Creative Writing (Low-Res MFACW)

Have questions? We make it easy to get in touch:

Call Us


Text Us

412-419-3772 (standard text/SMS rates will apply)

Email Us

Request Information

Complete our Request for Information form

Or, answer a few questions and we will be glad to help.


Creative Writing (Low-Res MFACW) Overview

Chatham’s low-residency creative writing program, established in 2009, grows from the legacy of Rachel Carson '29, a creative writer known for her social conscience. Our students understand that writing is ultimately a public act with the power to effect meaningful change. For those who wish a flexible format and to work one-on-one with acclaimed writers, the low-residency MFA program will help you reach your writing goals, whether you pursue it full- or part-time. In addition, low-residency students have the opportunity to network with creative writing faculty and students during two residencies at the Summer Community of Writers held on Chatham’s stunning, pastoral Eden Hall Campus. We offer genres in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s writing/young adult. Chatham also offers a campus-based, full-residency program in addition to the low-residency program, with the ability to move seamlessly between the two.

Degrees Offered
  • MFA
Program School
Application Deadline

May 1

The deadline for the summer term (the preferred start) is May 1. A fall term start is also possible, with a deadline of July 1.

Credits Required


Chatham’s Low-Residency MFA is 42 credits. The majority of our students who choose a full-time academic schedule complete the program in two years.

Cost Per Credit


Cost consists of program tuition (cost per credit times number of credits) as well as any applicable University and degree-specific fees.

National Recognition

Top-Rated Program

In 2016 Publisher's Weekly named the program one of five distinctive MFA programs in the nation, and in 2007 the Atlantic Monthly named the program one of the top five innovative MFA programs in the U.S.

Explore the MFACW Low-Res Degree:

The low-residency MFACW is a broad program of study designed to prepare students for careers as writers or positions requiring similar skills, such as editing, publishing, and content development for the web; to enable students to improve their writing through interaction with their mentors and with our faculty and other writing students at the Summer Community of Writers; and to become experienced critics of literary works.


  • Have a completed baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university, with an overall undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale.
    If a Student has below a 3.0 GPA, please feel free to apply if you show extreme promise through other achievements. Additional Admissions documents may be requested.
  • Six credits of undergraduate courses in writing are recommended, but not required.

Completed application for admission by the posted deadline, including:

    • Online application
    • Admissions Essay (current prompt found in application portal)
    • Curriculum vitae or Resume
    • Two official letters of recommendation, preferably written by former writing teachers or professors who can speak to your writing
    • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
    • Creative writing sample in your primary genre ranging from 10-20 pages (maximum).  It can be one creative work or several pieces combined.

Admissions Materials can be uploaded in the application or submitted to:
Chatham University
Office of Graduate Admission-Berry Hall
Woodland Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Email Admissions

International Applicants

International Applicants must submit additional documentation to the Office of Admissions. A list of these documents can be found on the International Admission web page.

Intensive study of writing with your mentor is supplemented by two online courses.

ENG622: Advanced Creative Writing

ENG 622 is a first-year mentorship, comprised of one teacher and one student; it is designed to deepen the development of the student writer. In it, students work one-on-one with a faculty mentor who guides their study of creative writing craft. ENG 622 should build off the work of ENG 600.

ENG585: Travel Writing

This course focuses on the art and craft of travel writing. Students will read and study contemporary travel writing and will be expected to generate creative work that illustrates a deep understanding of the literary tools available to writers in this genre.

ENG584: The Environmental Imagination

This is a multi-genre course that focuses on the art and craft of nature and environmental writing. Students will read and study contemporary nature and environmental writing, and will be expected to generate creative work that illustrates a deep understanding of the literary tools available to writers in this genre.

View Full MFA Low-Residency Curriculum

The Summer Community of Writers is by far my best memory of graduate school so far, and it has blown pretty much every other workshop I've taken in the past out of the water. I hope I can experience it again in the future.

Photo of a Chatham University student sitting on a bench outside writing in notebook on lap.

Intentional Pairing, Dedicated Space

Mentors—seasoned educators and award-winning writers from across the country—are paired with students with great intention, based on complementary interests, passions, background, as well as students’ writing goals. Students and their mentors communicate through a dedicated Learning Management System, giving the feel of a traditional class space.

Photo of a young hijabi student working at her laptop in Cafe Rachel

Opportunities to Join Virtually

In addition to receiving comprehensive feedback on their work five times per term, low-residency students have video conferences with their mentors, access to all virtual MFACW programming, opportunities to meet with your cohort online and materials and coursework through the dedicated learning management system.  

Photo of several people gathering at picnic tables on Chatham University's Eden Hall Campus in front of a white barn.

