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M.A. Program in Biography and Memoir

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From our founding in 2019:
Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography  (and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer)  Kai Bird introduces The Graduate Center’s Master’s Program in Biography & Memoir:

Program Director Sarah Covington moderates the "Ethics of Biography" Panel discussion with Kai Bird, Stacy Schiff, and Professor Nancy Miller:




A Unique and Timely Program

Distinguished People - Collage of faces

The Graduate Center’s M.A. Program in Biography and Memoir is one of the only programs in the world to offer a uniquely rich series of courses to students who wish to study biography and memoir, or to become biographers and memoirs writers themselves. Our affordable program offers academic excellence and serves as an intellectual and cultural hub of activities, talks, and opportunities for mentorship. Many leading publishers focus on biography and memoir, and agents are keen to consider those who write creative and narrative nonfiction. Oral history projects continue to obtain funding and grow exponentially, while radio, podcasting, film, television, and video streaming services are open to new voices and forms of content that center upon life writing in all its forms.

At the Center of Publishing and Academia

Our location in New York City and affiliation with The Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography offer students unparalleled networking and mentorship opportunities. The city remains the center of publishing and media in America, with a strong tech presence, while The GC provides further opportunities for students to work across disciplines. This degree is an excellent step into a Ph.D. program as well as careers in journalism and media, professional writing and publishing, oral history studies, documentary filmmaking, digital communications, archival work, and other professions. We are a publicly funded institution, and much of our support for students comes from private donations. If you’d like to give, please click here. Thank you!

A Scholarly, Flexible and Creative Approach

BAM students

Our current students (including the three pictured above) come from a variety of disciplines andbackgrounds. Students take four foundational courses - Forms of Life Writing, Research and Methodology in Biography and Memoir, Ethical Problems in Biography and Memoir, Writing and Style in Biography and Memoir. In addition, students choose from an array of electives among BAM, other MA programs and the Graduate Center’s doctoral programs. Options range from English, history, and art history to film studies, urban politics, and psychology. Students develop highly valued research and writing skills culminating in their thesis or capstone project. Our student handbook outlining these steps is here.  

Personalized Guidance from Esteemed Writers and Scholars

Our Graduate Center faculty are renowned scholars and writers. Many of them have published biographies or memoirs. Their critically acclaimed books have won the Pulitzer Prize and have enjoyed broad popular and academic appeal. In addition, students in our program study and practice the art and craft of biography with guidance from eminent writers who are well connected in academic and publishing circles. Brenda Wineapple (author of The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation) and Annalyn Swan (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of de Kooning: An American Master, and the forthcoming Bacon: Revelations) regularly teach small seminars.