The Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA) is a 60-unit graduate program offered in two options:
The MFA degree is a highly selective, rigorous program for students who have already achieved a strong direction and focus in their work and a high level of technical proficiency in a specific discipline in the Design Option or Studio Arts Option. The program’s goal is to develop students into professional artists capable of producing high quality work for public exhibition and presentation, or professional designers well-positioned to be leaders in their industry. MFA graduates are qualified to teach at the university level, and are prepared to take their place within the visual arts or design communities and to make a significant contribution to their fields.
Admission to the MFA Degree Program
Applicants are admitted to the MFA degree program on the basis of:
- A portfolio that demonstrates a highly considered and integrated approach that is reflected in a body of visual work that is at an advanced level in a specific discipline.
- Portfolio work that clearly demonstrates technical competence and a professional presentation.
- An indication that the applicant has the ability to be self-motivated and self-directed.
- A direction of study that is appropriate to the Option Graduate Program, and is compatible with current faculty expertise.
- In-Person Interview.
- BA or BFA degree in Art or Design.
- 3.0 GPA or higher for the BA/BFA degree.
Two separate applications are required for the MFA degree program:
Application 1 - University Application
Applicants must submit a complete online application to the university as described in the graduate program application information at www.calstateapply.edu. Applicants who completed an undergraduate degree at Cal State LA in the preceding term are also required to submit an application and pay the nonrefundable application fee.
Application 2 - Department of Art Application
The Department of Art application deadline is the same as the University application deadline. Application materials must be delivered or mailed to the Department of Art Office prior to the application deadline. Applications that are late or incomplete will not be considered. The Department of Art application must include the following:
- Graduate Application Form - available on the department website (www.calstatela.edu/academic/art/MA%20MFA.php)
- 10-15 images of recent work in a specific area of Studio Arts (Drawing, Painting, Photography, Ceramics, Sculpture, New Genres,) or Design (Animation, Graphic Design/Visual Communication). Images must be submitted on a CD, DVD, or a USB flash drive. The submitted images are to reflect the applicant’s most successful efforts in the intended area of study, and should clearly demonstrate original thought and creative abilities, as well as a high level of technical proficiency.
- A printed list of the images that indicates the title of the work, medium, dimensions, and date made.
- A one-page printed statement describing the applicant’s creative ideas and goals, and motivation for seeking an MFA graduate degree at Cal State LA.
- Two letters of recommendation from professionals in the field who have direct experience with the applicant’s work through an academic or mentor relationship, and who can attest to their creative abilities and their potential for graduate study.
- Copy of BA or BFA transcripts (not required for BA graduates of Cal State LA).
2. In-Person Interview
An in-person interview may be requested by the Faculty Review Committee (15-20 minutes). The applicant will be asked a series of questions regarding creative ideas, goals, and specific needs and expectations for graduate study. There is also an opportunity for the applicant to ask questions about the program.
The applicant will receive advance notification of the date of the in-person interview, the appointment time, and room location. On the day of the interview, applicants are expected to arrive early and be prepared for the interview. Design Option applicants are required to display a portfolio of recent work in the intended area of study.
1. G2 Graduate Classified Status
Applicants who meet the admission criteria for the MFA degree program are granted G2 Graduate Classified Status, and must enroll for the semester for which the application was made. Applicants who do not enroll for the semester for which they were admitted will have their admission canceled (see “Reapplication After Failure to Enroll” in the Admissions General Information section of the University catalog). The application fee may not be transferred or applied to another semester.
2. G1 Graduate Conditionally Classified Status
The Faculty Review Committee has the option of granting Conditional Admission to applicants who do not have a BA/BFA in Art, or who do not have a 3.0 GPA or higher for the BA/BFA degree. Conditional Admission requires the applicant to complete a minimum 24-unit Qualifying Course program before admission to the graduate program is granted. The Qualifying Courses may not be included on the MFA degree program. Each course on the Qualifying Course program must be completed with a grade of B or higher (no B-).
Upon admission to the graduate program, the student is assigned a Primary Advisor from the full-time faculty in the Option. The student may request a change of advisor at any time. It is the student’s responsibility to meet with the Primary Advisor on a regular basis. It is also expected that the student contact other faculty in the Option to keep them informed about the progress of their work and to solicit comments.
The Primary Advisor’s role is to give creative, aesthetic, and technical feedback about the student’s work, as well as to provide information and answer questions regarding progress through the graduate program.
