Master of Fine Arts Program Handbook

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Admissions

  • All applicants are required to submit a Cornell Graduate School application which must include the following: the application form, a statement of purpose, a minimum of three letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, a slideroom portfolio consisting of no more than twenty examples of recent work.
  • An undergraduate degree in any discipline is a pre-requisite of the M.F.A. program. It does not have to be a B.F.A. The GRE is not required for admission to the Department of Art. A TOEFL or IELTS test is required for all international students who did not attend an English speaking school as an undergraduate. This is a Cornell University Policy.
  • A student must attend as a full-time matriculated student.
  • Transfer credits are not accepted in either the art component or the elective/university credit component of the program with the exception of undergraduate art history credits.
  • An on-campus or an online, web-based interview may be a part of the admissions process.
  • Admitted students are responsible for fulfilling all of the formal Cornell University matriculation requirements as stated in the offer of admission letter.

M.F.A. Shop Training

  • One week before the start of classes, all incoming M.F.A. students are required to complete shop training on campus. Shop training includes safety training and equipment training for Rand Hall, Sibley Hall, and Tjaden Hall facilities. Incoming M.F.A. students will be notified of the shop training schedule and the date they are required to be on campus by the beginning of July. Completing the M.F.A. Shop Training is required for the graduate assistantship position.

Academic Requirements

  • The M.F.A. program is a two-year, full-time program of study. Students are required to be in residence for the duration of the program.
  • A total of 60 credit hours of course work at Cornell are required, including:
    • 36 credit hours of studio work, 9 each semester, for a letter grade, to be determined by a final grading review at the end of each term.
    • 12 credits of M.F.A. Graduate Seminar, 3 each semester for a letter grade.
    • 12 credit hours in academic subjects (elective courses) must be taken outside the Department of Art for a letter grade. New York State does not allow undergraduate level courses (1000–4000 level) to satisfy graduate degree requirements. All courses must be taken at the graduate level, 5000 or higher, to count towards degree completion (beginning fall 2021). Students may enroll in one independent study course (at the graduate level, 5000 or higher) to count towards their elective credits once the independent study is approved by the DGS. The DGS will review the syllabus of the independent study for final approval. The independent study course must be taken for a letter grade.
  • Audited courses do not count towards degree completion. Students are permitted to audit a course but must be enrolled each semester in the M.F.A. Graduate Seminar, Graduate Studio Course, and an elective course.
  • Cornell's Satisfactory Academic Progress policy stipulates that students in research degrees must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.25 to be in good academic standing or to be eligible for federal loans. The M.F.A. program stipulates if a student falls into poor academic standing, defined as a grade lower than C- in studio work, the M.F.A. Advisory Committee will review the student's progress and make specific recommendations for the student to improve their performance within a specified period of time not to exceed one semester. These specific recommendations and time limits will also be clearly stated in a letter to the student from the Advisor of Record with a copy of the DGS and Department files. At the end of the specified period, the student will be reviewed again by the committee and if satisfactory the student may proceed with the M.F.A. program.
  • If student progress remains unsatisfactory, the Advisor of Record will resign immediately in a letter to the student with copies of the DGS and Department files. This will terminate the student's attendance in the M.F.A. program and all financial support will cease. If the M.F.A. Advisory Committee unanimously fails a student on an end of semester or thesis exhibition grading review and refuses to allow further review, the student may not continue in the graduate program. The student can continue in the program only if the majority Art Faculty approves their petition to do so.

Financial Support

  • Partial tuition support, when available, is given to all M.F.A. students.
  • Part-time Graduate Assistantships, a component of the program, will provide a stipend to all M.F.A. students. Students work 6 hours per week for their graduate assistantship (stipend). The assistantship may include in and out of classroom responsibilities. The student is required to keep track of their graduate assistant hours.
  • Each semester, graduate students may work up to 20 hours per week, as employed by Cornell.
  • In the event that a student must stay past two years to complete the degree requirements, no financial support or studio space will be provided.

