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Art History bibliographies and SOP stress?


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A few questions for the fellow art historians:

 

1.) Approximately how worried should we be if we have citations that are in our writing sample bibliography that don't fall into the last twenty years OR the window of time we're writing about as primary sources? (ex: something from the 1970's or 1980's that is an excellent source, as well as contemporary sources, and primary sources?) I have about 3-4 pages of bibliography if I recall correctly, and some of the sources don't meet the twenty year rule. 

 

1.5) Anyone else torn between which writing sample to send? 

 

2.) One of my recommenders/professors introduced me to another professor who kindly offered to help edit my SOPs. He's been extremely helpful and brutally honest, and my SOPs have improved over the course of the first two meetings I've had with him. I owe him a lot for taking the time to help me (as I'm not even his student) but there is one small issue I have:

 

Over the course of our meetings, he's learned my GPA, my stats, what my CV looks like, etc. He saw my list of three schools I could afford to apply to and insisted I add another three schools -- because I need a plan B and this is my future. I don't necessarily disagree, but this does make me anxious. This Professor is keenly aware of the politics of name brand schools and hiring practices which privilege top school students over others. The PhD programs I chose to add he suggested as using as stepping stones for the MA, and a better PhD elsewhere. The MAs are also meant to get me somewhere "better" than the schools I currently have on my list. 

 

He does not like my top choice school not because it's not an excellent program at what I want (it is), but because "You probably won't get hired at The Met if you go." My second choice PhD program is ALSO an excellent school with a strong program in the exact thing I want to study and his advice was more or less "Well if you go there, it won't be the end of the world." 

 

I tried to politely point out that "Not everyone can go to Harvard eventually..." but I'm not sure this got across. I understand that scholars who can support your future are important, that job placement is important, that people privilege the Top 20 schools, and so on, but I can't help but be concerned. Asking about these things and thinking about them is important, but I don't necessarily consider my career over if The Met doesn't hire me.

 

Is he right? Should "lesser" PhD programs really just be used to obtain a master's and move on, even if they study things I am interested in? Am I not being strategic enough in thinking my MA should only move me "up" to a better school? My top choice now I am intending to tell I would also want to apply for a PhD at their school down the line but it's not Harvard or Yale. My other top choice is an outright PhD program I think I would be happy at.

 

I'm unsure -- the rest of his advice is sound, but the added SOPs I now have to write and the pressure of feeling my selections aren't quite good enough is unsettling. I didn't add any programs I felt wouldn't be of interest to me personally, but all the same I don't know how else to explain that I'd rather just worry about round one of applications right now. 

 

How much "Degree prestige" politics should I be worried about? I don't intend to be a professor. 

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1) Who ever told you shouldn't have sources published more than twenty years ago?! That means you couldn't cite Panofksy or Riegl or even TJ Clark (or whoever the big people in your field are)! You *should* have older sources. It would of course be worrisome to have NO sources from the last twenty years; but it would be just as worrisome to a committee to not have sources from before. That's how you show you have an understanding of the historiography. 

 

2) I mean, not everyone has to go to Harvard or Columbia or Berkeley, but I would strongly caution against not getting a PhD at a top 20 program. In fact, I would caution against not getting a PhD at a 10 top program. Job prospects are bleak, even for curators, and the "prestige" factor is more important than it should be. Don't be afraid to be ambitious.

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I've heard people recommend not to use anything "too old" too much to prove we've read recent scholarship. This is a bit iffy for my writing sample as it's focusing on turn of the century works, so my dates are spread out from primary sources in the late 1800's/early 1900's and then 1950's+. 

 

-- Fair enough. It's not that I don't have ambition, or don't understand the job market as it stands. But I still interned under a curator who had a museum studies MA, you know? I'm a little concerned about what the Top Ten even is -- I suppose? I'm happy with the MAs I'm applying to and don't mind moving up (in most cases that would be ideal) but I'm interested in Asian Decorative Arts. Shouldn't I be more concerned with top programs in that field, rather than just Art History in general? 

