Creative Writing

Our low-residency MFA in Creative Writing welcomes you to a vibrant community of writers and dedicated faculty, in an unsurpassed San Francisco Bay Area location.

student writing in a journal

Whether you are a poet looking to hone your craft, an aspiring novelist who wants to get that book written, or a memoirist with an urgent story to tell, our MFA program will help you achieve your writing goals.

The MFA program fosters a supportive community of talented writers who are prepared for a variety of careers in which creativity and written communication skills are critical to success.

In addition to the genres of Poetry, Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Dominican offers an optional track in Narrative/Poetic Medicine, which allows students to embrace the special role that creative writing can play in the process of healing. Students in the MFA Creative Writing program are encouraged to experiment across genres and with new forms of writing.

I like the vision they have in the MFA program at Dominican. It’s a fabulous resource, this island of calm in the middle of a lot of chaos in this world.” — Catharine Clark-Sayles, MFA 2019

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Program Highlights

  • Flexible low-residency format customized to meet your writing goals. 
  • A dedicated mentor and opportunities to publish your work.
  • Two on-campus residencies per year featuring dynamic speakers and workshops. 
  • The only narrative/poetic medicine track in the country. 


Apply Now

Program Format

The low-residency format consists of twice yearly residencies and semester-long distance mentorships, allowing students to advance a writing career without disruption to work or family.

The degree consists of five on-campus residencies (three summer sessions and two winter sessions) over the course of two years. The 11-day summer residency and the seven-day winter residency consist of morning workshops, afternoon talks and evening readings. Four semesters of distance mentorship provide a personalized academic experience based on each student’s individual writing goals. 

Summer Residency June 6-June 14, 2020
Winter Residency Dates to be determined

Learn more about our Residencies

Career Paths

Graduates of Dominican’s MFA in Creative Writing program are ready to pursue a variety of careers as a writer, as well as work in related fields such as education, teaching, editing, marketing, publishing, grant writing, and nonprofit arts organizations.

Special Features

The act of writing can effect powerful change in perception and feeling — our MFA is geared towards this change. Writing for Renewal may be a personal journey of discovery or it may rise from a desire to renew the course of our literary heritage. Whatever your ambitions, our program will deepen your knowledge and move your writing forward.

Our optional MFA track in Narrative / Poetic Medicine grounds students in the art of storytelling and supports them as they take up the subject of the body and express through writing what happens when a physical or mental anguish disrupts a life.

Students will contemplate the differences between being cured and being healed of disease, and the therapeutic role creative writing can play in the process of healing.

History of Narrative Medicine
The term “Narrative Medicine” typically applies to the inclusion of literary study as an integral part of the education of caregivers. In these programs, medical students, doctors, and other caregivers practice the art of attentive listening through the close reading of creative literature.

Close reading trains caregivers to follow clues to a patient’s illness that may not have a physical symptom, to listen for subtexts and hear significant metaphors within the patient’s narrative. Close reading also helps to nurture the qualities of empathy and compassion, qualities that have traditionally been nurtured by the arts and humanities.

Through the MFA program, Dominican offers several opportunities to enrich your educational journey, including international retreats, a literary lecture series and membership in an international honor society. 

Explore partnerships and programs

Admissions and Aid

A Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a regionally accredited institution of higher education is required to apply to our graduate programs.

  1. Completed Application — Apply now!

  2. Official Transcript(s)
    Official transcript of coursework from each college or university attended (undergraduate and graduate). Transcripts must be sent directly in a sealed envelope from the college or university.

    Send to: 
    Dominican University of California
    c/o Graduate Admissions
    50 Acacia Ave. 
    San Rafael, 94901
  3. Resume
  4. Statement of Purpose or Intent
    A brief essay (two pages, double spaced, 12-point font) describing writing background, professional and/or personal goals, and additional life and/or academic experience relevant to your application.
  5. Two Letters of Recommendation
    Academic and/or professional
  6. Writing Sample
    • Eight poems, not to exceed 20 pages (single spaced)
    • 25 pages of prose; fiction or creative non-fiction (double spaced, 12-point font)
    • Two-to-three-page discussion of your current reading (double spaced, 12-point font)
  7. Personal Interview
  8. International Applicants
    International candidates must meet additional admissions requirements.

Summer Residency 2020

Deadline May 1, 2020

Winter Residency/Spring Semester 2021

Deadline December 1, 2020

Learn about tuition per unit, additional fees and total tuition.

We'll also show you how a Dominican education is more affordable than you might think with support from financial aid, scholarships and loans. 

Tuition and Aid

Frequently Asked Questions

The MFA is designed to support poets and writers who wish to complete and publish a book manuscript. Thus, the focus is on honing your writing skills and learning about the publishing industry.

However, since the MFA is recognized as a terminal degree in academe, you would be eligible to apply for college-level positions. You will also be prepared for jobs that require strong writing skills, such as publishing, editing, marketing, public relations, social media and web content strategy.


We offer a tuition discount of $300 for each residency and each semester to all students. In addition, we are home to the Alpha Omicron Rho chapter of the English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta, which offers graduate level scholarships.

 Tuition and Aid


Our MFA starts with a residency and runs for two years, for a total of five residencies and four mentorship semesters.

Yes. You have up to five years to complete the MFA in Creative Writing program. Consult with the graduate director to create a degree plan.

Yes, with the approval of a mentor and the graduate director.

Most of the time you will be writing towards the goals outlined in your individualized syllabus. Once a month you will meet with your cohort group for a workshop and one-on-one sessions with your mentor.

Workshops and faculty mentor sessions take place on campus, with video conferencing for distance learning students. Your mentor is always available for support and instruction throughout the semester.

All MFA students attend the winter (January) and summer (June) residencies together. During the Fall and Spring mentorship semesters, students are broken out into smaller groups of three to five students per mentor, in accordance with the AWP guidelines and best teaching practices.

Faculty, Staff and Mentors

Judy Halebsky headshot

Judy Halebsky, PhD

Director of the MFA Associate Professor of English


Joan Baranow headshot

Joan Baranow, PhD

Professor of English
Natalie Babler headshot

Natalie Babler

Administrative Manager
dominican seal

Thomas Burke, MFA

Assistant Professor, Literature & Languages and Social & Cultural Studies

Creative Writing: In the News