2023-24 MFA Handbook


The following handbook describes the MFA in Fine Arts studio program at Washington State University. In this handbook you will find information regarding our program requirements, curriculum structure, student standards and expectations, as well as guidelines for application and admission.

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in studio art and design is the recognized terminal degree in the visual arts. It is considered by the College Art Association (CAA), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the vast majority of institutions in higher education in the United States to be equivalent to terminal degrees in other fields, such as the PhD or EdD. http://www.collegeart.org/guidelines/mfa

The three-year MFA program offers an intense period of production, reflection, and conceptual articulation, culminating in a thesis exhibit in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU. The department’s offerings are supplemented by a robust Visiting Artist and Scholar Program, as well as access to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art’s seasonal programming and permanent collection.  The faculty members of the Department of Art are internationally recognized contemporary artists and scholars that consistently bring their professional experience into the classroom.

We will advise you at the Department of Art Orientation.


Art Department Orientation: August 2023 – Time and Date TBA

Wood Shop Orientation: TBA

           (Other room/area orientations TBA)

International Student Orientation

Graduate School Orientation: Access online through canvas.wsu.edu – please complete the first 4 modules before the semester begins!



⇨ To create a Network ID, contact Information Technology Services at 335-4357 or crimsonservicedesk@wsu.edu / see https://its.wsu.edu/csd/

⇨ Obtain a Cougar Card with your WSU ID number in the CUB: https://cougarcard.wsu.edu/ 

⇨ If you have not received your measles shot, contact Health & Wellness Services at 335-3575 located in the Washington Building 2302: https://cougarhealth.wsu.edu/

⇨ Visit the Navigating Your Degree section of the Graduate School website to get an overview of important steps in your academic path at WSU 


★ VERY IMPORTANT: Please establish residency in Washington as soon as possible. The process starts as soon as you move here. You will need WA residency to receive and continue graduate funding.

See: https://gradschool.wsu.edu/establishing-residency/


We will need to use your WSU email exclusively. Please be sure to check it regularly as it will often be our primary point of contact.

Instructions on setting up your myWSU email and account here: https://admission.wsu.edu/apply/mywsu/ 

★ VERY IMPORTANT: The Graduate School and University will often communicate via My Communication Center in myWSU. Please check this often as vital and time-sensitive information about your student status and accounts are posted here.

Access by logging into myWSU > click on ‘My Comm Center’ tile.


Each student is also responsible for reading and understanding the policies and procedures as outlined by the Washington State University, and the Graduate School:

Student Conduct: https://www.handbook.wsu.edu/

Academic Regulations: http://registrar.wsu.edu/academic-regulations/

Graduate School Policies and Procedures: http://gradschool.wsu.edu/policies-procedures/


You will need to complete three online training courses.

★ IMPORTANT: Please complete by August 16 to ensure prompt payment of your first stipend as a graduate teaching assistant.

Instructions for completing these trainings are as follows:

1) CITI Responsible Conduct of Research Training (RCR):

Both new AND returning grads must complete this updated training

– Go to https://orso.wsu.edu/citi-training-resources/

– You will need to follow the instructions on the link and log in using your WSU network ID and password

– Once you have logged in click on the Responsible Conduct of Research Training (RCR)

– Electronically fill out the form and email Brandy Wiser (bwiser@wsu.edu) confirmation of completion

2) Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Prevention Training:

– Log in to your myWSU account using your WSU network ID and password

– Click on the Training tile which is located under your Homepage

– Click on Library

– In the drop down menu, click on the link titled WSU Online Courses

– Scroll down the list and click on Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Prevention – Online Overview

– Launch course

– Additional information can be found here: https://hrs.wsu.edu/training/discrimination-sexual-harassment-prevention/

3) Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Training:

– Go here: https://www.ronet.wsu.edu/Main/Apps/FERPATest.ASP

– See Teaching Assistant section for additional requirements



We recommend that you bookmark these pages for easy reference to COVID-19 updates:

◊ Graduate School COVID-19 Policies: https://gradschool.wsu.edu/graduate-school-announcements/

◊ WSU COVID-19 Announcements: https://wsu.edu/covid-19/


WSU system-wide will require proof of the COVID‑19 vaccination for the 2022–2023 academic year for all students engaging in activities at a WSU campus or location.  

