Creative writing major contributes to Bachelor of Fine Arts

California Baptist University will welcome a creative writing major in the fall of 2015 for the first Bachelor of Fine Arts degree offered on campus.

Students will have the opportunity to declare the new major in September and though the major is similar to the English major, a greater emphasis on the creative writing component is the core of the program.

Students who are part of the major will take creative writing classes that are tiered, starting with the introductory level. Students will proceed to the 300-level classes and then advance to the higher division level of classes, including focuses on fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. The capstone requirement will include creating a small book with some of the student’s best work in a specific genre.

With a successful background in poetry and fiction, Dr. Derek Updegraff, assistant professor of English, came to CBU in 2013 and said the new major and BFA is something the Department of Modern Languages and Literature has wanted for a long time.

“Over the past five or six years, there has been an increasing interest in creative writing classes and the department (had) been thinking about adding creative writing as a major,” Updegraff said. “The desire was here before I got here and I am very excited about it because in creating the major, we have created new creative writing classes and there’s more to be offered and I love teaching.”

In constructing the creative writing major, Updegraff said the department determined which classes needed to be created to fulfill the specialized major requirements. He said the major is designed to break the classes up so students can focus on one genre of writing at a time.

“The previous system was set up where courses were kind of a free for all,” Updegraff said. “There was intermediate creative writing and advanced creative writing, (but) they didn’t have genre labels on them so (there were) students working on poetry, fiction, nonfiction and perhaps play writing all in one class. That’s OK to do at the introductory level but as you get to be a more serious writer, you want to focus in and attend to just one genre.”

Updegraff said the BFA in creative writing is a major that many students want and has the ability to encourage future students to attend CBU.

“There are a lot of students who simply don’t yet know what they want to do and want to pursue their interests and talents, and students who have a gift in writing can pursue the major,” Updegraff said. “Through their development, I hope we can direct them to particular career paths. It is definitely a popular major on a lot of other college campuses.”

Updegraff said many freshman students who have not yet declared a major have shown an interest in the new major, as well as students with an English major.

Emily Borden, freshman English major, said she dreams of being a writer and believes the creative writing major would not only provide practice in writing, but a solid foundation of knowing what makes a good writer.

“It would shape me as a writer and prepare me very well for writing in the future,” Borden said. “I have also considered leading creative writing workshops in foreign countries where they speak English as a way to meet people and tell them about Jesus.”

Caleb Garcia, graduate student in English, said although he was too late to join the program, he is excited for future students.

“I am glad that aspiring writers will have the opportunity to study creative writing at a private Christian school because this will give students the opportunity to integrate their creative talents with their faith,” Garcia said.

For more information, Updegraff can be reached at dup- degraff@calbaptist.edu.

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