Martine Leavitt, 2022 Chair

“She represents the best of what our faculty has to offer—deep intellectual curiosity, openness to innovation, and an ability to see the big picture.”

About the Katherine Paterson Endowed Chair

Katherine Paterson, winner of two Newbery Medals and two National Book Awards, was named one of America’s Living Legends by the Library of Congress; this legend of children’s literature  and American letters is also the most dedicated champion of the Writing for Children & Young Adults MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a frequent guest on campus, an unofficial spokesperson for the program, and a founding trustee of the college.

Katherine has long maintained that the strength and heart of the WCYA program lies in its diverse, accomplished faculty. Their dedication is unparalleled, and the importance and magnitude of their contributions to children’s literature cannot be overstated.

In 2018, VCFA established the Katherine Paterson Endowed Chair & Faculty Development Fund to support the program’s greatest asset. VCFA is immensely grateful for Katherine’s leadership and generosity, and her belief in the power of our faculty to impact the world of children’s  literature.

The Katherine Paterson Endowed Chair & Faculty Development Fund provides a vehicle to honor and recognize distinguished faculty in the field. It will add a prestigious role to the faculty roster and support individuals who might not otherwise be able to teach. The holder of the  Chair—a two-year position—will fully participate in residencies, but they will advise fewer students than their peers, giving them time to pursue other work.

In addition, the Faculty Development Fund will provide support to the Chair and other faculty  members in the Writing for Children & Young Adults program to attend conferences, retreats, or events to support their own writing and scholarship.

The Katherine Paterson Chair is chosen every two years. Faculty are nominated by their peers; winners are chosen by the Academic Dean, with input from program leadership.

VCFA announced the first holder of the Katherine Paterson Chair, Cynthia Leitich Smith, at the July 2020 residency.


The Chair position is held for two years, during which time the holder will:

  • Work with two students for each of the four semesters;
  • Attend all WCYA program residencies;
  • Commit to making use of the opportunity to focus on their own growth and professional development as a writer and teacher;
  • Attend and/or present at one or more professional conferences (additional stipend funds will be made available to support associated travel and expenses);
  • Deliver the celebratory Paterson Lecture during the final residency of their chairship.

The holder of the Chair must be a Core member of the faculty. They will be paid the per-student rate for advising five (5) students a semester, plus the standard residency stipend, while advising two students. This arrangement effectively serves as “release time,” affording the Chair the increased opportunity to pursue artistic and/or scholarly endeavors.