Exemptions will be allowed for those with sincerely-held religious beliefs and documented medical reasons. Information about how to submit proof of vaccination and the process to request an exemption is available on the Cougar Health Services website 

See more info at: https://wsu.edu/covid-19/student-vaccination-information/ 




Squeak Meisel
FA 5072509.335.8686squeak.meisel@wsu.edu
Graduate Coordinator
Krista Brand
FA 5027krista.brand@wsu.edu
Finance/Personnel Manager
Brandy Wiser
Johnson 701509.335.4626bwiser@wsu.edu 
Administrative Assistant
Chelsea Jacobs
FA 5072509.335.8686finearts@wsu.edu


When you arrive on campus you will be issued a key to your studio and a key that allows you to come in the office when it is closed. Students are each assigned studios and access to the building is 24/7. You will have a mailbox in the office, and you should check it as well as your email often for information.

To use various facilities you will need to consult with area coordinators.


Foundations: 2D/3D
Io Palmer, iopalmer@wsu.edu
David Janssen, david.janssen@wsu.edu

Michael Holloman, michael.holloman@wsu.edu
Krista Brand, krista.brand@wsu.edu

Art History
Marianne Kinkel, mkinkel@wsu.edu

Joe Hedges, joe.hedges@wsu.edu

Digital Media
Reza Safavi, rsafavi@wsu.edu

Io Palmer, iopalmer@wsu.edu

Squeak Meisel, squeak.meisel@wsu.edu

Kevin Haas, khaas@wsu.edu

Dennis DeHart, dennis.dehart@wsu.edu


JJ Harty, jj.harty@wsu.edu

Kassie Smith, kassie.smith@wsu.edu

Dan Manwaring, danman1@wsu.edu


Unless approved as service animals, pets are not permitted in the building.


WSU is very strict on parking regulations. You may find a map here of campus as well as various parking locations. It is fairly easy to walk from anywhere in Pullman and there is a bus system to help you get around.

Bus routes and schedules may be found here: https://www.pullman-wa.gov/government/departments/public_works/transit

If you need to bring supplies or materials to the building please get a visitor permit from parking services to allow for short term parking at our loading docks. If you don’t, fines can be hefty. https://transportation.wsu.edu/


Counseling Services: 509.335.4511 | https://cougarhealth.wsu.edu/mental-health/

WSU Libraries: 509.335.9672 | http://www.libraries.wsu.edu/

Financial Aid: 509-335-9711 | https://financialaid.wsu.edu/

Payroll Services: 509-335-9575 | https://payroll.wsu.edu/

Housing: 509-335-1227 | https://www.housing.wsu.edu/

Parking Services: 509-335-7275 | https://transportation.wsu.edu/

Graduate School: 509-335-6424 | https://gradschool.wsu.edu/

Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA): https://www.gpsa.wsu.edu/

Graduate Writing Center: gpwc@wsu.edu | https://writingprogram.wsu.edu/graduate-writing-center/

Cougar Health Services: 509-335-3575 | https://cougarhealth.wsu.edu/


Get Set Up on Payroll: As a TA you must complete an I-9 and a W-4 in order to get set up for payroll. You may contact Brandy Wiser at bwiser@wsu.edu to make an appointment. She is located at Johnson Tower room 701.

★ You will need to bring documentation of your identity and authorization to work. Please see the this list of acceptable documentation. All documents must be original.

Direct Deposit:  Instructions for enrolling for direct deposit in Workday can be found at: https://payroll.wsu.edu/general-pay-information/direct-deposit/

For any questions regarding payroll, contact Payroll Services at 335-9575 or visit in person (236 French Administration Bldg). If you do not set up direct deposit, your checks will be mailed to your mailing address on file (be sure to add any updated contact information in myWSU).

Payroll Deduction: You may want to have your mandatory graduate student fees deducted automatically from your payroll. You must set this up before the end of the first semester: https://payroll.wsu.edu/graduate-student-payroll-deduction/

Duties and responsibilities

Contract dates: August 16 – May 15

Weekly hours (teaching/assistance within the department)

50% appointment is the equivalent of twenty hours of work for the department per week, divided as follows:

  • 6 hours teaching
  • 3 hours preparation time
  • 11 hours of assistance within the department

25% appointment is the equivalent of ten hours of work for the department per week, divided as follows:

  • 3 hours teaching
  • 3 hours preparation time
  • 1 hour of assistance within the department


You will need to consult the TA document (distributed by the department chair or graduate coodinator) regarding who you have hours with. Most likely the faculty will reach out to you this week with a meeting time to arrange how your hours will be spent. Don’t hesitate to email them to arrange a time.

