Graduate Program HeadVagner Mendonça-Whitehead
Program CodeART
Campus(es)University Park (M.F.A.)
Degrees ConferredMaster of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
The Graduate Faculty


The Penn State School of Visual Arts offers the degree of Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Art, a 60-credit graduate program supporting artistic work, academic inquiry, and creative investigation in the areas of ceramics, drawing & painting, graphic design, new media, photography, and sculpture. While students situate themselves within one of these areas of concentration, the structure of the program encourages interplay between media and disciplines in support of each individual’s graduate work.

Headed by a dedicated faculty of internationally acclaimed artists, the M.F.A. program is recognized for emphasizing excellence in the study of visual art and fostering artistic production that engages critically with contemporary culture. By creating a rigorous yet supportive environment in the context of a major public research university, the program encourages expansive growth and innovative collaboration in studio practice. The regular interaction between studio and classroom creates a close-knit intellectual community that furthers critical thinking and creative connectedness. As the transformative power of art in today’s society continues to evolve, the Penn State School of Visual Arts encourages artists to address contemporary social and cultural issues through creative production.

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

The Master of Fine Arts program in art, with its emphasis on professional study, is designed for the mature individual who by previous training and study has sufficiently prepared for the undertaking. It is strongly suggested that applicants have a minimum of 12 credits of art history at the undergraduate level. Any qualified student holding a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. regionally accredited institution or a postsecondary degree that is equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate degree earned from an officially recognized degree-granting international institution may seek admission. The School of Visual Arts requires a minimum of 3.00 junior/senior grade-point average (on a 4.00 scale) for admission to the master of fine arts program. Exceptions to the minimum 3.00 average may be made for students with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests, at the discretion of the program.

In addition to the previous requirements, all applicants must submit:

  1. A portfolio of his/her work to illustrate his/her preparation for graduate study. A portfolio of digital images, rather than actual work, is required. A selection of no fewer than twenty examples should be presented. The majority should be in the area of the applicant's interest.
  2. A statement of professional aims. This statement should include the applicant's intentions for his/her proposed study. Some indications of his/her philosophy, beliefs, and goals in regard to education and art should give evidence that he/she is prepared to undertake the work outlined for the Master of Fine Arts program.
  3. Three letters of reference attesting to the applicant's scholarship and ability to work independently.

Degree Requirements

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-700 Professional Degree Policies.

The School of Visual Arts requires a minimum total of 60 credits at the 400, 500, or 800 level, with a minimum of 24 credits at the 500 level, for the Master of Fine Arts degree. Not more than 10 credits may be transferred from other accredited graduate institutions, subject to restrictions outlined in GCAC-309 Transfer Credit. Of the 60 credits required for graduation, candidates are expected to complete the following distribution of credits: 30 credits in a major area of concentration, 12 credits in art history and critical studies, 10 credits in related areas, and 8 credits in graduate seminar (ART 505).

In addition to course work, M.F.A. candidates must pass a candidacy review, which is usually held at the end of the second semester of study, submit an artist's statement, pass the M.F.A. comprehensive oral examination and produce an M.F.A. exhibition. The approval of the M.F.A exhibition by a candidate’s committee represents the culminating experience of the program.


A graduate minor is available in any approved graduate major or dual-title program. The default requirements for a graduate minor are stated in Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies and GCAC-700 Professional Degree Policies, depending on the type of degree the student is pursuing:

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

Art (ART) Course List


Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Vagner Mendonca-Whitehead
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) Thomas Arthur Lauerman
Program Contact

Rebecca Emily Glover
210 Patterson Building
University Park PA 16802
(814) 863-5349

Program Website View