 

Not to mention I can't really make heads or tails of these NRC rankings -- for my MA I'm more interested in fit and faculty who I think would engage me. I'm not applying to bad schools, by any means! But I'm fairly certain none of the ones that also have PhD programs are Top Ten schools and definitely none of them are ivies. 

 

Another example: I said I was interested in Asian Art, Professor suggested Ohio State for an MA. The deadline was too soon for me, and I said it would be a good PhD option to consider later since they have a strong Asian History and Art History related department and plenty of resources, but he waved this notion off, saying I shouldn't go to a state school for a PhD. 

 

Perhaps if I had an idea of top ten schools -- or top twenty, even -- I would feel more comfortable for post-MA (assuming I get accepted someplace) applications that "fit" my interests? I hate to sound ignorant, but I really considered research fit and ability to fund more than anything else. 

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First, don't listen to anyone who tells you not to use older sources. You have to be careful with them, but a scholar needs them.

 

As for top ten schools, that's hard to say. The rankings are basically useless, so don't go by them. Off the top of my head (in no particular order, because that's not really possible), some of the best schools include: Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Berkeley, Princeton, IFA, Stanford, UPenn, University of Chicago, Hopkins, Michigan, among others. And you're right--a lot depends on your area of specialization. But in general the best schools have a lot of good people in different areas, and you should find a few among the top ranked schools.

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http://arthistorynewsletter.com/blog/?p=5204

 

From 2011, but more or less okay to go by. The list condivi suggested is pretty decent. It's true that reputation counts for a great deal, even if you don't intend to pursue an academic career track. If your letter-writers are pushing you to apply to a higher tier, what have you to lose? It's not like you'll be paying for this anyway. 

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While I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage you from being ambitious, it sounds like you have a really clear idea of what you're looking for in a program. So, with that in mind, I just wanted to offer another set of thoughts:

 

As a current student at a non-“brand-name” school, I’ve been aware that I need to more actively and creatively search out opportunities to share my work, engage with my field, and find funding (often out of necessity, given the shorter periods of guaranteed funding at non-Ivies). If you go in knowing that it may help to have a slightly bulkier CV to “make up” for coming from a program that’s perceived as being less prestigious, the “extra” activities have only helped to strengthen my work – and actually have sped my time along in my program.

 

I’ve learned enough about myself during a few applications seasons to realize that I work best if I’m able to be a slightly bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond, which is exactly the environment that I ended up finding in my PhD program. While it’s a well-respected department with super faculty members, it’s certainly not included in Condivi’s list above. And that’s perfectly fine by me, since it offers just exactly the atmosphere that allows me to do my best work. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t perhaps add a few more applications to your list. But a bit of encouragement I wish I had received not once, but twice (!): if a certain program just intuitively feels like not a good fit, for whatever reason, it’s fine not to apply and to devote more time to applications you’re passionate about.

 

[NB: Important disclaimer – None of the above is meant to imply that those students at Top 10 programs aren’t also working extremely hard at the very same things! But, again just in my experience, these activities seem less critical to their future success, perhaps.]

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ameshu205: This is something I feel has already been especially true of my undergraduate education. When my elite lib arts college became unaffordable after my first year (the first college I had been accepted to took away my financial aid...despite the fact that I'm pell grant eligible, the one I attended raised tuition), I went to my low ranking home state school to get an education I still couldn't afford but would at least be able to manage. 

 

I know this looks bad coming from my UG -- so that's why a lot of my programs are MAs or less "ranked" schools (in addition to field matches). I'm an excellent student, and I know it. But coming from my UG, you likely wouldn't get into Yale or Harvard anyways. My CV is extensive given the circumstances and my age. I spend a LOT of time getting experience and doing different things that ended up on my CV, in part to offset this, and in part because I want to be competitive. I don't just strive to be the best in my major at my school -- I want experience. (I've been both a regular fish in a tiny pond and a fish in a massive pond that happens to stand out where I am). 