Make sure that you work the hours assigned as agreed with the faculty coordinator. Be careful to not do more than your hours each week. Balance will be important in getting studio time and fulfilling your duties.


Course assignment – See class schedule  

Meet with area coordinators to discuss:

  • Course overview: goals and objectives
  • Teaching materials involved: texts, supplies, etc.
  • Class projects/assignments
  • Grading/evaluation policies and criteria
  • WSU grading system: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, F
  • Ongoing meeting schedule with coordinator

Go to myWSU in order to:

  • Find class roster (Note: grade books are turned into the office at the end of the semester and kept on file there)
  • Enter grades (Midterm and Final). See: https://em.wsu.edu/re411/grades/

Develop your syllabus – sample syllabi are available through area coordinators and in files in the Fine Arts office. (Note: we will need a word doc file of your syllabus and also a hard copy for the files)

Evaluations – Blue Course evaluations will be emailed to each student in your class. Encourage your students to fill out the evaluations. They can be highly informative as you grow as an instructor.

  • The evaluations are seen by the chair and kept on file. A copy is given to the instructor
  • Also possible: peer observation, observation by area coordinator, grad coordinators, filming class for later review

First Day Problems – you are not alone!

Seek out:

  • Peer experience
  • Area Coordinator
  • Department Chair
  • Others as needed beyond that point!

Books & Equipment:

  • Audio/Visual equipment in department – limited: contact Digital Tech
  • Also for occasional use, Academic Media Services will loan equipment for a class
  • Libraries: videos and books
  • Desk copies of texts – write to book companies!
  • Copy machine – Ask Digital Tech for help setting up WiFi printing

★  For concerns regarding student safety or well-being, find additional resources at https://studentcare.wsu.edu/


The MFA program at Washington State University is a three-year interdisciplinary program where students may focus in, but are not limited to, ceramics, drawing, digital media, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. Emphasis is placed on personal and conceptual artistic development in light of contemporary art practices. Graduates meet with faculty for one-on-one studio discussions. First year students have a progress review at the end of their first semester and an exhibition in the departmental gallery at the end of their first yearAt the end of the MFA’s second year, they will need to meet with their thesis committee prior to the end of spring term. In the third year the program culminates in a thesis exhibition held in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. A final oral examination and a thesis document are also required. The degree requires 53 graded credit hours and 8 credit hours of thesis work (FA 700) totaling 61 credits. 

The curriculum for this degree includes

An art history/theory seminar for 3 credits (FA 500) each fall semester and a practical seminar for 2 credits (FA 598) in the spring of the first year. Students are assigned 10 credits in all but their final semester, 9 of those credits are designated as “graded” credits; one credit of pass/fail coursework (FA 700) will also be assigned. In the second semester students must take FA 700 for 2 credits and in the final semester students are required to take 2 credits of FA 700 and 11 graded credits. This will total 53 graded credits and 8 credits of FA 700 equaling 61 total credits. 

Each year, students meet regularly with a range of faculty members from all disciplines for group and individual critiques. Visiting Artists and Scholars also meet with graduate students three or four times each semester. At the end of the second semester, MFA students participate in a first year review show. They have a mid-term meeting with their thesis committee in their 4th semester. The thesis exhibit takes place during April of the third year and is held at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU or another suitable display space. 

Students are assigned private studios and have 24-hour access to the art building, which located near the center of campus. There are many facilities and resources for your use within the department, if you do not have hours with a particular area be sure to check in with area coordinators. If you desire to use a facility, there may be a lab fee associated and or an orientation to use of equipment.


The following table outlines the course sequence in our program, along with the program objectives that they address and the specific content domains.  For the program to maintain its qualifications within the scope of College Art Association guidelines, the program is required to demonstrate coverage of these content domains.

Each semester faculty rotate instruction of the following

  • ART 500, Graduate Art History, 3 credits (every fall) 
  • ART 555, Critical Practices,  6 credits (each semester) 
  • ART 598, Graduate Seminar, 2 credits  (second semester) 
  • ART 500 level, Tutorial Hours, 3 credits (each semester) This course is designed for one-on-one meetings surrounding your art practice with individual faculty. Meetings should be scheduled with assigned faculty ASAP. 
  • ART 700, Master’s Research, 1 credit- four semesters, 2 credits in the second semester as well as the final semester This course is usually assigned to your tutorial faculty or a Tri-Cities/Vancouver campus faculty and used as tutorials. In your final semester it is assigned to your thesis committee chair. 


