost $70.00; $10.00 for an additional passenger
  • Yellow Cab, 518-434-2222. Approximate cost $100.00

The cost of a one-way trip from Albany is about $100.00, excluding gratuity (check details when you call). If the carpooling effort works out you might be able to split the cost two or three ways. Confirm the cost of the trip when you make the reservation.

Bus Lines

  • Vermont TransLines (Albany/Bennington/Burlington) | Departs from downtown Bennington at the Pleasant Street bus station daily at 11:30 am (arrives Albany 12:30 pm); daily at 3:30 pm (arrives Burlington 7:30 pm). Approximate cost: $7.50
  • Vermont Shires: bus from Bennington to Albany-Rensselaer, connecting with the Amtrak train service to NYC, stops curbside at the Bennington Station restaurant parking lot at 199 River St. Tickets can be purchased on the Amtrak website or phone line, or with cash payment (for the bus journey only) to the bus driver.
  • Yankee Trails Bus (Bennington to Albany), 800-822-2400 | Departs twice daily on weekdays from downtown Bennington, at the intersection of School and Main Streets, Monday–Friday at 11:05 am (arrives Albany 12:50 pm) and 7:25 pm (arrives Albany 9:05 pm). Approximate cost: $4.00

Local shuttle services

During the week, a local service, GMX (Green Mountain Express), supplies shuttle service to and from the campus to the towns of Bennington, North Bennington, Williamstown, and Manchester. This service is free to all Bennington students with a valid/current College ID.

Shuttle Fee

The $35.00 fee can be paid by cash, check, or Bennington Card declining balance. If you have more than two bags, there will be a $10.00 fee for each extra bag. Reservations made after deadlines will be subject to a $10.00 late fee. Please note: If you ride without a reservation, the fare will increase to $60.00.

Refunds

The $35.00 fee is nonrefundable after the shuttle deadline unless otherwise specified by the Office of Student Life.

Missing the Shuttle

If your plans change on the day of travel, as soon as you become aware of a change or delay you must contact Campus Safety or Green Mountain Express (according to your confirmation email). If your call is not immediately answered, be certain to leave a callback number, along with your name and a brief message explaining your situation, and to leave your phone turned on to receive the callback. Your message will be returned within 20 minutes, and any pertinent information will be relayed to the driver. This ensures that the shuttle does not wait unnecessarily, and allows you to see what other arrangements can be made.

Additional fees resulting from schedule changes are the responsibility of the passenger.

Delays and Cancellations

Arrival times are subject to change due to unforeseen delays (weather, traffic, etc.), and passengers should be sure to factor such possibilities into their travel plans. Bennington College is not responsible for missed trains, buses, or planes due to shuttle delays.

Please note: The driver is only able to wait for late arrivals for up to 15 minutes past the pickup time before departing. In the event of a shuttle delay or cancellation due to inclement weather, passengers will be notified at the number provided with your reservation two hours prior to the scheduled pickup.

Planning for Residency

What to Bring

  • Be up to date: Before you arrive, ensure you're up to date on vaccines, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control.
     
  • Ticks & Lyme Disease: In June especially, we recommend bringing an EPA recommended tick repellent. We are in an area known for Lyme ticks and encourage you to check yourself for ticks throughout residency. For information about Lyme, please consult this primer.
     
  • Type of clothing: Informal and varied. Most people opt for comfort. Some like to dress up for the graduation ceremony and reception, some don't. It's your choice.
     
  • Sports: Walking shoes, hiking boots, tennis rackets, softball or baseball gloves, Frisbee, swimsuit (if you like to swim in a cold lake or town pool). The Office of Student Life Office and Meyer Recreation Barn usually have some equipment for tennis, basketball, volleyball and softball. Bicycles also can be signed out through the Meyer Rec Barn.
     
  • Miscellany: To help assure your creature-comfort needs are met, you might want to consider bringing a surge protector-combo-extension cord, an extra lamp, an alarm clock, a bathrobe, slippers, a coffee mug, and ground coffee (if you’re a hard-core, round-the-clock coffee drinker), waffle (egg-crate) mattress cover, music etc. Simple toiletries are provided (tiny bars of soap, white flat sheets, and very small towels), but you might want to bring your own bar of soap, sheets, and bath towel, if you don't like basic institutional issue. Note: Extension cords without built-in surge protection are not allowed in student housing. Candles and incense are also not allowed in the student houses.

Health Services

Bennington College Health and Psychological Services are officially closed during the Field Work Term (late December–mid-February) and summer break beginning in late May. There is no on-call or emergency coverage during these times.

Students remaining in the Bennington area during these times will need to access community resources if health care is needed.

  • Emergencies: If a life-threatening emergency occurs on campus, call Campus Safety at x767 or 802-447-4250. If off campus, dial 911. If other emergency care is needed, students should go to the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Emergency Department. United Counseling Service also provides 24-hour emergency psychological services. They can be reached at 802-442-5491.
     
  • Urgent care: Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Express Care is open 8:00AM–6:00PM daily, and does not require an appointment. 802-440-4077.
     
  • Nonemergencies: Drs. Anselmo and Stein can often make appointments to see you in their private practices. They can be reached on weekdays 9:00AM–5:00PM:
    • Dr. Randy Anselmo, MD, 802-375-4005
    • Dr. April Stein, PhD, 281-744-0719
       
    You can also refer to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s “Find a Doctor” web page for a listing of local doctors and psychologists.
     
  • Insurance: Virtually all health insurance provides coverage for emergencies, but may involve some out-of-pocket expense to you. Coverage may be more limited for non-emergency care, depending on your policy. If you are unsure, call the customer service number on your insurance card, explain what services you think you need, and ask what your policy covers. Also ask for a list of “in-network” healthcare providers in this area.

ATM  

The ATM is located in the north corridor of the Barn and available between 7:00 am and midnight.

Books

  • The Crossett Library will be open every day throughout the residency. The staff is very helpful. Faculty books are prominently displayed during the residency.
     
  • The Bennington College Bookstore will have Writing Seminars faculty books, any course books faculty recommend, and a good selection of alumni work. You can contact 802-440-4361 for information.

Computer Lab

The computers are located on the third floor in Commons for student use 24 hours a day and seven days a week. 

