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MFA Program To Be Replaced Immediately

The Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) Program Director Steven Kistulentz stepped down for reasons undisclosed by the university on March 1. Dr. Erica Dawson, Assistant Professor of English and Writing, stepped in to serve as the interim director in his place. 

Although the English department would not meet in person to discuss the reasoning behind the change, the Department of English and Writing Chair, Dr. Lisa Birnbaum issued a statement via email. 

“A change like this always has its challenges,” Birnbaum said. “Steve Kistulentz provided a special tone and vision to the program. But we are fortunate that our exceptional MFA faculty and staff are committed to the students and to continued excellence.”

Kistulentz is a published poet and writer whose work experience in academia includes Johns Hopkins University and Florida State University. 

“I’m grateful to have had the chance to run the university’s graduate creative writing program these past two years,” Kistulentz said. “We have a dedicated core faculty and their strength shows in the success of our students.”

Kistulentz looks forward to focusing on his own creative work while remaining in the Tampa area.

“I’m grateful to Steve for his help and support during this transition,” Dawson said. “I have always been and will continue to be committed to our program’s growth and success. I’m looking forward to June’s residency.”

Dawson was a member of the group of UT faculty members that originally proposed the MFA program and has worked within the program since its inception. Dawson has a number of honors and awards for her poetry credited to her name, including the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal for her most recent poetry collection, The Small Blades Hurt.

“The usual processes for planning the June residence are ongoing, and we expect it to be one of our best thus far. We are doubly fortunate that Dr. Dawson has agreed to step in as Acting Director,” Birnbaum said. “She is well known to the students and faculty, and she is deeply familiar with the program itself. She is an exceptional teacher and writer. All in all, the program is robust and we’re enthusiastic about the prospects.”

Bianca Lopez can be reached at

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