  • First Semester Review, studio review by all faculty, end of first semester 
  • First Year Exhibition (second semester) 
  • 2nd year Exhibition/inaugural meeting with thesis  (fourth semester) 
  • Thesis exhibition: Final examination of artwork shown in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA). 
  • Thesis oral examinations: conducted within the JSMA with thesis committee as scheduled with graduate school. 
  • Thesis paper, document articulating in written form about work shown in thesis exhibition. Reviewed by Thesis Committee. 

Students are reviewed by committees appointed by the chair and graduate coordinator in consultation with Faculty and students. 


ART 500 level, 3 cr (Tutorials) 1ART 500 level, 3 cr (Tutorials)123456
ART 500, 3 cr (Art History)ART 598, 2 cr (Grad Seminar)ART 500, 3 cr (Art History)ART 555, 6 cr (Critical Practices) ART 500, 3 cr (Art History) ART 555, 6 cr (Critical Practices)
ART 555, 6 cr (Critical Practices) ART 555,  6 cr (Critical Practices) ART 555, 6 cr (Critical Practices) ART 500 level, 3 cr (Tutorials) ART 555, 6 cr (Critical Practices) ART 500 level, 3 cr (Tutorials) 
ART 700, 1 cr (Masters Thesis) ART 700,  2 cr  (Masters Thesis)
ART 500 level, 3 cr (Tutorials)
ART 700,  1 cr (Masters Thesis) 
ART 700,  1 cr (Masters Thesis)
ART 700, 2 cr (Masters Thesis) 
ART 700, 1 cr (Masters Thesis) 
Summary Table 
Graded Credits Courses Total Credits Required 
 ART 500 Art History 9 
 ART 555 Critical Practices 36 
 ART 598 Seminar 2 
 ART 5XX Tutorials 6 
S/U Credits   
 ART 700 8 


Develop an effective program for students that allows them to acquire the education, time and feedback necessary to function as a visually literate and hands-on creative problem solver.

Provide students with the professional skills needed to compete effectively and advance in the creative disciplines.

Provide students with guided experience under the supervision of experienced professionals in the Fine Arts.

Evaluate development of the program.


Students graduating with the MFA in Fine Arts will have developed:

  1. An ability to solve open-ended problems/challenges of artistic expression.
  2. An ability to analyze the working methods of artists and the results of their efforts in a diverse and disciplined way.
  3. An ability to communicate effectively through their artistic practice. Students will be aware of and engaged in a thorough way with art history, critical theory and visual culture in a way that considers a broad cultural awareness considering both local and/or global issues in order to make critical judgments about contemporary are while gaining a deeper understanding of their own personal values.
  4. An in-depth understanding of the visual arts, art history, critical theory and visual culture, sufficient to prepare them to move into a professional career in the arts, including essential concepts and theories of studio production in a variety of disciplines, with a sophistication and refinement specific to a major field.
  5. An ability to take risks in experimentation. This could mean breaking from usual habits. Trying new materials and methodologies in confirming the direction of their work.
  6. A clear and thorough understanding of their personal practice. Each candidate should be able to demonstrate a strong commitment investing time and resources to generating continual development and inquiry. This includes both working in the studio and researching artists and theory of art-making.
  7. Students will Communicate effectively in both written and oral form. Students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate awareness of context, audience, purpose, and the presented artwork.
  • Use appropriate and relevant content to develop and present ideas
  • Demonstrate consistent use of credible, relevant sources to support ideas
  • Demonstrate delivery techniques (posture, gesture, eye contact, and vocal expressiveness) make the presentation interesting, and speaker appears comfortable



Academic policies and procedures are set forth by the Graduate School in the policies and procedures manual, including minimum GPA, probationary continuing enrollment, termination of enrollment, and reinstatement. Please refer to the policies and procedures manual for complete information. Students should also be familiar with the university’s the university’s academic regulations. Should any discrepancies arise, the policies and procedures of the Graduate School, and academic regulations of Washington State University supersede those of the MFA program.



Academic complaint procedures are outlined in the university’s academic regulations. In the case of adjunct instructors, academic complaints should be directed to the Graduate Coordinator in Fine Arts or the Chair of Fine Arts.


WSU is committed to principles of truth and academic honesty. Academic dishonesty includes cheating, plagiarism, and fabrication in the process of academic work, and can result in suspension or dismissal from the university. In this class, academic dishonesty will result in failure of the course and will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct.

