English Department at UNLV


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PhD with a Creative Dissertation

The Department of English at UNLV offers the Black Mountain Institute Ph.D. Fellowship for students pursuing a doctorate in English with a creative dissertation. The program—which centers on the study of English and American Literature and is designed to prepare students for careers in writing, teaching at the college or university level, editing, and publishing—includes course work in literature and creative writing, a qualifying examination, and a creative dissertation in either fiction or poetry. Admission is limited to those who hold an MA or MFA in English or creative writing.

How to Apply

For more information on applying to the program, see our admissions page. The program's structure is detailed on our degree requirements page.

Application Deadline

January 15: Deadline for applications for Fall admission to the program.

Application Decisions

Decisions for Fall admission will be made in March.

Program Composition

The Ph.D. with a creative dissertation program admits two students each year, one in fiction and one in poetry. All students admitted into the program receive the Black Mountain Institute Ph.D. Fellowship. Since 2007, the program has averaged 60 applications in fiction, for a 1% acceptance rate, and 35 in poetry, for a 2% acceptance rate.

Financial Assistance

Students in the Black Mountain Institute Ph.D. Fellowship program are supported for each of three years by a $16,000 graduate teaching assistantship and $9,000 in fellowship funds from BMI, for a total annual award of $25,000. Students are required to teach two courses each semester in composition, literature, and/or creative writing, or to spend an equivalent amount of time in a research assistantship at BMI. Students are paid monthly from September through May and are not expected to teach during the summer. However, summer classes are often available to students in the Ph.D. program, and many recent graduates have been supported by part-time teaching opportunities in the department.

Graduate assistants may choose to enroll in the student health insurance program. Depending on the funding sources, GAs may receive $1,000 toward the annual health insurance premium. Visit the Student Health Center to learn more about student health insurance.

Out-of-state graduate students who become graduate assistants are not required to pay out-of-state tuition while under GA contract. It should be noted, however, that out-of-state tuition is waived only during the time the student holds an assistantship. Hence, once a student is no longer a GA, he or she will be considered an out-of-state student (and pay out-of-state tuition), unless that student has applied for and received Nevada residency, as defined in the residency regulations established by the Board of Regents.

For a full explanation of benefits to graduate assistants, visit the benefits portion of the Graduate College web site.

Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

UNLV offers a dynamic and stimulating writing environment, shaped by a creative writing faculty that includes poets Donald Revell and Claudia Keelan and novelists Douglas Unger, Richard Wiley, and Maile Chapman. Recent visiting writers to the creative writing program, each with a one-year teaching appointment, have been Cristina Garcia (2009-10) and Timothy O'Grady (2010-11).

The program is affiliated with Black Mountain Institute (BMI), an international center for creative writers and scholars led by UNLV President Emerita Carol C. Harter. BMI supports a number of literary programs and publications, including a Readings & Panels series, the Diana L. Bennett Fellows program, City of Asylum Las Vegas, Rainmaker Translations, and the literary journals Witness and Interim.

BMI hosts up to fifteen writers each year to its Readings & Panels series, and guests to that program often join creative writing students for private receptions and, on occasion, craft talks. Recent guests to the series have included Chris Abani, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, T.C. Boyle, Michael Chabon, Junot Diaz, Susan Faludi, Alexandra Fuller, Yiyun Li, Tim O’Brien, Katha Pollitt, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Robert Stone, and A.B. Yehoshua.

BMI’s Bennett Fellows interact frequently with students and are available to visit classes and serve as mentors. Since 2007, the program has supported Uwem Akpan, Daniel Brook, Tom Bissell, Donna Hemans, Josip Novakovich, Robert Rosenberg, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, among others. BMI also sponsors the Ghanem Chair in Creative Writing, offered to a distinguished writer who gives a master class workshop and a craft talk to creative writing students and delivers a public reading. Previous Ghanem Chairs have been Russell Banks, E.L. Doctorow, Joyce Carol Oates, Wole Soyinka, and Derek Walcott.

BMI founded its newest program in 2011, an emerging writers series that brings four writers each year for a public reading and brown bag craft talk with students. The creative writing program occasionally brings authors to campus under the auspices of the University Forum; guests to that program meet socially with students and have included Richard Burgin, Maxine Chernoff, Paul Hoover, Malena Morling, Laura Mullen, Alice Notley, D.A. Powell, George Saunders, and Liz Waldner.

History of the Program

From 2001 to 2008, PhD students writing a creative dissertation were supported by the Schaeffer Fellowship program. Since 2011, they have been supported by the Black Mountain Institute Ph.D. Fellowship. Alumni of the program have had books published by major presses, including Graywolf, Omnidawn, Nightboat, BlazeVOX, Starcherone, and W.W. Norton, and their stories and poems have appeared in A Public Space, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Iowa Review, Pleiades, Glimmer Train, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Verse, Tin House, Mid-American Review, Fence, and Volt, among other journals. Their collective accolades include the Whiting Writers' Award, the O. Henry Award, the Fulbright Award, the New York Public Library Cullman Center Fellowship, the Nevada Arts Council Artists’ Fellowship, the Mary Roberts Rinehard Award, the Lawrence Foundation Prize, the Nightboat Books Poetry Prize, the Glimmer Train Short Story Award, the Beatrix Hawley Award, the Dana Awards, the Dana Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Series Award, the Nelson Algren Award, the Sawtooth Poetry Prize, and the Transcontinental Poetry Prize.

Ph.D. Fellows in Fiction (2001–2013):
  • David Armstrong (MA, Ohio University)
  • Mark Baumgartner (MFA, Bowling Green State University)
  • Aurora Brackett (MFA, San Francisco State University)
  • Maile Chapman (MFA, Syracuse University)
  • Katherine Lien Chariott (MFA, Cornell University)
  • Brett Finlayson (MFA, Syracuse University)
  • Constance Ford (MA, Hollins University)
  • Alissa Nutting (MFA, University of Alabama)
  • Karenmary Penn (MFA, University of Arizona)
  • Vu Tran (MFA, Iowa Writers' Workshop)
Ph.D. Fellows in Poetry (2001–2013):
  • Erica Anzalone (MFA, Iowa Writers’ Workshop)
  • Christopher Arigo (MFA, Colorado State University)
  • Olivia Clare (MFA, Iowa Writers’ Workshop and MPW, University of Southern California)
  • Jamison Crabtree (MFA, University of Arizona)
  • Colby Gillette (MFA, St. Mary’s College of California)
  • Joshua Kryah (MFA, Iowa Writers' Workshop)
  • Andrew Nicholson (MFA, California College of the Arts)
  • Derek Pollard (MFA, University of Utah)
  • Matthew Shears (MFA, Iowa Writers' Workshop)
  • Jackson Wills (MFA, Iowa Writers' Workshop)
  • Heather Winterer (MFA, Columbia University)