Student Stories

Nell Ubbelohde 1

Following Her Heart: Nell Ubbelohde MFA '12

After four children and a film career full of twists and turns, Nell Ubbelohde MFA ’12 credits Hamline’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA) program with helping her to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a writer.

Ubbelohde knew she was a writer at heart from an early age. By high school, several of her poems, short stories, and essays had already been published. She seemed destined for a career in writing. Life, however, would take her on a detour.

By the mid-1980s, Ubbelohde found herself at the center of a booming Twin Cities media entertainment scene. She worked on several feature films, made-for-TV movies, countless commercials, and music videos featuring national artists like Prince, Morris Day and the Time, The Replacements, and M.C. Hammer.

When the film jobs began to dry up in the early ’90s, Ubbelohde left the industry, eventually to become a commercial photography producer and stylist. “It was fun,” she says of the experience, “but my heart was not entirely in it.”

A growing restlessness had begun to reawaken her passion for writing.

“When my house began to empty, as my children moved out into their own lives, and my job fell victim to the first rumblings of our recent economic landslide, I had the chance to ask myself: ‘What do I want to do with my life?’” Ubbelohde wrote in the introduction to her master’s thesis. “I was fortunate enough to be supported in my belief that it was finally my turn to do something concrete about the answer: I went back to school. Most importantly, I went back to school to study writing.”

For Ubbelohde, Hamline’s MFA program, with its award-winning faculty authors and rigorous curriculum, was the only option. No other program would do. “I never even applied elsewhere and had no backup plan if I had not been accepted into Hamline’s program,” she says.

Hamline gave Ubbelohde the flexibility to attend classes part-time while she worked and took care of her family. It also allowed her to explore various genres with other students from diverse backgrounds.

The Hamline MFA program “became the secret clubhouse of my dreams,” she says. “I could join with other writers of all kinds, ages, interests, and backgrounds, and, through our secret handshakes and coded conversations, become a member of the club.”

Ubbelohde says Hamline’s MFA program led her to the adjunct teaching positions she currently holds at The Institute of Production & Recording and the Minnesota Department of Corrections. She also teaches creative writing classes as a volunteer with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.

What’s next for Ubbelohde? This year, she plans to finish her Adult ESL Certificate in Hamline's School of Education. She’s also working on a novel and several other writing projects.

“I feel that I have the tools now to accomplish goals that I’ve held for decades but once seemed impossible,” Ubbelohde says. “As a result, I’m a happier person who feels in charge of her own life.”

Find out more about Hamline’s MFA program on the Creative Writing Programs website or contact Hamline's Graduate Admission Office to learn more about joining the Hamline community.