Nature Writing

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Master of Arts

Degree Type

Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts


Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Our Nature Writing concentration is established on the core belief that writing can be an agent of change. All genres–nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and others–are welcomed, encouraged, and mentored. Through extensive reading, intellectual inquiry, individual mentorship, and rigorous creative writing, you’ll actively engage with the exciting field of contemporary environmental writing.

Program Overview

Use your passion as a force for good.

Western’s MFA and M.A. in Nature Writing offers an ethically-alert, cutting edge curriculum. The program prides itself on being practical and applied—we’re founded on the belief that writers can be agents of change and can influence public policy and culture.

Through extensive reading, intellectual inquiry, and rigorous creative writing, you’ll engage with diverse voices and will be encouraged to offer your voice to the contemporary conversation. You’ll also be guided through the major literary subgenres relevant to the field, including memoir, fiction, poetry, political writing, reportage, creative nonfiction and more.

Faculty are highly published and are equally dedicated teachers. Recent guest speakers include Camille Dungy, Rick Bass, Amy Irvine, Steve Church, Sean Prentiss, and Michelle Nijhuis. Collaborations with High Desert Journal, Ecoflight, Coldharbour Institute, and graduate-level science programs at Western augment the student experience.

The program welcomes not only creative writers, but those in environmental studies programs. We encourage all who wish to participate in the contemporary conversation of environmental writing.

Inspired by our surroundings

Interested in combining your love of writing with your passion for nature? Western Colorado University’s Nature Writing students have the unique opportunity to explore the breathtaking landscape of the Gunnison Valley each summer.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Concentration in Nature Writing

The Concentration in Nature Writing teaches students a wide range of literary techniques and styles writers have used in their creative responses to the natural environment and human interactions with it. The concentration provides training in all the major literary sub-genres relevant to the field, including memoir, science writing, political writing, history, poetry, fiction, and various forms of the essay and creative nonfiction. Courses include significant reading in primary and secondary sources, along with extensive work in short and long creative writing forms, focusing on creative nonfiction but also including other genres, as well as strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative nonfiction and other forms of creative writing.

The MFA Concentration in Nature Writing requires the following 60 credits:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation (taken three times)3
CRWR 680Writing Place: New Forms and Techniques6
CRWR 681Nature Writing Intensive2
CRWR 682Nature Writing Now2
CRWR 683Thesis Seminar in Nature Writing2
CRWR 684Pedagogy and Practicum6
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 687Writing about Nature and Science6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
CRWR 689Special Topics in Nature Writing6
CRWR 695Professional Development in Nature Writing6
One of the following out-of-concentration courses during the second fall term:6
CRWR 609
Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery
CRWR 610
Genre Fiction Writing and Reading Survey
CRWR 614
Traditional Publishing I (with permission of the Publishing Concentration Director)
CRWR 623
Independent and New Model Publishing I
CRWR 646
Narrative Poetry
CRWR 665
Screenwriting Genre
Three credits of:3
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits66

Nature Writing as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this concentration as a second area of emphasis must earn 30 credits as follows:

CRWR 600Summer Orientation1
CRWR 681Nature Writing Intensive2
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 687Writing about Nature and Science6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
Three credits of:3
CRWR 694
Capstone (must be taken for a total of three credits)
Total Credits30

Students may count CRWR 685 Craft of Creative Nonfiction toward the second concentration in Nature Writing if they have already taken it to fulfill the out-of-concentration course required by their primary concentration.


Career preparation starts your first year at Western and is the primary focus of every degree.

Visit Career Services in Library 120 or online to discover your interests, define your goals, and land the career of your dreams.

The data below is automatically collected by Burning Glass Technologies, a firm that sources job market data and provides analytics. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.

The Program

Advance your career in our convenient, low-residency program.

Western’s graduate Creative Writing program follows a low-residency format. Faculty and students interact online through Zoom and Canvas during the academic year and gather in person on Western’s campus for two weeks each July for intensive classes and to work closely with nationally recognized authors on their writing.

  • Residency: MFA students attend three summer residencies. The first prepares students for the first academic year; the second residency focuses on coursework; and the third residency prepares graduates to present their work.
  • Academic Year: During the academic year, full-time MFA students take two courses each semester. These six-credit courses make use of video conferencing and web platforms for online work.
  • Additional Opportunities: Guests throughout the year compliment course instruction. MFA students also take an out of concentration class in another Creative Writing concentration (Genre Fiction, Poetry, Publishing, or Screenwriting).
  • Matriculation: To complete the MFA, students work on a culminating thesis project throughout their final year.
  • Alternate Courses of Study: M.A. students pursue a similar curriculum to MFA students. They attend for one academic year, do not write a final portfolio, and attend two summer residencies.

Making an impact

Western’s innovative Nature Writing program encourages students to utilize creative writing in an effort to engage with environmental issues through an ethically alert curriculum

Opportunities, Careers, and Partnerships

  • Write: Submit work while in the program and finish with a book-length manuscript.
  • Collaborate: Join in collaborations with organizations such as High Desert Journal, High Country News, and the Coldharbour Institute.
  • Teach: Leave the program with practice teaching, feedback on speaking skills, and a series of prepared craft talks.
  • Publish: Be mentored in the writing of query letters, agent letters, and submission practices.
  • Be involved: Students can propose other collaborations within their own local communities and/or other grassroots and/or policy-making groups.
  • Career Development: Leave knowing about grant writing, internships, PR tactics, and editing, and with essential career documents, such as resumes.
  • Expand Horizons: Take courses or even add a concentration in Western’s other low-residency Creative Writing concentrations: Poetry, Screenwriting for Film and Television, Publishing or Genre Fiction.​
  • Literary Citizenship: Meet and learn from guest speakers, including Camille Dungy, Sean Prentiss, Rick Bass, and a host of others.

Coldharbour Institute

Nature Writing students have the opportunity to collaborate with the Coldharbour Institute (CI) — a unique 350-acre nonprofit ranch in the beautiful Gunnison Valley—at the confluence of the Tomichi and Cochetopa creeks.

News & Research

new nature writing faculty

Nature Writing Concentration Welcomes New Faculty

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New Faculty in GPCW Nature Writing Concentration

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Nature Writing MFA names new director

Nature Writing MFA names new director

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New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

New York Times publishes op-ed by Western’s Genre Fiction Director

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Genre Fiction Director, Fran Wilde

Western Announces New Director of Genre Fiction

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Western announces new Nature Writing MFA

Western announces new Nature Writing MFA

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Community invited to campus author presentation

Community invited to campus author presentation

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Department Information

Graduate Program in Creative Writing


Tyson Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Director, Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Program Support Coordinator

Corinne Sublette

Program Support Coordinator

Contact Information


Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Quigley Hall 117
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231