Opinion: SNU, give creative writing the attention it deserves

Miranda Jacobson, Editor

When I was fifteen years old, I decided to go to a college fair. I walked the rows of schools that were tabling and excitedly looked for a school that would fulfill my desire to learn about creative writing. Most of the schools I looked at with a creative writing program were either too far away from my hometown in the East Bay, or, what seemed to me, too hard to get into.

And that was when I saw Sierra Nevada University. The table was small, with a few pamphlets and a nice woman standing in front of it with a bright smile on her face. She told me that SNU was known for its expansive creative writing program, and if I went there, I would be learning from the best and get a lot of amazing opportunities that writers all over the world want.

That was 2016. It’s now 2020, and I’m still waiting for her promises to come true.

When I moved here in August of 2018, I had extremely high expectations for the school. I began by applying to the “English Scholar Program” which is a program to, “fast-track your preparation for a professional future in your chosen English specialty,” according to the school’s website.

The program’s description included a year-by-year guideline for what I would be doing, including acquiring an internship and having a faculty member to mentor me. This program seemed out of this world, and that’s because it was. Instead of following this path, I’ve found myself doing most of these things on my own.

There are a few reasons for this.

For one, the school seems to forget our English/creative writing program in many different ways. Although we have a few events, including the Writers in the Woods readings, there isn’t much representation for the creative writers. During the Fall 2019 semester, I chose to begin writing my own novel, not because that was what I wanted to start in my third year, but because for the last two years that I’ve been at the college, there haven’t been any classes besides one workshop class that offers a look into creative writing. This semester, the “Workshop” class was replaced with the “Fiction” class, and while that is a start, it isn’t enough. Every semester, I, along with many other English/creative writing students, struggle to find the education they are looking for solely because there are barely any classes that are offered for us.

Secondly, the representation of the English/creative writing department is not where it could be. On February 13, the school gathered students from almost every department for admission’s live Q&A. All of the majors were represented, except for the English/creative writing students. Along with that, most activities are geared toward other majors. The resume and LinkedIn workshop taught by Vilde Johansen was geared towards business students, and the entire time I was stuck wondering how any of the information she had applied to me.

But that isn’t Johansen’s fault or even the faculty at SNU. It’s the fault of money and lack of representation. I see the progress that’s being made: We have Writers in the Woods, we have the slam poetry contest in April. But when will we see more classes geared towards creative writing? When will we have events like resume workshops for just writers? When will we have more funding to do things like they did back in 2016 when I was approached by a woman who was so eager to tell me about mentorships with writers and a program so great it made every other program look bad?

That isn’t to say that I haven’t seen people within my program helping me. June Saraceno, the English program chair and professor, was key in many opportunities I’ve had, such as public readings and starting me on my path of publication and writing my book. Gayle Brandeis, an author, and professor has given me so much guidance and provided me with notes and edits on works that have now been published. In the last few weeks, the SNU Instagram has been reaching out to me to represent my progress in writing my novel, and I’ve even seen some coverage of my fiction class and the filming being done for the MFA in creative writing program. But I’ve still never felt more alone in my search for knowledge because even if professors or the person running the social media account for the school believes in me, that doesn’t mean everything is solved, or anything is actually changing. There are other students at the school who don’t feel represented, and just because at times my experience is looking up, doesn’t mean theirs are.

I don’t place blame on anyone, or feel any anger. I just think it is time we took a look at our school and realized that some students in different areas have more advantages and representation than others, and did something to change it.


Miranda Jacobson is a junior at Sierra Nevada University.