 

Obviously I have a lot of concerns regarding employment, and jumping "up" would be helpful (everywhere is up from here), but I am wary of sacrificing personal fit for name brand just because I feel the need to be "successful". It's not that I'm not ambitious -- I have plenty of ambition to spare -- but I do fear ambition will only leverage me so far due to politics (which has happened before). This seems to be what this professor is cautioning me will happen if I don't work my way into a Top 10 eventually. 

 

I guess my fear is I can't reconcile ambition with passion or interest and employability. (Ironic, from an Art Historian ;) .) I'm not opposed to the Top 10. And certainly after an MA I might find myself wanting to go to these schools. But it feels a bit early to be so pressured to make this my end goal -- and to discourage the PhD apps I am making as "jumping points" more than programs I would genuinely obtain a PhD from. 

 

TL;DR but thank you. Hopefully things will happen the way they are meant to. 

Edited by m-ttl
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but I am wary of sacrificing personal fit for name brand just because I feel the need to be "successful"

 

This is what all of my advisers have pushed from day one, that it is far more important to be with the best person in your field in a program that supports your methods, interests, and specific ambitions than it is to be one more drone at Harvard, being shoehorned into something at ultimately won't serve you in your career (Harvard gets named specifically because in my case I have been repeatedly warned off it as a bad fit on a number of levels, nothing to do with the program itself). I'm looking at and working closely with a few programs that aren't top tier on the rankings but have incredibly strong people and have shown that they're willing to support my career development and specific goals.

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This is what all of my advisers have pushed from day one, that it is far more important to be with the best person in your field in a program that supports your methods, interests, and specific ambitions than it is to be one more drone at Harvard, being shoehorned into something at ultimately won't serve you in your career (Harvard gets named specifically because in my case I have been repeatedly warned off it as a bad fit on a number of levels, nothing to do with the program itself). I'm looking at and working closely with a few programs that aren't top tier on the rankings but have incredibly strong people and have shown that they're willing to support my career development and specific goals.

I think this is great, but make sure you do some research where these people's students get jobs. There are plenty of top people at middling state schools, and I have no doubt you'd get a great education, but there are many professors who have lots of students and yet you'd be hard pressed to find ones who actually make it after they graduate. Sad but true. 

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There are plenty of top people at middling state schools, and I have no doubt you'd get a great education, but there are many professors who have lots of students and yet you'd be hard pressed to find ones who actually make it after they graduate.

I didn't say they were middling state schools, simply that they aren't the sacred top 10. A former classmate of mine is actually at one of those top tier schools right now, and genuinely isn't expected to make anything of themselves afterwards despite being there because they're competing with lots of other students and they aren't receiving any support. It's not a magic bullet. Sad but true.

 

I'm not unaware of the necessity to look at job placement, but I'm from of the school of thought that a PhD with a fantastic dissertation and publications from a top 20 school is better than never getting into a program because you only apply to top 10s that aren't good fits or get accepted and only produced uninspired, derivative work. That's why I'm working closely with mentors and advisers who are well-placed to observe current hiring practices- because they're some of the people doing the hiring in my area of interest and career path- and trends in graduate schools' acceptances and interests in a range of areas.

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I think this is great, but make sure you do some research where these people's students get jobs. There are plenty of top people at middling state schools, and I have no doubt you'd get a great education, but there are many professors who have lots of students and yet you'd be hard pressed to find ones who actually make it after they graduate. Sad but true. 

 

To tell you the truth, quite a few of the people I know and have met in museums did not go to top ten schools. I've spoken with curators in my field at highly respected museums, and...they also did not go to top ten schools. (I know exactly where they went -- I'm applying there under recommendation for the programs.) And quite a few of them went to state schools that have excellent programs in their fields. 

