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M.F.A. Students

Current M.F.A. Students per Cohort  –  AY 2022-2023

Langston Cotman

Langston Cotman (He/Him) is a first-year MFA candidate in fiction from Takoma Park, Maryland. He graduated with a BA in American Studies from Goucher College. His fiction appears in The Virginia Quarterly Review and BOMB Magazine. He walks like this and he dances like that.




Kumari Devarajan

Kumari Devarajan is a first year MFA student in fiction from Washington DC. They were most recently an audio journalist at NPR’s Code Switch podcast where they received a Murrow Award and Apple Podcast of the Year Award. They graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in Economics and Women’s and Gender studies.



Ajla Dizdarević

Ajla Dizdarević is a poet currently attending Vanderbilt University's MFA program. She previously worked in Serbia as an editor, Croatia as a Fulbright grantee, and France as a teaching assistant.

Sydney Mayes

Sydney Mayes is a first-year poetry MFA candidate from Denver, Colorado. She holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. Winner of the 2021 Iowa Chapbook Prize, her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly and Prairie Schooner.




Athena Nassar

Athena Nassar is an MFA candidate in poetry from Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of the debut poetry collection Little Houses (Sundress Publications). She is the winner of the 2021 San Miguel Writers’ Conference Writing Contest, the 2021 Academy of American Poets College Prize, and the 2019 Scholastic National Gold Medal Portfolio Award, among other honors. Her work has appeared in Academy of American Poets, The Missouri Review, Southern Humanities ReviewPleiades, The Los Angeles Review, Salt Hill, and elsewhere.


Iman Saleem

Iman Saleem is a first-year fiction MFA candidate from Colombo. She graduated from the University of Kent in 2018 with a BA in Drama & English and American Literature. Since then, she has worked as a journalist, covering the mass anti-government protests in Sri Lanka throughout 2022.

Alissa M. Barr

Alissa M. Barr is a second-year poetry MFA candidate from Alleghany County, Virginia. She holds a BSN and worked as a CVICU nurse for several years. Alissa has received support through scholarships from Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe and the Fine Arts Work Center. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Creek Review, Ninth Letter, Salt Hill Journal, and elsewhere.



Nathan Blum

Nathan Blum is an MFA candidate in fiction. Originally from the Hudson Valley, he graduated with a degree in English and Education from Bowdoin College, where he received the Micoleau Family Fellowship. He is an Iowa Review Award finalist and his fiction appears in The Westchester Review. He currently serves as editor-in-chief at Nashville Review.



Michael Carlson

Michael Carlson is a first-year MFA candidate in fiction. He holds a BA in English from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater where he majored in creative writing. Michael enjoys spending time with his wife, Kameo, running marathons, taking naps after reading, and helping other drug addicts find hope in recovery.




Carson Colenbaugh

Carson Colenbaugh is an MFA candidate in poetry from Kennesaw, Georgia. He graduated with a BS in horticulture from Clemson University, where he worked alongside the university and US Forest Service as a researcher and prescribed fire technician. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Birmingham Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review,, and elsewhere; his scholarly work can be found in Human Ecology. He currently serves as an Editor- in-Chief for Nashville Review.


Lela Ni

Lela Ni (she/they) is a tattoo artist and a first year MFA candidate in fiction. She received her undergraduate degree in English from University of Southern California and currently serves as a fiction and nonfiction reader for the Nashville Review. She is from Brooklyn, New York.




Anika Potluri

Anika Potluri is a first-year MFA candidate in Poetry. She holds a BA from Cornell University where she studied Literatures in English. She was a 2020-21 Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets June Fellow. Her work appears in The Massachusetts Review and The Adroit Journal.





Tan Fireall

Tan Fireall is an MFA candidate in poetry. She holds a BA in English from the University of South Carolina where she studied creative writing and film. 





Kanak Kapur

Kanak Kapur is a writer from Dubai and Los Angeles. her work has previously appeared in The Rumpus, CodeLit, and Black Warrior Review. She has received support through a scholarship from the Sewanee Writers' Conference. She is currently a third year MFA candidate in fiction at Vanderbilt University.




Em Palughi

Em Palughi is a queer poet from Alabama. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Foglifter, and The Southern Poetry Anthology. She has received support to attend the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers' Conference and was a finalist in the 2023 Saints and Sinners Poetry Contest. She currently serves as the comics and visual arts editor for the Nashville Review. 



Alexandria Peterson

Alexandria Peterson is an MFA candidate in poetry from Orlando, FL, and has a BS in psychology from Florida State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast Journal, Frontier Poetry, and Tinderbox Poetry.




Jess Sumalpong

Jess Sumalpong is a second-year MFA candidate in fiction from Southern California. She studied English and Japanese at UC Santa Barbara, and serves as a reader for fiction and creative nonfiction for the Nashville Review.





August 2023 Graduates

Danny Lang-Perez

Danny Lang-Perez is a third-year MFA candidate in Fiction. Originally from Southern California, he received his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley before studying creative writing at Seattle’s Hugo House. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Kenyon Review and Hobart, and he was a finalist for The Missouri Review's 2020 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. He previously served alongside Sam Marshall as Co-Editor of Fiction and Nonfiction at Nashville Review



Sam Marshall

Sam Marshall is a third-year MFA candidate in fiction from Florida. She received a BA in English with a minor in Teaching from the University of Florida and serves alongside Danny Lang-Perez as Co-Editor of fiction and nonfiction for the Nashville Review.




John Mulcare

John Mulcare is a third-year MFA candidate in poetry. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, he holds a degree from the University of Oregon where he studied creative writing and political science.





Jess Silfa

Jess Silfa is a third-year fiction student from New York City. They graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and are currently working on their first novel about a tight-knit immigrant community rattled by the war on drugs. Jess has received support from the Vermont Studio Center and the Himan Brown Charitable Trust and serves as President for the Disabled and D/deaf Writers Caucus.



Lily Someson

Lily Someson is a poet from Gary, Indiana. She is the author of Mistaken for Loud Comets, winner of the Host Publications Spring 2021 chapbook prize. She has also been published in the Academy of American Poets, Underblong, Court Green, and Columbia Poetry Review among others. She is currently a third-year Poetry MFA candidate at Vanderbilt University.



Caroline Stevens

Caroline Stevens is a third-year MFA candidate in poetry from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2017 with a BA in creative writing, Spanish, and gender & women’s studies. She currently serves as Editor in Chief of the Nashville Review.