Our Mission and What We Do

Matthew Davis and Bewketu Seyoum in conversation.
Matthew Davis and Bewketu Seyoum in conversation.

The Cheuse Center for International Writers at George Mason University was founded in 2016 with a two-fold mission: Support and help international writers and translators to gain a broader American audience; and provide young American writers travel fellowships in order to pursue international creative projects. Named in honor of Alan Cheuse, the late American writer and cultural commentator who taught at George Mason for almost 30 years, the Cheuse Center is a vibrant literary institution enriching the artistic and intellectual communities of George Mason University, the metropolitan region of Washington, D.C., and literary organizations around the globe.

More than ever, the world and its people are intertwined. New forms of media and technology have allowed everyday citizens to connect with and learn about others around the world in unprecedented ways. With this connectivity comes the paramount importance of better understanding and empathizing with the stories, desires, and challenges of the world’s diverse communities. The Cheuse Center seeks to be a beacon that celebrates, reflects, and explores this deeper understanding by supporting international and American writers tell the stories of their diverse communities, in their diverse languages, through works of poetry and prose. Our mission stems from this desire of connection and recognition that is so fundamental to the literary arts. The Cheuse Center accomplishes this in a number of ways, including:

  • Hosting emerging and established international writers for fellowships and residencies
  • Offering fellowships to our Master of Fine Arts in creative writing students for international travel in order to research creative writing projects and learn from the broader world
  • Producing events both at George Mason and in the Washington, D.C. area that showcase international writers, translators, and the questions and issues they probe.

The Cheuse Center combines the resources of our university campus with the resources in the D.C.-metropolitan area to serve as a dynamic hub of international and cultural conversation, to add the component of culture and literature into the policy discussions that drive this city. We host events and partner with organizations from around the world to bring about this broader discussion and international insight. Events have included:

  • Our annual Day of Translation in partnership with the Center for the Art of Translation. This day-long event showcases and celebrates translators, writers and works of literature from around the globe. In the past, we have welcomed award-winning writers like Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Forrest Gander and Man Booker International Prize-winning translator Jennifer Croft.
  • Boundless: Africa, in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Carmago Foundation and the Caine Prize of African Writing. This special program combined performances, panel discussions, and readings held at the Kennedy Center’s REACH campus in Washington, D.C. and at George Mason University. Featuring playwrights, poets, and writers of African heritage living in Africa and the Diaspora including the United States, the series brought to the forefront relevant issues that inform the boundaries separating genres, art forms, geography, and time.
  • Participation in regional book festivals such as the National Book Festival, the Annapolis Book Festival, and Fall for the Book, the three-day literary extravaganza that takes place on George Mason’s campus each fall.
  • Insights into the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring from writers who reside in or are from the Middle East. Our Ten Years After the Arab Spring program, produced in conjunction with the Middle East Institute, showcased writers from the region discussing how events in the past decade have impacted their communities and their creative work.

In addition to these events, past partners of ours include international government organizations like the Embassies of Sweden, Iceland, Finland, and Spain, and the Mexican Cultural Institute. We have also worked with Washington literary and cultural organizations such as The Library of Congress, PEN/Faulkner, Politics & Prose Bookstore, Solid State Books, and Little Salon, D.C. These partnerships have been instrumental in our mission to highlight international literature and writers and connect our communities through conversation, stories, and experiences.       

From events that educate and challenge us, to experiences that broaden our understanding of our world, the Cheuse Center has grown into a regional hub of international and cultural conversation that celebrates and uplifts literature in all its forms and languages.

The Cheuse Center is part of Watershed Lit: Center for Literary Engagement and Practice at George Mason University.

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