 

Obviously I'm going to ask about job placement, but -- the people I know who are working in museums aren't all from the Top Ten. In fact, most of the people I know care far more about abilities and skills than brand name because let's face it, museums are professional jobs which require a lot of work. It's not purely academic. Similar to how those who wish to go into the teaching side of Art History shouldn't only admire teaching jobs at R1 schools and the ivies because there are more jobs available at small colleges across the country, I don't feel as someone hoping to go into the museums field I should only be vying to be a candidate at The Met.

 

It would be amazing, of course. But I know more state school/non-top ten curators than I do Ivy grads, for example. 

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A former classmate of mine is actually at one of those top tier schools right now, and genuinely isn't expected to make anything of themselves afterwards despite being there because they're competing with lots of other students and they aren't receiving any support.

 

"Genuinely isn't expected" by whom? Anyway, going to a top 10 school is, it's true, no surefire ticket to a job, but to me that shows how necessary it is to go to a top school; otherwise you're putting yourself at an even greater disadvantage. Everyone who starts grad school thinks they're going to publish a lot and write an amazing dissertation. Maybe you will or maybe you won't, but why not do it at the best school you can? There's no reason why you can't write a great dissertation at a non top-ten school, but you will face more challenges. Look who gets the major fellowships--CASVA, Kress, Met, Frick, etc. They come from Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Berkeley, Princeton... It's a sad but true reality: people from those kinds of school go to the top of the heap, leaving many just as excellent students from less prestigious schools out of the loop. They then have to teach more and devote less time their dissertation, while their peers at the more prestigious programs have more time and energy to invest in their dissertations. You should, of course, listen to your mentors; they know best. But I've been in grad school for six years now and, speaking from experience and with your best interests at heart, all I'm saying is make sure you investigate carefully where *recent* grads have been hired. 

Edited by condivi
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Part of the issue here seems to be your desire to work at a museum. Some programs are encouraging of grad students pursuing curatorial work and others are discouraging. There is overlap among them in the "top 20" but not completely. Off the top of my head I tend to think Williams (MA), CUNY, Santa Barbara, Princeton, and Yale as strong in museum placements in recent years. Do make sure you get a sounding from any POIs about their willingness to train curators. And take heart, a recent hire at the Met has his PhD from Kansas (and is one of the most exciting scholars in his field).

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Part of the issue here seems to be your desire to work at a museum. Some programs are encouraging of grad students pursuing curatorial work and others are discouraging. There is overlap among them in the "top 20" but not completely. Off the top of my head I tend to think Williams (MA), CUNY, Santa Barbara, Princeton, and Yale as strong in museum placements in recent years. Do make sure you get a sounding from any POIs about their willingness to train curators. And take heart, a recent hire at the Met has his PhD from Kansas (and is one of the most exciting scholars in his field).

 

I am applying to Williams. :) I have very little desire to do a PhD at a school that discourages curatorial work. An MA would be one thing, I can pursue outside things on my own time. But a PhD? It would be detrimental to what I want to do -- and would render my pursuit of a PhD utterly pointless. I don't dislike academia, but I also am not aiming to be a professor. I wouldn't waste my time going after a degree that -- while I might enjoy it and obtain some exciting opportunities -- would hinder me on my actual career path. It would be silly. So I'm cautious of any degree that looks nice on paper but doesn't teach me. 

 

The schools on my list generally meet my areas of interest, are known for good funding, and have some sort of connection to museums work. 

It makes me uneasy to feel this is misguided somehow?

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I am applying to Williams. :) I have very little desire to do a PhD at a school that discourages curatorial work. An MA would be one thing, I can pursue outside things on my own time. But a PhD? It would be detrimental to what I want to do -- and would render my pursuit of a PhD utterly pointless. I don't dislike academia, but I also am not aiming to be a professor. I wouldn't waste my time going after a degree that -- while I might enjoy it and obtain some exciting opportunities -- would hinder me on my actual career path. It would be silly. So I'm cautious of any degree that looks nice on paper but doesn't teach me. 