MFA Degree Program Form
During the first semester of study at Cal State LA, it is the student’s responsibility to meet with the Primary Advisor and complete an official MFA Degree Program Form. This form must be signed by the Primary Advisor, submitted to the Department of Art, and approved by the College Graduate Dean no later than the end of the first semester. Failure to file an approved MFA Degree Program Form during the first semester may result in the loss of completed coursework.
After the MFA Degree Program Form is filed with the College Graduate Dean, course substitutions on the program may be made only if there is a compelling reason (such as scheduling problems or a change in research).
A course substitution must be approved in advance by submitting the GS-5 Application for Course Substitution form. The form must be signed by the Primary Advisor, and submitted to the department office by the fifth week of the semester prior to the student’s enrollment in the course. When the change has been approved, it becomes part of the MFA degree program.
A course may not be added to or deleted from the MFA Degree Program after a grade has been awarded.
Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR)
All graduate students must demonstrate competence in writing skills as a requirement for graduation by satisfying the Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) within the first two semesters of their graduate program or prior to the completion of 12 units (whichever occurs later). The GWAR may be satisfied in one of the following ways:
- Take and pass the Writing Proficiency Examination (WPE), a timed supervised writing assessment; or
- Take and pass the special upper division university writing course (UNIV 4010 ); or
- Provide evidence of an earned doctorate or master’s degree from an accredited college or university where the primary language of instruction is English; or
- Provide evidence of passing a writing proficiency examination or a graduation writing assessment examination in English at any accredited college or university where the primary language of instruction is English; or
- Provide evidence of achieving a score of 41 or better on the writing portion of the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST).
The MFA Degree Requirements
1. Course Requirements
- A total of 60 units is required, with a minimum of 54 units in Art, 6 units outside of Art, and at least 40 units in 5000-level courses.
- Note: ART 4000, ART 4010, and ART 4990 may not be applied to an MFA degree program.
2. Graduate Walk-Through Review
Once during each year, all graduate students are required to present their strongest work from the current academic year along with a written Artist Statement or Design Statement. The work will be installed by each student in the Fine Arts Gallery to provide an opportunity for dialog with the option faculty and an in- progress evaluation.
3. G3 Advancement to Candidacy
The student is eligible to submit the GS-10 Application for Advancement to Candidacy form when:
- At least 24 units of the coursework for the degree have been completed with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
- The Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement is satisfied.
- There are no courses on the program with Incomplete (I) grades.
4. MFA Project
MFA graduate students are required to complete and exhibit an advanced visual arts MFA Project in Design or Studio Arts.
MFA Project Screenings
Each student is required to present their work to the Option Faculty Committee through a series of graduate screenings related to the MFA Project.
- Before participating in a screening, the student must meet with the Primary Advisor for approval and be registered for the semester in which the student plans to screen.
- The Graduate Screening Form must be signed by the Primary Advisor and submitted to the Department of Art office by the established deadline of the semester during which the student plans to screen. In advance of the scheduled screening date, the student will be notified of the appointment time and room location. Late sign-ups will not be accepted.
- On the day of the screening, the student is expected to arrive early and present their work in a professional manner. The presentation is 20 minutes.
- There are no screenings during summer semester.
MFA Project Committee
Once the MFA Project Proposal Screening is passed, the student is eligible to submit the GS-12 Request for Thesis or Project Committee and Title form.
It is the student’s responsibility to secure the commitment of a three-person committee consisting of the Primary Advisor to serve as the MFA Project Committee Chair and two full-time faculty members of the option. An additional member from outside the option may be added if approved by the Option Faculty Committee.
The MFA Project is developed under the guidance of the student’s Project Committee Chair with the assistance of the Project Committee members. It is the MFA Project Committee’s responsibility to provide advisement about the MFA Project Report. Students are expected to work on the MFA Project Report during the entire process of completing the MFA Project. If assistance is needed with writing, it is recommended that the student contact the appropriate university resources, such as the University Writing Center.
After the MFA Project Committee has been established, the student is required to meet with the Project Committee Chair and the other committee members at least once each semester to review the progress on the MFA Project and the MFA Project Report, particularly during the semester the student plans to graduate.
Screening #1 - MFA Project Proposal Screening
Prior to participating in the MFA Project Proposal Screening, the student must meet with the Primary Advisor for approval of the proposal and to sign the Graduate Screening Form. In order to concentrate on the MFA Project, it is recommended that most of the required coursework be completed.
