MFA Program

MFA Alumni


In 2008, CIIS transferred the MFA in Writing and Consciousness and the MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts to CIIS. Many dynamic artists graduated from the MFA in Writing and Consciousness and the MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts from New College of California. We are pleased to highlight the accomplishments of these artists.


Pauline E. Reif is a writer/artist in the MFA in Writing and Consciousness program. "As an MFA student," says Pauline, "my world and thus my art are expanding as a result of the diversity of genres and disciplines held within this program. I'm seeing my work anew through interaction and collaboration with my peers and professors and the variety of lenses offered, and am opening creative doors I'd not thought possible before. I'm also developing a new and essential appreciation for the foundational aesthetics of my artistic lineage and those who've influenced my artistry with their own." Pauline's final MFA project is a play entitled "Stars Through a Blackened Branch," which will explore and give witness to the remarkable life of Etty Hillesum. A young Dutch-Jewish woman, Etty died in Auschwitz at twenty-nine years of age following an intense spiritual transformation that she recorded in her diaries and letters.  Check out Hidden World: Notes on an MFA Project to learn more about Pauline's play.

April Serr is a writer/visual artist in the MFA in Writing and Consciousness program. "The first year of our MFA program was riveting," says April. "Encircled by gifted teachers, mentors and students I found myself fully immersed in a creatively stimulating environment where I was taken deep into a fully engaged, intellectual and practical learning experience. As a result of this rich and diverse curriculum, I continue to find my own work opening, deepening and coming into clearer focus." April's MFA project is a collection of four mystical novellas, which will have visual illustrations.

Abigail Wick (2009): "For the past year, I worked as a Creative Writing and Literature instructor at San Francisco's prestigious Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy, where I developed a pedagogy of social justice, informed by my training with the Writing and Consciousness (WRC) MFA.  Additionally, I have edited multiple manuscripts, including works by Daphne Gottlieb, Scott Selby, and Greg Campbell, author of The New York Times best-seller, Blood Diamond. I draft and edit arts grants, assisting primary grant writer Jason Ditzian to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for world-class Bay Area performers.  Along with Nina Schnall, a fellow WRC graduate, I coordinated an anthology release party and reading for Shift, self-published by our MFA cohort and edited by Bruce Machado.  I adapt my poetry into sound/noise/music collages using a software program called Audacity. I also adapt my poetry and writing into performance art, often drawing upon the Butoh process.  My forthcoming project is a collaboration with modern dancer Deia de Brito. We are choreographing a piece using 'The Sound Cave,' an interactive sound sculpture by Tyson Ayers, featured at Million Fishes Art Gallery."


Jennifer Chen, dancer, healer

Erika Chong Shuch, choreographer, director, performer

Tim Stapleton, writer, visual artist

Susie Bright, performance artist

Rochleigh Wholfe, visual and performance artist

Jovelyn Richards, storyteller, actress, writer


Lelani Clark, MFA 2008, Writing and Consciousness:
“I have already seen fantastic benefits from my MFA work. I am in the process of completing nine short stories, most of which are ready to be sent out for possible publication in literary journals. I was accepted to the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop (run by a prestigious and well-known literary journal) on the merit of a short story that I wrote and workshopped while working towards my degree at New College and CIIS.  Professionally, I am now teaching online college courses and plan on applying for jobs as an English instructor at the local university. I would not have been able to consider or be qualified for either position without the MFA work. In addition, I am developing a career as a working writer through my freelance and anthology publications.  I am nothing but thankful and appreciative for all I have learned while working on my Writing and Consciousness MFA. I have achieved dreams beyond my wildest imaginings through the discipline and inspiration instilled as a result of my work in this program.”

Janet Ector, MFA 2008, Writing and Consciousness: The experience of exploring the power and beauty of literature and voice in the cohort model provides a rich, in-depth critical analysis of the development of our culture while also providing an arena of free exploration of positive methods for violating the traditional standards and restrictions of cultural expression. This program is rigorous and experimental. A rare combination in our time.

Abigail Wick, MFA 2008, Writing and Consciousness: "Writing isn’t when the fingers stroke the keys or the pen taps the page, writing is the art of relentless, often ruthless, observation. We are artists of the eye – indeed, all of the senses.  Whether that be whooping in poetry class to create a cacophonous audio recording or breaking bread together at the reception table before a poetry reading. We learn the art of friendship, solidarity, commitment, honesty– not to mention making up and extending forgiveness after a disagreement.  We are each other’s chosen family. We are a community of collaborators, thinkers, visionaries, eccentrics, weirdos, misfits, darlings, heroes, all of us. We aren’t being pushed through a degree mill, we are forging connections with educators and peers that will...indelibly alter the way we approach the world…”

Julianne Reidy, MFA 2008

“This program has benefited me as an artist by validating my position in the world not just by classifying myself as an artist, through my lifestyle and/or my work but by identifying me as a person who has pursued an art-based degree. I believe the difference in obtaining this degree rather than just letting my work define me is that I can now pursue teaching. For me, the difference in obtaining an artbased degree is that I am putting the message out there in the world that I have cared enough and value the arts enough to pursue and obtain a degree in Creative Inquiry, which can be applied to so many interdisciplinary practices…”

Debbie de Coudreaux, MFA 2008

“I specifically chose an interdisciplinary arts program because of my background in various performing disciplines, i.e. dance, voice and performing arts. Although I had a strong background in performance I wanted to focus specifically on the academic aspects of the performing arts. I wanted to study and examine in detail the socio-political influences that the Arts, in general, and Art as created by Women specifically, has had in America.

In learning how to use research as part of the artistic process I was able to broaden my knowledge of my main subject as well as all the subsequent support material with which to further enrich my performance pieces. I believe that this makes the artistic project extremely interesting for the viewer. It was said in one of my classes that the creation of the art is itself a method of research and this has never been truer than with my MFA presentation piece “At Long Last Lena.” The culmination of this project would not have happened without the Creative Inquiry Program. I was given the tools not only to create and expand upon my art but also the wherewithal to promote and market my offerings, a vital step that is often ignored or overlooked in other Masters programs.

Not only did I improve as a performer but my work with my teachers within the program enabled me to develop and create several curriculums that I will be able to teach with confidence and enthusiasm to future students. I have learned how to use mixed media to assist me in making my courses interesting, dynamic, thought-provoking and stimulating. My teachers were extremely adept in assisting me in my discoveries of new thought processes, the development of my own artistic aesthetic and supportive through out the sometimes painful process of creativity. Making art is rather messy sometimes. I would strongly encourage and urge those students of the arts who have a deep desire to explore, question, discover and create to participate in this program. They would be richly rewarded for their work.”