Alumni Accomplishments Overview

Since its inception in the fall of 2007 the Rutgers Newark MFA in Creative Writing program has drawn high caliber students who, as graduates, have gone on to make significant artistic and cultural contributions in the literary, educational and other spheres. This blog showcases the accomplishments of MFA alumni through "overviews" and individual alumni profiles. Here is a sampler of some of the things our graduates have been up to (and, as a graduate myself (Paula Neves, 2011),  I am proud to keep company with these folks):  

Rutgers-Newark MFA Post Graduate Accomplishments


Michael VanCalbergh is a graduate of the MFA program in poetry. While not pouring over the finer points of Incredible Hulk comics, he has published poems  in Naugatuck River Review, Karamu, and Eclectica.


Kevin Catalano has published a book called The Word Made Flesh, a collection of flash fiction (firthFORTH Books), 2012. He has also short stories: He has published “Unbounded Natureless Chaos.” REAL: Regarding Arts & Letters, (forthcoming) 2013, “Deleted Scenes.” Gargoyle Magazine #60, (forthcoming) 2013, “Overtime.” Aethlon: The Journal of Sports Literature, 28:2, 2013, “The Unreturned.” Fiddleblack Annual #1, 2013, “Henderson Lovely, Last of the Munchkins.” Booth: A Journal, 2012, “Royalty.” 100 Word Story, 2012, “On the Pills, Off the Pills.” Used Furniture Review, 2012, “Winter Deer.”  Willows Wept Review, 2012.

Joanne Chin graduated from the MFA program in 2012. She is currently working at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health. Since graduating, she has published "Throwing Chalk" in the Waiting Room Reader II (CavanKerry Press) and her story, "Light the House," was a finalist in Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers.

Priscilla Mainardi has published "Family of One" was published in The Writing Disorder Fall 2012 issue, September, 2012, and also appeared in The Writing Disorder Anthology, December, 2012; "Changeoever Day" was published in The Legendary, issue 39, January, 2013; and "Nineteen Steps" in Pulse-voices from the heart of medicine. This piece also appears appears on the medical website under the title "I Suddenly Know Why I'm here."

Nick Ripatrazone’s numerous publications include the following books: This Is Not About Birds, poems, Gold Wake Press 2012, The Fine Delight: Postconciliar Catholic Literature, literary criticism, Cascade Books, May 2013, This Darksome Burn, novella, firthFORTH Books, October 2013, and We Will Listen For You, novella, Civil Coping Mechanisms, April 2015.

Nancy Toomey teaches Essay writing, Writing and Lit Study  and Intro to Fiction Writing Workshop in First Year Writing Program at Montclair State University. She published a short story, "The Last Day" in Pilgrim: A Journal of Catholic Experience. Two of her short plays were finalists at Union County College's First Ten Minute Play Festival. "Make Yourself at Home" won second prize in the contest/festival. "Midway Island, 1945" was also performed. 


Dena Afrasiabi is in the Ph.D. program in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of Texas at Austin. She co-edits a new online literary magazine called Elsewhere. Her work has appeared in Prick of the Spindle, Kartika Review, Literary Bohemian, Enizagam and the anthology Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian-American Writers (University of Arkansas Press). She has received fellowships at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Millay Colony (August 2013).

Dickson Lam teaches in Writers-In-Schools (WITS), Houston, as  a Creative Writing Instructor, and at the University of Houston as a Composition Instructor. He is completing a second MFA degree in the MFA nonfiction program the University of Houston, and has published in the Kartika Review. 

PaulA Neves' poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in various publications, most recently The Waiting Room Reader II, Between Mountain, and The New Laurel Review XXV. She is a founding member of Presence/Presença, a community of Luso-American writers with whom she has participated in readings and panels in Lisbon, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.  She has received residencies and funding from Dzanc Books/FLAD, West Chester, and Norcroft. She is an adjunct professor of English composition in the Writing Program at Rutgers-Newark.


