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Bread Loaf School of English


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#1 loafofbread1492

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 04:04 AM


I've been accepted to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury.

Can anyone tell me if this is a reputable program? I know Middlebury is great for undergrad, but how prestigious is the MA? How will ivy league and other top PhD programs view it?

How competitive are admissions at Bread Loaf? (I am hoping to be in class with other competitive applicants.)

Thanks.

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#2 woolfie

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 02:25 PM


I've been accepted to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury.

Can anyone tell me if this is a reputable program? I know Middlebury is great for undergrad, but how prestigious is the MA? How will ivy league and other top PhD programs view it?

How competitive are admissions at Bread Loaf? (I am hoping to be in class with other competitive applicants.)

Thanks.


I have never heard of this program. But I'm from Indiana so I don't know much about northeast schools.

I'm also wondering the same thing about University of Vermont and schools that are good for undergraduate but are unranked because they only have an MA program. I wonder whether, just as far as ranking goes not taking fit into consideration, if it would be better to go to a prestigious undergrad school than a lower ranked school that has a phd program.

Sorry, I don't know the answer to your question, I'm wondering the same thing.
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#3 Tybalt

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 03:02 PM

I have never heard of this program. But I'm from Indiana so I don't know much about northeast schools.

I'm also wondering the same thing about University of Vermont and schools that are good for undergraduate but are unranked because they only have an MA program. I wonder whether, just as far as ranking goes not taking fit into consideration, if it would be better to go to a prestigious undergrad school than a lower ranked school that has a phd program.

Sorry, I don't know the answer to your question, I'm wondering the same thing.


Bread Loaf is a summer MA, designed specifically for high school teachers. In education circles, it's a VERY highly regarded program. I'm not sure how PhD adcomms would view an MA from Bread Loaf.
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#4 loafofbread1492

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 05:58 PM

I'm also wondering the same thing about University of Vermont and schools that are good for undergraduate but are unranked because they only have an MA program.


I can tell you based on personal anecdotes from students there that Wake Forest's competitive undergrad doesn't seem to boast a competitive or prestigious MA to match. I hope this is not the case with Bread Loaf.

I generally get the sense that competitive students go straight into PhD programs, picking up the MA along the way. Those enrolled in pure MA programs are there for a reason: either they could net get accepted into or were not ambitious enough for a PhD program. Is there an truth to this opinion I've formed?

Is this true for Bread Loaf? Does anyone have admissions statistics or acceptance rates?
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#5 loafofbread1492

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 06:00 PM

Bread Loaf is a summer MA, designed specifically for high school teachers. In education circles, it's a VERY highly regarded program. I'm not sure how PhD adcomms would view an MA from Bread Loaf.


Thanks. Any idea as to whether or not that high regard is justified? Is the program really all that selective or rigorous?

Hopefully, someone else will be able to resolve the issue of PhD admissions.
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#6 anonacademic

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 06:09 PM

Honestly, the people who will actually have an answer for you are your faculty advisors - ask your letter writers for advice. Most faculty can't keep their mouths shut when it comes to dishing opinions, and they certainly know more than we.

I've heard of Bread Loaf, and considered it prestigious for a high schooler or undergrad to attend - I had no idea that it had a graduate component. I wouldn't worry, perhaps, so much about prestige, but rather about fit, and what you can accomplish there. What faculty teach there? What opportunities are there for you and your specific project?

If it's a summer MA, I assume it's a part-time, low-res program? Even if you can't find specifics on how Bread Loaf itself is regarded, you could do more general research into how low-res programs are looked upon by PhD adcomms. In such a case, I image what you do apart from the summer is significant as well.

Edited for typos!

Edited by Chumlee, 09 February 2011 - 06:09 PM.

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#7 tinapickles

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 06:13 PM

Are you talking about the writer's conference/retreat? If so, in the "writerly" circles, it's very prestigious. A number of writers attend and go on to publish. It does have, as well, a young writer's component.
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#8 shepardn7

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 07:02 PM

Are you talking about the writer's conference/retreat? If so, in the "writerly" circles, it's very prestigious. A number of writers attend and go on to publish. It does have, as well, a young writer's component.


I think the OP is joking--see the "Bread Loaf" thread under Waiting It Out.