See https://communitystandards.wsu.edu/ for more information or call 509-335-4532 with questions.


Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and may need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please visit the Access Center. All accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center (Washington Building, Room 217). Please stop by or call 509-335-3417 to make an appointment with a disability specialist.


Washington State University is committed to maintaining a safe environment of its faculty, staff and students. The university has developed a resource to ensure this safety, the Campus Safety Plan, which can be found at http://safetyplan.wsu.edu.  It contains a comprehensive listing for university policies, procedures, statistics, and information relating to campus safety, emergency management, and the health and welfare of the campus community. In addition, the University emergency management website at http://oem.wsu.edu/ provides additional campus safety and emergency information. All students are requested to bookmark in their computers and become familiar with the WSU ALERT site (http://alert.wsu.edu) to read about warning and emergency notification procedures.

All students are requested to register their emergency contact information for the Crisis Communication System (CCS). To do so, go to the myWSU portal at http://my.wsu.edu, enter your network ID and password and, once you are on your myWSU main webpage, look for the Emergency Notification box on the right side of the page and click on Register. You will be asked to enter you cell, landline, and email contact information to ensure you receive any notification as soon as possible. Finally, if you need help evaluating your area in terms of safety and emergency management or have any recommendations, contact Elizabeth King, University Emergency Management Coordinator, at e.king@wsu.edu or 509-335-7471 or visit the Office of Emergency Management site at http://oem.wsu.edu


All full- and part-time degree-seeking graduate students must maintain continuous enrollment in the Graduate School, registering for each semester, excluding summer sessions, from the time of first enrollment until all requirements for the degree are completed. Continuous enrollment is maintained by registering for a minimum of 2 graduate credits per semester (excluding the summer). International students who enroll for fewer than 10 credits must be approved by the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS), in consultation with the Graduate School, prior to part-time enrollment during the academic year.


All graduate programs must complete an annual review of each graduate student. During the spring semester, the Graduate Coordinator for Fine Arts will give written and oral notification to each graduate student of their performance. For graduating students, this review will take place in conjunction with the final oral examination in their oral examination. After appropriate faculty have been consulted, the annual evaluation of those students considered deficient must be placed in the student’s official file. If an annual review for a student is less than satisfactory, a written copy of that review should be forwarded to the Graduate School. The Graduate Coordinator will collect the following information:

  • Course evaluations
  • Course grade distributions in the form of GPA
  • Faculty narratives on student response to questions relating to SLOs
  • Faculty narratives on individual students progress as teaching assistants

The Graduate Coordinator will then organize an annual meeting of Fine Arts faculty who will discuss the data listed above. In this meeting faculty will evaluate the data to determine whether the expected results have been realized. The outcome of this meeting will be a report (written by the graduate coordinator) listing the results of the faculty assessment.  Specific improvements will be suggested by this group and these and the actions taken will be recorded in an archival document. In the following year, the effect of these changes will be noted.

This report will be reviewed annually by the Fine Arts Curriculum committee for further recommendations about improvements to the program.

The Program of Study is a record of course work completed and proposed that will guide the fulfillment of degree requirements. At the end of each semester the Graduate Coordinator will deliver a new program of study in order to facilitate registration. This is usually done in tandem with delivery of annual review.


The initial selection, or subsequent changes, of a graduate student’s committee shall be determined jointly by the student and the student’s advisor after consultation with Graduate Faculty. Committee selection takes place in the middle of the student’s third semester. In accordance with the Policies and Procedures of the Graduate School at WSU, graduate students are not permitted to serve on the committees of other graduate students.

The graduate committee of each student shall have a minimum of three graduate faculty members. A majority of committee members shall be active Fine Arts Faculty members as listed in Section XI of the Fine Arts bylaws. At least one member must be tenured within the WSU Fine Arts Department. See section II of Fine Arts bylaws for membership delegation in relation to the Chair or co-chair designation.

As specified in the Graduate School’s Policies and Procedures, the performance of each graduate student shall be reviewed annually.


In addition to the Program of Study, students must submit an Application for Degree, and a Final Examination Scheduling Form, per the published deadlines. Follow Deadlines and Procedures for complete information. You are responsible for meeting all deadlines and protocols with the graduate school: read carefully!  

