Taking the MFA to the Next Level

A young, female college student painting in a studio.

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Art school isn’t just about traditional visual art anymore. Increasingly, MFA programs and the resulting art pieces include multidisciplinary fields of study, whether it’s combining different artistic mediums into one piece or taking student design out into the community to make a difference.

Several prime examples come from the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), whose students recently exhibited their work on a three-part show divided into visual studies, print media, and collaborative design. In fact, most of the pieces featured mixed media. Angélica Maria Millán Lazon’s Engendradxs is made up of portraits of the artist’s aunt and grandmother, as well as smartphones mounted on the wall playing videos. Meanwhile, Aruni Dharmakirthi’s Fissures of the In-Between features triptychs, textiles, and movement through the physical space of the exhibit.

On the other side of the country, the School of Visual Arts in New York is ground zero for innovative productions like Aya Rodriguez-Izumi’s 121212. The piece uses video, performance, and installation to tell the story of a day in the life of Lynnese Page, focusing on her daily rituals.

But it’s not just a matter of mixed media. MFA programs themselves are expanding to include the broader study of how art impacts the community around it. PNCA’s MFA in Collaborative Design focuses on getting students out into the world to collaborate with businesses, government, and nonprofit organizations looking for design solutions.

Back at SVA, students can choose from both a traditional MFA in Fine Arts and an MFA in Art Practice, which its chairman, David Ross, describes as being for “artists working in more hybrid areas, incorporating a number of different media or selecting the particular medium based on what they are trying to accomplish at a given time.”

Even MIT, traditionally known more for tech than for art, is jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to this kind of innovation. Its Master of Science in Visual Studies program focuses on “the development of artistic practices that challenge traditional genres as well as the limits of the gallery/museum context.”

Other schools with offerings focusing on art and design in the community include the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University, the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, and the Carnegie Mellon University School of Art.

While studio art will always have its place, MFA programs are increasingly going beyond tradition to offer programs that contextualize art within the communities that need it. From mixed media productions to programs focusing on community engagement, it’s a brave new world when it comes to arts education.


University Entrepreneurship Competition Roundup

Hands holding up a white sign with red letters saying "How do I start?"

These university entrepreneurship competitions give students a chance to delve into their business ideas.
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The leap from student to full-fledged entrepreneur can be difficult, but increasingly there are opportunities designed to help students make the transition. Many universities offer entrepreneurship competitions that can not only provide participants with funds, but also get them used to pitching their ideas and coming up with prototypes. Here’s a rundown of a few of these contests:

Henry R. Kravis Concept Plan Competition 

Henry R. Kravis, a founding member of the Claremont McKenna College’s Board of Visitors, established a $175,000 endowment fund to help students take their entrepreneurial dreams from idea to full-fledged creation. Six teams of students and alumni compete to see if they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The finalists present their business plans to a panel of judges for a chance to win $8,000 prize money.

MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition

A collection of three independent contests that run from September to May, the MIT $100K encourages students and researchers in the MIT community to coordinate in putting together business plans that can win over $350k in cash and prizes. The competition walks participants through ideation to creation and gives them access to a network of resources, including top venture capitalists, media outlets, and mentors.

LAUNCH: The UC Berkeley Startup Competition

LAUNCH guides participants through training, networking, and mentorship to bring their business ideas to fruition. The four-month program helps students create a scalable business model with the added bonus of becoming eligible for more than $25,000 in prizes. Since 1999, the program has awarded nearly $1,000,000 in prizes to startups in areas including biotech, clean tech, web, IT, consumer goods, and financial services.

New Venture Championship

This annual contest is held by the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business. Graduate students from around the world are given the opportunity to share their business ideas and win over $60,000 in prizes. Everyone who participates receives cash awards and advice from area entrepreneurs and executives to help grow their fledgling businesses. NVC’s mission is to help entrepreneurs develop communication skills and adaptability in business environments.