Card ID: The Bennington Card

The Bennington Card is the official identification card of Bennington College. Issued to all members of the College community, it is required for identification and access to essential campus services. If you would like to have your ID made ahead of time for pick-up at registration, please email a headshot of yourself in JPEG format to Dawn Dayton in the Writing Seminars Office. Otherwise, you can have your ID made when you arrive.

Fitness/Recreation

Bennington College sits on 470 acres of rolling meadows and woods, very lovely to walk, and not at all hard to look at. The Meyer Recreation Barn, located below Crossett Library next to Buildings and Grounds, offers a fully equipped exercise facility, including free weights, weight machines, cardiovascular equipment, and a climbing wall. Note: Shoes with black soles are not allowed in the aerobics room (they are fine elsewhere—weight room and cardiovascular area).

Housing

All rooms are single occupancy and modestly furnished with a bed, pillow, dresser, desk, lamp, and chair, plus sheets, blankets, pillows, and two (rather small) towels. That's it. The rooms are pretty basic, nothing fuzzy or fancy. Each house has a living room and a kitchen: stove, sink, refrigerator, microwave oven, but not many cooking utensils as meals are provided in the Dining Hall. If you ask us, we will provide your house with a coffeemaker and/or a teakettle.

New students are housed together, if possible, as are graduating students. The great mass in the middle share houses. Before the residency begins, we will ask you what your housing needs are regarding any health issues. We will then assign rooms accordingly.

We expect you will live together amicably and work out the issues of communal living. All houses are "quiet" houses after 11:00 pm. That said, many students like to hang out in the common areas after that time, so please to generous to each other. There is no smoking allowed in any of the houses.

Laundry

Coin-operated washers and dryers are located in all residence halls now, including the Colonial dorms. If you put money on your account (through the Office of Student Life), you may also use your Bennington ID card to operate these machines. You may also bring lots of quarters.

Mail

The Post Office is located in Commons, see the website for hours. There are regular pickups and deliveries from UPS and Federal Express. The open mail slots are in Commons near the Post Office. You will have your own mailbox there. You may ship things to yourself ahead of residency—clearly label your own name and "Writing Seminars" on the address. The address is Bennington College, One College Drive, Bennington, VT 05201. Packages will be distributed out of Buildings & Grounds; package notifications will be sent via email.

Meals

Meals will be served on the second floor of Commons. Meat and vegetarian dishes are offered at each meal. While there is a strong commitment to veggie-food, the kitchen may not be able to accommodate your special diet. Please advise the office if you have any dietary restrictions and make it a point to talk with the dining services director after you arrive.

Smoking policy

In accordance with Vermont State law, the College is required to provide employees, students, and visitors with clearly stated guidelines on when and where they may smoke. The state policy restricts smoking in all places of public access. The policy has been formulated in recognition of the Surgeon General’s conclusion that: smoking is injurious to health; and involuntary (or second-hand) smoking is a cause of disease in nonsmokers The College has designated its administrative, academic, and other public buildings smoke-free. Smoking is not permitted inside any of these buildings nor within 30 feet of entryways and exits of all buildings. Smoking is not allowed in any faculty or guest rooms or residences.

Vending machine 

A vending machine is located in the Upcaf stairwell.

Information Technology

Contact the Help Desk with any questions or visit their webpage.

On-Campus Locations and Resources

Social Media: Connect, Comment, Share

Stay up to date on all things MFA by connecting with us via social media:

Questions? We can help

Writing Seminars Staff

Mark Wunderlich
Director
mwunderlich@bennington.edu

Megan Culhane Galbraith
Associate Director
802-440-4454
megang@bennington.edu

Dawn Dayton
Program Coordinator
802-440-4452; fax 802-440-4453
ddayton@bennington.edu

General information

 

MFA in Writing Seminars Guidelines

PROGRAM GUIDELINES FOR BENNINGTON WRITING SEMINARS

(updated October 2019)

The Bennington Writing Seminars (BWS) was founded in January 1994 by Liam Rector, working with Bennington College and with a core faculty of writer/teachers. In 2019 the Seminars celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

Bennington College has long been a home to the practitioner/teacher and to writers including Bernard Malamud, Theodore Roethke, W.H. Auden, Mary Oliver, Kenneth Burke, Hortense Calisher, John Gardner, Edward Hoagland, Stanley Kunitz, Ben Bellitt, Nicholas Delbanco, and Stephen Sandy among others. 

In the winter of 1996 the Writing Seminars graduated its first class, conferring the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree in Writing and Literature to twenty students. The poet Donald Hall was the program’s first graduation speaker and continued to be engaged with the Writing Seminars until his death in 2018. We now offer a full scholarship for poets in his name.

Faculty who conduct workshops at Bennington during residency act as mentors to students during periods of correspondence off-campus.  At Bennington we place as great an emphasis upon reading as we do upon writing—seeing the two, for the writer, as part of the same intertwining process.

The low-residency format is especially well-suited for the education of the writer. Periods of solitude, in tutorial correspondence with mentors, culminate in residencies at Bennington that are, in effect, intense symposia. The Seminars offer concentrations in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, as well as a dual-genre option to study across disciplines.

In keeping with Bennington's progressive tradition, the course of study in the Seminars is generated largely by the student.  Students confer closely with their faculty members to form their own reading lists, and submit original work—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—for critique at regular intervals throughout the term. The tutorial development of student work is at the heart of the Seminars, as it is at the heart of Bennington College and its other programs in drama, dance, music, the visual arts, and in the humanities, languages and sciences. 

The Seminars maintains a maximum student-to-faculty ratio of five to one in order to provide individual attention to each student.

THE LOW-RESIDENCY FORMAT

The low-residency format is a response of the literary sensibility to the realities of modern life. It offers considerable freedom to the student, but the student must be self-disciplined and self-reliant.

During the correspondence period students are expected to devote at least 25 hours each week to their writing and reading. 

Once accepted into the Seminars in a particular genre (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or in the dual-genre), the student is committed to five residency periods and four correspondence terms.  Students who elect and have been approved for the dual-genre option, commit to six residencies and five correspondence terms. Over the course of the correspondence terms, each student will have four (five for dual-genre students) different teachers. We believe strongly that intense exposure to different sensibilities is, in the long run, one of the bounties of the Seminars.

