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$10 million gift creates Litowitz Creative Writing Graduate Program

Combined M.F.A.-M.A. program at Northwestern among first of its kind nationally

Alec and Jennifer Leischner Litowitz
Alec and Jennifer Leischner Litowitz

EVANSTON - Northwestern University alumna Jennifer Leischner Litowitz ’91 and her husband, Alec Litowitz, have made a gift of up to $10 million to Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences to create a joint Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and Master of Arts in English degree program. The Litowitz Creative Writing Graduate Program will be the first program of its kind at a top-tier university.

“Northwestern has a proud history of excellence in writing, and it is one of the areas in which we expect to have the most significant impact as a university,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said. “We are grateful to Jennifer and Alec for their partnership in this effort and for their generous gift, which will be used to educate and inspire generations of creative writers, authors and scholars.”

As a joint degree program, the Litowitz Creative Writing Graduate Program will offer distinct advantages. The artistic training of the M.F.A. curriculum and critical thinking generated by the work toward the M.A. are expected to expand students’ skills and employment prospects with a shorter path to completion than a Ph.D. in creative writing.

Northwestern’s TriQuarterly magazine, founded in 1964, and TriQuarterly.org, launched in 2010, will provide hands-on editorial experience for the M.F.A.-M.A. students, preparing them for careers as editors and managing editors of prominent literary journals.

The M.F.A.-M.A. students will join an interdisciplinary community that prides itself on its creative, intellectual and scholarly diversity. The program also will help expand the study of arts at Northwestern, including opportunities in related fields such as drama, film, music, art and dance. In addition, positioning M.F.A.-M.A. students alongside the thriving undergraduate creative writing community at Northwestern will give undergraduates the opportunity to work with graduate students as members of the same literary community.

“The Litowitz Creative Writing Graduate Program will reinforce Northwestern’s position as an innovator in the field of literary arts,” said Adrian Randolph, dean of Weinberg College. “The distinctive and highly competitive nature of this program will engage some of the brightest graduate students in the country — those who wish to write and also to study literature and who seek a degree that represents the highest level of training — artistically, intellectually and pedagogically.”

The department of English plans to begin enrolling students in the highly selective, three-year program in the fall of 2018. The M.F.A. will emphasize writing workshops, elective courses on the craft of writing and thesis-level independent study courses, with a thesis manuscript completed by the end of the third year. The M.A. portion of the program is envisioned to focus on literary study, with an M.A. thesis completed by the end of the second year.

Serving as the inaugural director of graduate studies in creative writing will be Reginald Gibbons, the Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities, professor of English and classics, and director of the Center for the Writing Arts. Students will be taught by award-winning faculty in the English department, which ranks in the top 20 nationally. The department is made up of many accomplished teachers and highly regarded writers, including Natasha Trethewey, former U.S. poet laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, who joined the University this fall.

The Litowitzes’ gift counts toward We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, the University’s $3.75 billion fundraising initiative. The Litowitz Family Endowed Fund at Northwestern will provide support for the program’s director and staff, graduate fellows, visiting professors, conferences and travel expenses, special events and other activities.

The Litowitzes are generous supporters of Northwestern. Their previous giving has included support for the University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and other areas of Northwestern. They are members of NU Loyal, the giving society that recognizes consistent annual giving to the University.

“Now more than ever, it is important for students to develop skills in creative writing and add their voices to those being represented in the literary world,” said Jennifer Leischner Litowitz, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Weinberg College with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature in 1991. “Through this inspired program, Alec and I hope to engage students from all different disciplines and backgrounds in this vital form of expression.”

In addition to serving as a member of the Weinberg College Board of Visitors, Jennifer Leischner Litowitz is a longstanding member of the Writers Theatre Board of Trustees. Together with her husband, she co-owns and oversees Guildhall Restaurant in Glencoe.

Alec Litowitz is founder and chief executive officer of Evanston-based Magnetar Capital LLC. His parents are Northwestern alumni: his mother, Bonnie Litowitz ’70 MA, ’75 PhD, earned graduate and doctoral degrees in linguistics from Weinberg College, and his father, Norman Litowitz ’61 MD, earned his M.D. from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The funds raised through the “We Will” Campaign are helping realize the transformational vision set forth in Northwestern’s strategic plan and solidify the University’s position among the world’s leading research universities. More information on We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern is available at wewill.northwestern.edu.

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