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cabot245

Diversity + Admissions

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I'm looking into applying for schools next year and the admissions process is such a mystery for so many reasons. One thing I haven't seen discussed too explicitly on these forums is diversity--in the broadest sense- racial, gender, national, geographic background, economic status, diversity of work/materials/ideas/content. In small grad programs that are often <20 people per year, I feel this is a huge factor in the kind of education one would receive in the ideas and conversations one is exposed to... but also I wonder how much and in what ways it factors into admissions. Particularly I wonder if it is typical for schools to have diversity quotas they must meet? Does anyone know which schools do/don't consider this in admissions? One example is that a quick look at the list of current MFA candidates at UCONN reveals that they are almost overwhelmingly White Women. :/ this is somewhat alarming...

I also wonder how this factors in different major/department models. I've noticed three kinds of admissions models:

1) Department based admissions for a program divided by majors --- (examples: Yale, RISD, SAIC, Bard)  In these cases, it sounds like the sculpture, painting, etc departments operate like totally separate schools, picking their classes independently and upon admission being a Sculpture student is a very different experience than being a Painting student, often in different buildings, with different degree requirements. I'm not even sure how much interaction students of different majors have at these programs, and if diversity across the groups is a factor.

2) Department based admissions for a mixed/interdisciplinary program -- (example: Columbia...not sure if there are others) At Columbia, my understanding is that you apply through a major, but that the major doesn't matter / departments don't exist when you actually go there, it is an interdisciplinary program and all studios/facilities/classes are open to all equally. In a case like that, I wonder if the painting panel convenes with the sculpture panel to ensure a diverse class, or if they combine all their picks blindly after review? If painting has 12 spots, does the painting department self-organize so that those spots must be 6-6 male-female, x number POC, etc, or do conversations actually happen where, say, the painting panel says "our top applicants are all white women and we really want them, hey Photo department can you try to go heavy on dudes of color to balance out the class??" Is this a real conversation that might happen? 

3) Interdisciplinary Programs where you don't apply under any major -- (examples: Rutgers, University of Chicago, Upenn, NYU) I have heard from friends who have applied to major-less interdisciplinary programs that during interviews they will tend to divide you up anyway according to your portfolio and have you interview with a professor who works in/teaches a similar medium (e.g if your portfolio is half video they will group in an unofficial "video group", My impression/guess is that the video professor will get a few picks of who to accept, the painting professor a few picks, etc, but I'm not sure how real that is...

I'm just very curious about this aspect of what happens behind closed doors. Some schools are open about wanting diverse classes, while others seem really oblivious :/ This seems like a really important part of one's experience and I just wonder if anyone has any insight into the logistics of it behind closed doors..

Beyond that, has anyone had a thoughts about their personal experience applying? Have you felt disadvantaged or advantaged based on your identity in any part of the admissions process??

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As an alum of Carnegie Mellon's MFA in Art, I can attest that they don't value diversity in admissions and do not strive to have a well-balanced class- it was mostly all white straight males. I think there are schools that value creating global and inclusive MFA's but I would not know.

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Damn, that is disappointing to hear. This is a real priority for me in my search. Personally, I can't imagine a school that doesn't consider diversity in admissions being a place where really rich conversations and ideas can happen. :/  I say that as someone who makes abstract work but who ultimately believes in transformative social potential in art and thinks that all art is to some degree about seeing the world differently and offering new perspectives. 

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Some programs care, yet they don't attract diverse applicants so they get the problematic all white straight male conundrum. Schools like a Columbia, Yale, UCLA, RISD, SAIC, etc should be overflowing with diversity they definitely received the bulk if not all the top POC students. 

Part of my concern with entering an MFA program is being the token black student. 

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I believe having diversity for diversity sake is the wrong approach.

Each school seems to foster a different type of working environment, supporting different types of communities, and varying practices. In my opinion a school should continue to attract the most interesting artists, and accept these artists based on work, rather than background. One would think any engaged artist in the current climate has some consideration of these issues, regardless of their own background.

Of course there is more than enough writing on the relationship between art and politics, and more than enough opinions as well -_- I am sure being the only black student in an MFA program can be strange, and bring unnecessary attention, but that is also your strength! 

At the end of the day, research these MFA programs heavily!

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@stupidpainter

It's never wise to speak to an experience in which you could never assimilate.  Sometimes it's best to listen rather than impose thoughts and opinions that come from a place of ignorance. It's demoralizing being an only black student in a historical white program where the majority of your peers and instructor have a primitive understanding of the contributions of people who look like you. Therefore their ability to contribute to meaningful critique/ discussion is painstaking because it's through the European white male canon of art making. 

I don't trust artist in this current climate to be considerate of these issues. Your entire comment is the testament to that, due to the fact that you somehow thought your comment wasn't problematic and offensive. 

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57 minutes ago, Zander said:

@stupidpainter

It's never wise to speak to an experience in which you could never assimilate.  Sometimes it's best to listen rather than impose thoughts and opinions that come from a place of ignorance. It's demoralizing being an only black student in a historical white program where the majority of your peers and instructor have a primitive understanding of the contributions of people who look like you. Therefore their ability to contribute to meaningful critique/ discussion is painstaking because it's through the European white male canon of art making. 

I don't trust artist in this current climate to be considerate of these issues. Your entire comment is the testament to that, due to the fact that you somehow thought your comment wasn't problematic and offensive. 

Entirely right. Not only that, but being the only black student in a program can be and often is frustrating because people often think we get special treatment because we're underrepresented, which isn't true. There aren't fewer POC in MFA programs because the work isn't "as good" or "competitive," it's because the art market and academia in general is not set up to value or to be able to support the work/interests/concerns of non-white students (or LGBTQ students, don't get me started if you fall into both categories), and that's a CHOICE programs/universities make to continue to not be supportive or, if they do target POC, to do it in a way that isn't actually truly considerate.

 

Moreover, one's peers aren't often equipped to have conversations about these issues that don't end up being anecdotal either so....my advise is to choose as school that located within a diverse and vibrant art community so that you have the opportunity to branch out and form the community you need elsewhere.  

 

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hey i have some stuff to say about this!!

so i'm a white and white passing jewish trans person and i really accepted an offer at UPenn. 

I visited UPenn three times before doing my interview. I was interested in the school because a mentor of mine had gone there. I met two of the professors at an MFA portfolio day at Parsons (i would highly recommend invested in MFA portfolio days if you are considering applying to programs.) I felt like the professors were highly invested in curating the program and choosing students deliberately. Most of the students are POC with three or four black people in a class of 20ish (I don't think I met everyone). The staff there are pretty diverse in my opinion but I don't think I saw any black professors or adjunct professors (again, I didn't meet everyone). I was very upfront from the first time I met two professors at the MFA portfolio day that I'm trans and I talked about it in my personal statement (they don't ask for an artists statement just a personal statement). I feel like the funding I got was very generous but also reflected my economic need. They really do want to curate a diverse program and it is multidisciplinary with room to experiment and grow. 

The thing about those "top" schools is that they are invested in protecting their brand. they choose students who perpetuate a certain style that fit within this brand. they harp on diversity but in the end think they are exempt from  any criticism. just my two cents

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