To a student who elects it, we do offer a "the third-term switch." This is a chance to pursue one term of instruction in a second genre. A fiction writer may request to work in nonfiction to explore memoir, say, or essays; a nonfiction writer may request to study with a poet; and so on. Such a request must be approved by the student’s second-term teacher and be reviewed and approved by the Director. We do specify this is only a third-term option, to be taken up once the primary genre track has been firmly established, and before the final term. Work done during a third-term switch may be included in the final thesis/portfolio.

The final term is more or less devoted to completing the required thesis: a portfolio of stories or a novel, or a combination of the two, for the fiction writer; a collection of a nonfiction work for the nonfiction writer; a manuscript of poems for the poet; or a mixed-genre portfolio, for students who have done a third-term genre switch or have completed a dual-genre option, that reflects the course of study.  Students will also submit a revised critical essay as part of their thesis and give a reading from their work during their final residency

The work for which the M.F.A. is awarded must be generated while enrolled in the Seminars. 

REQUIREMENTS

Sixteen credits are conferred per term, upon successful completion of all required work, and 64 credits are required for the M.F.A. degree, 80 for the dual-genre option.

The Seminars are designed, over four terms and five residencies, to develop a steady engagement with the processes of composition of new work, revision, reading, and critical thinking. The Seminars aim, by stages, to prepare students to bring their work to readers and to the public through a final portfolio/thesis, a final critical essay, and a final reading of a student’s original work. 

SUMMARY OF REQUIREMENTS BY TERM

First Term & Second Term (and Third Term for Dual-Genre Students)

  1. Ongoing original work, including revisions
  2. 20 to 30 books read
  3. Selected critical responses to readings
  4. 10-page essay based on readings
  5. 4 or 5 packet exchanges (depending on the term) with their teacher, at regular intervals

Third Term  (Fourth Term for Dual-Genre Students)

  1. Ongoing original work, including revisions
  2. 20 to 30 books read
  3. Selected critical responses to readings
  4. 20-page critical essay based on readings
  5. 4 or 5 packet exchanges with teacher, at regular intervals

Fourth Term (Fifth Term for Dual-Genre Students)

  1. Ongoing original work directed towards completion of a portfolio/thesis
  2. Minimum of 10 books read
  3. Selected critical responses to readings
  4. 4 or 5 packet exchanges with teacher, at regular intervals
  5. Revision of a critical essay written in their third term, to include faculty feedback received after conferring with a faculty panel
  6. Preparation of a formal twenty-minute reading of one's work to be given at the parting residency, with a mandatory 5-10 minute Q & A following the reading
  7. Submission of a portfolio/thesis to two faculty readers
  8. Submission of a portfolio/thesis to Crossett Library

Students must also attend two 10-day residency periods each year during the course of study, one in January and one in June, plus a final residency to mark the completion of the course of study. These are high-energy and high-demand sessions and we require full participation. Students must arrive the day before and leave no earlier than after the final scheduled academic event of the residency, being in residence the entire 10 days and planning travel arrangements and other commitments to ensure no break in the 10-day concentration. The residencies are meant to be a retreat from the routines and affiliations of daily life. 

DURING RESIDENCY, STUDENTS CAN EXPECT:

  • To have work discussed in workshop sessions with other students in the genre or, where the opportunity presents itself, to participate in a mixed-genre workshop. Students will send their work in advance of the workshop, as directed by our mailings, so that students will have ample time to read and fully comment on one another’s work prior to coming to the residencies.
               
  • To confer privately with the new teacher. The purpose of the one-on-one meeting is to discuss the term's project, to develop a reading list, and to explain the format of the critical component of the work. The student is expected to read between 20 and 30 books each term for the first three terms (four terms for dual-genre students), a minimum of 10 books in the last term, and students should arrive at each residency with a first draft of their upcoming term's reading list, to be discussed with their teacher as a part of the contract for that term's work. 
     
  • To meet with their teacher from the previous correspondence term, to talk about that term's work, and consider the connection to the work going forward.
     
  • To attend the lectures, Genre Seminars and Master Classes presented and taught by visiting writers and faculty, to attend the nightly readings of visiting writers and faculty, and to take advantage of informal opportunities for exchange throughout the day.

The visiting-writer and faculty lectures are a crucial part of the educational mission of the residency, creating a community of learning for students and faculty alike. Unlike workshops and Master Classes which are primarily centered on matters of craft, visiting-writer and faculty lectures are meant to model the writer at work as they think about literature. 

In the Writing Seminars we recognize the inter-relatedness of all literary genres. A fiction writer could never graduate from the Writing Seminars without a grasp of poetry, and no poet can escape the demands and beauties of good prose.  The tension between the line and the sentence is a music by which we live, study, and write.

Nearly every night of the residency period, faculty and guests will read from their work. The evening readings are a time for the whole Writing Seminars community to come together; lectures, readings and classes offered during the residency are crucial features of the program, and should be attended by all students. Students also organize a reading series of their own, in which every student is encouraged to participate. 

There are also various discussions and panels organized on subjects of pressing interest to all serious writers: publication, reviewing, employment, diversity, censorship, etc. which can be crucial for a writer’s professional and artistic development. 

Some useful definitions:

  • Lectures take place in Tishman for the whole BWS community. These are (almost always) a written text delivered on a literary, life-of-letters or craft subject. They last about an hour, with a half-hour for questions and discussion.
  • Master Classes take place (usually) in the Symposium Room of CAPA, and are for students only (faculty do not attend).  Some are literature seminars with reading to be done in advance. Others have been more craft-focused or generative.  Hand-outs—or pre-assigned texts—are usual. 
  • Genre Seminars take place on the first Thursday of the residency in regular classrooms and are short (one-hour) talks on a craft subject, for students only. The three genres are scheduled simultaneously, with the expectation that students enrolled in fiction will attend the fiction Genre Seminar, etc. 

THE CORRESPONDENCE EXCHANGES THROUGHOUT EACH TERM

The Writing Seminars has two terms of slightly uneven length. During the shorter spring term beginning in January, students are required to complete four packets of work, though individual teachers may schedule and request five.  In the longer term beginning in June, students are required to complete five packets of work. 

The packets will consist of written responses to readings and a comprehensive amount of work in the genre as decided between the student and teacher during their one-on-one meeting.