Refer to the ‘Milestones for Master’s Degrees’ section on this page: https://gradschool.wsu.edu/navigating-your-degree/  




  1. Thesis Exhibition in the Museum of Art
  2. Written Thesis
  3. Oral Examination


Upon completing the visual and written thesis, students should demonstrate the ability to:

– Produce a body of work that demonstrates a significant understanding and use of visual and  conceptual elements

– Self evaluate the strengths and weakness of the work

– Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the integration of technique and media as well as the contemporary and historical context of the work


The visual and written thesis  requires intense study and research Thesis committees will guide MFA students toward success, but the ultimate responsibility for managing time and the successful outcome of each MFA project is that of each student.  Students will need to initiate their own processes, establish their own boundaries, and formulate criteria for self-criticism and evaluation.

It is each student’s responsibility to develop clear, personal goals, and to communicate those goals to the thesis committee.  MFA students will be expected to honor deadlines, and to maintain professional work habits without supervision.  Communicate with your committee, continue working and be efficient in delivery of deadlines and goals. When will your next draft of your thesis be prepared? When will you next meet as a whole group?

It is each student’s responsibility:

– To confirm all appointments with a thesis committee, to attend all appointments, and to do so in a timely manner.  If an appointment must be canceled or postponed, it must be done in advance by e-mail, voice mail, or any combination that is most likely to produce the desired result of advising thesis committees ahead of time.

– to keep a thesis committee informed about the content and direction of the visual and written thesis on an ongoing basis.

– To stay in contact with the MFA coordinator, and to respond to all requests for information, and to participate in all necessary paperwork, meetings and activities as determined by the coordinator.  It is each student’s responsibility to keep the coordinator informed of any changes in contact information (phone, e-mail, address) to maintain effective communication.

– MFA students must commit at least 20 hours per week towards the visual thesis (this amount of time does not including the written portion of the thesis).  It is understood there may be surges and slow times during the process; the figure of 20 hours per week is an average by which to gauge time management and progression on the thesis

– MFA students must work with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art staff in the preparation and installation of the thesis exhibition. Students must assist with the installation process. Students will assist the Museum staff who are responsible for the design and placement of the exhibition. Thesis committees may be involved in this process at any point.

– It is each student’s responsibility to form strong interconnections between the visual and written components of the thesis. A shift in the research may result in a change in the direction of the visual or written portions of the thesis, and vice versa. The thesis process should therefore be seen as a fluid and growing endeavor in which both the work and the writing are integral components.


It is the MFA candidate’s responsibility to manage all deadlines, procedures, and requirements of the MFA thesis process.  The thesis committee, the MFA coordinator and the Registrar can assist each student in obtaining information and understanding the processes. However, the management of the academic requirements of the thesis is ultimately each student’s responsibility.  Each student must stay in contact with the group of faculty and staff listed above, and ask them questions about any procedures that are not understood.


Thesis committees will meet with their students sometime in early November to establish a schedule and calendar agreements for the term. The thesis committee should recommend the frequency of critique/feedback during the spring semester. This may occur in the form that best suits the needs of the student and the thesis.


The thesis committee will utilize the general MFA Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs).


Each student is required to participate in installing their exhibition.  Since the exhibition is a group show representing the work of the entire MFA thesis class, students should not expect that each and every piece produced for their thesis exhibition must be included. The installation of the exhibition itself is an important step in understanding the work you have produced, and you may find that you may need to make some changes or edits once you see the work in the space.

As the time for the thesis exhibition approaches, students will receive important information concerning space allocation, technology availability, etc., from the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art staff.


The written portion of your thesis, a thesis statement, should clearly and succinctly delineate the most important aspects of the body of work produced while attending the MFA program. Topics may include: a conceptual framework; art historical and contemporary contexts; and other relevant fields that are central to understanding of the work.

The written thesis will be evaluated against professional writing standards. Proofreading for appropriate grammar and spelling, as well as the proper application of Chicago Manual of Style citations and bibliography, is required.  Theses must adhere to the WSU’s thesis format; information about formatting is located at: http://gradschool.wsu.edu/facultystaff-resources/18-2/.

Students are responsible for managing all written thesis deadlines, to afford themselves the opportunity to work through multiple draft revisions and editing assessments. Write a  thesis prospectus for your thesis committee before winter break of the third semester.  This will give the committee enough time to provide valuable feedback and will give you enough time to make use of this feedback in subsequent revisions.  You are strongly encouraged to ask additional readers for additional points of view and resources during the draft process. Although it may be impossible to explore every single avenue of inquiry into a thesis topic, it is important that the in-process paper remains sufficiently malleable and open to changes, in order to reflect the shifting grounds sometimes created when more and more information is revealed.

