Jump to content

MFA Decision between 2 Schools- Sam Fox, UNC-Chapel Hill


Recommended Posts

I think i just posted this in the wrong place-- so, here it is, can anyone help me?

Trying to decide between two great offers from Washington University in St. Louis/Sam Fox School of Art, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

I'm going for a Masters of Fine Arts, with an emphasis on college teaching preparation.

WUSTL/Sam Fox sounds like a great school, and I'm pretty excited about being in St. Louis. The class size is medium, and they are offering me a very nice package. The school is very conceptual and independently driven, which is what I'm looking for in a program.

UNC-Chapel Hill has offered me a bit better of a deal (although, the tuition for UNC is lower than WUSTL, so they can afford it in a way.) The program is also very conceptual and independently driven, but they only take very few students each year, making their class size very small and intimate. I'm a little worried about this-- I feel like too small a size might mean that everyone influences each other in each incoming class, and everyone's work might develop similarly. I know it's not totally possible, but I'm still a little worried about it.

So,

My advice is,

- Medium Sized program, or Very Tiny program?

-St. Louis or Chapel Hill?

-pretty great offer, or totally great offer?

Thank you!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am pretty familiar with Chapel Hill, as I almost went there, and spent a good bit of time with the faculty and students. I only know a little of WashU, because I have included Lauren F Adams' work in a show I curated.

Chapel Hill's program is usually pretty diverse, so the group doesn't end up making work that looks alike. Living in Chapel Hill can be really nice, but I still think St. Louis has a more active art scene than Raleigh and Chapel Hill combined together. Chapel Hill is a college town with a really intelligent community, as it is a great state school. Chapel Hill's Teaching Practicum and the opportunity for teaching experience for a class on your own really give you a good chance for teaching straight out of school. I don't know Washington U's teaching opportunities, but if you cannot teach a class yourself, as an instructor of record, then its rare to get a teaching position straight out of school. That said, Chapel Hill is definitely distanced from any substantial art community, and while St. Louis may not have an amazing art community, it will be bigger than Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has a good art history dept (as does Duke if you reach out to them) so it is possible to have a lot of academic, conceptual dialogue there.

Overall, I would recomend whichever one has better teaching opps for you, which is probably Chapel Hill. But, the other half is how much you like the faculty and culture of the art school, which I can't give advice on not knowing your work.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, reddogshoe. I am facing a very similar dilemma. I posted it on the "MFA decisions" thread but I'll bring the conversation over here. Here's what I have:

Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art (Washington University in St. Louis):

good funding (not 100%) + TA (but their grad's don't teach as the instructor of record)

ranked 13th

two year interdisciplinary program

in a mid-sized city (St. Louis)

versus

LSU:

100% funding +TA (instructor of record for two of the three years)

ranked 62nd

three year sculpture program

in a college town (Baton Rouge) but only an hour from a great art city (NOLA)

My studio practice and exhibition activity is a career priority to me, but I am also very enthusiastic about teaching at a university (not just to make a buck... I really care about teaching). I want a happy grad school experience and of course I want my graduate education to help set me up for a successful career. I know that my work is the most important contributor to my success, but my grad school choice is important, too.

WashU has an interdisciplinary program which I am really into, but there aren't very many sculpture grads there. Mostly painters and printmakers. I don't know what that means. It's important to me that I have the opportunity to mix media and formats, so that's a big plus for WashU, although I believe I will also have that opportunity (though maybe to a lesser extent) at LSU.

WashU was my top pick when I applied to schools, but as this process has progressed I am becoming more analytical about it. The thing that really kills me about WashU is that it's only 2 years. Is two years at a highly respected university better than three at a good but lesser known state school? I have no idea.

Glad I'm not the only one facing a decision like this... any and all advice is appreciated!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you both for responding!

MichaelWebster: Thank you for your advice. I've been offered teaching oppurtunities at both schools--but still, teaching in a bigger school versus a small school seems like a pretty different experience. My work is primarily drawing, and both schools seem pretty comfortable with drawing as a primary media. Your point about the area/surrounding art scene is absolutely right- if it were possible for me to visit both schools I definitely would- but, I'm currently an artist-in-residence out of the country. I still have some thinking to do, but I'm going to get in contact with recent graduates or current students and ask them some of these questions too.

Sculptor: That's exactly the same situation as me....At WUSTL I have funding, not 100% either but quite good, with a funded teaching scholarship, and at UNC-C.H. I have 100% funding, and a full teaching opportunity, but something about the size, area, makes me a little worried.

I feel the same way that you do about teaching. I am trying to figure out if studying teaching at a smaller program, like UNC or LSU (if its not small, probably is pretty intimate) is a better method because of the tightness/support of the program, or if teaching at WUSTL, while large and more competetive, might expand horizons and give a more thorough experience. Today, I'm feeling like the city atmosphere of WUSTL might be beneficial...but I'm still trying to figure it out too.

Both of the schools that I'm applying to are 2 year programs- but from knowing graduate students in two year programs while I was doing undergrad, it seemed like enough time. I suppose the important thing would be choosing a school that expects its graduate students to have all of their necessary skills, so very little time would be placed on instruction and most time based on practice and theory. If you feel that there are areas/media that you want to learn more about before you dive in, maybe 3 years would be a better program (...if you're wanting to switch media or have ideas for something new or something?, for example) But, from your response, it sounds like you know what you like to do and want to continue it, so I would think 2 years would be fine.