MFA Project Proposals are to have a specific focus, show a high level of creative individuality and original thought, and require in-depth research and/or experimentation.
At the screening, the student presents a selection of work in a professional manner that clearly indicates the ideas and direction of the proposal, as well as technical competence in its production. Students are expected to present their MFA Project Proposal, and be able to respond to questions from the Option Faculty Committee.
A written MFA Project Proposal that outlines the creative research and explains the purpose and goals of the MFA Project is required to be placed in the Option Faculty mailboxes one week prior to the screening date.
Screening #2 - MFA Project Progress Screening
The maximum time period before the first MFA Project Progress Screening is one year. If it has been more than one year since the MFA Project Proposal Screening, the student must re-screen at the Project Proposal level.
The purpose of the MFA Project Progress Screening is for the student to present work that has been produced specifically for the MFA Project to the Option Faculty Committee. This may be experimental work, work-in-progress, completed work, or a combination of these.
The Option Faculty Committee evaluates the progress made on the MFA Project, and gives feedback about its direction, its strengths and its weaknesses.
Students must pass at least one MFA Project Progress Screening. However, additional MFA Project Progress Screenings may be required by the Option Faculty Committee. The number of MFA Project Progress
Screenings required is directly related to the progress toward the completion of the MFA Project.
An abstract, outline, draft and bibliography for the MFA Project Report are required to be placed in the Option Faculty mailboxes one week prior to the screening date.
Students who do not pass two consecutive MFA Project Progress Screenings are required to re-screen at the MFA Project Proposal level.
Screening #3 - MFA Project Final Screening
The MFA Project Final Screening is the presentation of the completed MFA Project as it will be exhibited in the Fine Arts Gallery. Only work presented at the MFA Project Final Screening and approved by the Option Faculty Committee may be included in the MFA Project Exhibition. This work must adhere to the MFA Project Proposal, and must be professionally finished and presented.
A complete final draft of the MFA Project Report must be submitted to the Project Committee members one week prior to the screening date.
MFA Project Exhibition
After the Option Faculty Committee has approved the completed work, the MFA Project will be appropriately exhibited in accordance with department requirements.
MFA Project Report
The MFA Project Report includes the project’s significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion. Visual documentation of the MFA Project (CD, DVD, USB Flash drive) must be included with the MFA Project Report.
All candidates must submit an electronic copy of the MFA Project Report according to the university guidelines and deadlines as indicated on the Office of Graduate Studies Office website - http://www.calstatela.edu/graduatethesis/guide-preparation-theses-project-reports-and-dissertations
The MFA Project Report must follow the guidelines established by the university found in the “Guide to Preparation of Master’s Theses and Project Reports,” copies of which are available on the Office of Graduate Studies website. This guide provides information about: the procedures, regulations, and responsibilities governing the Project Report; general requirements for Project Report preparation and acceptance; and format requirements for the Project Report.
All MFA graduate students are required to attend a Thesis/Project Report Workshop, offered each semester by the Office of Graduate Studies to assist students who are in any phase of the Project Report preparation. The specific dates are available on the Office of Graduate Studies website and in the Department of Art office.
In order to complete the graduation process, the student must:
- File a Graduation Application during the application filing period for the intended semester of graduation as listed in the Schedule of Classes.
- Register for ART 5995A or UNIV 9000 in the semester that the student plans to graduate.
- Submit the MFA Project Report for final review to all MFA Project Committee members by the 7th week of the semester in which the student plans to graduate.
- Submit the following items for approval to the Department of Art office prior to the last day of instruction of the semester (15th week) in which the student plans to graduate:
- Title Approval Page with original signatures of all faculty members of the MFA Project Committee.
- MFA Project Report
- Printed Announcement for the MFA Exhibition
- List of Images for the MFA Project
- Electronic copy of the MFA Project Report and visual documentation of the MFA Project labeled to correspond to the List of Images for the MFA Project (CD, DVD, USB Flash Drive)
- Submit a Title Approval Page with original signatures and an electronic copy of the MFA Project Report according to the guidelines and deadlines indicated on the Office of Graduate Studies Office website - http://www.calstatela.edu/graduatethesis
Please Note: The student must plan to graduate during a semester that the MFA Project Committee Chair and the committee members are available for consultation and for signing the Title Approval Page.