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English, M.A.

The M.A. in English has been offered at USD since 1923. Professors work intensively with graduate students on their writing and scholarship, successfully preparing students to present and publish their work.

A master's program designed for you

Our strong and supportive program offers graduate-level instruction and professional development skills suitable for pursuing professional opportunities in teaching, editing, and writing, as well as admission into M.F.A. or Ph.D. programs for further graduate study. You will work closely with faculty members to develop your writing, analytical skills, and knowledge of literary history. As you work with your committee to design and execute a scholarly project, you will become an expert in your area of interest. As a master’s student, you will receive exceptional mentorship. Our program accommodates part-time and full-time students, with seminars that meet weekly in the late afternoon or evenings to enable students with work or family responsibilities to attend.

Degrees & Offerings

Literary Studies: Critical (M.A)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Our specialization in critical literary studies offers a thesis and non-thesis option that give you an opportunity to pursue a personalized course of study while gaining a rigorous introduction to a variety of literatures, historical and aesthetic contexts, and critical theories and methodologies. We offer classes in British and U.S. literatures—from early modern drama to contemporary American poetics—and a diverse range of special topics courses, all enriched by professionalization workshops, events with visiting scholars and writers, conference opportunities and an emphasis on mentorship. In addition to literature and literary theory classes, you have the option to take creative writing workshops. If you receive a funded Graduate Teaching Assistantship, you will teach a variety of courses that develop your pedagogy and establish credentials for teaching in the academic world. Faculty mentorship extends beyond the classroom with professionalization workshops that help students navigate the job market, publishing, conferences, and job materials. You can also take advantage of other kinds of professional development opportunities in publishing.

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Literary Studies: Creative (M.A)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Our unique MA program offers you the opportunity to study literature and creative writing. Students with the creative specialization take graduate-level workshops with professional writers in multiple genres, enabling you to develop multi-genre fluency within your own work and to build pedagogical skills and credentials in the creative writing classroom. In graduate-level creative writing workshops, you will receive feedback on your work addresses elements of craft and technique. You will also read broadly in the “state of the art” and engage in conversations about aesthetic and historical contexts, narrative theory, poetics, and critical theory. If you receive a funded Graduate Teaching Assistantship, you will establish and build your pedagogical skills by teaching a wide range of courses. You also leave the program with a completed book-length creative project in hand, as well as guidance on job and graduate program applications and C.V. building.

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English: Literature (B.S. or B.A./M.A.)

Accelerated Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

If you are a current USD undergraduate student who would like to begin a master's degree while completing your bachelor's degree, you may apply after completing 75 undergraduate credit hours and may begin taking graduate-level courses upon completion of 90 undergraduate credit hours and acceptance into the accelerated graduate program.

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English (M.A./J.D.)

Concurrent Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

The M.A./J.D. is a dual degree that in both Law and English. Completing the combined degree takes less time than earning both degrees separately. It is available only to candidates who are concurrently enrolled in the School of Law. Students generally complete the first year of the J.D. before beginning the M.A. in English. Normally, an M.A. is not a terminal degree, but the M.A./J.D. offers a unique opportunity to earn a master's along with a terminal degree.

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Program Details





Graduate Admissions

Start Your Application Today

Each program has unique application requirements and deadlines. Be sure and consult the graduate catalog for detailed program information. This resource can help you ensure your application and materials are complete and submitted on time. To learn more about the application process, visit how to apply. Additional requirements exist for international applicants. For more information, visit International Admission Requirements.

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.


As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

The experience that you gain in the teaching assistant program offers significant benefits if you are pursuing a career in education, business, law or other fields involving leadership or public speaking. Teaching assistants receive a stipend appropriate to the low-cost of living in Vermillion and a reduction in tuition. Assistantships are awarded for a full academic year. Applicants who meet the priority M.A. application deadline are automatically considered for a Graduate Teaching Assistant Position.

Students who are fully admitted to the M.A. program are eligible for teaching assistantships. Assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis and are renewable for a total of two years, with a stipend and a significant reduction in tuition. M.A. teaching assistants enroll for credit in the department's teaching practicum, which provides essential training and support for new teachers.

Most teaching assistants teach two sections of an introductory writing or literature course each semester.

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The USD Department of English sponsors two periodicals and a press. South Dakota Review publishes both critical and creative work for a national audience. The Vermillion Literary Project, our student organization, produces an annual literary journal and organizes student contests, local readings, and events. As a graduate student, you have the opportunity to judge contests, read creative work, moderate events and mentor undergraduate students. Astrophil Press publishes books that explore the possibilities of language, form and genre. These departmental connections provide you with valuable experiences in publishing. 

You also have opportunities to present your work to meet scholars and creative writers. The biannual writers and scholars conference  features writers such as Ellen Forney, Percival Everett and Erika Wurth. Faculty members, graduate students, and visiting scholars and creative writers present their work at our Colloquium Series. We have hosted nationally recognized scholars, such as Tim Brennan (Minnesota), Patricia A. Matthew (Montclair) and Joel Pace (Wisconsin-Eau Claire). Visiting scholars give public lectures on campus, hold pedagogy workshops and meet informally with graduate students in English. Creative writers from around the country regularly read their work on campus.