For people here unfamiliar with Bread Loaf, it is what Tina describes. It's two weeks, I think? No high schoolers or undergrads. Primarily published writers, with some emerging writers either there on fellowship or as "waiters" (the financial aid program = being a waiter during mealtime). It's tough to get in, but it's not a degree program. More like a place to make new friends, network, get some feedback on your writing, etc.

Edit: actually, there does seem to be a separate MA program in a different field. That's confusing, LOL.

Edited by sarandipidy, 09 February 2011 - 07:04 PM.

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#9 anonacademic

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 07:07 PM

No high schoolers or undergrads.


I seem to have been thinking about the Young Writers Conference - I apologize for any confusion, but it has been awhile since I've been in high school, and that was the last place I remember hearing about Bread Loaf.
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#10 intextrovert

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 09:57 PM

Proud Middlebury (undergrad) alum here!

To clarify what seems to be a lot of confusion: Bread Loaf is a campus that is owned by Middlebury, about a 15 minute drive from the main campus (and close to Robert Frost's cabin, also owned by the college). There are no programs there during the school year, but during the summer, there are two: the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and the Bread Loaf School of English.

The Writer's Conference is indeed very prestigious - a lot of prominent writers and poets have come through there.

What the OP is asking about is the Bread Loaf School of English, which offers an MA program. I have several friends who have gone through it, and all have absolutely raved about it, and found the program really intellectually rigorous and rewarding, and the caliber of the students really high - though from what I understand it's not super competitive as far as admission is concerned. It is indeed designed for high school teachers, who can work towards their MA over several summers (in an incredibly beautiful place! Though they also have campuses in North Carolina, Arizona, and Oxford). Professors from various other programs around the country come to teach over the summer - for example, the DGS where I am currently getting my PhD teaches there and loves it.

As far as getting into PhD programs, with a few exceptions, I'm convinced that it really doesn't matter where you do your MA. Half of my cohort in my program (which does well on those silly rankings lists) got MAs at virtually unknown programs, and the rest of us just came in with BAs. It's all about the work you produce, and how the program will help you, personally, grow as a scholar. So Bread Loaf is fantastic, but the value isn't in the name, but in the type of work it might help you to produce (and perhaps the contacts you make there), like anywhere. Really, I think the only real "objective" reason to choose one MA program over another is if you can get one that is funded. Of course, funded MAs are the exception rather than the rule. (And, btw, if you're a teacher, a lot of schools will pay for all or part of your tuition at Bread Loaf).

But Vermont - and anything associated with Middlebury - is really wonderful! (Warned you I was proud. "Fanatic" might be a better descriptor.)

Edited by intextrovert, 09 February 2011 - 10:07 PM.

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#11 greekdaph

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 11:42 PM

Agreed with everything intextrovert said, especially the paragraph quoted below. I spent the 3 years between undergrad and grad school as a high school English teacher and spent one of my summers at the Vermont campus of the Bread Loaf School of English, so what I'm saying here comes from my perspective as both a teacher and, currently, a student in a full-time PhD program.

Bread Loaf is really, really wonderful: the setting is stunning, the food is amazing, and the people--the faculty, staff, and fellow students--are so friendly and so smart. I had a really fabulous time, and I learned a great deal. The faculty is very talented, made up of teachers who love teaching for its own sake, who enjoy the setting, and who have a chance to get out of the bureaucracies and departmental politics of their individual schools and hang out with colleagues they respect. They seem really relaxed and happy to be there, though of course they work hard and are very available to their students. Most students there are, indeed, English teachers (most, but not all, at the high school level), and few of them intend to go into PhD programs.

