search  current discussion  categories  teaching 

the mfa/moral dilemma thread: what would an mfa entry committee do

updated wed 27 oct 04


Kathy McDonald on mon 25 oct 04

with an applicant like me???

I have been following this threead with interest.

As I face retirement from another career I am
finding myself much more able to focus on the
finer aspects of claymaking. I have more time
and the focus becomes making better pots not
just lots of pots.

I have, in the past , investigated the possibility
of attending graduate school to pursue ceramics.

One of the obstacles faced by a person my age (53)
is not only the age factor, but the notion that one must
ordinarily complete a BFA in order to be considered and
accepted into an MFA.
I am just curious to know what most academic institutions
will grant as far as advanced credit for other degrees
and prior experience.

I've had 25 years of claymaking... some full time, some part time,
built kilns, set up and taken down studios,mixed my own glazes
and sometimes my clays, used many commercial glazes and materials,
experimented with all firing ranges, taken every course I can afford the
time and money to attend, taught pottery to all age groups, own over 120
(and yes I've read em,), subscribe to clay publications,sold my work
and participated in juried and non juried exhibitions as time permits.

I've always worked full time at other jobs, (teaching and psych services)
Sometimes I think I worked to support my pottery habit ....

Raised my kids and now I want to pursue something thats
just for me.

My dilemma is this.....I have 4 degrees, 2 in education...none are art
The workshops, courses and apprenticeships are more than 7 years old and do
constitute enough to fulfill the prerequisites.

My previous experiences in grad school were to grow as a
space to navel be exposed to new stuff
and to expose oneself....they were also damn hard work!

I've given this serious thought, why do I want an MFA??

#1) I do want to teach ,(but only part time) and most of the places
that I would like to teach require an MFA.
#2) I have taken courses in Fine Arts at the undergrad level
and find myself feeling frustrated because the pace is way too
slow , and most of spaces in the requisite courses have to be given
the full time students. (rightly so!) I am also not
a beginner in the area.
#3) If I am going to invest time and $$$ in additional education I want
the biggest bang for my buck. (just survived paying my children's

My question is...what are the criterion that would be used to
make a decision about an applicant like me.?


Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (
Version: 6.0.782 / Virus Database: 528 - Release Date: 10/22/2004

Claudia Kashpureff on tue 26 oct 04

with an applicant like me???

Hi, Kathy!

Go for it! I was an older returning student myself, so I admire you for
having the gumption to consider going back to school long after you've said
farewell to your twenties. The only disadvantage older students face is the
inability to pull "all-nighters" the way the young people can -- but this is
greatly offset by the advantages of experience, discipline, and the tendency
of many instructors to see us as peers, which helps us to form mentoring
relationships with them.

My own degree is in engineering, but I took many art classes (and other
non-degree-related courses) along the way because I didn't want to graduate
as just another "ignorant" engineer. I've never been sorry that my
four-year degree took me eight years to earn -- and I suppose that if I ever
go back to school again, many of the courses I took will count towards
non-engineering degrees.

Although I don't have an MFA, my mother retired from the University of
Washington after a career which included a lengthy stint as the
Administrator of the Art Department there... so admissions and tenure were
topics of dinner conversation, and I gleaned an early understanding of the
university system long before I ever became a student myself.

Vince has good advice for you -- talk to the school.

Before you spend time and money enrolling in undergrad courses that you may
not need for admission to the MFA program, do your research. Figure out
first which school you'd like to attend, and talk to them. If you have a
list of schools that would meet your needs, talk to all of them. Visit
them, meet some faculty members, and talk to counselors. Trust your
instincts -- if you don't get really good vibes after a few of these
conversations, look for a different school.

As for how to get into the MFA program, an Art Department faculty member who
takes a liking to you and wants to mentor you can be your greatest ally in
pursuing an advanced degree. Always bring a portfolio with pictures of your
best work when visiting schools -- you never know what might spark a faculty
member's interest in you. Talk about your experiences and your reasons for
choosing to pursue an MFA at their school... network, ask questions, meet
(and hopefully make a good impression on) as many faculty members as you
can. Remember, the final decisions whom to admit are made by people, and a
persuasive vote of confidence can get you into the program even if you have
deficiencies in your transcript.

Good luck with your endeavors, and let us know how it goes!