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Art: MFA


The master of fine arts, the preferred degree, is a three-year, 60-credit terminal degree in the visual arts field, the equivalent of PhD programs in other fields. The program is selective and highly competitive, with only a small number of openings each year. Prospective students must exhibit both academic excellence and a well-developed personal artistic vision. Because the program is so selective, students pursuing the MFA have individual attention from professors and are able to customize their studies to fit their artistic goals. The MFA program is designed to allow students to mature to a level of professional competence in the making of art. Students are also encouraged to exhibit their work. There are several venues on campus for this purpose, but students are also commonly invited to exhibit in national and international shows.

Students choose an area of specialization, where they have unique opportunities to develop artistic growth through rigorous studio practice. In photography, students benefit from a strong tradition of wet darkroom processes and 19th century photo processes, and also a full range of digital photo equipment and techniques. Students studying ceramics work with a variety of kilns and equipment, including the Train Kiln, which was developed at USU and is used all over the world. The graphic design program has strengths in human/computer interface design and also a partnership with the Huntsman School of Business called Design Thinking. In drawing and painting, students develop strong visual skills and understanding of the historical context of painting. All students have generous studio space and time to focus on their work.

The Art Department has more study abroad programs than any other department on campus, and graduate students are able to study each year in places across the world, including Switzerland, Korea, Scotland, and Germany. The program also has a longstanding tradition of hosting visiting artists from across the country and the world.


  • Ceramics: In this emphasis, students are acquainted with the technology of ceramic materials and the firing processes to aid them in developing sound craftsmanship. Additionally, students receive inspiration and instruction from the ceramics collection of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum on campus, numerous ceramics exhibitions, and visiting guest artists.
  • Drawing and Painting: This emphasis includes the two-dimensional study of form and space, as well as the exploration of drawing and painting media, graphic elements, and visual dynamics.
  • Graphic Design: Students in graphic design complete a variety of courses that involve working with symbols, trademarks, typography, layout, and all formats of print and publication design. Illustration, digital imaging, motion graphics, animation, and interactive media are also part of the graphic design curriculum.
  • Photography: Within the photography program, students learn needed aesthetic and technical skills. Students have ample studio time to practice wet darkroom processes. They can also gain experience with a full range of digital equipment and techniques.
  • Printmaking: Printmaking covers the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just a photographic reproduction of the painting. It can be done by etching, woodcut, silk screen, lino cut, etc.
  • Sculpture: Students in the sculpture emphasis investigate specific problems involving technical, aesthetic, and conceptual considerations of sculptures. Students will also develop their own direction based on their experience with form, materials, and techniques, and their understanding of traditional concerns and contemporary issues.
  • Interior Design: The interior design program gives students a knowledge base of traditional aesthetics and historical precedent emphasizing a strong foundation based on the study of art and design.

Students graduating with an MFA generally go on to work as studio artists in their respective fields. Students may also pursue careers as teachers in higher education, a field in which graduates of the program have historically high placement.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have earned a BFA degree in the visual arts, or the equivalent (i.e. the same amount of studio and art history credits that USU requires for a BFA).

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation
  • A portfolio of recent work (20 digital images saved on a single PDF file)

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admission Deadlines

The department has the following deadline:

  • Fall semester – February 1

Master's Degree Plan Option(s)

Students receiving the MFA must complete the following plan option:

  • The Plan B option, which requires the production of a creative work of art, and is expected to reflect equivalent scholarship standards as a thesis. For MFA students, this work of art is a visual thesis presentation.

Financial Assistance

The department funds various scholarships and teaching assistantships, and traditionally almost all students seeking assistance receive some kind of support.

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

Carolyn Cardenas, MFA, Drake University
Area: Painting and drawing
Office: UR 116
Phone: (435) 797-3460

Jane Catlin, MFA, Rhode Island School of Design
Associate Professor
Area: Art education, painting
Office: FAV 114
Phone: (435) 797-3469

Christopher Gauthier, MFA, University of Ohio
Assistant Professor
Area: Photography
Office: FAV 220
Phone: (435) 797-8404

Alan Hashimoto, MFA, University of Oregon
Associate Professor
Area: Graphic design
Office: FAV 116
Phone: (435) 797-2132

Daniel Murphy, MFA, University of Iowa
Assistant Professor
Area: Ceramics
Office: UR 112
Phone: (435) 797-3460

John Neely, MFA, Ohio University
Professor, Graduate Program Coordinator
Area: Ceramics
Office: FAV 218
Phone: (435) 797-3460

Kathy Puzey, MFA, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Assistant Professor
Area: Printmaking
Office: FAV 106 B
Phone: (435) 797-3849

Alexa Sand, PhD, University of California – Berkeley
Assistant Professor
Area: Art history
Office: FAV 144
Phone: (435) 797-8549

Stephen “Woody” Shepherd, MFA, Yale University
Assistant Professor
Area: Painting and drawing
Office: FAV 134
Phone: (435) 797-9987

David Smellie, MFA, Utah State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Graphic design
Office: FAV 132
Phone: (435) 797-3420

Ryoichi Suzuki, MFA, Utah State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Sculpture
Office: FAV 140
Phone: (435) 797-3662

Christopher Terry, MFA, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Area: Painting
Office: FAV 201 B
Phone: (435) 797-3409

David Wall, PhD, Bowling Green State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Visual and media studies
Office: FAV 128
Phone: (435) 797-3524

Robert Winward, MFA, Kent State University
Assistant Professor
Area: Graphic design
Office: FAV 110
Phone: (435) 797-1394

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts: NCECA promotes and improves the ceramic arts through education, community-building, research, and creative inspiration. NCECA offers programs, events, and publications to support its membership of artists, educators, students, individual and corporate art patrons, gallery owners, museum curators, and providers of ceramic arts-related products and services.

Southern Graphics Council: The SGCI is the largest print organization in North America. Its annual conference is the biggest annual gathering focused on the field of printmaking.

Labs, Centers, Research

Institute for Interactive Design for Instructional Applications and Simulations: The IDIAS Institute builds on USU strengths in instructional design, interactive simulations, and interface design to inform technology research and develop commercially viable and innovative products. A top goal of this team is to develop products to train security, firefighting, medical, and other emergency response teams through the design of a comprehensive group of simulations.

Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art: This museum collects, maintains, preserves, and regularly exhibits art in diverse media created primarily in the American West with an emphasis on modern and contemporary movements. Through exhibitions and education programs, the museum provides the campus and community with opportunities for growth, discovery, and scholarly research.

Tippetts Exhibit Hall: A 4,500-square-foot open space with movable display walls, the Tippetts Exhibit Hall supports art exhibits of all types and styles and serves as one of the main display venues for the Art Department and Interior Design program.



Academic Advising

Janet Hancock
Graduate Program Coordinator
Office: FAV 122
Phone: (435) 797-3421

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