Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA)

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

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 Creative Writing program will help you achieve your writing goals.

The MFA program fosters a supportive community of talented writers who are encouraged to experiment across genres and with new forms of writing.

In addition to the genres of Poetry, Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Dominican offers an optional track in Narrative Medicine, which allows students to embrace the special role that creative writing can play in the process of healing. 

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

Low-Residency MFA 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. 
  • Co-curricular activities in publishing and teaching.
  • An optional track in narrative medicine.
Application DeadlinesTuition Rate Per UnitNumber of UnitsFormat and Length

Summer: May 1
*Priority: April 1

Winter: December 1
*Priority: November 1

*Submissions are reviewed on a rolling basis.


View Tuition and Financial Aid Information for details.
37 Units

24 months


participate in a workshop or event

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Admissions and Financial 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(s) of coursework from each college or university attended (undergraduate and graduate) are required upon matriculation. Find complete instructions on how to submit your transcripts to Dominican here.
  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. One Letter of Recommendation
    (Elect a Personal Interview to waive this requirement.)
  6. Writing Sample
    Please submit one of the following samples of your work:
    • Poetry (up to 10 pages single spaced, one long poem or up to 8 individual poems, or some combination)
    • Prose: (up to 25 pages double spaced. Can be one piece or multiple pieces)
    • A combination of both poetry and prose (not to exceed 25 pages)

If an application deadline falls on a weekend and/or holiday, applications will be accepted through the end of the next business day.

Summer Residency Deadline May 1
Winter Residency Deadline December 1


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

Creative Writing Residencies

Our 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 residencies (three summer sessions and two winter sessions) over the course of two years. Each 8-day residency consists 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 6-15, 2024
Winter Residency January 6-13, 2024

MFA Classes, Workshops and More

Creative Writing Retreats

The MFA program offers creative writing retreats held on campus and remotely that are open to the public. Participants study with MFA faculty in small group writing workshops and close reading discussion groups. The on-campus retreats are held in the idyllic Edgehill Mansion. Faculty and participants have lunch together in Caleruega Hall and take a nature walk on campus during our outdoor journal writing activity. There is an online retreat option over Zoom that follows a similar schedule. Registration is now open for our Fall 2023 Creative Writing Retreat. Click here for more details.

Advanced Writing Seminar

The Advanced Seminar provides serious writers the opportunity to develop their work and connect to a writing community. The Advanced Seminar dovetails with the MFA residency workshops, craft talks, and panel discussions. Applicants are asked to submit a portfolio of the writing they will develop during the residency. Contact Judy Halebsky for more information.

Click here to view a full listing of upcoming workshops, information sessions and events.

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 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.

To receive regular updates about our program, including information about upcoming admissions events, workshops and residencies, please sign up for the MFA Newsletter.

join our Email list

To read prior newsletters, view the MFA newsletter archives.

Through our partnership with Littoral Press, MFA students can get an inside look at writing contests and the world of literary publishing. As part of a broadside contest, students will screen submissions and work with a judge to choose the best work.

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.

Faculty Mentors

Judy is the author of the poetry collections “Tree Line and Sky=Empty” which won the New Issues Prize. Her chapbook “Space/Gap/Interval/Distance” won the Poets-Under-Forty award from Sixteen Rivers Press. On a MEXT fellowship from the Japanese Ministry of Culture she trained in Butoh dance at the Ohno Studio in Yokohama and studied Noh theatre at Hosei University in Tokyo. Her translations of poetry from Japanese to English include work by Yuka Tsukagoshi and Mizuho Ishida  Most recently, she has written essays on Moth-style storytelling and the poet Chana Bloch.  See full bio here.

Joan founded and teaches in Dominican’s MFA program in creative writing. Her poetry has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Paris Review, JAMA, Feminist Studies, Spillway, and other magazines. Her poetry has also appeared in the anthologies that focus on writing and healing: Women Write Their Bodies: Stories of Illness and Recovery (Kent State, 2007) and The Art of Medicine in Metaphors (Copernicus Healthcare, 2012). She has published four books of poetry, most recently In the Next Life (Poetic Matrix Press, 2019). A Fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and long-time member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, she has won individual artists fellowships in poetry from the Marin Arts Council and from the Ohio Arts Council. With her husband, physician, and poet David Watts, she produced the PBS documentary “Healing Words: Poetry & Medicine.” Her second documentary, “The Time We Have,” presents an intimate portrait of a young woman facing terminal illness.  See Joan's full bio here.