Punctuality between students and teachers in exchanging packets is not only essential, it is integral to the nature of the low-residency educative process itself.  Teachers will announce at each residency the deadlines for receiving packets from their students, and teachers will have their responses to packets in student hands no later than 10 days after those deadlines.  Most teachers will request to use email as the primary method of exchange of work, and we require that all students and faculty correspond via their Bennington College email account.  If corresponding via US mail, students will supply teachers with self-addressed, stamped, priority-post envelopes for the return of their packets.  Where teachers elect for speedier mailings for returning packets, teachers are required to take up that expense themselves. 

The responses by teachers will be thorough, taking up both detailed matters, writing style, the inner logic of the sequence, etc., and the larger perspectives. However, students should expect each teacher to work differently within a fixed framework of expectations and requirements for each term’s study. 

Midterm evaluations by teachers will be written only if they find sufficient concerns regarding the student’s progress. Midterm evaluations are not made part of the student's transcript, but are used to assess strengths and address any problems.  

This is a low-residency program—for teachers as well as students—and we believe in the model of one exchange per month for either four or five months. While more frequent contact is generally discouraged, there are always contingencies, and teachers and students are free to make arrangements that are mutually acceptable.

By the same token, students are encouraged to interact with each other throughout the term. We encourage students to create communities—real and virtual—that will outlast their two years in the Seminars.

Our teachers expect to read only work-in-progress, work of the present.  Past work, through substantive revision with a teacher, can become work of the present. Only work done in or revised while in the Seminars can be included in the final portfolio/thesis. Reading of other past work is left to the discretion of each teacher. 

After the correspondence period the student and the teacher have a final meeting at the following residency.  This is the time for both to reflect upon the collaboration, take care of any unfinished business, and consult about the transition and the upcoming project work.

DUAL-GENRE GUIDELINES

The dual-genre option is a five-term program of study reserved for students who are judged advanced enough in two genres to produce a satisfactory thesis that includes work from both genres.  Students will study three terms in the major genre and two terms in the minor genre. Dual-genre students are not required to produce more writing or submit more packets per term than single-genre students.

To be considered for a dual-genre degree, applicants must apply in two different genres.  If the applicant’s manuscripts are accepted in both genres, the applicant will study three terms in the major genre (the one they applied in primarily) and two terms in the minor genre, successfully completing 80 graduate-credit hours over five terms. Dual-genre students will work with three different teachers in the major genre and two different teachers in the minor genre and will attend a total of six residencies. The sequence of study will be: terms 1 and 2: major genre, terms 3 and 4: minor genre, term 5: major genre. 

Students who do not initially apply in more than one genre may, in the second term, apply to study in a second genre. Application deadlines are September 1 for the upcoming winter term, and March 1 for the upcoming summer term.  Though dual-genre students will complete a mandatory five-term course of study, students accepted into this option late in their tenure may be required to complete a longer course of study. The decision to approve or deny students into this option will be made by the Program Director, Associate Director, and a Faculty Advisory Committee.

Any changes over the course of the dual-genre student’s study, including, in particular, any change in the designation of major and minor genres, may be made only in consultation with the Program Director, Associate Director, and the student’s immediate and most recent faculty advisors.

Dual-genre students may not submit work in more than one genre per term, with one exception: in the student’s final term, the student must submit for the teacher’s approval a creative portfolio thesis that contains work in both major and minor genres.  A faculty second reader will also evaluate the work of the entire thesis.

Page requirement for dual-genre theses:  3/5 of the thesis must be dedicated to the major genre and 2/5 must be dedicated to the minor genre. Manuscript length for prose: 125-150 pages, for poetry 40-50 pages. 

SECTION I

Rules and Policies

Please note: The following rules and policies and all other provisions of these guidelines supersede any previous guidelines. By enrolling in the Writing Seminars, students automatically accept the rules and policies and acknowledge the right of the Writing Seminars to impose penalties and to take disciplinary action.

After each residency, student residency evaluations are to be written by the students and received by the Associate Director by the deadline specified in our mailings.

Students are also responsible for course evaluations at the end of each term. These will be sent via email to all students via the Associate Director.

No partial credit can be given for the term's work.  Credit will not be awarded if the student has not completed the term's work to the teacher's satisfaction and if they receive a failing grade. Failure of a term results in dismissal from the program.

A student who receives a Marginal Pass for a term if their work was unfinished or was not up to graduate level standards, will be put on Academic Probation in the coming term.

An Incomplete may be considered when extenuating circumstances such as illness or death in the family arise.  In such a case, the teacher may, at their discretion, recommend an Incomplete for the term, if material is of insufficient quality, quantity, unacceptably late, or simply not finished. All Incompletes will be reviewed by the Associate Director and the Director, who will make the final decision to confer the Incomplete and will also define a written plan for completion of work.  If work is not completed by the date specified in the plan the student will be denied credit for the term and will receive a failing grade.

Students who have received a Marginal Pass for the term or are carrying an Incomplete or are on Academic Probation are no longer considered in Good Academic Standing and will be allowed only one subsequent term to get back in good standing.                           

If a student elects to withdraw from the Seminars during the correspondence term, a letter of withdrawal (an email is fine) must be submitted to the Associate Director and Program Coordinator. 

Note: A student who withdraws from the Seminars any time before its completion will be assessed fees according to the schedule in effect and published by the Business Office at the time of withdrawal.  (See “Withdrawal” and “Refund” sections.)

If any student's correspondence packet is more than seven days late, the teacher will notify the Associate Director.  Late packets may be cause for dismissal.  For students who are receiving federal financial aid or scholarships, late-packet arrivals may jeopardize their eligibility for said aid/scholarship monies.

After midterm but before the residency, students are asked to submit a ranked list of preferences for the next term's teacher.  Every effort is made to honor those requests, but this is not always possible.  Students who do not receive one of their top preferences one term will be given priority in their requests the following term. It is important to note that we cannot guarantee students will receive their top choice.  The program administration assigns faculty for first-term students.

Students cannot change teachers once the term has begun. 

In the third-term, as noted, the student is eligible to apply for a one-term genre switch.  Notification of the intent to switch must come by either Sept. 1 or March 1 in the term preceding, as stated in the Academic Calendar, and will not be considered after that date.

As previously noted, students who qualify may apply to be accepted into the dual-genre option.  Guidelines are detailed above.