The following points will help guide the writing process:

Your written thesis is meant to provide clear insight into your work while addressing its conceptual underpinnings.

Present a central thesis statement: Your central thesis statement – typically one, but not more than two sentences – will provide the backbone of your writing. The central thesis statement conveys the central tenets and questions of your work. This sounds incredibly simple but too few students set out with a clearly delineated thesis statement. The thesis statement should be supported throughout the entire paper; if any subject, image, reference, sentence or paragraph does not support the thesis, it should be eliminated or re-worked until it clearly connects to the thesis statement.

Use an outline: Construct a basic outline that will serve as a guide through the writing process.  Plan to have an introduction (about a page that establishes the thesis statement as well as a general context), a body (about three-four pages that describes methodology and analysis) and a conclusion (about a page that may indicate directions for new, further research). The outline should reflect this structure as well as the most important elements that need to be examined in the paper. If the direction of the thesis changes (which is entirely possible), adjust the outline accordingly.

The length of the thesis paper/statement should not be long: Approach the thesis as an extended artist statement.  It is not to be scholarly discussion of the work. An excellent goal to set for the overall length is five to six pages.  A shorter thesis will force the writer to be succinct and clear, two of the most important elements of grant, exhibition, residency and teaching applications. The thesis should be a document that will be used repeatedly after graduation; avoid a thesis that does not accomplish this goal.

Use clear, articulate language: Write the thesis as if it were meant for an educated audience but not one that is solely focused on the art world. Good examples of this type of writing can be found in the art criticism of The New York Times.  Writers like Roberta Smith and Holland Cotter set the bar high for clear thinking and writing along with insightful illuminations of complex images and topics.  Good writers like Smith and Cotter examine art world issues in depth but never at the expense of broader historical, societal and cultural contexts. It can also be useful to consult past thesis in the WSU archive and determine if a creative solution is more appropriate to providing access to the visual work.

Suggested working advice for your writing practice:

Use an objective voice: Avoid excessive use of the first person singular pronoun “I” and the possessive pronouns “me” and “mine.” You are speaking about your work. Be creative in approaching it. How many different ways can one articulate possession and creation?

Locate the work within art historical and contemporary contexts: While using these contexts, do not hesitate to employ connections to other fields that are important to the work.

Develop a bibliography: Accurately keep track of all books, chapters and articles read, which will also serve as the thesis bibliography.  The bibliography should be composed of primary sources; avoid citing websites such as Wikipedia.

Use proper citations: To do otherwise may constitute plagiarism. Consult the Chicago Manual of Style for the correct format of citations.

Edit carefully: The thesis paper should be meticulously edited. As with studio work, editing constitutes one of the most important parts of this process.

Use correct grammar and spelling throughout: One of the easiest ways to annoy and distract a thesis committee is to make grammatical and spelling mistakes.  Avoid such a situation by having every draft carefully proofread by a reliable source before each draft is submitted to the committee.

Try to communicate in a clear and concise way that provides insight into your work. The thesis does not have to be a dense, theoretical paper.

Although the discussion of technical matters is typically not the focus of the written thesis, this may be included when an understanding the techniques or processes used is integral to understanding the work.

The thesis is simply a point in time in the development of your work. It is not a final, definitive rationale for your work: The work, as well as an understanding of it, is a dynamic process that will continue to change throughout a career. Think of the thesis as a document that will used and refined in the future. Be flexible and willing to change the approach as needed; be prepared to write a number of drafts.

It is essential to continue working and investigating in the studio: It is critical that you do not stop or slow your studio work, which should continue to feed your writing and understanding throughout the thesis process. It can be a difficult balance and each (the written thesis and the work) will inform one another.

You may become stuck and frustrated. Develop strategies to help navigate such challenges. These might include keeping plenty of notes; remaining flexible with drafts; revisiting the bibliography to study or re-read something that was of particular interest—especially chapters, articles or artist statements that are clear and articulate; toggling back and forth between writing and working in the studio; and conferring with the thesis committee as needed.


The oral defense marks the conclusion of the thesis process. The oral defense evidences the level at which each student controls and understands the deeper meaning and context of a particular body of work.  During the oral exam, thesis committees will hear an MFA candidate’s presentation and ask questions about the work and its context. The review will last approximately one hour.

There is no pre-determined script or outline for the oral exams. The oral exam is the opportunity for the MFA candidate to cohesively and clearly present a summation and analysis of his or her thesis project through a question and answer process conducted by the thesis committee. Students should be prepared to speak coherently about their process, artistic strategies, content, historical, social and contemporary precedents.