At USD, graduate students explore innovative areas of interest, actively pursue their own research, and present at local and national conferences. Each spring, USD runs IDEAFest, a student conference where you can share your work with faculty, colleagues, and guests. USD also has other presentation opportunities, such as the biannual Women and Gender Studies Research Conference among others. The Department of English also provides travel funds to students who travel to regional or national conferences to present. Additional research and grant opportunities include:

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®)

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition provides the opportunity to communicate the significance and impact of your research project in just three minutes.

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Grad Research and Creative Scholarship Grants

The Graduate School assists with the funding of research and creative activity projects through grant opportunities throughout the year. Grants are awarded through a competitive application process conducted by the Graduate Council.

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IdeaFest is an annual event celebrating student research, creative scholarship and academic engagement. Undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines present their work in oral and poster presentations, live performances, readings, exhibits and displays.

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USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including those housed in the Department of English. Graduate students can get involved with the campus-wide Graduate and Professional Student Association. Or you may be interested in the Vermillion Literary Project or Alpha Mu Phi to make friends, develop new skills and explore your interests. 

Alpha Mu Phi 

Alpha Mu Phi is USD's local Sigma Tau Delta chapter. This organization's central purpose is to confer distinction upon students of the English language and literature in undergraduate, graduate and professional studies. Sigma Tau Delta also recognizes the accomplishments of professional writers who have contributed to the fields of language and literature.

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Vermillion Literary Project 

The Vermillion Literary Project is an award-winning student organization that publishes a literary magazine and promotes all sorts of literary events, for both the university community and the general public.

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Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA)

Join your fellow graduate and professional students at USD. We aim to build a sense of community between graduate and professional students. Build your resume, network with others and gain experience and the unique opportunity to represent the interests of graduate students to the greater campus and community.

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Departments & Facilities

Our faculty are experts in their fields, bringing practical experience in writing, communication and inspirational thinking.
Carson Sehr outside holding Vermillion Literary Project books


Investigate and gain insight into how we understand ourselves and communicate through stories, poetry and other narratives. Cultivate your ability to read and write and think about complex issues with the Department of English.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know your professors in the Department of English. The USD English faculty are award-winning, engaged researchers and creative scholars working within a supportive department community dedicated to providing students with diverse learning opportunities.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Darlene Farabee

Darlene Farabee



16th & 17th C British Literature
Bio Image for Faculty Member duncan barlow

duncan barlow



Fiction Writing, Horror Literature, Publishing
Bio Image for Faculty Member Prentiss Clark

Prentiss Clark

Associate Professor


American Literature
pete dexter smiling.

Pete Dexter

Writer in Residence
Bio Image for Faculty Member John Dudley

John Dudley

Dean-Col of A&S


American Literature
Literary Naturalism
Bio Image for Faculty Member Paul Formisano

Paul Formisano

Director of Writing


Environmental Humanities/Composition
Regional Lit.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Kenneth Green

Kenneth Green



Business Writing
Grant Writing
English Grammar
Bio Image for Faculty Member Benjamin Hagen

Benjamin Hagen

Associate Professor


Modernist fiction/poetry
Literary criticism/theory
Bio Image for Faculty Member Leah McCormack

Leah McCormack

Assistant Professor


Creative Writing (Fiction & Nonfiction)
Bio Image for Faculty Member Lisa Ann Robertson

Lisa Ann Robertson

Associate Professor


18th & 19th C British Literature, Science, Culture
Bio Image for Faculty Member Lee Roripaugh

Lee Roripaugh

Editor-South Dakota Review, Professor


Creative Writing (Poetry, CNF, Fiction)
Bio Image for Faculty Member Skip Willman

Skip Willman

Associate Professor


Contemporary Literature
Critical Theory
An English student reading the South Dakota Law Review.

Work on Active Publishing Projects

Our graduate program offers a wide variety of opportunities beyond coursework, including professionalization workshops, visiting writers and scholars, and English Department publications. For example, our graduate students gain valuable experience by:


  • Editing South Dakota Review
  • Organizing and leading events for Vermillion Literary Project
  • Editing Red Coyote
  • Learning the nuts and bolts of the publishing world by working with Astrophil Press
  • Helping others become stronger writers through consultant positions in the University Writing Center

Surprisingly Affordable

Whether you’ve recently completed your undergraduate degree, or you want to kick your career up a notch, graduate school is the next logical step. The good news is there is funding for both online and on-campus students to get you through your program. 

Graduate Tuition & Costs

Learn more about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and see how your out-of-pocket costs at USD compare to those at other colleges and universities. Visit the Graduate Tuition & Costs Detailed page for program specific costs and fees.

Financial Aid

Navigating options for how to pay for college can be challenging, but you are not alone. The Office of Financial Aid will work with you and your family to explore how you can make your college education even more affordable.

Graduate Assistantships

USD offers opportunities for grad students to earn a reduced tuition rate in exchange for their teaching, research and service efforts to the university.


alum success story

Clara Canas smiling.
I’m enjoying my job more and more as I become versed in “Grant-ese.” I’ve led a handful of grants so far, and we’ve received notice that two of our federal grants were awarded over $3 million dollars in the last two weeks. I had a rather heavy hand in both of them, so it’s rewarding to one, have a grant awarded and two, be able to witness first-hand the impact of my team within South Dakota communities.

Clara MacIlravie Canas

MA, Literary Studies '22
Grant Writer, Avera Health.

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