Thesis Guidelines 

The final term is the "thesis term,” a period of concentrated focus during which the student, in consultation with the teacher, completes the portfolio/thesis and the revised critical essay required for graduation.  For fiction writers this is a collection of stories or a novel, or a combination of the two, 100 to 120 pages; for nonfiction writers a manuscript of either a collection of essays or a single topic book, 100 to 120 pages; and for poets a manuscript of poems, 48 to 64 pages.  For dual-genre students, 120 to 150 pages of prose for nonfiction and fiction; 40 to 50 pages of poetry.

Any exceptions to the length requirements must be approved in advance by the teacher.  The decision of the faculty member is final.  Due dates, established by the Seminars, will be strictly observed.  A mixed-genre portfolio, dictated by the student's course of study—work done during a third-term switch or done by dual-genre students, of course—will be allowed. 

A final panel (consisting of the final term teacher and a second reader) will be established for each student, for approval of the thesis manuscript.  The final-term teacher will act as the student’s primary thesis advisor and first reader.

The second reader’s responsibility is to approve (pass or fail) and write an evaluation of the thesis, which will be made a part of the final record; second readers do not meet and confer with students about their thesis and are chosen by the program administration. Students receive short written feedback from their second reader after their final residency.

The panel will submit its recommendation for approval to the Director of the Seminars and the Associate Director. The final course credit and graduation eligibility cannot be established until the thesis manuscript has been received and approved. In addition to the copies submitted to the final-term teacher and second reader, each student will submit one e-file copy of the thesis for archival purposes and one hard copy of the thesis which will be made available for public circulation, to Bennington College’s Crossett Library, during the first five days of the final residency. 

Graduate Lecture Guidelines

(Note that this is valid through June 2020, when those beginning their fourth term (or fifth if they're dual) will transition to the final critical essay. See below)

Lectures are 25-30 minutes long, followed by a 5-10 minute mandatory Q & A.  Lectures should be developed in consultation with the final-term instructor. The instructor should approve the plan before writing begins and should see a draft of the lecture before it is finalized for delivery. If students intend to lecture without a text, the instructor should have a good idea of what the delivery will involve—its direction, its main points, and a detailed outline should be provided to that term’s teacher.

Just as the graduating-student reading represents a public culmination of the creative work done in the program, the lecture represents a culmination of the work done in literature.  To this end, the lecture should focus on a problem, an enthusiasm, and/or a new exploration that is firmly based in literature.  Successful topics have included an overview of biography in assessing a writer’s work; a new take on a canonical writer’s work; the problem of biography in assessing a writer’s work; literary themes across genre; “meta-fiction,” “ecopoetics,” “rethinking the Victorian novel,” etc. 

A compendium of the best critical writing, as selected by our faculty, is available here (you must use your bennington.edu email to gain access.)

Non literary topics such as publication, agents, or one’s personal journey—as important as these are—are out of place in this lecture context.  Students should think of this lecture as something that they are preparing to use for an academic job interview or at a literary conference. 

The topics should be of compelling literary interest and look to bring fresh insights to bear. Students should pick topics that are both important and challenging to them. The listener wants to feel some of the vital sense of discovery that students felt in their research and writing. If the subject is rooted in something highly specific or idiosyncratic—not familiar to a majority in the room (if a student is focusing, say, on a particular work or author)—the student should make sure to establish enough context so that audience members can profit from listening.

Listeners are ready for substantive intellectual content. Excessively broad overview discussions are discouraged. When general points are offered, they are most successfully explored by way of specific instances.

Lectures should be delivered in a professional manner, as though the lecturer were applying for a teaching job and had been asked to give a talk that displays their grasp of literature. Professionalism is shown in various ways: by avoiding statements of apology, embarrassment, astonishment, and self-deprecation; by avoiding in-jokes that exclude audience members; by avoiding excessive gimmicks, such as long musical interludes or film clips in excess of what is necessary to make the point; by not relying too heavily on Power-Point, and making sure that use of the medium is not for simply repeating statements made orally.

The best titles have a strong connection to the material presented and avoid the hyperbolic and the dramatic. 

Lecturers should respond to questions in a dignified manner.  The Q & A is an occasion for extending the talk in a way that addresses each question as a matter of general interest to listeners.

Final Critical Essay

  • NOTE: There will be BOTH lectures and conferences at the June 2020 residency. Those returning to graduate in June 2020 will lecture. Those BEGINNING their fourth term as of June 2020, will have faculty conferences. Our first conference group will take place at the June 2020 residency. That happens at the BEGINNING of a student’s fourth (or fifth for dual) term. For instance, whomever is slated to begin their fourth term (or fifth if they're dual) in June of 2020 will write their critical paper not deliver a lecture.

In response to numerous conversations with faculty about the need to improve the mechanism by which we evaluate our students’ critical writing, we have begun the process of phasing out the graduate student lectures. Beginning at the June 2020 residency (with students who are rising into their fourth term (or fifth if they are dual-genre) ) students will receive a group faculty evaluation and subsequently revise their final critical essay, a finished version of which will be submitted with their final thesis manuscript.  

During the student’s third term, they will write a twenty to twenty-five-page critical essay under the guidance of their faculty mentor for that term.  At the end of the term, they will submit that essay to a two-member faculty panel who will read the essay and prepare comments for a face-to-face meeting during the student’s fourth (fifth for dual-genre) residency. 

Each student will meet with a two-member faculty panel to present an oral summary of their essay and to receive faculty feedback in the meeting.  Faculty will have read the essay, and will provide meaningful but limited written feedback. Faculty offer their notes and suggestions for revision. Notes will be provided to both the student and the program administration for distribution to the student’s fourth-term teacher.

The administration will assign the faculty critical writing panel and pairings will happen regardless of the genre in which students and faculty work (for instance a student in fiction might have a panel consisting of a faculty member in nonfiction and one in poetry.)

During the final term, students work with the fourth-term teacher to revise the critical essay. That teacher will advise the student on revisions, and will evaluate the essay in their final narrative evaluation for the term. 

The essay will be submitted as part of the student’s final thesis manuscript to be turned in to the library.  There is no final second reader for the critical essay. 

Graduation Ceremony

At the end of each residency there will be a graduation ceremony. Graduating students participate in the ceremony during their graduate term residency.  Students are encouraged to invite family members and friends to celebrate.

