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mfas and university job prospects

updated fri 9 jun 00


Priscilla Hollingsworth on wed 7 jun 00

I agree with Stephani Stephenson in her passionate comment on the
job-hunting situation for people with MFAs in ceramics. The prospects
are dismal and difficult. No one should go to grad school in ceramics
planning to be a college professor. You might try it as an adventure
and see what will happen. Hopefully you'll learn a lot about making
work, and something about presenting yourself professionally. But
getting a full time university teaching position later? It is exactly
as hard as Stephani says, in my experience. The best reason to go to
grad school is to further your work in the studio. A teaching job, if
you are well-prepared and lucky, might fall from the sky on you if
conditions are right.

I'm a ceramics professor at a medium-sized state university in Georgia.
I also teach humanities as one-third to one-half of my load. I teach a
lot of hours. Sabbaticals are unknown at my institution. I'm very
lucky to have this job, and I know a lot of good people who did not find
teaching jobs. I've had this job for seven years, and I plan to keep it
for my career. It's been very hard work. When I arrived, the ceramics
area had no hot water, little light, little equipment, no ventilation,
no special rooms for dust-producing activities such as mixing clay and
glazes, etc. It takes a lot of proposals and conversations and phone
calls to change things! Now my colleagues and I are working on other
basic improvements - library books, slides, a photo area that is safe.
As at many schools, if you want to teach in an environment that is safe
and college-level, you've got to go in there and change it yourself.
The process takes years. And don't forget the inspiration that drew you
to this profession in the first place - making art and the pleasures of
helping others to learn to do so. What I do for a living is mostly
quite fulfilling, but I try to be very honest with students who say they
want to be college professors someday. It's not an easy life!

-Priscilla Hollingsworth