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Thesis Procedures for MFA in Visual Arts

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(Effective Spring Term 2008)

MFA graduate students are expected to have a thesis show and written thesis paper in the fifth (and final) semester at CCNY. Below are the procedures for evaluating the thesis.

Thesis Committee

Beginning Fall Term 2008, graduate students will be evaluated by a Thesis Committee whose membership will vary from student-to-student. Prior to Fall 2008, the Art Department’s Graduate Committee plus thesis advisor will act as a de facto Thesis Committee for all graduate students.

The thesis committee should consist of at least four people, one of whom is the thesis advisor. At least two members of the committee should be full time art faculty at City College. At least one member of the committee should be on the Art Department’s Graduate Committee. A single member of the committee can fulfill several of the criteria (i.e., be the thesis advisor, full time faculty member, and member of the Graduate Committee).

One member of the committee should be someone from outside of the City College Art Department (i.e., should not be a fulltime or adjunct faculty affiliated with the college). This outside member should have expertise in art (e.g., art historian, critic, curator, artist, professor) or have notable expertise in a field that the thesis addresses. It is preferred for this person to have a graduate degree. The person should be able to approach the work impartially (i.e., is not a personal friend or relation to the student). A faculty member from a City College department other than the Art department is acceptable.

MFA Thesis Procedures [continued +]

It is the graduate student’s responsibility to recruit the thesis committee members. The thesis advisor will help coordinate recruiting CCNY Art Department committee members, but locating the outside member is the sole responsibility of the student.

The student should present the thesis advisor with a list of committee members (all of whom should have accepted the responsibility) at least eight weeks before the thesis show opens. The list should include an attachment that summarizes the outside thesis committee member’s qualifications (e.g., bio and resume). After receiving approval from the thesis advisor, the student should present the committee member list to the Art Department Chair for approval at least seven weeks prior to the thesis show opening.

The thesis committee members should be familiar with the student’s work prior to the Thesis defense. It is suggested that the committee members should have 2-3 studio visits with the student during the course of the thesis show’s development. 
It is the student’s responsibility to arrange for these meetings.

In the case of emergency, members of the Graduate Committee and/or full-time faculty can substitute for Thesis Committee members who are unable to attend the thesis defense.

Thesis Paper

A proposed final draft of the Thesis Paper should be circulated to the Thesis Committee at least seven days before the thesis show opens.

Archiving the Thesis

The student is responsible for submitting an archive of the thesis show and paper to the Art Department. The archive should be in the form of:

  • The thesis paper printed on archival paper and be perfect bound as a book. Attention should be paid to the presentation of the book and its materials.
  • A CD-ROM (label with student’s name and the graduation term and year) that contains:
    • Approximately 20 images from the show. These images should document each individual work as well as images giving a view of the show’s layout. The images should be in .tiff format and at be at least 1024x1024 pixels in size (larger is acceptable).
    • An Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) version of the written thesis.
  • Optionally (and in addition to the CD-ROM), a DVD containing video documentation of the thesis show.
  • There should be no loose materials and all items (including the CD-ROM documentation) should be affixed to or incorporated in the bound book.

Thesis Defense

It is the responsibility of the graduate student to schedule a Thesis Defense to take place. Except in unusual circumstances, this Thesis Defense will take place during and at the thesis show. It should be planned for the defense to take approximately one hour. The Department Chair has the right to join the Thesis Defense proceedings and take part in it as a peer to the thesis committee members.

The Defense has these stages:
  • Short presentation of the show by the MFA candidate.
  • Questions from the thesis committee & answers by the MFA candidate.
  • Comments from the thesis committee regarding.
  • Optional response from the MFA candidate.

Upon the completion of the above stages, the candidate will be asked to leave the room and the thesis committee will determine the acceptability of the thesis show & paper.

It is expected that the committee will determine the outcome through consensus. If a consensus cannot be achieved, then the determination will be put to a vote. In case of a tie, the decision will be made in the candidate’s favor.

The possible outcomes for the show are:
  • The show is accepted as fulfilling the requirements for the MFA thesis show.
  • The show is not accepted as fulfilling the requirements for the MFA thesis show.
The possible outcomes for the paper are:
  • The paper is accepted as fulfilling the requirements for the MFA thesis paper.
  • The paper is accepted as fulfilling the requirements for the MFA thesis paper pending minor edits.
  • The paper is not accepted as fulfilling the requirements for the MFA thesis paper.

Procedure for Unacceptable Thesis Paper

If the thesis paper is unacceptable, the MFA student is expected to rewrite it and submit it to the Thesis Advisor and Art Department Graduate Committee during the first week of the next term. The Graduate Committee and Thesis Advisor will determine whether the new paper is acceptable using the consensus/voting procedures outlined above.

If the paper is still not acceptable, it will determine (in consultation with the Department Chair) how to proceed. A possible outcome is for the Committee and Department Chair to determine that the candidate does not and will not qualify to receive a MFA degree from City College.

Procedure for Unacceptable Thesis Show

If the thesis show is unacceptable, the MFA student will be required to mount a new thesis show in the next term. The Art Department will strive to provide a venue for the candidate’s new Thesis Show. However, in the event that a location cannot be provided, it is the candidate’s responsibility to find a venue that is deemed acceptable by the Thesis Advisor and Art Department Graduate Committee.

It is expected that the same Thesis Committee will reconvene for a second Thesis Defense. In the case that Committee members are unable to attend (or choose not to), members of the Art Department Graduate Committee will substitute. It is the candidate’s responsibility to determine whether substitute Thesis Committee members are required. The new Thesis Committee must be approved by the Department Chair at least four weeks prior to the show’s opening.

The Thesis Defense will proceed as per above. If the Thesis Show is still not acceptable, the Thesis Advisor should prepare a report detailing the reasons. This report should be circulated among the Thesis Committee members. Committee members have the right to append comments to the report.

The report and comments will be sent to the candidate, the Art Department Graduate Committee, and the Art Department Chair. The Graduate Committee will determine (in consultation with the Department Chair) how to proceed. A possible outcome is for the Committee and Department Chair to determine that the candidate does not and will not qualify to receive a MFA degree from City College.

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