The Graduate Center Introduces First Master's in Biography and Memoir in the U.S.

January 7, 2019

The new program is a collaboration between the English and history departments and offered jointly with the renowned Leon Levy Center for Biography.

NEW YORK, January 7, 2019 — The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) has launched a new M.A. degree in Biography and Memoir, a first-in-the-nation program for students who wish to study biography and memoir, or to become biographers and memoirists themselves. The program is currently accepting applications for fall 2019.

The Graduate Center’s newest master’s program is an interdisciplinary collaboration between two doctoral programs, English and History, and the renowned Leon Levy Center for Biography

The Levy Center, generously funded by Shelby White and directed by Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Kai Bird, hosts resident biographers through its fellows program each year, and puts on dozens of sold-out public programs featuring prominent biographers. 

White’s generous support has made it possible for The Graduate Center to offer two $5,000 merit scholarships to incoming students in the M.A. program in Biography and Memoir.

“The Graduate Center is uniquely positioned to offer this timely program in biography and memoir in New York City,” said Joy Connolly, interim president of The Graduate Center. “Our academically rich, interdisciplinary approach is enhanced by our connection to the extraordinary Leon Levy Center and elevated by our distinguished and award-winning faculty.”

The program is designed as a step toward doctoral study and preparation for a range of careers, including journalism, oral history, podcasting, documentary filmmaking, archival work, and narrative and creative nonfiction. Foundation courses will teach the skills of historical research and the craft of life writing. Students will be able to choose electives from among many advanced English and History doctoral seminars. The master’s students in biography and memoir will work closely with The Graduate Center’s distinguished faculty of scholars and writers, which includes many noted biographers and memoirists.

In a moment that has been called a golden age for biography and memoir, many leading publishers focus on both genres for adults and children. Publishers Weekly reported that in 2017 the increase in nonfiction juvenile publishing was led by biography and autobiography. 

“We are thrilled to innovate in master’s education to further the public mission of CUNY,” said Julie Suk, dean for master’s programs and professor of sociology at The Graduate Center. “Ideally located in midtown Manhattan, a leading hub for publishers, in a city full of immigrant communities, our new master’s program can transform the landscape of biography. By providing greater access to doctoral-level historical and literary study, we can diversify who writes biography, whose lives are written about, what stories are researched and published.”

About The Graduate Center of The City University of New York
The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students more than 40 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY — the world’s largest public urban university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, and initiatives, including its Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), The Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center’s extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.