MFA Application Overview

As you prepare your application to the Department of Media Study’s M.F.A. Program, you may want to know something about how we make decisions and what we look for in an applicant.

First, let us tell you how our admissions process operates. Our procedures are both rigorous and democratic. We make decisions about graduate admissions as a department. This means that every member of the department is involved in the final decision about each candidate. You are not accepted as a film student or a digital student but as an artist/maker with a compelling intellectual agenda. We do not have a quota for each media technology. (For example, you will not be required to work in film if your portfolio is in film.) The committee reads every application folder and views every work sample. Then we discuss them at long and contentious meetings. While we do look at your grades, we are not number driven and we trust our judgments. Furthermore, we do not place any particular emphasis on the schools you have attended. Intelligence and talent are everywhere.

Before you begin the application you should carefully consider the following:

The very elastic nature of our MFA curriculum:

If you have read the brief outline of the MFA requirements below, you will notice immediately that this is a very open program. We do not have a comprehensive exam that designates some body of knowledge or skills that everyone has to know or know how to do. With the exception of a critique course, we do not have required courses. We simply designate general areas — such as Media Production — where you have to take a certain number of courses. The specifics are your option.

Choice, however, can be the enemy of focus. There has to be a balance between the two if you are to have a successful career in graduate school. We supply the choices. You should supply the focus. This DOES NOT mean that you must have the prospectus for your thesis in your statement of purpose. Our M.F.A., however, works best for people who have a clear sense of where their interests lie. The objective of the statement of purpose is to demonstrate to the committee that you can define intellectual parameters of inquiry and articulate a field of work and study (though not necessarily a specific project).

The areas in which our faculty work:
You should spend some time looking at the appropriate faculty and graduate student sites. (Go to People and What We Do in the main menu.) Consider how your interests would intersect (not mimic) those of faculty with whom you will most likely work.

The resources available in our surrounding departments:
The Department of Media Study has particularly cooperative relationships with a number of other departments and programs at UB whose faculty and courses provide a valuable supplement to the department’s own offerings. Our MFA requires 13 hours of directed electives, a certain number of which must be taken outside the department. We suggest that you look particularly at the departments of Architecture, Art, English/Poetics, Comparative Literature, the Center for the Americas , Women’s Studies and Anthropology. You can find links to these departments’ websites at :

In many cases Media Study is developing joint degree programs with these areas. If you are considering – or would like to consider – combining an MFA with an advanced degree in another discipline this may be very possible. To discuss this further you should contact Josephine Anstey, Director of Graduate Studies, directly.

Once you have done all this, you should compose a statement of purpose which clearly explains your intellectual agenda — the questions you want to answer, the directions in which you want your work to develop — and why you believe that the resources of this department and this university will enable you to develop these interests. And you should select appropriate work samples.

Since the very nature of media challenges traditional assumptions for graduate fine arts education, this program is designed to accept students from diverse academic backgrounds. We welcome applicants with a Bachelor’s degree in any field. We realize that some of you might be interested in an MFA in Media Arts although your work to this point has been in other, purely discursive areas. [Students of Anthropology and American Studies, for example, might be led to documentary production; poets might want to move into digital poetics, etc.] In this case, you might not have something you consider an appropriate work sample.

If you are one of these applicants, we want you to realize the difficulties of entering an MFA program in Media Arts if you have little or no experience in Media Production. At the same time, we believe in the possibilities of reinvention – most of us have done this at least once – and we don’t want to discourage anyone. When in doubt, we want you to apply.

Finally, the Department of Media Study is committed to recruiting women and minorities into the field of Media Arts.

In addition to this advice, you should observe the specific instructions that follow this message. Please feel free to contact us if you’d like to discuss any concerns.

Sincerely yours,
Tom Feely, Chair

Application Process and Entry Requirements

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