 

The schools on my list generally meet my areas of interest, are known for good funding, and have some sort of connection to museums work. 

It makes me uneasy to feel this is misguided somehow?

 

Not at all. This is one of the reasons many of the top-10 aren't good fits for everyone, as I keep saying.  Two Northwestern faculty members told me as much to my face, because I have a museum background, a museum present, and a museum future and am entirely disinterested in being solely a professor, and my mentor who attended Northwestern and now works in the museum world concurs. Great academics, not for anyone who wants to be a curator. You absolutely must sound out their willingness to support you in museum work and provide opportunities for training. Yale is great for this, per a discussion with faculty about it last fall, though apparently there is some conflict in the department about it.

 

Condivi, I think that your experiences in grad school lend you one perspective but depending on your career goals after it, we may have different expectations. I am comfortable that the decisions I have made-based on my advisers, work and publication experience, and discussions with POI at the programs to which I am applying- are the best possible choices for me and my future career. If you think that I'm being shortsighted, fine, but also please acknowledge that this kind of of attitude does little but shore up the perception of the discipline as snobbish and out of touch and only to be aimed for by those of means.

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 If you think that I'm being shortsighted, fine, but also please acknowledge that this kind of of attitude does little but shore up the perception of the discipline as snobbish and out of touch and only to be aimed for by those of means.

I totally respect your point of view, but let's be honest--the discipline is pretty snobbish and out of touch. We're art historians, not social workers! It's rarified stuff, for better or worse. Let's not kid ourselves otherwise. As for how my attitude shores up the perception that the discipline is only to be aimed for by those of means, I'm not sure I follow you. If someone does well in their undergrad and produces good work, they'll get into Harvard or Yale or Berkeley, with funding and regardless of financial resources, and they'll *most likely* be better off career-wise than those, rich or not, who end up at less prestigious programs. Of course, there are all sorts of socio-economic factors that influence who ends up at a top program, but those factors don't go away once you get to the job market. It's systemic and cyclical and frankly too bad, but that's academia.

Edited by condivi
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I totally respect your point of view, but let's be honest--the discipline is pretty snobbish and out of touch. We're art historians, not social workers! It's rarified stuff, for better or worse. Let's not kid ourselves otherwise. As for how my attitude shores up the perception that the discipline is only to be aimed for by those of means, I'm not sure I follow you. If someone does well in their undergrad and produces good work, they'll get into Harvard or Yale or Berkeley, with funding and regardless of financial resources, and they'll *most likely* be better off career-wise than those, rich or not, who end up at less prestigious programs. Of course, there are all sorts of socio-economic factors that influence who ends up at a top program, but those factors don't go away once you get to the job market. It's systemic and cyclical and frankly too bad, but that's academia.

 

Oh sure, Art History itself? Snobbish and out of touch. But I think this is where we fundamentally have different perspectives -- a museum employee does act as a public service worker. Maybe not a "traditional social worker" but we are non-profit employees whose goals generally include serving the public. I don't just want to be excellent in my field of academia, that designation more or less won't mean anything unless I can: protect my field's future, pass my knowledge on, research, curate, and serve future generations. On the museum side of things? People who can't set aside their own egos and realize they're around to do just that? That they are non-profit employees? Most museums don't have time for that! Non-profits aren't academia. True, museums are just as self-feeding but... while there is snobbishness, it's not quite the same. 

 

Look, I'm a minority. My mother didn't finish college. I go to a low ranking state school which is something of a national joke -- no one on my faculty is going to lie to me and say just because I'm an excellent student, I'm going to get into Harvard or Berkeley straightaway. It won't happen -- because of politics. Let's not kid ourselves: I have an extreme disadvantage and all of my professors admit it, and that disadvantage is because I'm too poor to afford attending better schools. My actual recommenders were kind enough to suggest schools that A.) fund generously B.) they have connections at and C.) will help me get into museums work.  I'll be perfectly clear: I'm economically disadvantaged, and this is a field meant for the well to do. It's snobbish, elitist, and incredibly lacking in diversity. I can't tell you how many little tiny things frustrate me in this field that assumes I am wealthy. (Professors refusing to order books from my campus bookstore...which means I can't apply my Pell Grant money to buying textbooks...classmates who laugh and say money isn't an issue...paid internships that only exist in other states and would require hundreds of dollars out of pocket to fly cross country and eat, never mind the paltry $1500 stipend if I actually got accepted, or more locally, one of the top museums in the city requiring official transcripts, a $15 fee I can't afford just to apply for a job I won't get paid to do.) 

