The 43-year-old Masters of Professional Writing program is slated to shut its doors in May of 2016, but its students and alumni are determined to save the program.
This past November, Steve Kay, the Dean of the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences announced that the program will no longer be accepting incoming students and will graduate its last class in 2016.
In a statement, Kay said that the decision to cut the program was for business reasons.
“I recognize the excellent pedagogy of the MPW program, and have made this determination solely as a business decision,” Kay said. “I have complete confidence in the current program director, Brighde Mullins, and will work in partnership with the program’s leadership and in consultation with college faculty to maintain the high quality of this program through the next couple years as it draws to a close with its final class.”
Howard Ho, our MPW program specialist, said there is some confusion over what Kay referred to as a “business decision.” Students and faculty have received no response from him in inquiries about the reasoning to end the otherwise successful program.
“We are a pretty low maintenance program. In terms of expenses we always come in under budget,” Ho said. “However, we’re not connected to a larger program and I think that perhaps we’re not seen as having an umbrella organization so maybe that’s what the business decision refers to, a reorganization in a certain way, but it’s unclear.”
MPW students and alumni have launched the “Campaign for USC MPW” in order to open a dialogue with Kay about how to preserve the program and how to find a place for it at USC.
The group’s most recent campaign effort is a letter-writing campaign aimed at Dean Kay and the Dornsife administration. They hope to explain the value of the program and how the group is dedicated toward helping the administration find a place for MPW at USC.
“The Dean has not offered any reasoning in his business decision. We have reached out with no response, but we would like to have a discussion and hear an explanation about why the program is closing,” Channing Sarget, a current MPW student and the Campaign for USC MPW chair, said.
One of the benefits of MPW is that it allows students to complete the program over the course of five years, Sargent said. As a working professional, this was one of the unique qualities that led Sargent to USC’s MPW program.
“MPW is so attractive because it is geared toward professionalism, so it allows many working adults to take the time they need to complete the program,” Sargent said.
Doug Greco is one such student who planned to take advantage of MPW’s flexibility. Greco is in his first year of the program, and due to his need to seek employment during the course of completing his degree, he said he depended on the option of completing the degree in up to five years.
“I made the decision to come to USC and pay over $15,000 a semester in tuition, plus student loans, but that decision was made with the understanding I had five years to complete the program. Now that I have to complete the program in three years it limits my options and makes it much more difficult not having the flexibility that I needed,” Greco said.
Sargent was equally surprised by the dean’s decision.
“I was totally shocked and blindsided by the news. The student body’s perspective was that there has been no sign that our program was in danger, and in fact it was quite the opposite,” Sargent said. “MPW has [an] excellent reputation at the epicenter of the USC and Los Angeles literary communities.”