There are four main elements in the curriculum: Studio Practice, Professional Practice and Electives, Research Seminars, and Thesis.

  • Studio Practice begins with the introduction of overlapping core concepts and techniques in Photography, Book Art, Film and Video. Students complete immersive workshops in each of these areas in the first semester as well as through Summer Institute classes between the first and second year of program. These intensive workshops are designed to increase facility and understanding for the use of still, interactive, and moving images in communication and expression.

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    Beyond the core and summer workshops, students develop independently generated projects in studio courses that include their peers for feedback and with mentorship from a faculty member.

    9 credits in Core workshops required

    6 credits in Summer Institute workshops required

    6-18 credits in Studio courses by advisement

  • Professional Practice and Electives courses enable students to develop subject matter beyond the studio as well as the aptitude and skills required to work in art vocations such as archives and collections, exhibitions, publications, screening programs, education, and curatorial project development.

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    In combination with or in place of studio courses, students can take courses in Collections Management, Exhibitions Management, external Internships, and individualized Practicum projects in one of VSW’s programs. Students learn through doing professional level work with guidance from VSW’s staff and other qualified experts in the field. This approach allows students to try out a career interest before committing to further specialization.

    Two Electives in graduate level courses outside the Art discipline are required for the MFA. Students may opt to take courses related to their studio work such as creative writing, literature, film, history, or other classes. Or by taking the two electives in designated Public Administration classes such as Grant Writing and Fundraising and Development, students may earn an additional graduate certificate in Art Administration.

    Competitive Graduate Assistantships and the availability of federal work-study funds allow some students to be paid for the experience they gain working in one of VSW’s program areas.

    6-12 credits in Professional Practice courses by advisement

    6 credits in Electives required by advisement

  • Research Seminars in art historical and critical subjects are a part of every semester of the MFA. Faculty provide the framework and reading lists for discussion of Contemporary Issues in Art, Media Culture, Curatorial Outlooks, as well as themes related to the History of Photography, to name a few.

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    In addition to weekly seminars, artists and curators who are residents or presenting work at VSW regularly give talks, critiques, or question and answer sessions about their work. These opportunities provide unique touchstones for graduate students to compare and contrast their own activities with extraordinary artists and curators. VSW’s programs effectively bring the field to the MFA student and show what is required to make a contribution to and/or expand the field of visual studies.

    12 credits required

  • Thesis and Internship courses are the MFA curriculum’s capstone for students to research, prepare, execute, defend, and document their contributions to Visual Studies as a greater field of interest and activity. The Internship requirement gives students the opportunity to research and participate in an aspect of the field that might interest them for contributions in the long-term. Two courses make up the Thesis. The first course guides students through research and preparation aspects culminating in the Graduate Review, an oral presentation assessed by students’ peers, faculty, and outside experts.

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    Passing the Graduate Review enables the student to work independently on the Thesis and to form a committee of thesis advisors. The committee mentors the student and includes at least one faculty member, one outside expert from the field, and the Director of the program. Students meet with the advisory committee at least four times prior to presenting the thesis.

    The curriculum’s final course is the Thesis for students to present their independently produced project and give a professional-level talk on the work. Following the presentation, student peers, faculty, and the student’s committee vote on whether the project and presentation are accepted or should be resubmitted after further work on recommended changes.

    Following acceptance, the Thesis is documented in the form of a book left in VSW’s collections and made accessible via The College at Brockport, SUNY library’s Digital Commons network. Students also compile samples and elements of their work as a Trace archive left in The Nathan Lyons Research Center at VSW.

    6 credits required