 

I'm in it because I'm tenacious, it's what I love, and I'm good at it. But I'm also here because I want my field to be accessible to other people like myself. 

 

Don't kid anyone. This field does not welcome people who are simply talented. They take the well off and talented first. It's just frustrating feeling like I myself am not good enough when I could get into a variety of other places that would have me. 

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m-ttl I think I love you.

 

Follow-up: I work in a major museum now, as a grunt, but a respected grunt. I also work with a lot of the incredibly well-off undergrads and grad students who come through as interns, and let me tell you, the ones who wash up and realize that they don't actually have what it takes or the dedication are by and large the rich kids. I'm from a solid lower-middle-class background. My family supports the insanity that is me moving all the way across the country to pursue art history as a career, but the only door they've ever been able to open for me is the one labelled "pig-headed stubborn work-ethic." One of the reasons I want to make it is to open the door to other kids who are willing to work as hard as it takes as long as it takes, but who haven't been given the same kind of familial exposure or support, especially minority students and women.

 

The fact that some of us have to work twice as hard to get some of the same experiences and exposure doesn't mean that our ideas are less worthwhile, and only acknowledging the acceptability of private, wealthy schools ignores the contributions of huge swathes of your colleagues.

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First of all, I appreciate how difficult it is for a minority from an underprivileged economic background, and I think it's really admirable that you're trying to break down barriers. It'll an uphill battle for sure. But I'm puzzled why you seem to be selling yourself short. Why, before you've tried, do you think you'll fail? Why are you dismissing the top schools because you assume that they're for the rich, that they won't be welcoming? The field is rich and white at all levels, but many top places really do want minority candidates from diverse backgrounds. If you went to not such a great undergrad, then, yes you might, as you say the professor in your first post suggested, start somewhere else and "move up." As a minority, you'll have to work super hard, but that doesn't mean you should sell yourself short and not reach as high as you can. The funding situation is better at the best schools, and I know many people at them, and while they're some people from very wealthy backgrounds, most are not. To be clear, I'm only saying this with your best interests at heart. You don't want to regret not reaching as high as you could go, even if it will be difficult, because of faulty assumptions. *Everyone* feels like they're not good enough in this field--for a variety of reasons--but don't let that hold you back!!

Also, keep in mind, class is in some ways an even bigger factor at museums. So much of your work will be schmoozing with rich people for donations and loans; it's not, sadly, all about passion for objects. Even more than academia, success in the museum world is about connections and charm. I've seen it over and over again. 

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I think it's a little dangerous to make some of the assumptions m-ttl has made in this thread. As someone currently in one of "those" programs, I should emphasize that my peers are comprise a surprisingly diverse lot. I mean diverse in all its senses. Not everyone wants to be a professor. A friend is currently doing a year at MoMA. 

 

And, entirely anecdotally, I certainly do not fit the "privileged" framework, hence why I say it is risky to make such blanket assumptions. 

 

As for museum work, I'm not sure you have in mind. A lot of "museum work" involves research that can compete with the best "academic" research out there. Many people here have past museum experience, or have worked at museums/archives as part of their graduate training. Clearly, the emphasis is on *research* rather than, say, organizing day-trips for high schoolers. Much depends on what, exactly, you wish to achieve. 

