A UI cornerstone


Aspiring writers looking for a home find themselves at the University of Iowa.

The Writers’ Workshop is a renowned writing program founded in 1936 as the first creative writing degree program. The program boasts 17 Pulitzer Prize winners, and several U.S. Poet Laureates. It was also the first creative writing degree program in the United States.

The program offers the Master of Fine Arts in English, while allowing students to work improve and learn with established poets and prose writers. The program has hosted several famous visitors, including Robert Frost, Robert Penn Warren, and John Berryman.

Lan Samantha Chang is the program director for the Writers’ Workshop. She has published two novels and a collection of short stories.

Workshop classes were held in a temporary army barracks near the Iowa River — where the IMU currently stands — for several years after the inception of the program. It was then moved to the English-Philosophy Building in 1966 before settling into the Dey House in 1997.

An expansion to the Dey House was added in 2006, the Glenn Schaeffer Library and Archives. The addition featured a library and reading room, classrooms, and faculty offices. 

After the success of the Writers’ Workshop, a new counterpart was created for international writers.

In 1967, the UI created the International Writing Program.

The program consists of a principal residency that lasts from late August to mid-November. A degree is not achieved from the program; instead, the program fosters new social and cultural fabrics to help contribute to production of any literary work. In addition, participants of the program are encouraged to contribute to literature courses at the UI and across the country.

Recently, Writers’ Workshop has not just received attention for being one of the best writing programs in the nation.

In 2014, the Writers’ Workshop became part of the storyline for HBO’s show, Girls, after the main character, Hannah Horvath, was accepted into the program. The UI did not allow the show to film on campus.

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