Alma College adds graduate programs and new core curriculum

MEGAN NEELEY
COPY EDITOR

9/19/2022

Alma College has recently introduced two graduate programs. These include a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing and a Master of Science (MS) in Communication and Information Technology.

The MFA in Creative Writing is a “vibrant program, built on the foundation of Alma’s strong 136-year commitment to the arts,” said the website.

Based on the website, the goal of the program is to write for the 21st century by studying writing skills in a discussion-based manner while utilizing current events in a literature-based curriculum.

“The Alma College MFA in Creative Writing is a two-year graduate degree in which students learn, via their participation in a vibrant artistic community, to read deeply… and hone one’s writing,” said Sophfronia Scott, director of the MFA program in Creative Writing.

The MFA in Creative Writing is a program meant for students with an undergraduate degree from all levels of writing experience and “from all walks of life,” said Scott.

This Alma College program is unique from other graduate programs because of the diversity of those teaching and those learning. “each residency includes outdoor activities” to allow students to write with a “deep understanding of one’s physical location,” said Scott.

Additionally, the MFA in Creative Writing from Alma College is unique because Alma allows students to be seen as people rather than just numbers. “It speaks to the spirit of our community. Our students love that we are collaborative, not competitive,” said Scott.

The MFA in Creative Writing also offers international residencies, although COVID-19 has delayed the start of these. “We’re aiming for 2024 to have optional residencies in Venice, Italy and Oxford, England,” said Scott.

As mentioned above, Alma College now also offers an MS in Communication and Information Technology.

This program allows students to “be on the forefront of cybersecurity [and] find new ways to set up networks, utilize the cloud and be a trusted source for IT insights,” said the website.

Seeing as the program is taught by industry experts, the degree creates the IT authorities and leaders that organizations and companies look for. The MS program also allows students to grow their network with the flexibility of online learning in combination with the familiarity of personal professors.

The MS program at Alma College “creates a tight community [for students] on campus through the [available networking],” said the website.

In addition to the graduate programs, Alma College has reformed the general education distributive requirements. The first-years on campus are the first to experience the new core curriculum that has been enacted.

“Schools have to do more to show they are assessing their curriculum. The old system was not built to make that easy,” said Laura Von Wallmenich, co-director of the implementation team.

Von Wallmenich said the new system has been “built around a set of common learning outcomes” and is structured with more scaffolding than the old system to show and encourage growth in students.

“The new system took shape around the idea of a tree–reinforcing the idea of growth and the ideas that students need different things in different stages of the curriculum,” said Von Wallmenich.

Many first-years have had positive experiences with the new system. “I like that it allows you to try a wide variety of subjects so you can explore different fields that are interesting to you,” said Grace Ludema (‘26).

While this new system greatly enhances Alma’s liberal arts education, this system offers less flexibility because of the structured requirements. It has been expressed that this is something that will continually be worked on.

“If you already know what you want to major in… [the new system] makes it hard to graduate early or to double major without taking multiple courses outside of the school year,” said Ludema.

The new system is allowing for a common base for teaching and learning that is unique to Alma. Alma is growing and expanding its boundaries with both the addition of the graduate programs and the shift away from distributive requirements towards the new core curriculum.

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