The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Program was established in the Department of English Lnaguage and Literature at the University of Michigan in 1982. Every year, the MFA program selects ten poets and twelve fiction writers from an applicant pool of roughly 1,000. These students spend two years taking craft classes and workshops, attending readings, and meeting individually with faculty members. At the end of their second year, the students submit their MFA theses. Following their successful theses defenses, they are then granted a third-year residency to be spent in Ann Arbor, writing and engaging in the community service work of their choice.
The MFA Program also hosts the acclaimed Zell Visiting Writers' Series, which brings more than a dozen poets and fiction writers to the University of Michigan campus every year, both to read and meet with students. The Series is named after Helen Zell, the English Department graduate and the University of Michigan Doctor of Humane Letters, who has generously supported the department for many years. Invited guests give readings, hold craft talks, lead workshops, and offer individual consultations with students. MFA Program students also perform readings themselves, and are able to apply for the University of Michigan Hopwood Awards. Named for their benefactor Avery Hopwood, a preeminent playwright of the Jazz Age, the Hopwood Awards collectively offer more than $250,000 in prize money every year to Michigan graduate and undergraduate writers.