Dec 06, 2021  
2020-2021 MFA Graduate Catalogue 
2020-2021 MFA Graduate Catalogue [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

2020-2021 MFA Graduate Catalogue

Introducing Cornell College

Cornell College Mission Statement


Cornell College offers an innovative and rigorous learning community where faculty and staff collaborate with students to develop the intellectual curiosity, creativity, and moral courage necessary for a lifetime of learning and engaged citizenship.

Core Values

  • A liberal education that celebrates discovery and embraces the integration and application of knowledge
  • Intellectual, moral, and personal growth
  • Civic and social responsibility
  • The dignity and worth of each individual in a diverse community

Cornell College M.F.A.

The Cornell College M.F.A. is a mentor-based, studio degree which aims to help students reach their full potential as writers. Our curriculum balances workshop and individual critique with the independent study of literary criticism and theory in order to prepare students for the life of a working writer after graduation. Cornell strives to create a rigorous but supportive learning environment that both fosters community and celebrates individual progress. Cornell M.F.A. students will develop a well-rounded knowledge of their art, strategies for continuing the growth of their creative vision, and a supportive circle of peers and mentors that will sustain their writing after graduation.

Master of Fine Arts Educational Objectives

The Cornell College M.F.A. strives to fully prepare students for the life of a literary artist. We balance solitary work with literary community, artistic freedom with social responsibility. Our curriculum is flexible to allow students to pursue their own goals and artistic process, while also providing a common set of learning outcomes.

During their time at Cornell, students will

  • Demonstrate expertise in at least one of the following genres: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction. Each student will write a polished manuscript of publishable quality in their chosen genre.

  • Analyze and write meaningful responses to literary texts.

  • Demonstrate an ability to read and respond thoughtfully, in both oral and written form, to peers’ work.

  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge of historical and contemporary literature and articulate how their own work fits within a literary tradition.

  • Assume the working life of a writer, whether in academia, commercial or independent publishing, or within one’s community. 

  • Develop a thorough understanding of the ethical dilemmas and social values of the literary arts.

  • Develop relationships that can help support and foster their writing after graduation.

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the theory and practice of teaching creative writing.

While the Cornell graduate curriculum is a rigorous program with its own set of educational objectives, it shares the values of  the liberal arts mission of the college and the following broad priorities: knowledge, inquiry, communication, intercultural literacy, ethical behavior, citizenship, and vocation.  

Diversity and Inclusion Statement

Cornell College values diversity and strives to create a welcoming community in which all individuals are respected and included. We support respectful and meaningful inquiry across actual or perceived differences. These differences include ability, age, appearance, athletics and student organization involvement, ethnicity, family/marital status, gender, gender expression, immigration status, language, military/veteran status, nationality, political ideology, race, religion/spirituality, sex, sexuality, socio-economic status, and other personal identities and experiences.

We live in an increasingly interconnected world. The ability to include, communicate, cooperate, and collaborate with diverse individuals is important. To that end, we engage in dialogue around issues of difference, identity, and ideology in the classroom, residence halls, and throughout campus. We embrace diversity, and as a result our viewpoints are enriched and our community strengthened.

The entire campus community is called upon to play a role in Cornell College’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Cornell will continue to evolve into a more inclusive and equitable campus that is committed to civic and social responsibility through the collaboration of the President, Diversity Committee, students, faculty, and staff.

Freedom of Expression and Civil Discourse Statement

Cornell College is an institution of higher education that aspires to develop lifelong learners and engaged citizens. Consistent with that mission, we strongly endorse freedom of speech, as articulated in the First Amendment, as an inherent right of individuals to express themselves. Expression and personal identity are inextricably intertwined. Further, while freedom of speech and expression are accorded constitutional protection in our civic life, the value of free expression must be given even more rigorous affirmation in an intellectual community that prizes liberal education, academic freedom, and critical thinking.

As a small, residential community of persons with diverse identities and backgrounds, Cornell is also committed to maintaining an inclusive campus climate and emphasizes the importance of communication and cooperation between individuals who hold different perspectives, opinions, and identities. Civil discourse refers to the inherent responsibility of individuals to engage respectfully with the intent to foster understanding. In a community like ours, civil discourse is highly valued, as it guides the approach all individuals should take in order to achieve an inclusive campus.

Therefore, we expect that community members, when engaging in civil discourse, will approach each other with:

1. The intention to understand-The process of civil discourse places responsibility on both the speaker and the listener to be willing to learn, acknowledging that neither one has all of the answers. It can be messy, involves risk, and is ultimately rewarding. Active listening and asking thoughtful questions are key components.

2. Respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every person-Civil discourse means that we recognize that all persons, regardless of differences and disagreements, have inherent dignity, worth, and their own unalienable right to freely express themselves.

3. Commitment to learning and appreciation for critical thinking-Freedom of speech is fundamental for learning, critical inquiry, and growth as an individual and as a community. Civil discourse involves thinking critically about all ideas, opinions, and identities one encounters. The invitation to think critically is meaningless unless diversity of opinion and perspective is not only respected but actively sought out.