After talking to faculty and students from WUSTL, it seems that they provide a program that allows you to try new things, but expects you to know how to do everything you want to do. I know that they teach a theory seminar every semester for graduate students to take, and that the last 2 semesters, this class is very heavily emphasized. The rest of the time (with the exception of Art History/Elective classes) is spent on studio practice and work. There are some workshops to enroll in, but I think that most of the curriculum is devoted to independent practice. I am out of the country right now, so I haven't been able to visit the school, so this is what i've gathered from faculty, staff and student opinions.

(The same sort of curriculum and program ideas apply to UNC, so, the decision is more about size and extracurricular factors for me. I'm just so worried that if I go to UNC, I'll end up feeling stuck with 10 other people, spending a lot of my energy trying to get some space and independence. On the other hand, while WUSTL is a close-knit program, i wonder if the size of the school will actually make it harder to connect with professors.)

Still trying to decide...

Edited by reddogshoe
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you both for responding!

MichaelWebster: Thank you for your advice. I've been offered teaching oppurtunities at both schools--but still, teaching in a bigger school versus a small school seems like a pretty different experience. My work is primarily drawing, and both schools seem pretty comfortable with drawing as a primary media. Your point about the area/surrounding art scene is absolutely right- if it were possible for me to visit both schools I definitely would- but, I'm currently an artist-in-residence out of the country. I still have some thinking to do, but I'm going to get in contact with recent graduates or current students and ask them some of these questions too.

Sculptor: That's exactly the same situation as me....At WUSTL I have funding, not 100% either but quite good, with a funded teaching scholarship, and at UNC-C.H. I have 100% funding, and a full teaching opportunity, but something about the size, area, makes me a little worried.

I feel the same way that you do about teaching. I am trying to figure out if studying teaching at a smaller program, like UNC or LSU (if its not small, probably is pretty intimate) is a better method because of the tightness/support of the program, or if teaching at WUSTL, while large and more competetive, might expand horizons and give a more thorough experience. Today, I'm feeling like the city atmosphere of WUSTL might be beneficial...but I'm still trying to figure it out too.

Both of the schools that I'm applying to are 2 year programs- but from knowing graduate students in two year programs while I was doing undergrad, it seemed like enough time. I suppose the important thing would be choosing a school that expects its graduate students to have all of their necessary skills, so very little time would be placed on instruction and most time based on practice and theory. If you feel that there are areas/media that you want to learn more about before you dive in, maybe 3 years would be a better program (...if you're wanting to switch media or have ideas for something new or something?, for example) But, from your response, it sounds like you know what you like to do and want to continue it, so I would think 2 years would be fine.

After talking to faculty and students from WUSTL, it seems that they provide a program that allows you to try new things, but expects you to know how to do everything you want to do. I know that they teach a theory seminar every semester for graduate students to take, and that the last 2 semesters, this class is very heavily emphasized. The rest of the time (with the exception of Art History/Elective classes) is spent on studio practice and work. There are some workshops to enroll in, but I think that most of the curriculum is devoted to independent practice. I am out of the country right now, so I haven't been able to visit the school, so this is what i've gathered from faculty, staff and student opinions.

(The same sort of curriculum and program ideas apply to UNC, so, the decision is more about size and extracurricular factors for me. I'm just so worried that if I go to UNC, I'll end up feeling stuck with 10 other people, spending a lot of my energy trying to get some space and independence. On the other hand, while WUSTL is a close-knit program, i wonder if the size of the school will actually make it harder to connect with professors.)

Still trying to decide...

Thanks for your input, and your perspective on the 2-year versus 3-year program issue is refreshing to me. Many of the people (lots of professors included) have been critical of 2-year MFA programs, but you make a good argument.

Just FYI, while I was at the WUSTL open house, I asked about the TAship (I also was offered a teaching scholarship for both years). Apparently you never get to teach your own class, but instead are there to "help out" with a professor's class. That is one major benefit for me about LSU (and it sounds like that's the case for you with UNC): at LSU I would teach my own class for two years.

I'm weighing that against the reputation/location issue. Washington University is a fancy, private university with a top-20 ranking, but LSU is a state school in the southeast, with a lower but respectable ranking. A number of great intellectuals in all disciplines come out of southeastern state schools, but still--unfortunately--people from the south often do not receive the respect they deserve. Regionalism is a real problem that professionals sometimes face. Do you guys think that having a degree from a southern state school (rather than WashU) would put us at a disadvantage for job placement in other regions of the USA?

About WashU, working in drawing, you will have plenty of studio space. The studios are a little on the tight side for a sculptor, but are generous for people who can store work in flat files or bins. I agree that class size is important. If you mean that there are only 10 people in all of UNC's MFA program (not just painting/drawing), I agree that the number is pretty small. You better hope that you get along with your peers! I do sense that the faculty at WashU in general are somewhat distanced from the grads, but after talking to the grads it seems like the contact with their primary advisors is significant.

Finally I will say that St. Louis is a great area. I wouldn't be concerned about that location if I were you. There is a lot to do, it is charming and affordable, and there is an art scene. It's not NYC but who cares. I come from a small city (smaller than St. Louis) and have seen a number of artists become successful in the larger art world after getting a start in our smaller scene here. You have to start somewhere.

I'm visiting LSU on Wednesday... I guess I'll have a better idea then. This decision is making me crazy.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.