ACADEMIC PROGRESS & ACADEMIC STANDING

Academic progress in the Bennington Writing Seminars is both quantitative and qualitative.  Every student’s academic progress is evaluated each term.  As a result, students earn a level of academic standing: Good Standing, Academic Probation, or Dismissal.

All students are considered full time. The number of credits earned per academic term is 16.  Each term is deemed completed when all work has been received and accepted by a faculty member. A total of 64 credits is needed to fulfill the degree; 80 credits for the dual-genre option.

Once the teacher has written the final narrative evaluation of the term's work and deems the work satisfactory, the credits are conferred. No partial credit can be awarded for an incomplete term.

All students are given access to Populi, the college’s grading portal, and are expected to check it for their grades and evaluations after each term. Questions on how to use the system can be addressed to the Registrar: Carly Rudzinski at carlyrudzinski@bennington.edu

The narrative evaluations then become part of the student's transcript.  For transcript purposes these evaluations serve as a short portrait of student accomplishments. 

The final narrative evaluation includes a qualitative judgment of Pass, comparable to (A-C), Marginal Pass, comparable to (D), or Fail, comparable to (F). To remain in Good Standing, a student should receive a Pass each term. A student who receives a Fail, will receive no credit and faces dismissal from the program.  Only one Marginal Pass is allowed during the 4 terms of the program (5 terms for the dual-genre option).  A student who receives a Marginal Pass for a term will be put on Academic Probation in the coming term. If a student receives a second Marginal Pass, they will be dismissed from the program. 

When requested by an individual student, a letter grade will also be conferred.  Such a request must be made in writing before each term begins and be approved by the Associate Director.  Under no circumstances will letter grades be reversed once conferred or conferred retroactively, once a student has graduated from the Seminars.

An Incomplete may be considered when extenuating circumstances such as illness or death in the family arise.  In such a case, the teacher may, at the teacher's discretion, recommend an Incomplete for the term. All Incompletes will be reviewed by the Director, who will make the final decision to confer the Incomplete and will also define a written plan for completion of work.  If work is not satisfactorily completed by the date specified in the plan the student will not receive credit for the term, will have to repeat the term, or may be dismissed from the Seminars. Extensions on Incompletes are not granted.

Causes for dismissal include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to attend workshops
  • Late receipt of packets
  • Incomplete or insufficient work
  • Unsatisfactory work
  • Plagiarism
  • Dishonesty
  • Failure to comply with the Guidelines
  • Behavior that endangers the health, safety, well-being, or overall community of the Seminars 

The Director shall determine whether to dismiss a student and will render their decision in writing to the student.  The student may appeal the decision of the Director within one week, in writing, to the Dean of the College.  The decision of the Dean of the College is final in all cases.

GOVERNANCE

Faculty members at Bennington are chosen according to the literary merits of their writing and their ability to teach.  The faculty lead workshops during the two 10-day residencies in January and June, advise students about their courses of study, correspond with students during the terms between residencies, give public readings of their work, and on occasion offer lectures and Master Classes and Genre Seminars.

Visiting writers conduct lectures and discussions of literature for two to three-day visits that take place within the ten-day residencies and give public readings of their work during each residency.

In addition to the faculty, the administration of the Writing Seminars is taken up by Director, an Associate Director, and a Program Coordinator. The Director is responsible for the vision and direction of the Seminars, and for the hiring of faculty and guests. The Associate Director is responsible for implementation of the Seminars on a daily basis, and is responsible for student concerns during the periods of residency and correspondence.  The Program Coordinator is in year-round residence at Bennington College, and responsible for communications and business between the Seminars and the College. 

Bennington College is governed by its Board of Trustees, who bear legal and fiduciary responsibility for the institution; by the President of the College, who serves at the pleasure of the Trustees; by the Provost and Dean of the College; by the Director of the Seminars, who consults with the College concerning Seminars Guidelines, and is responsible for faculty hiring, evaluation, and dismissal; by the Associate Director, by the Program Coordinator, and by the faculty.  Each has a specific role to play, with specific responsibilities. 

Within what we have to offer, there is great freedom for students to fashion their own courses of study.  The Seminars cannot function as a democracy, but within its hierarchy we plan to maximize the greatest freedom and responsibility possible for its administrators, faculty, students, and staff. 

Faculty maintain a basic continuity from term to term, though faculty members do change according to the needs of the program. The visiting writers generally change from residency to residency, although some visiting writers may return.

The entire faculty, as well as a faculty steering committee meets regularly at the beginning of each residency.

NUTS  AND  BOLTS

Admission

Students may begin their studies in the Seminars during either of the 10-day residency sessions in January or June.  Admission is limited and competitive.

Students are admitted to the Seminars primarily on the strength of the original manuscript (s) and the essay submitted with the application.  Each manuscript is judged according to its literary merit, its promise, and its indication of a student's readiness to study writing and literature on the graduate level.

Although we encourage students to write broadly in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction and criticism, students will be accepted to work in one primary genre, unless they apply for the dual-genre degree option.  With the exception of the third-term switch and the dual-genre option, students stay in their chosen genre of focus.  The manuscript(s) submitted with the application should be in the genre(s) in which the student intends to concentrate.

Applicants should otherwise provide a two-to-three-page essay on their reading life and their literary influences. 

Students who are applying to the Seminars will often have completed some graduate work or attained graduate degrees in various fields; the Seminars may consider awarding up to one semester’s worth of credits earned at an accredited creative writing program that awards MA, MFA or Ph.D. degree.  No more than one semester’s worth of credits will be awarded, no matter how many credits were earned while pursuing a degree in another program.  In order to have a transcript reviewed, students must make this request at the time of enrollment in the program.  Transcripts will be reviewed by the Program Director in consultation with the College’s Dean of Studies.

Normally a bachelor's degree is required to gain admission, but this requirement can be waived if the quality of the application submitted warrants such an exception.

In addition to the original manuscript(s) and the essay, in admitting students we will give weight to previous education and life experience.  We look to see that a prospective student has the ability to work independently, to successfully use the low-residency format, and to benefit from direct criticism within the collaborative nature of the residency periods.  Our aim is to help guide students who are very self-motivated and who have already made their compact with the world of writing and reading.                                

Official transcripts from previous schools attended must also be submitted, along with recommendations from three people familiar with the student's writing and capacity to sustain study independently and collaboratively.