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Anyone who's paying attention to the realities of the academic job market shouldn't be discouraging anyone from a curatorial trajectory... and it's my impression that many graduate programs (top, bottom, middle, whatever...) recognize this and are adjusting accordingly. The Mellon Foundation has been giving generous and ongoing grants to various graduate programs throughout the country for object-focused initiatives, which require close partnership with a museum: (http://www.mellon.org/grant_programs/programs/museums)

 

Which is to say, don't assume that a "top" program won't be interested in your curatorial ambitions... particularly if you write into your application novel ways of thinking the relationship between "scholarship" and "curating"... or how scholars can/should use objects in teaching, writing, researching

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I don't think I'm assuming anything out of line. These are things my professors have told me -- it's highly unlikely to jump from my Undergrad to an Ivy, for example. And most importantly, I was not intending to apply to a top ten school for an MA because I chose other schools that I thought were better suited and more likely to take me. This isn't about shooting myself in the foot before I apply, this is I selected different schools, and a professor suggested I only use them as jumping points, instead of staying for the PhD if I end up enjoying the program. (I'm applying to three PhDs, and three MAs.)  

 

It has nothing to do with not feeling good enough. I feel fine about myself. But I know as people have said, this is a field about pedigree which as an undergrad, I do not have based on my university's name. I'm not applying to bad schools, but I did not have top tens on my list and am still very interested in the programs I am applying to. The idea that I don't realize class is a factor is silly -- I know precisely how much class and race will affect me in my applications. I also don't appreciate condescending remarks about schmoozing with the rich. Just because I myself am not flush with cash does not mean I have never been exposed to my own field, donors, or the wealthy. I have connections, many of which prompted my choices. This doesn't mean I'm particularly more inclined to trade up something I think suits me over a Top Ten school simply because it's a top school, but not even the top program of my subfield? 

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Whoa, OK, I don't think anyone was saying you should apply directly to a top ten program, especially if your undergrad is less than prestigious. You wrote asking about the professor's advice about eventually trading up to a top program. Having been in this field for a few years now, I happen to think it's sound advice. If you've decided you're against it, I'm not sure why you asked. No reason to be defensive. 

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m-ttl,

 

The professor has given you the right advice - for Masters you don't have to worry about going to a top-tier school.

 

Just apply to the schools that are good fit with your intended research, give funding at Masters level and have a curatorial track.

 

For PhD you can move to as high-ranked a school as you can manage.

 

Again, ranking is not so competitive for a curatorial job. But if at some point you would want to change to a Univ-level teaching job, then the ranking will be important- but you don't have to worry about it at Masters level.

 

If you feel you'll be happy with a curatorial track then just go to a school that's a good fit, gives funding and has the research concentrations that you are interested in. Of course, there may be more than one such schools and in that case you can go to the best-ranked one that accepts you.

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  • 1 month later...

m-ttl,

 

I went to a state school for undergrad and now I'm at the IFA doing an MA in Asian art history. I also got accepted to Penn - so you shouldn't assume that the name of your undergraduate degree is automatically going to get you rejected from more prestigious programs. I personally feel that with a BA from a state school, I wanted to have a better name from my MA program to balance it out a bit for my future pursuits (which may end with an MA, or may continue onto a PhD, I'm not sure yet). It is, however, obviously pointless to attend a school where no one on the faculty is teaching what you are planning to focus on. 

 

My undergraduate path was basically a result of my financial situation - but there are others like me at the IFA who took a leap of faith with loans for two years (in the end it's sort of like a car payment but way more important and valuable…isn't it?). There's nothing better to invest in than your education. And I think in your case, maybe getting an MA at a school with a bit of a name would be good step towards then going for a PhD at a top 20 school. The thing about the top 20 schools is that they do provide a lot of opportunity for you during and after your program, which a smaller institution with fewer museum connections might not be able to offer. Just a thought! 

 

Also - did you look at SOAS? Quite affordable and it's an extremely prestigious program in the field of Asian studies and Asian art, though it doesn't show up on the top lists because it is so specialized. 

Edited by Soycap
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