4. Empathy-A critical component of civil discourse is empathy. In practicing empathy, each individual involved attempts to understand the feelings, experiences, and perspectives of another.

[This statement supersedes the 2006 Faculty Resolution on Free Speech and Expression.]

Effective Catalogue

[Note: This Catalogue is accurate as of Spring 2020.]

The Cornell College Catalogue is published every year. The information contained herein was accurate at the time of publication; however, circumstances may necessitate the College’s withdrawing an advertised course, changing the content of a course, or substituting instructors. The College reserves the right to limit the enrollment of any course and to cancel a course for which fewer than six students have registered or for which no instructor is available.

Between editions, the College may change or revise the programs, rules, and procedures described in this Catalogue. Students are subject to the regulations and requirements in the Catalogue and its supplements in effect at the time they begin their first course at Cornell. A Cornell student who leaves and is later readmitted returns under the Catalogue in effect at the time of Readmission .

If, after a student has begun their Cornell career, one or more of the degree requirements are changed, the student may choose to be graduated under either the original or the revised requirements, unless specific faculty legislation dictates otherwise. Exceptions may be granted for compelling reasons by the Academic Standing Committee or by the administrator concerned. For the application of this “grandparent” principle to a student’s major, see Declaration of Degree Candidacy, Majors and Minors.

The offerings for each academic year are announced the previous winter in the Course Schedule, which is then updated as often as is necessary.


Cornell College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the Iowa State Department of Education, the American Chemical Society, and the University Senate of the United Methodist Church. Cornell is a member of the College Entrance Examination Board.

Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM)

Cornell and 13 other liberal arts colleges located in Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin compose the membership of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest. The purpose of the Associated Colleges is to increase educational effectiveness and operating efficiency and to extend the areas of cooperation of the constituent colleges. Members are Beloit, Carleton, Coe, Colorado College, Cornell, Grinnell, Knox, Lake Forest, Lawrence, Luther, Macalester, Monmouth, Ripon, and St. Olaf.

Academic Calendar

Although Cornell’s undergraduate students take courses on the One-Course-At-A-Time calendar, Cornell’s graduate students will be on a semester schedule.

  1. The academic year for graduate students, is divided into two semesters, Fall and Spring. Each semester begins with an intersession (a 9 day on-campus residency), which is required for graduate students in the M.F.A. program.

  2.  Progress toward any of Cornell’s degrees is measured in course credits. As a unit of credit, one “full course” credit is the equivalent of four semester or six quarter hours.

  3. Full-time graduate students register for 2.25 or more Cornell credits (9 semester hours) an academic semester. Part-Time graduate students register for 1.5 Cornell credits (6 semester hours) and graduate students registering for less than 1.5 Cornell credits (5 semester hours or less)  in a term are considered to be enrolled less than part-time.

  4. Graduate students must be continuously enrolled for the duration of their degree program.  If a student does not stay continuously enrolled, they will be considered withdrawn for the program and would need to apply for re-enrollment if they wish to return.

Student Status

A person becomes an enrolled student at Cornell College when they move into college housing, begin college-sponsored activities or on the first day of a course for which they are registered, whichever occurs first. A person ceases to be a student on the last day of the last course for which they are registered, when they end involvement with college-sponsored activities or when they move out of campus housing, whichever occurs later.

Affirmative Action

Cornell College is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and is committed to an Affirmative Action Program. In compliance with federal and state laws, Cornell College affirms the right of its students, faculty, and staff to live, work, and study in an environment free from discrimination or harassment on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy, or any other characteristic protected by state, federal, or local law. Neither may applicants for employment nor enrollment be discriminated against based on the above characteristics.

Notice of Nondiscriminatory Policy

Cornell admits qualified persons - without regard to age, ancestry, color, disability, sex, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or genetic information - to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at Cornell. The College does not discriminate in the administration of its educational or admissions policies, scholarships and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

Student Consumer Grievance Process

Beginning July 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education regulations to improve the integrity of programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) as amended (the “Program Integrity Rule”) took effect. The Program Integrity Rule requires, among other things, that each college or university authorized to offer postsecondary education in one or more states ensure access to a complaint (grievance) process that will permit student consumers to address the following:

  1. Alleged violations of state consumer protection laws that include, but are not limited to, fraud and false advertising;
  2. Alleged violations of state laws or rules relating to the licensure of postsecondary institutions; and
  3. Complaints regarding the quality of education or other State or accreditation requirements.

Cornell College, as an institution authorized to provide postsecondary education in the State of Iowa, is committed to full compliance with the Program Integrity Rule. The College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Information about the College’s accreditation can be found at the HLC website.

Cornell College seeks to resolve all student concerns in a timely and effective manner. Students have the right to file a grievance against Cornell College. Students may file a grievance up to 120 calendar days from the date of the incident. Students may not file anonymously.

A grievance alleges that the College or one of its agents has violated institutional policies, accreditor policies, federal or state laws, or any other agreements joined by Cornell College. Grounds for a grievance include failures in the provision of a program of study or related academic or administrative service, or institutional policies that negatively affect the quality of a student’s learning opportunities. Grievances fall outside of standard College processes (e.g., grade dispute process, conduct appeals, etc.), as outlined in the Cornell College Academic Catalogue, The Compass, the Faculty Handbook, or the Employee Handbook, and require that students have already first exhausted established Cornell College processes and mechanisms to address their concern.

