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UA professor awarded ‘genius grant’

Courtesy+Manuel+Mu%C3%B1oz+by+the+John+D.+and+Catherine+T.+MacArthur+Foundation
Courtesy Manuel Muñoz by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

University of Arizona creative writing professor Manuel Muñoz was awarded the 2023 MacArthur Fellowship alongside 19 other scholars across the country

Muñoz is the author of several short story collections, including “Zigzagger,” “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue” and “The Consequences” as well as the novel “What You See in the Dark,” and several other pieces published in magazines such as Glimmer Train, Epoch, Boston Review and Massachusetts Review, to name a few.

The MacArthur Fellowship award is given across disciplines by a group of anonymous jurors and the process of choosing the fellows is kept secret.

“The MacArthur Fellowship is a $800,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential,” according to the foundation’s website. “There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: Exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments and potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

The only requirements to be considered for a fellowship are being a United States citizen or resident and not being a government official. This unique criteria is what has set this prestigious fellowship apart from others. 

Muñoz found out he received the award about a month before the list of winners became public.

“I started crying when I found out. I know what the award is and it comes out of the blue and the process is such a mystery. The moment I realized this was real I started crying,” Muñoz said. 

After the fellows find out, they must keep it secret until the October announcement.

“Every year in October, 20-24 fellows are chosen and they tell you four weeks before so that an incredible presentation can be prepared,” Muñoz said. 

Muñoz said his upbringing and experiences influenced his reaction to being awarded the prize. 

“I am a very modest person,” he said. “I grew up in a farm working family where I was a first generation college student. My relationship to money is about survival.” 

Muñoz expressed appreciation that the award honors people from all disciplines and backgrounds. 

“One of the things that’s so wonderful for me as a writer is that the foundation puts creative writing alongside all of these other important endeavors of the world. I really am just so proud the foundation recognizes me,” Muñoz said.  “I am really proud of being a part of this group of people. They tell us we are awarded not just for our body of work but for our potential.” 

Colleague and friend of Muñoz, UA English associate professor John Hurh, called the award “the genius grant.” The broad range and alumni of this fellowship prove the magnificence of being awarded it. 

Those interested can watch this year’s MacArthur Fellowship presentation, featuring the UA’s very own Muñoz.


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