Arizona, Anyone?

In case anyone out there is applying to the MFA @ Arizona, here's my take on the school and the town. I just finished my undergrad here, and I've lived in Tucson for about 3 1/2 years now. Personally, I'm ready to go---I can't wait to move eastwards again. But you can definitely enjoy yourself here if you put your mind to it. And it's a great school.

Adapted from something I posted to the "Programs in Arizona" thread on
P & W, here:


From my own experience:

As far as nonfiction and poetry go, Alison Hawthorne Deming is amazing. Manuel Muñoz, in fiction, is incredible, too. (He's new here, and he just won the Whiting Writer's Award.) I took an intro to poetry workshop with Tenney Nathanson, and it was such an inspirational and entertaining experience. I'm afraid I've never taken a class with Jason Brown.

Try to take a lit class with Charles Scruggs, Praise Zenenga, Carlos Gallego and/or Susan White...Charles Sherry if you like philosophy and you're brave. There are a lot of great faculty members in both creative writing and literature.

I can't tell you too much about the atmosphere in the MFA program, because there's really very little interaction between grad and undergrad---unless they're teaching a class. I took an introductory fiction workshop with a great student teacher. It seemed like she was having fun at the program.

I do know that there's a lot going on in the department in general. Creative Writing is housed in the English Department. The UA Poetry Center always has something going on, readings etc. I've been to one of the separate grad student readings at Casa Libre and it seems like those are really fun and intimate.

As far as Tucson goes, the biggest downside for me is just the heat. It's oppressive. It's nice here in the winter, great in the spring, but summer is definitely the longest season. Also, unless you live right on campus, (or you really love biking, even in 115 degree weather), you probably want to drive. The bus system is crap. You can make it if you live on a bus route that heads straight to campus without transfers, but it's confusing and it's a pain.

There's some fun stuff to do around town. We have The Loft, a little indie/arthouse cinema, and they always have all kinds of crazy/interesting things going on. There's definitely stuff to do at night, a pretty good selection of restaurants and bars---but nothing like you'd get in a more metropolitan kind of city. Tucson kind of feels more like a really big town. 4th Ave, University Ave and a few places Downtown are the main areas for going out, all really close to the University. There's a drive-in movie theatre here too, De Anza's, which I love.

Honestly speaking, you want to live as close to campus as you can. It's not hard to find a relatively affordable place, especially if you're sharing.

Campus feels homey. There are olive trees and palm trees all over the place. You'll probably spend most of your time in the Modern Languages building, which is close to the Student Union (the food court is there, unfortunately we don't have a traditional dining hall) and the library. I have to say that I don't understand why there are metal benches all over campus---you definitely don't want to get anywhere near those in the summer.

Campus' centerpiece is this long stretch of "grass" (it's usually dead) called the Mall. Again, this is a shadeless alley of burning death when it's hot out. Also, crazy preachers come to visit sometimes.

If you love the desert, you'll love Tucson. (I kind of don't love the desert. I grew up in Arizona and all I want is greenery.) We're surrounded by mountains and you don't have to drive far at all to get to "the desert"---saguaros and all. There's also Mt. Lemmon pretty close by, when you want to get out of the heat. The monsoons are always fun, when they come. Lots and lots of rain. Bisbee is a really fun daytrip. And of course we're not far from Mexico.

We're pretty short on museums for my taste, but we do have the Arizona State Museum, the Tucson Museum of Art, the UA Museum of Art and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The U of A is big in astronomy, and there's an observatory here. The Anthropology Department is also big, and there's a lot of archaeological stuff going on.

Well, that was incredibly long and I don't know how helpful it was. Let me know if there's anything specific you're wondering about.


Ms. Sushi said...

Very accurate description.

alering said...

Have you taken a class with Munoz? I'm thinking about taking a workshop with him this summer. Would you be willing to tell me about your experience with him as a teacher?

snoopdawg said...

Found this post via GradCafe. Thanks for the great information re: Tucson. I currently live in Minneapolis and am trying to decide where I'd like to go next to go to graduate school. It sounds like summer in Tucson kind of becomes like winter in Minneapolis- just too long and too much.

wahida said...

I'm so glad you found it useful : )

How funny that you're making the move from Minneapolis to Tucson! I did the opposite, as you may have noticed. Summer there was definitely too much for me, but I'm holding up okay with the winter here so far——I'm just sorta sick of falling on the icy sidewalks!

Best of luck.

abe said...

Incredibly long? I would expect more from an MFA'er! Where are you originally from? I'm from NYC and no bus system is confusing.

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