As for how classes compare to grad seminars: given the constraints of the six-week timeframe for reading and writing, Bread Loaf is mostly a close-reading program. The library is small and well-stocked with relevant materials for individual classes, there's access to all sorts of online databases, and you can request books from the Middlebury library, but there isn't the time to write research papers that draw on a wide array of secondary sources. Most classes focus on primary texts; some engage with criticism, but few engage with theory. Given that so many Bread Loaf students are teachers, courses are sometimes organized as a supplement to high school curriculums--for instance, Shakespeare and the American canon are popular--and often take up pedagogical questions (how have you taught this? how would you teach this?) as part of their discussions. The level of discussion is often very high--the students are smart and motivated, and the faculty are real experts in their fields, people who teach at highly regarded programs and publish widely (it's not an easy job to get as a prof). But, those discussions don't always revolve around current debates in the field, nor is your written work expected to participate in the kind of scholarly conversation that takes place in journals and monographs. It's not a competitive environment, and Bread Loaf classes feel, often refreshingly, different from grad seminars--discussions are driven by student interests, texts are privileged over theory, etc. I loved that about the program, but though my time there sharpened my skills, it didn't always prepare me for the kind of work I'm now expected to do.

In short, then, Bread Loaf is wonderful in every way, but it may not be quite what you're looking for. As other posters, including intextrovert, have mentioned, most PhD programs really don't care where your MA comes from--or even if you have one at all. They want you to have a good SOP and a great writing sample, and good recommendations can help draw attention to your strengths. So, if you're using Bread Loaf as a way to get a leg up on PhD admissions, you'd have to be a little strategic about it. For instance, you could ask your professors to help you design a final paper that could be a good writing sample (most courses require 1 or 2 10-page papers, or 1 long paper and one short paper; you could ask to write one longer paper). And/or you could take classes with a professor who comes from a program you're interested in attending or is a well-respected scholar in your field. For me, my Bread Loaf summer was the most useful in convincing me that I wanted to go back to school--I left hungry for a full-time program and feeling like those six weeks had gone by too quickly. I also took a class in my field and used the papers I wrote there as my writing sample--it was great to produce something that felt stronger than my undergraduate work and to do so with feedback and guidance and deadlines. In other words, then, I think--as tends to be the case with all MA programs--that the work you do there would ultimately be far more important in admissions than the pedigree of your degree.

Let me know if you have any other questions, and feel free to PM me.

Proud Middlebury (undergrad) alum here!

To clarify what seems to be a lot of confusion: Bread Loaf is a campus that is owned by Middlebury, about a 15 minute drive from the main campus (and close to Robert Frost's cabin, also owned by the college). There are no programs there during the school year, but during the summer, there are two: the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and the Bread Loaf School of English.

The Writer's Conference is indeed very prestigious - a lot of prominent writers and poets have come through there.

What the OP is asking about is the Bread Loaf School of English, which offers an MA program. I have several friends who have gone through it, and all have absolutely raved about it, and found the program really intellectually rigorous and rewarding, and the caliber of the students really high - though from what I understand it's not super competitive as far as admission is concerned. It is indeed designed for high school teachers, who can work towards their MA over several summers (in an incredibly beautiful place! Though they also have campuses in North Carolina, Arizona, and Oxford). Professors from various other programs around the country come to teach over the summer - for example, the DGS where I am currently getting my PhD teaches there and loves it.

As far as getting into PhD programs, with a few exceptions, I'm convinced that it really doesn't matter where you do your MA. Half of my cohort in my program (which does well on those silly rankings lists) got MAs at virtually unknown programs, and the rest of us just came in with BAs. It's all about the work you produce, and how the program will help you, personally, grow as a scholar. So Bread Loaf is fantastic, but the value isn't in the name, but in the type of work it might help you to produce (and perhaps the contacts you make there), like anywhere. Really, I think the only real "objective" reason to choose one MA program over another is if you can get one that is funded. Of course, funded MAs are the exception rather than the rule. (And, btw, if you're a teacher, a lot of schools will pay for all or part of your tuition at Bread Loaf).

But Vermont - and anything associated with Middlebury - is really wonderful! (Warned you I was proud. "Fanatic" might be a better descriptor.)


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#12 loafofbread1492

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:08 AM

intextrovert and greekdaph, thank you for the great responses.. I appreciate it.. very helpful

Agreed with everything intextrovert said, especially the paragraph quoted below. I spent the 3 years between undergrad and grad school as a high school English teacher and spent one of my summers at the Vermont campus of the Bread Loaf School of English, so what I'm saying here comes from my perspective as both a teacher and, currently, a student in a full-time PhD program.