A $70 nonrefundable application fee ($100 for Dual-Genre applicants) is required.  This fee cannot be waived. 

Financial aid is available in the form of student loans.  These funds must be applied for within the deadlines outlined on the application form.  We invite interested applicants to call and discuss these matters in detail. 

Application deadlines: Currently September 1 for winter/spring term, beginning with the January residency, and March 1 for the summer/fall term, beginning with the June residency. 

Students who accept enrollment must make the matriculation deposit by the specified deadline to be considered fully enrolled.

Fees and Billing

A required matriculation deposit of $500 is due upon acceptance into the Seminars. This deposit is nonrefundable and holds the student’s placement in the Seminars. The full amount of the deposit will be applied to the student’s first-term’s tuition.

The Seminars fee for the first four terms (five for the dual-degree option) includes tuition, room and board, and is billed prior to the beginning of each term.  In addition, students are billed for their “graduate residency fee” prior to the fifth (or 6th in the case of dual-genre students) and final residency.  All fees, including the final residency fee, are due and payable as stated on the bill, approximately one month prior to the first day of the residency, generally May 15 for the summer term and December 15 for the winter term.  Payments not received by the Business Office by the due date will be assessed late payment penalties.

Students who have not paid in full all amounts due and payable to the College, or whose loans are not guaranteed before the first day of classes of the upcoming term and who have not requested and received written authorization from the Business Office, will not be allowed to enroll in workshops or to occupy or use campus facilities. Such action will not constitute release of the student or the other responsible party from his or her financial obligation to the College.

Financial Aid

The primary responsibility for financing an education belongs to the student.  Financial aid is available in the form of student loans.  To begin the application process, those students who need financial aid fill out and return the financial aid application form at the time they apply to the Seminars.  The Financial Aid Office requires the following: the Bennington College Financial Aid Application, a copy of the most recent federal income tax return, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and financial aid transcripts.  The student must complete the financial aid process by the deadline determined by the Financial Aid Office and in any event before the start of the residency. 

Scholarships

All admitted students are considered for scholarships. These are awarded at varying amounts to students on the basis of merit and need and with input from the admissions committee, the Director and the Associate Director. Scholarship monies are awarded once during a student’s time here and spread across the terms in which they are enrolled. All scholarship monies derive from the generosity of Bennington Writing Seminars alumni who give in order that future writers can receive the gift of time, craft, and camaraderie that is a Bennington trademark.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal from the College must be submitted in writing (email is fine) to the Associate Director.  The effective date of withdrawal is the date on which this written notice is received.

The enrollment fee is forfeit in the event of a withdrawal.

Students receiving federal aid will have refunds calculated in accordance with federal refund policy.  Details are available from the Financial Aid Office.

Refund Policy

A student who is not receiving federal financial aid who withdraws from the Seminars any time, from the first day of the term before its completion, will be assessed fees according to the schedule published by the Business Office in effect at the time of withdrawal.

Students receiving federal aid will have refunds calculated in accordance with the federal refund policy in effect at the time of withdrawal.  Details are available from the Financial Aid Office.

Leaves of Absence

Requests for leaves of absence, not to involve more than one term’s absence from the Seminars, must be received by the Associate Director in writing by the deadlines (currently March 1 for the June term and September 1 for the January term). 

If a student decides after the deadline to take a leave of absence, she or he may finish the term but will be considered withdrawn at the end of the term, and will be required to reapply to the Seminars with the same status as other applicants seeking admission for the term to which she or he is reapplying.

Records/Access

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“Buckley Amendment”) of 1974 guidelines are followed.  Student academic records are maintained in the Office of the Dean of the College.  Faculty and Administrators may review student records as needed.  Students may review their own records.

Transcripts are maintained by the Dean’s Office and may be requested by students by writing to the Dean. There is no charge for transcripts. Transcripts contain the teachers’ final evaluations. No student will be permitted to receive or to direct delivery of an academic transcript to another institution, agency, or individual until all of the student’s financial obligations to the College have been met.

SECTION II
BENNINGTON COLLEGE POLICIES  AND PROCEDURES

Campus Resources

Crossett Library, the media center, and the post office will keep regular hours, to be announced before each residency.  Sports equipment may be requested through the Meyer Recreation Barn Fitness Center, and the fitness center may be used only when a monitor is on duty.

Housing

Writing Seminars students live in single rooms in student houses. Bed linens, blankets, pillows, and towels are provided. It is the policy of the College that children and families not be housed in any campus residence hall.

Meals

Meals are provided by the College in the Commons dining hall.  There are various dietary options available at all meals.  There is no reimbursement for meals not taken.

Smoking Policy

In accordance with Vermont State law, the College is required to provide employees, students, and visitors with clearly stated guidelines on when and where they may smoke. The state policy restricts smoking in all places of public access. The policy has been formulated in recognition of the Surgeon General’s conclusion that: smoking is injurious to health; and involuntary (or second-hand) smoking is a cause of disease in nonsmokers The College has designated its administrative, academic, and other public buildings SMOKE-FREE. Smoking is not permitted inside any of these buildings nor within 30 feet of entryways and exits of all buildings.

Automobiles

Students may park properly registered automobiles in designated lots. Vehicle registration information will be taken at Registration.

Animals on Campus

All animals are prohibited from the campus except those belonging to Bennington College faculty/staff in approved housing.

Fire Regulations

The use or possession of candles or incense in any campus building is strictly prohibited.  Halogen lamps with bulbs that exceed 300 watts are prohibited in student houses and faculty and staff offices.

Hallways and all areas of egress in student houses must be kept clear at all times. Fire screens must be employed whenever fireplaces are in use. 

It is strongly suggested that students use power strips in their rooms. Three-way plugs may not be used anywhere in student houses.

Gatherings in student-house living rooms must not exceed the Vermont Fire Code. The maximum number is 80.

Gatherings in student rooms must not exceed the Vermont Fire Code. The maximum number of students in a room is 8, including the occupant of the room.

Bonfires are prohibited without the approval of the Director of Campus Safety. Approval for a bonfire is subject to the safety and environmental conditions as determined by the North Bennington Fire Department and/or the College.

IN THE EVENT OF FIRE:

PULL THE RED, MANUAL FIRE ALARM SWITCH IN THE BUILDING.  FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE LOCATION OF THESE ALARMS.

