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Which masters programs are likely to get you "anywhere," or "somewhere"?


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Since I am finishing my undergraduated in a pretty obscure small university with little to no tradition of scholarship in our area, I think I should consider applying to a Masters first in some place more reputable in order to increase my chances of getting in a Phd program where I REALLY want to go.  I want to study under major names (Foster, Nemerov, McCauley, Bryan-Wilson, etc, etc, etc).

 

Can you guys help me compile a list of the best master programs in art history, please? In and/or out of the country.

 

Thank you so much in advance!

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Williams and Tufts seem to be the most well regarded terminal MA programs-- and there's no competition from PhD students for funding or attention.  I did a terminal MA at a state school, though, which has worked out ok for me-- but more importantly, I was able to be fully funded there and get teaching experience.  Sometimes I wonder if that model is better.  I found that most of the people in that program were planning on museum careers and not looking towards the PhD at that time, but that people who did apply to programs were successful in their applications.  

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From what my undergrad profs have told me, Williams is the best terminal MA program. The senior curator at the museum where I'm interning advised me to apply to the BGC because he has hired students from there. That's a good sign! The Courtauld in London is also a great option (if you have the extra $$). In the histart PhD program at my undergrad (top five public institution), the students who had MAs first attained them from UChicago's MAPH program, WashU, Penn's MA, and the Courtauld. Those in the program with only BAs either spent time abroad, worked in galleries or auction houses for 1-3 years, were international students, or wanted to study with a prof who hadn't had a lot of students in the last few years.

 

Yet, the advice I received has been mixed about terminal MAs versus straight to PhD programs. Some profs have told me to get the MA first because most of PhD admits to the big name schools already have MAs (some have multiple MAs [ahhh!]). Then others, the more opportunistic bunch, have advised me to go straight to the PhD if you know that is what you want in the end. So, I ended up taking all of the advice and applied to a sampling of both types of programs to see who bites. Good luck!!!

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The bigger Canadian schools are really good options for terminal MAs. McGill has Amelia Jones, for example, and the University of British Columbia has Serge Guilbaut, John O'Brian and Jaleh Mansoor. Toronto also has a pretty cool department—Mark Cheetham, Elizabeth Legge and Alison Syme are all doing really interesting work. 

All three schools have placed students at top programs recently—I know there are a couple McGill grads at Harvard, for example, and UBC grads at both Yale and Harvard. 

I would be wary of focusing particularly on "major names" though, especially when it comes to doctoral programs. If you want to work on Brazilian art Bryan-Wilson and Foster are good bets, but Nemerov and McCauley don't particularly fit...

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Depending on what your plans are for the future, George Washington University has a terminal masters, as well as a Masters in Museum Studies, and some of the faculty have the in with the DC museums. GW also offers an advanced degree in American Studies, so the departments are linked. However, be aware that the Americanist at GW, Bjelajac, has a specialty in Freemasonry in Amer Art, so if you have an aversion to hearing about that over and over again...but he's really nice, laid back, and will let you work on whatever you want.

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The bigger Canadian schools are really good options for terminal MAs. McGill has Amelia Jones, for example, and the University of British Columbia has Serge Guilbaut, John O'Brian and Jaleh Mansoor. Toronto also has a pretty cool department—Mark Cheetham, Elizabeth Legge and Alison Syme are all doing really interesting work. 

All three schools have placed students at top programs recently—I know there are a couple McGill grads at Harvard, for example, and UBC grads at both Yale and Harvard. 

I would be wary of focusing particularly on "major names" though, especially when it comes to doctoral programs. If you want to work on Brazilian art Bryan-Wilson and Foster are good bets, but Nemerov and McCauley don't particularly fit...

 

poliscar, my area of interest is actually history of photography (first half of the 20th cent).  In fact, McCauley is my dream POI.  I will apply anywhere she is when it comes time.

 

You are right, Canada does have some really good programs I ought to consider.  Interesting enough, I just met one of the Harvard grad two days ago at a library here in Paris.  He told me that he had attended a very small school in Canada, so he decided to go for his master at McGill before applying to a PhD.  He is in Harvard now under Buchloh.  Very nice and unpretentious guy (contrary to the image I had of Harvard students).

 

Thank you for the tips!!!

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poliscar, my area of interest is actually history of photography (first half of the 20th cent).  In fact, McCauley is my dream POI.  I will apply anywhere she is when it comes time.

 

You are right, Canada does have some really good programs I ought to consider.  Interesting enough, I just met one of the Harvard grad two days ago at a library here in Paris.  He told me that he had attended a very small school in Canada, so he decided to go for his master at McGill before applying to a PhD.  He is in Harvard now under Buchloh.  Very nice and unpretentious guy (contrary to the image I had of Harvard students).

 

Thank you for the tips!!!

Ah yes, sorry! 

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Wellesley is a all women's undergraduate college, so I don't think you will have much luck pursuing an MA there. 

 Yeah, but maybe OP was thinking of Bryn Mawr, also a women's undergraduate college but one with distinguished PhD programs in several subjects, including, notably, Art History.

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Williams and Tufts are generally regarded as the top terminal MA programs in the U.S. Williams might rank slightly higher in terms of prestige but not by much. Based on my experience, I would say the two programs are split evenly between students focusing on museum careers and academics ones. I think Tufts funds their students more (in terms of tuition remission) but Williams does offer a select few (read top top top candidates) tuition remission and stipend. I don't know how often or how many. In terms of fields of interest I would say they both have diverse faculty covering a wide range of fields. Either would be great options.

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One thing I thought it was nice about Williams was that every grad student only pays for his/her first year of study.  In addition, if wanted, they are offered TA positions in their second year to help offset some living expenses.

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One thing I thought it was nice about Williams was that every grad student only pays for his/her first year of study.  In addition, if wanted, they are offered TA positions in their second year to help offset some living expenses.

 

This is actually incorrect. All students are offered a work-study internship in one of the 4 museums (The Clark, WCMA, Mass MOCA, Bennington, or another one nearby) that awards about ~100/week. 1/3 of students are offered a comprehensive financial package, another 1/3 are partial tuition, and the final 1/3 pay their own.

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One thing I thought it was nice about Williams was that every grad student only pays for his/her first year of study.  In addition, if wanted, they are offered TA positions in their second year to help offset some living expenses.

This is actually incorrect. All students are offered a work-study internship in one of the 4 museums (The Clark, WCMA, Mass MOCA, Bennington, or another one nearby) that awards about ~100/week. 1/3 of students are offered a comprehensive financial package, another 1/3 are partial tuition, and the final 1/3 pay their own.

Yea that's actually a description of Tufts' funding situation.

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Yea that's actually a description of Tufts' funding situation.

Obviously I got all switched around. :blink:   Sorry guys... At this point, I don't know anything anymore.  All I can think of are the letters and manuscripts I have been reading here in Paris.  Besides, I think the time difference is messing up with an already messed up brain.  In any case, Tufts and Williams seem to have A-MA-ZING programs.

 

I will be certainly applying to those next year.

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Over the past 3 years or so (including this one) UChicago's MAPH will have had 3 people--including myself this season--accepted to Yale's History of Art department. Two of us, myself included, are in the joint program with Film Studies. I don't know about MAPH's general placement to other art history programs, but I'd say something like that would certainly strike my eye. MAPH is not funded for a lot of people; I was fortunate in that I could afford it. In that sense it is certainly a gamble, but as far as I know, if you make good use of your time there, it can really send you places. I guess I'm certainly an example, as unlikely as it seems. 

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