Bread Loaf is really, really wonderful: the setting is stunning, the food is amazing, and the people--the faculty, staff, and fellow students--are so friendly and so smart. I had a really fabulous time, and I learned a great deal. The faculty is very talented, made up of teachers who love teaching for its own sake, who enjoy the setting, and who have a chance to get out of the bureaucracies and departmental politics of their individual schools and hang out with colleagues they respect. They seem really relaxed and happy to be there, though of course they work hard and are very available to their students. Most students there are, indeed, English teachers (most, but not all, at the high school level), and few of them intend to go into PhD programs.

As for how classes compare to grad seminars: given the constraints of the six-week timeframe for reading and writing, Bread Loaf is mostly a close-reading program. The library is small and well-stocked with relevant materials for individual classes, there's access to all sorts of online databases, and you can request books from the Middlebury library, but there isn't the time to write research papers that draw on a wide array of secondary sources. Most classes focus on primary texts; some engage with criticism, but few engage with theory. Given that so many Bread Loaf students are teachers, courses are sometimes organized as a supplement to high school curriculums--for instance, Shakespeare and the American canon are popular--and often take up pedagogical questions (how have you taught this? how would you teach this?) as part of their discussions. The level of discussion is often very high--the students are smart and motivated, and the faculty are real experts in their fields, people who teach at highly regarded programs and publish widely (it's not an easy job to get as a prof). But, those discussions don't always revolve around current debates in the field, nor is your written work expected to participate in the kind of scholarly conversation that takes place in journals and monographs. It's not a competitive environment, and Bread Loaf classes feel, often refreshingly, different from grad seminars--discussions are driven by student interests, texts are privileged over theory, etc. I loved that about the program, but though my time there sharpened my skills, it didn't always prepare me for the kind of work I'm now expected to do.

In short, then, Bread Loaf is wonderful in every way, but it may not be quite what you're looking for. As other posters, including intextrovert, have mentioned, most PhD programs really don't care where your MA comes from--or even if you have one at all. They want you to have a good SOP and a great writing sample, and good recommendations can help draw attention to your strengths. So, if you're using Bread Loaf as a way to get a leg up on PhD admissions, you'd have to be a little strategic about it. For instance, you could ask your professors to help you design a final paper that could be a good writing sample (most courses require 1 or 2 10-page papers, or 1 long paper and one short paper; you could ask to write one longer paper). And/or you could take classes with a professor who comes from a program you're interested in attending or is a well-respected scholar in your field. For me, my Bread Loaf summer was the most useful in convincing me that I wanted to go back to school--I left hungry for a full-time program and feeling like those six weeks had gone by too quickly. I also took a class in my field and used the papers I wrote there as my writing sample--it was great to produce something that felt stronger than my undergraduate work and to do so with feedback and guidance and deadlines. In other words, then, I think--as tends to be the case with all MA programs--that the work you do there would ultimately be far more important in admissions than the pedigree of your degree.

Let me know if you have any other questions, and feel free to PM me.



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#13 PurpleBrain

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 05:12 PM

As a proud Middlebury undergrad myself, I can say that the Breadloaf School of English is extremely prestigious and highly competitive. It is highly regarded in intellectual/writing circles. You will certainly be challenged and interact with other "well-to-do" folks.
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#14 litcat

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:43 AM

Sorry to be late to this, and I hope not to just foment trouble, but to the OP: I can't see this being a wise choice as a stepping stone MA.

I'm not particularly familiar with the program's graduates (aside from one very underwhelming English instructor I had in high school) but I would point to a few readily apparent shortcomings:
1. No thesis or comprehensive exams (someone will correct me if I'm wrong here).
2. No TAships/RAships, usually an important part of the grad experience
3. Not much funding (see 2; incidentally, at this point, the program seems to resemble an expensive book club rather than a graduate program)
4. That not many people seem to have heard of this program does not bode well for "serious" lit. circles, especially in this application/job market
5. Geared towards high school teachers rather than scholars

In my estimation, if one wanted to be a high school teacher, there are a host of one year M.A.T. programs that would serve him or her better (e.g., Brown, various R1 publics), and if one wanted to be a scholar, there are numerous MA programs that would situate one well, both in the US and Canada, or one could enter a PhD program.
This program seems best to serve individuals who already hold teacher licensure and want the prestige of an MA from a "good school" or will receive a nominal pay increase. Or it seems a very enjoyable way for an affluent individual passionate about book to spend his or her summers.
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#15 debbielane2001

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Posted 09 September 2011 - 01:45 AM

As an August 2011 graduate from the Bread Loaf School of English Master of Arts Program at Middlebury College and a current student in the Bread Loaf School of English Master of Letters Program, I would love to put in my own two cents worth. While many folks have good things to say about Bread Loaf, a graduate English program that has existed for nearly 100 years now, I feel that the program has not been accurately represented.