EVACUATE THE BUILDING.

CALL SECURITY IMMEDIATELY AT EXT.  210—DAY OR NIGHT.  SECURITY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CHECKING THE BUILDING AND DETERMINING WHEN OCCUPANTS MAY REENTER

Safety Devices

All student houses are equipped with fire extinguishers, and all the houses have smoke detectors and sprinkler systems in the common areas as well as in all student rooms that are linked to a located-annunciator panel in the Security Booth.  Tampering with fire safety apparatus is a serious offense. Vermont law states that “a person who willfully or knowingly tampers with, interferes with, or impairs any public fire apparatus, wire, or associated equipment (including fire extinguishers) shall be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000 or both.”  Students who tamper with such equipment will be subject to College and/or state sanctions, which may include fines, suspension, or expulsion.

Motor Vehicle Regulations

All vehicle and traffic laws promulgated by the State of Vermont are effective on the Bennington College campus as elsewhere in the state. Vehicles in operation must be licensed, registered, insured, equipped, and otherwise legal to operate.

All motor vehicle accidents that occur on campus must be reported promptly to Security. Motorists are reminded that leaving the scene of an accident or failure by a motorist to file a Report of a Motor Vehicle Accident form (available at Security) is a violation of Vermont law.

Security has the responsibility for enforcing motor vehicle rules and regulations. Anyone violating motor vehicle regulations may be prohibited from driving on campus. The College has the authority to ban vehicles from campus.

Parking

Fire lanes must be kept clear at all times. Cars parked in fire lanes are subject to towing.

Vehicles must be parked only in areas to which they are assigned. (See Parking Rules and Regulations available at Registration.)

Speed Limits

No vehicle shall be operated at a speed above the posted speed on the speed limit signs.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is prohibited. The College defines reckless driving as driving that endangers people, property, or animals. Examples of reckless driving include, but are not limited to, drunk driving, driving at an excessive rate of speed, failure to yield to pedestrians, and driving across lawns.

Writing Seminars Regulations Regarding Alcohol and Parties

Only persons of legal drinking age under Vermont state law (21 years of age) may consume alcoholic beverages on College property. The use of a false ID or falsifying one’s ID is a violation of College policies and state laws.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages must be available at every function where alcoholic beverages are available.

Publicity and posters for College functions may not mention alcohol or imply that it will be available.  Publicity and posters are not permitted for private parties that promote or mention alcohol or imply that it will be available.

Admittance to events at which alcohol is served is limited to the College community and invited guests.

With the exception of parties attended by fewer than 8 people (the number in compliance with the fire code) held in individual rooms, alcoholic beverages may not be served at any event on College property except under the auspices of the College’s catering permit through the Director of Food Services, who will determine if Vermont alcohol and beverage control regulations can be enforced.

Kegs of beer or beer balls are prohibited from College residences.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages out-of-doors or possession of an open container of alcoholic beverages out-of-doors on the Bennington campus is prohibited except at registered outdoor parties, which can only be sponsored by the College’s catering service.

Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is prohibited. Alcohol may not be sold directly or indirectly at parties held in individual student rooms.       

Summary of Vermont State Laws on Drugs and Drug Paraphernalia

A person knowingly and unlawfully possessing marijuana shall be imprisoned for not more than six months and/or fined not more than $500. For selling marijuana, a person may be imprisoned for up to two years and/or fined up to $10,000.

A person knowingly and unlawfully possessing cocaine, heroin, LSD, or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic, or hallucinogenic drug may be imprisoned for up to one year and/or fined up to $2,000. For selling cocaine or heroin, a person may be imprisoned for up to five years and/or fined up to $100,000; for selling any other depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, a person may be imprisoned for up to five years and/or fined up to $25,000; for selling LSD or other hallucinogenic drug, a person may be imprisoned for up to five years and/or fined up to $25,000.

Nondiscrimination Policy

Bennington College is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination as defined under applicable state and federal laws, including but not limited to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities.  The College does not discriminate in its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV test, or any other legally protected status. Complaints of any type of unlawful discrimination that do not fall within the Sexual Harassment Policy above should be directed to the Director of Human Resources, whose office is located at Barn 102, whose telephone number is 802-440-4423, and whose email address is hfaley@bennington.edu.  The Director of Human Resources also serves as the Title IX Coordinator, and complaints of sex discrimination under Title IX not covered by the Sexual Harassment Policy shall be directed to him or her in writing. The Director of Human Resources shall adjudicate any complaint of unlawful discrimination in a prompt and equitable manner, which will permit the complainant to make a written submission, to respond to any submission by the person complained against, to be given a written decision by the Director of Human Resources, and to take a written appeal to the President, whose decision, which will be rendered in writing, will be final. Except in extraordinary circumstances, such grievance shall be determined by the Director of Human Resources within 60 days of the filing of the complaint.

NOTE:  Any complaint determined by the chair of the Sexual Harassment Hearing Committee to fall within the jurisdiction of the Sexual Harassment Policy must be brought pursuant to the Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures.

Consensual Relationships

Because of their potential to damage the bonds of mutual trust and responsibility upon which the Bennington community depends, sexual or dating relationships between faculty and students, as well as between staff and students, are prohibited at all times and in all circumstances except those described immediately below, even if the relationship is consensual and regardless of the age of the student.                                                        

Recent Bennington College graduates who are hired in a staff role and who have an existing dating or sexual relationship with a current student may be exempted from this policy if they have no supervisory or functional staff role with the student and where the College, in its sole discretion, determines that such is not a conflict of interest or in conflict with the best interests of the student; however, they must inform both Human Resources and their hiring manager of the existing relationship before they are hired. Failure to abide by this policy will result in discipline of the faculty or staff member, up to and including dismissal from employment at the College.   

Weapons Policy

Possession of dangerous, potentially dangerous, or unauthorized materials such as explosives, firearms, or other weapons (whether or not loaded with ammunition) on College property is strictly prohibited.  Employees may not carry such materials onto College property in their vehicles or by other means. The Dean of the College may authorize in writing specific exceptions for job-related activities for faculty and technical staff. The Director of Campus Safety may authorize in writing specific exceptions for job-related activities for other personnel. Violation of this policy will be considered grounds for immediate discharge.