Claudia Morales (1988) is an author and scholar from Chiapas, Mexico. Her debut novel, No Habrá Retorno (Coneculta Chiapas 2015, reissued by Los Libros del Perro 2021) won the prestigious National Rosario Castellanos Prize for Short Novels. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright Program and the Foundation for Mexican Letters where she was a writing fellow. Claudia's stories have been featured in Rio Grande Review 2022, The Offing Magazine 2021, Lunch Ticket 2019, Ficción Atómica (Palindroma 2020), Mexicanas: Trece Narrativas Contemporáneas (Fondo Blanco 2021) and her second novel Calao Bicorne is forthcoming in Fondo Blanco, Spring 2023.  See Claudia's full bio here.

Thomas Burke is the author of the fiction collection Where Is Home from Fithian Press. His work has been published in reviews including The James White Review, Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly, The Chiron Review, and the Evergreen Chronicles; in webzines; and in anthologies including Queer and Catholic (Routledge). Twice nominated for a Pushcart prize, he received the Steven L. Smith Prize for Gay Fiction.  See full bio here.

marianne rogoff mfa

Marianne Rogoff, PhD, is the author of the Pushcart-nominated story collection Love Is Blind in One Eye, the memoir Silvie’s Life, and numerous travel stories, short fictions, essays, and book reviews.

Since 2018, her writing has been a Finalist in Narrative magazine’s Spring Story Contest, Top 10 for the Tillie Olsen Story Award, on the Short List for the Bath International Novella-in-Flash Award, Top 10 for Sequestrum Editor’s Reprint Award, Finalist for ScreenCraft’s Cinematic Short Story Award, Semifinalist for the Tamaqua Award from Hidden River Arts for a book of essays, and Finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Prize. As adjunct professor at Dominican University, she teaches fiction, creative non-fiction and the personal essay.

Kim Culbertson is the author of the YA novels Songs for a Teenage Nomad (Sourcebooks 2010), Instructions for a Broken Heart (Sourcebooks 2011), which was named a Booklist Top Ten Romance Title for Youth: 2011 and also won the 2012 Northern California Book Award for YA Fiction, Catch a Falling Star (Scholastic 2014), The Possibility of Now (Scholastic 2016), which was named a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year (2017 edition), and The Wonder of Us (Scholastic 2017). Much of her inspiration comes from her background teaching high school since 1997. In 2012, Kim wrote her eBook novella The Liberation of Max McTrue for her students, who, over the years, have taught her far more than she has taught them. Kim also works as a fiction mentor for the Dominican University MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in Northern California with her husband and daughter.

Dean Rader has authored or co-authored twelve books, including Works & Days, winner of the 2010 T. S. Eliot Prize, Landscape Portrait Figure Form, named a Best Book of the Year by the Barnes & Noble Review, and Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry, a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award and the Northern California Book Award. His next collection of poems, Before the Borderless: Dialogues with Cy Twombly, is forthcoming in 2023 from Copper Canyon Press. He and Victoria co-author “Two Roads” a poetry column in dialogue for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Dean’s writing has been supported by fellowships from Princeton University, Harvard University, The Headlands Center for the Arts, Art Omi, the MacDowell Foundation, and the John R. Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, from which he was named a 2019 Fellow in Poetry. He is a professor at the University of San Francisco.

Robert F. Bradford writes plays, stories, poems and songs. His work has been honored with two Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards. His writing has been published in Raven’s Perch, Strange Encounters, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere.

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 each semester to all students enrolled in the program. There's also donor funded scholarships available, with recipients selected by program faculty and the Office of Financial Aid. 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.

Thank you for supporting the MFA program. Gifts to Dominican University of California have a profound impact on our students. 


Degrees Offered


Faculty, Staff and Mentors

Judy Halebsky headshot

Judy Halebsky, PhD

Director of the MFA Professor of English


Joan Baranow headshot

Joan Baranow, PhD

Professor of English
Natalie Babler headshot

Natalie Babler

Administrative Manager
dominican seal

Thomas Burke

Adjunct Professor
Claudia Morales

Claudia Morales Ramirez

Assistant Professor of English
Vivian Delchamps headshot

Vivian Delchamps, PhD

Assistant Professor of English
Christina Lopez

Christina Lopez, MFA

Administrative Assistant
dominican seal

David Watts

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Creative Writing: In the News