Jaime Karnes has received 2 pushcart nominations, and has published in Granta (new voices and other small journals. She has receieved fellowship residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, Millay Colony, VCCA; a Whiting Grant. She was an Opium Magazine story finalist judged by Amy Hempel, and has worked for Gotham Writers' Workshop.

Kevin Kilroy currently teaches at Essex County College and NJIT, and previously taught at Hudson County Community College. He has published  poems in Foundling Review, and presented papers at RU-N's MA Symposium,  the annual NJCEA conference, and the GEO Conference (at UMD), and judged the Enid Dame Poetry Prize (at NJIT). He is currently completing his MA in English literature at RU-N, and intends to complete his PhD. 

Moira Kuo teaches composition at University of San Francisco and San Francisco State . Her fiction is published in Flashquake and The Monongahela Review. 

Maria Luna is teaching Eng 101 at Essex County College and 102 at NJIT and African American Women Writers at Kean University. She is the associate editor of LatinTRENDS magazine. She has been accepted to the Juniper Summer Writing program.

Joanna Sills teaches English Composition on Rutgers' New Brunswick campus. She is in the final stages of revision of her novel.

Melissa Aranzamendez is currently an Associate Director at Princeton University.  She recently took part in a one-week writers retreat with the Wild Acres Residency Program in North Carolina. 

Michael Liska graduated from the MFA program in 2010. He is currently working at SUNY Delhi as an adjunct instructor of writing and literature.


Ryan McIlvain graduated from the MFA program in 2009. He is currently working at the University of Southern California, teaching and pursuing a doctorate in Literature and Creative Writing. He has published work in The Paris Review, Five Chapters, The Chattahoochee Review, and other magazines. His first novel, Elders, is published by Hogarth (Random House). He is also the recipient of a Stegner Fellowship in Fiction from Stanford University.

Owen Duffy graduated from the MFA program in 2009. He has published fiction in New South, Storyglossia, PANK, Passages North, New Delta Review, and Bluestem, among others.

Evan Roskos published DR BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2012); Kirkus (Starred Review); One of Barnes & Noble's Teen Reads for March 2013; Children's Book Council pick for people who Love to Read; Positive reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Horn Book, Booklist, and VOYA.

Paul Vidich’s short stories, interviews, and essays have appeared in Fugue, The Nation, Narrative Magazine, and other publications.  His story collection was a finalist for the 2010 Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award at the University of Georgia Press.  In June 2010 he was a Fellow at the Sozopol Fiction Seminar in Bulgaria.  He received his MFA from Rutgers-Newark in 2009.  He lives in lower Manhattan where he is the Editor and Co-Founder of Storyville.

Mauro Altamura graduated from the MFA program in 2009. He is currently working at New Jersey City University teaching Creative Writing as an Associate Professor. He has had readings as part of the Neumann Leathers Writing Group at the Half King and KGB Bar in New York City. He was a finalist for Storyville's  Sidney Prize.

Scott Bowman graduated from the MFA program in 2009.  He is currently working as an attorney in Denver.  Since graduating, he has had a story published in REAL that was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. 

Kim Shaw teaches at Rahway High School - senior English, Advanced Placement Literature & Composition (a dual program with Fairleigh Dickinson University's Middle College Program), Advanced Journalism, African-American Literature. She serves as an elected official in the Borough of Roselle, 4th Ward Councilwoman, 2011 - 2013. She is completing a one-year advanced seminar graduate certification program at Kean University on Teaching Holocaust Studies and Teaching Prejudice Reduction - May, 2013. Her eighth romance novel has been published by Harlequin Publishing Co.

Joanne Sills teaches English Comp on Rutgers' New Brunswick campus.

Aimee Vitrak graduated from the MFA program in 2009. She is currently working as an editor and writer for the Overseas Press Club of America. She has published work in PANK magazine, and was offered a scholarship to attend the Wesleyan Writers Conference and Postgraduate Writers' Conference in Vermont in 2011, and partial scholarships to the Summer Literary Seminars in 2011 and 2012. She founded the Neumann Writers Group in 2009 with six R-N MFA graduates; the group continues to meet once a month to review new work and discuss issues of craft in fiction.