MFA Program Announces 2020-21 Fellowship Recipients

Awards Provide Funding to Focus on Theses

MFA Program Announces 2020-21 Fellowship Recipients
Clockwise from upper right: Stephanie Buckley, Ana Pugatch, Melissa Wade, Millie Tullis.

Each February, the MFA in Creative Writing program announces the recipients of four fellowships for rising third-year students. Open to current teaching assistants and non-TAs alike, the fellowships are awarded to two prose writers and two poets and they provide the same TA-level of financial support without the responsibility of teaching.

For the academic year 2020-21, the MFA fellowship recipients are:

Melissa Wade (Prose Fiction Fellowship)

Stephanie Buckley (Prose Nonfiction Fellowship)

Millie Tullis (Poetry Thesis Fellowship) 

Ana Pugatch (Poetry Heritage Fellowship)


Melissa Wade’s thesis is a novel titled Exit Journey, which follows the travels of two brothers through France and Switzerland, the older having requested assisted suicide from a Swiss organization rather than taking on the fight against his third reoccurrence of cancer, and the younger going along in the hopes of reigniting his brother's faith by pilgrimaging through French churches and the healing waters of Lourdes.

Born in rural Pennsylvania, Melissa moved to the Baltimore area as a teen where she earned her undergraduate degree and started teaching in the city. Then she took a job teaching high school in central Virginia. At Mason, she has worked in the writing center and taught composition and literature courses.


Stephanie Buckley’s collection of essays explores several intersecting ideas—her upbringing in rural Delaware, class struggle, surviving sexual assault, social performance, and isolation. Her thesis also examines complicated relationships with family, secrets, and why people choose to hide parts of themselves. Stephanie said that what ultimately draws the essays together is a tendency to make oneself small and mining where that impulse comes from; if and how we can overcome what our upbringings have made of us; and the fear of being seen, of being known. The essays are also about the tension of being a nonfiction writer who is inherently private and secretive.

Born and raised in Camden-Wyoming, Delaware, Stephanie lived in Baltimore prior to coming to Mason, where she has taught literature and composition.


Millie Tullis’s thesis collects poems that explore the weight of the female body through themes of sexuality, power, mysticism, and violence. She’s working on her thesis with poetry faculty member Peter Streckfus. Originally from Logan, Utah, Millie has taught English 101, tutored at the Writing Center, and worked as the Writing Center's Coordinator of Outreach.


Originally from Massachusetts, Ana Pugatch taught literature and composition at Mason prior to receiving a fellowship. She received the Writing Center’s 2018-2019 “Tutor of the Year” award. After completing her master’s degree in education at Harvard, she spent the last several years working in China and Thailand. Her thesis focuses on her self-transformation during travels in Asia, interweaving elements of nature and Buddhism, and paying homage to expatriate poets/poets in exile who have influenced her along the way. Ana is working with poetry faculty member Eric Pankey.

Congratulations to these four excellent creative writers!