Over the decades, Bread Loaf has succeeded in offering a graduate program that focuses primarily on English literature. There are courses in writing, digital technology, and drama as well. However, Bread Loaf is not an MFA program. The professors who teach at the four campuses are leaders in their fields and highly respected by their peers. I, for example, have had courses with Emma Smith at Oxford University in Oxford, England. If you want to know who she is, go check out her Shakespeare lectures posted on iTunes University under Oxford University. I had a class with Victor Luftig, a leading expert on Irish literature and poetry. Oh, the editor of The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, Jahan Ramazani, thanked Luftig in his forward to the most recent publication of the anthology for his invaluable editing help. Emily Bartels, the new director of the program, has a cutting edge book, Speaking of the Moor, from Alcazar to Othello, which focuses on the prejudice of being an "other" that was recently published. Paul Muldoon, the poetry editor of The New Yorker, teaches poetry classes there, too. Andrea Lunsford, who was instrumental in started writing centers, taught for many years at Bread Loaf. Robert Stepto, whose book, A Home Elsewhere, was on the NY Times bestseller list recently, teaches in Vermont every summer. In other words, Bread Loaf pulls the crème de la crème to teach in their graduate program, virtually creating an unrivaled brain trust.

The classes are intense, mind expanding, and unlike any other academic experience I have ever had. The classes are not "just for English teachers," but for any scholar of literature. The classes are not just close readings, but do involve theory as well.

Regarding Robert Frost, his Vermont cabin is indeed on the Bread Loaf campus. Robert Frost, who spoke often, was affiliated with Bread Loaf for more than forty years and held court in the barn frequently while there.

Highly acclaimed authors come to the campuses every summer to speak and read. I just had the pleasure of spending an evening with Julia Alvarez, who often speaks at Bread Loaf. Other prestigious authors have spoken over the years, such as Tim O'Brien and John Ashbery, to name a couple. Off hand, one famous Bread Loaf alumni I can think of is Nancie Atwell, who is famous for her books about using writing workshops in the classroom.

Bread Loaf alums have also contributed to their communities and to the world of education. For example, Lou Bernieri, who teaches at Phillips Academy in MA, runs the Andover Bread Loaf Summer program for teachers and students. His program has changed the lives of countless students through his dedication to using poetry as a motivator for at risk students, many from the Dominican Republic, in Andover, MA. He also uses student teachers, similar to what Gwendolyn Brooks did, to connect with these students and help them gain insight about what education can do for them.

Now, what can Bread Loaf do for you? Sure, any MA program can open doors to a Ph.D. program if you have the right stuff; that's a given. However, my friends from Bread Loaf have been admitted into some of the most prestigious programs in the world. For example, one friend just completed an additional master of arts at Oxford University in England and is now working in the UK. Another student applied to Harvard University and recently finished an additional master of arts in music education. Right now, one on my classmates is packing to go to Oxford University as a Ph.D. student for several years. Other alums have been published multiple times, both scholarly and creative writing publications.

Now, what about me? I am doing post master degree work, the Master of Letters, at Bread Loaf. I am also in the process of applying to multiple Ivy League Ph.D. programs, such as Emory, Rutgers, Duke, Colombia, and I might even apply to Oxford myself. I have recently finished writing my first novel and a Bread Loaf professor offered to edit it for me. I have been teaching English and creative writing for fifteen years now. I like to think I am an author and a scholar. Not bad for the first one in the family to graduate high school, go to college, and pursue even higher education. One milestone at a time!

All I can really say is please give the program at Bread Loaf the attention it deserves. Two of my professors invited me to apply to their universities this summer, which means there might be some doors open for me soon. I do wish you all the luck! Go Bread Loaf! Yes, I am the penultimate cheerleader!
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