Summer Community of Writers

Low-residency students join our vibrant, supportive community of students and faculty for two sessions of Chatham’s Summer Community of Writers (SCW), a ten-day, six-credit course that brings together low- and full-residency MFA students, community members, and acclaimed national writers for an intense and exciting learning experience. Established in 2013, SCW takes place on our beautiful Eden Hall Campus with daily workshops, dynamic craft lectures, faculty and student readings, and ample time to write that many mention as one of the highlights of their Chatham MFA degree. It’s an unparalleled opportunity for low-residency students to network with mentors, faculty, and peers.

Explore the SCW : Checkerboard 3 - Summer Community of Writers
Photo of of a group of Chatham University student posing in front of mountains in Iceland.

Travel Opportunities

As part of our innovative creative writing field seminars, MFA students travel with faculty locally and abroad. Destinations have included Indonesia, Ireland, Chile, South Africa, Canada, and even continental trips to places like New Orleans. Recently, we've committed to exploring the hyperlocal, with destinations geared toward understanding our place in Appalachia. Program tuition goes toward these trips, making them affordable for students. More importantly, the trips are transformative for our students, whose writing becomes sharper and more nuanced when in new environments.

Photo of a garden courtyard, with a green plant growing to make a pattern over the stone. In the distance there are red brick buildings.

The Fourth River

The Fourth River is a journal of nature- and place-based writing published by the Chatham MFA program. The journal takes its name from a subterranean river beneath Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city famously sited at the confluence of three rivers: Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio. The Fourth River literary journal grew up from the idea that between and beneath the visible framework of the human world and the built environment, there exist deeper currents of force and meaning supporting the very structure of that world. Students have the opportunity to volunteer as editorial staff.

Explore the Fourth River : Checkerboard 7 - The Fourth River
Photo of a student walking away from the camera, under trees on Chatham University's Shadyside Campus

Best Writing Conference in Pennsylvania

Recently named by The Writer magazine as the best conference in Pennsylvania, Conversations and Connections is a one-day writer's conference at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA that brings together writers, editors, and publishers in a friendly, supportive environment.

Close-up photo of a student writing in a notebook in the library

Annual Reading Series

Our MFA program offers the opportunity to meet and learn from established authors of all genres. The Melanie Brown Lecturer Series is presented each year through the generosity of The Melanie and Fred R. Brown Endowed Fund, and the selection of each year's Lecturer is guided by the desire to highlight fiction writers with a strong sense of place in her or his writing. Similarly, our annual Dialogues Reading Series invites authors of international renown to visit our campus and host readings and lectures on craft. Recent readings have been presented in a hybrid format, allowing for virtual and in-person attendees. View the readings on YouTube by clicking here.

  • Past lecturers have included: Cristina Garcia, Shaka Senghor, Renée Watson, Kaveh Akbar, Jaquira Diaz, Martha Southgate, Safia Elhillo, M. Evelina Galang, Margot Livesey, Amy Bloom, Karen Bender, Sam Chang, Stewart O’Nan, Alix Ohlin, Wiley Cash, Brad Kessler, Ann Pancake, Michael Byers, Debra Marquart, Sandra Cisneros, Thisbe Nissen, Hannah Tinti, B. K. Loren, Malcolm Friend, Angela Velez, Adriana E. Ramírez, Rachel Mennies, Dilruba Ahmed, Ryan Rydzewski, Beth Gilstrap. 

Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing

Photo of a group of young BIPOC women students seated at a table, engaged in conversation

Holding Space on the Page

Writing from Here

Summers at ChathamU usually mean one thing for the literary-minded among us: the MFA in Creative Writing program’s Summer Community of Writers.

Photo of Caitlyn Hunter, a young Black woman, seated between two library bookshelves with a pile of books in front of her. She is reading a book titled "Black Women Writers, 1950-1980"

‘Black is Not a Monolith’

Photo of a man closing his eyes and looking down mid-poetry performance, with a microphone in front of him
Play Video

Word Circus is a monthly reading series presented by the Chatham MFA Creative Writing Program in collaboration with Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery.

Photo of a young female student in a tie dye Chatham University shirt, wearing a mask and seated at a table in the quad on Shadyside Campus

Chatham’s MFA Program Gets Creative, Despite COVID

Photo of a young man in a red jacket posing with a beer bottle in front of the Pittsburgh skyline

MFA Student Launches Online Magazine

Do you have questions?

We make it easy to get in touch:

Call Us


Text Us

412-419-3772 (standard text/SMS rates will apply)

Email Us

Request Information

Complete our Request for Information form

Or, answer a few questions and we will be glad to help.

Expand to Get In Touch!