Grievance Resolution Process

Any student who believes they have been subject to unjust actions or denied of their rights is expected to make a reasonable effort to resolve the matter before seeking formal resolution. The student should request a meeting with the parties directly involved, describing the nature of the grievance and a desirable resolution. Both parties are encouraged to try to find a reasonable and satisfactory resolution.

The following offices and resources at Cornell College are available to current and prospective students for the resolving of grievances. These offices provide specific administrative means to address and resolve most, if not all, of the questions and concerns students may have.

If the parties involved in the grievance are unable to find a satisfactory resolution and further action is deemed appropriate, students must follow the procedures outlined in the following process:

  1. Students wishing to file a grievance against Cornell College may do so by completing the online Student Grievance Form. Students can also file a grievance by speaking with one of the following, designated personnel and completing a Student Grievance Form:
  • Academic concerns: Registrar
  • Student Affairs concerns: Dean of Students
  • Financial/billing concerns: Controller
  • Enrollment/Financial Aid concerns: Director of Admission Operations

Students’ confidentiality will be protected within reason, but officials of the College may require access to students’ educational records in order to fully investigate the grievance. Students who are initiating a grievance against Cornell College must authorize release of information necessary to investigate the grievance.

  1. The student will receive, within 5 business days, a written response from the designated personnel relevant to their grievance, including a determination of whether the issue/incident constitutes a grievance according to Cornell College’s policy and definition. If the issue/incident submitted does not constitute a grievance according to Cornell College’s policy and definition, the student will be informed in writing, and the College process will be considered concluded.
  2. If the issue/incident submitted constitutes a grievance, according to Cornell College’s policy and definition, the designated personnel will meet with the student and any other relevant parties to discuss the issue/incident which led to the filing of the grievance. Any meetings pertaining to the investigation of the grievance will be conducted as quickly as possible and generally will be concluded within 10 business days of the determination of a grievance.
  3. The designated personnel, in consultation with the appropriate Vice President(s), will identify (an) appropriate resolution(s), generally within 10 business days of the close of the investigation. The designated personnel will inform the student in writing of the resolution(s). Decisions regarding resolutions are not subject to internal appeal.
  4. The entire process will generally be concluded within 30 business days of the initial receipt of the grievance.
  5. Students have the right to obtain legal counsel.

Grievances Addressed to External Agencies

If a student believes that the College’s administrative procedures outlined above have not adequately addressed concerns identified under the Program Integrity Rule, they may pursue an external process. Students may file a grievance against the College with relevant state and federal agencies including, but not limited to, the Higher Learning Commission, the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, the Iowa Attorney General, and the Office of Civil Rights. Please note that many agencies require students to first exhaust their college’s grievance procedures before filing a grievance with the agency.

We recommend that students refer to the individual agency’s policies to familiarize themselves with relevant requirements including filing deadlines and whether they must first pursue the College’s grievance process.

The available agencies are listed below.

Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, Illinois 60604-1411
Phone: (312) 263.0456
Toll Free: (800) 621.7440
Fax: (312) 263.7462
The HLC of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools is an independent body responsible for the accreditation of programs offered by Cornell College. Each year, the Commission receives a number of grievances about institutions from faculty, students, and other parties. The Commission has established a clear distinction between individual grievances and grievances that appear to involve broad institutional practices. Where a grievance does raise issues regarding the institution’s ongoing ability to meet the Criteria of Accreditation, the Commission forwards the grievance to the institution and requests a formal response. Grievances may be filed with the Commission on the HLC website here.

Iowa Department of Justice
Office of the Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106
Phone: (515) 281-5926
Toll Free: 888-777-4590

The State of Iowa protects its citizens against consumer fraud. You may file a written grievance online or download the file, print it, complete it and mail to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
Iowa College Student Aid Commission
430 East Grand Ave, FL 3
Des Moines, IA 50309-1920
Phone: (515) 725-3400
Toll-Free: (877) 272-4456
(Information Service Center)
Fax: (515) 725-3401
Iowa College Aid accepts concerns and grievances from any student attending an Iowa school, regardless of the student’s state of residency, and from an Iowa resident attending any school, regardless of its location. Iowa College Aid will review submitted forms and determine the appropriate course of action. Actions may include, but are not limited to: contacting the constituent, contacting the institution in question and/or referral to another agency. In all cases, the constituent will receive written response to his or her request and the request from will be retained for Iowa College Aid’s records.
United States Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
Regional Office #5 Office
500 West Madison St., Ste. 1475
Chicago, IL 60661
Phone: 312-730-1560
Anyone who believes that an education institution that receives federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age, may file a grievance.

Students may also file a grievance with their home state, or the state in which they are participating in a Cornell College program. A list of links to state processes can be found in this linked document.

Non-Retaliation Statement

Retaliation, or attempts to retaliate, against any individual who files a complaint or grievance is strictly prohibited.