It is crucial that the student take the initiative to lead the presentation and maintain an engaged, informed presence at all times. It is not the responsibility of the thesis committee to explain the student’s process or answer questions about the work. This is the final presentation of the student’s project and he or she will need to be prepared to articulately defend the choices, processes, and to justify the end result of the work.


An MFA candidate must:

– Maintain at least a 3.0 (“B”) grade during all semesters while in the MFA program.

– Complete all thesis work and documentation and fulfill all academic requirements in order to receive their diplomas and degrees.

In addition to the completion of the required academic credits and the thesis project, there are several other responsibilities of the MFA student.  A diploma will be withheld unless the following criteria are met:

– The written thesis, in the correct form, with signature and digital documentation, have been submitted and subsequently archived in the appropriate WSU department/office

– All WSU library fines have been paid and all books returned

– All outstanding fees, tuition charges or other indebtedness to the University have been paid

– All personal property must also be removed from the studio space by the end of May.  After that time, any material left in the studio space is considered to have been abandoned and will be discarded or recycled.  Graduates are responsible for the removal of artwork from exhibition galleries and are responsible for expenses of packing and shipping of artwork left behind for others to remove.  Artwork left in the exhibition space longer than one week after the final day of the show will be discarded.

– Students must provide WSU with changes of contact information.


Second Year: Fall Semester


  • Thesis committee members determined by MFA coordinator in consultation with MFA candidate and faculty

Early November

  • Meet with thesis committee (MFA candidates coordinate the location, day and time of all thesis committee meetings)
  • In consultation with MFA coordinator, prepare final Program of Study (POS)


  • Program of Study delivered to Graduate School for approval for all 2nd Year graduate student

Second Year:  Spring Semester

  • Meet with thesis committee to plan for final year before end of semester 

Third Year: Fall Semester


  • Continue regular thesis committee meetings for the fall semester (regularity determined by committee) 
  • Continue with drafts of thesis statement as determined by thesis committee 

Late January or  Mid-February

  • Meetings with Museum staff to determine exhibition selection (thesis committees members may attend these meetings)

Mid- to Late March

  • Thesis statement finalized

Late March

  • Final preparations for thesis exhibition

Late March or Early April

  • Thesis exhibition installation
  • Scheduling of oral examinations must be scheduled with the committee, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU and the Graduate School. Final exam schedules must be filed 10 days prior to the date of oral examination and within the thesis work installed.  All ballots are due within 5 days of examination.

Early April

  • Thesis exhibition opens
  • Oral defense

Late April

  • Thesis exhibition closes

Early May

  • Semester concludes
  • All grades due

Late May

  • Studio clean out (specific date to be determined by MFA coordinator)


Admission to the MFA program in Fine Arts studio is highly selective and is made during the spring semester with initial coursework beginning the following fall semester. All applicants must submit required materials by January 15th, to the Graduate School. Candidates are contacted upon admission to the program.

Graduate School Application Requirements

  • Online application and application fee
  • Transcripts
  • Contact information for three academic /professional references
  • Statement of intent
  • International student documents (if applicable)
  • TOEFL minimum 550 score
  • Financial verification
  • GRE scores are not required for this program

Failure to have credits equaling CAA’s recommended requirements may disqualify any candidate. A previous record of successful completion of at least 18 art history credits and 56 studio hours are required for admission. “Undergraduate degrees (BA, BFA, BS, BEd) differ in disciplinary credit distribution and educational emphasis. In order to compensate for these differences in the studies (both undergraduate and graduate) leading ultimately to the MFA degree, the following combined (undergraduate plus graduate) semester credit totals are recommended: art studio, 100; history of art, 24.” http://www.collegeart.org/guidelines/mfa

The Department of Fine Arts requires:

  • A statement of intent indicating your area(s) of focus, the subject of your work, the concepts and issues you are exploring, and how you foresee your work evolving within the program
  • Current CV or Resume
  • MFA portfolio of exactly 20 images in a single pdf. If you have time-based work, each link will count as 1 portfolio image. Please list title, medium, size and date of completion for each work in the portfolio. (Link provided on the graduate school website.)
  • Those applying for a teaching assistantship must furnish three letters of recommendation to the Graduate School indicating in which areas they are qualified to assist and teach.

If out of the ordinary facilities are needed, the applicant should inquire if they are available in the department.