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Warren Wilson College’s Masters of Art in Teaching Program Abandoned Prior To Its First Year

by Nathan Gower, staff writer

After graduating in the spring of this year, John McDermott had everything figured out. The recent graduate of Warren Wilson College was going to continue his studies in Asheville in the newly created Masters of Art in Teaching program.

McDermott, who earned his bachelors degree in environmental education, “was banking on being at Wilson for another year.” That was, until he received a phone call from program director Grace Mitchell less than a week after graduation. Around the middle of May, he was notified that “as of now, [the college is] not able to run the masters program.” Citing insufficient funding, the Masters program was to cease operations immediately. “I didn’t know what to say, I was in shock, I had no backup plan.”

McDermott, who had applied to other graduate programs, had already taken out the loans necessary to round out the rest of his tuition, purchased his books, been assigned a professor, and signed a one-year lease on a home in Asheville. “There wasn’t a plan B, all systems were go,” he said. “I wanted to go to Wilson.”

He called into question the professionalism of the college. Citing the collapse of the program in relation to the withdrawal of some admitted students, McDermott said, “if that was the case, it was something ongoing and students should have been included in those conversations.”

McDermott believes the college did not do enough to raise funds to keep the program alive. “If there is demand, you can make it work. If the school wanted it, they could get it.” He claimed there had been over one-hundred applicants and if the funding for the program was put into question with the withdrawal of some students, they should have called wait-listed or rejected students. According to McDermott, this was not the case.

That said, McDermott was quick to note that he is not the only one suffering. He was sympathetic to her position. “From her end, she was hired to put together the MFA, so when they cut the program, they cut her too.”


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