General Information

  • Studio space will be provided for each graduate student, based on the available space in the college.
  • Students must comply with all departmental and university rules and regulations regarding and maintaining this space.
  • Requests for extensions, leaves or any other deviation from departmental requirements are handled as follows:
    • Requests and supporting statements must be submitted in writing to the advisory committee. All committee members must approve and sign the request, such requests will be kept on file with the Graduate School Registrar. Requests that are not granted or unresolved may be appealed to the Dean of the Graduate School. The student's committee may consult with the Art Department faculty in an advisory capacity regarding the conflict.
  • The graduate student is responsible for keeping track of and completing all program requirements.
  • The M.F.A. candidate must comply with all Graduate School and Cornell University requirements including, but not limited to, timely filing of appropriate forms and requested information.

Program Requirements

M.F.A. Advisory Committee

  • Each graduate student will have at least a two-member M.F.A. Advisory Committee composed of an Advisor of Record from the Department of Art's general graduate faculty and an additional member of the graduate faculty. Students may have up to four members of their Advisory Committee. One of these additional members must be from the Department of Art's general or divisional graduate faculty; the other may be graduate faculty from outside the Department but must be on the list of Graduate Affiliate Faculty.
  • In the first semester of study, the Director of Graduate Studies will assign the student an M.F.A. Advisory Committee. Starting at the end of the first semester, the student has the option to select a different Advisor of Record and additional members by applying the requirement above.
  • A student must have a complete Advisory Committee and cannot make changes at the start of their 2nd year (unless a faculty member takes a leave). In the event that a committee member takes a leave, the student is required to choose another grading member as a replacement. This replacement must be a general or divisional member of the Cornell Graduate Faculty.
  • M.F.A. students must meet with their M.F.A. Advisory Committee members as a group a minimum of two times per semester and must meet individually with each special committee member, a minimum of one time per semester, exclusive of the end-of-semester grading reviews. M.F.A. students must schedule two of the meetings with their full M.F.A. Advisory Committee, the first of which must take place by October 12 in the fall semester, and by March 12 in the spring semester.
  • Any member may resign at any time from an M.F.A. Advisory Committee; failure to reconstitute an M.F.A. Advisory Committee precludes a student's further registration in the graduate program.

Thesis Exhibition and Artist Statement

(Refer to the corresponding M.F.A. Schedule & Deadlines handout for due dates.)

  • Each year the Director of Graduate Studies will establish the due dates and deadlines of the thesis work. Students are responsible for turning in completed work to their committee by stated deadlines. The Graduate School Registrar establishes dates for completion of the degree requirements. It is the student's responsibility to be aware of these dates and comply with stated deadlines. The artist statement must be submitted at least 5 days prior to the final review.
  • During a student's 4th and final semester, they will create their thesis exhibition. The thesis exhibition must consist of work that furthers and/or exemplifies the student's ongoing creative production. Per the Code of Legislation, the Graduate Faculty requires research master's students writing a thesis to take a final examination (M-Exam) upon completion of all degree requirements, no earlier than one month before the completion of the minimum registration requirement (Code F.1.a.). The M-Exam consists of a final critique with your Graduate Committee to verbally address both the artist statement and visual thesis during the time of the exhibition. The M.F.A. Advisory Committee will direct the thesis review and it will be open to all interested faculty members.
  • The artist statement must deal with the aesthetic, conceptual, and/or art historical issues of the student's creative work. The M.F.A. Committee must approve of the content, approach, and length of the statement.
  • The format and length of the artist statement should be determined by the student's M.F.A. Advisory Committee and must be completed and delivered to that committee prior to the thesis exhibition and oral examination. The statement is part of the final review, and therefore no extensions will be granted.
  • After a student has successfully completed their M-Exam, they must submit their thesis (artist statement and thesis exhibition images) by May 1st to the Graduate School in order to complete a May conferral. The Graduate School uses an online database for electronic submission.
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