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Imaging Arts MFA

Course Description

The MFA program in imaging arts emphasizes a broad interpretation of photography as a conceptual art form, with the intention of inspiring and nurturing the individuality of each student as a creative, productive artist. The program encourages graduate study in photography and related media as a means to personal, aesthetic, intellectual, and career development.

The curriculum provides a flexible focus of study that is continually sensitive to the needs of each student, building upon the strengths each individual brings to the program. Successful completion of the program enables students to seek careers in many fields including education, museum or gallery work, or as self-employed visual artists.

Program goals

The program provides students with the opportunity to use the still and moving image as a means to:

- pursue a professional career and earn a livelihood,
- enrich their personal lives and society as a whole, and
- create a community of creativity, scholarship, and purpose.

Plan of study

Distribution of work within these guidelines is subject to modification based upon the candidate’s background, abilities, and interests. An individualized course of study is prepared with the advice of the graduate faculty and made a matter of record. Modifications in this prescribed program thereafter must be approved and recorded.


Elective courses are available throughout the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences in areas such as but not limited to: video, printmaking, painting, sculpture, communication design, crafts, bookmaking, graphic design, new media, computer graphics, art history, and archival preservation and conservation. A complete list of graduate electives offered in the college is available through the student's adviser. There are also graduate electives offered throughout the university. Students also have opportunities to enhance their studies through independent studies and internships.


Matriculation from the MFA program is obtained when the student has completed and mounted their graduate thesis exhibition, successfully passed their thesis defense, and completed and submitted their thesis publication. The thesis must be an original body of work appropriate to the major commitment of the degree. The thesis publication is a professional, published presentation of the thesis project, which must be submitted, in both print and digital form. It must contain an extended artist statement and a presentation of the majority of thesis artwork. It is prepared for inclusion in the Wallace Library, the School's Archive, and the Graduate Annex Space. The verbal defense requires a public address by the student, discussion of the thesis project, and exhibition in a digital presentation format.


The MFA program in imaging arts and the BFA program in photographic and imaging arts are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Admission requirements

To be considered for admission to the MFA program in imaging arts, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

- Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited college or university,

- Submit a portfolio containing a focused body of artwork that demonstrates visual sophistication, aesthetic awareness, skill, and craft, as well as a commitment to a purpose and idea.

- Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.

- Submit three letters of recommendation.

- Submit a Letter of Intent, which should include a candidate's interest in obtaing an MFA, the selection of RIT for the MFA degree, and professional goals to be achieved.

- Submit an Artist Statement explaining the intention behind the portfolio submitted.

- Complete a graduate application through the Graduate Admission Website.

- Participate in an interview (optional).

Applicants who are capable of graduate level academic work, as well as artistic visual expression, and who demonstrate an interest in the exploration of new artistic ideas and experiences will be recommended.

- Portfolio

The portfolio, along with written records of achievements and recommendations, serves to inform the faculty of the applicant’s readiness for advanced graduate study. It provides understanding into the applicant’s performance to date, ability to create advanced, self-directed work and his/her aesthetic development and maturity.

Applicants should submit a portfolio of 20 images representing a cohesive body or bodies of recent work. Images must be uploaded to rit.slideroom.com, the college's portfolio website, or via a personal website. Through Slideroom, applicants will submit their Letter of Intent and an Artist’s Statement.

The application deadline is Jan 15. Admission selection for the fall semester is made in the spring from among all portfolios and completed applications received. Acceptance occurs only once a year for a fall admission.

Portfolio instructions to SlideRoom:

- Submit a portfolio of no more than 20 images to the college's portfolio website: rit.slideroom.com. (Size restrictions can be found through SlideRoom.) SlideRoom supplies space for titling and additional information about each image, such as: title of the work, date, size, and medium.
- Number images 1 to 20 in the order the applicant wishes them to be viewed.
- Include a numbered page detailing portfolio image information.
- Include a one-page Artist's Statement discussing submitted work and applicant’s creative process.
- Include a one-page Letter of Intert explaining why the applicant is interested in obtaining an MFA and specifically why RIT would be a successful fit for pursuit of a professional study degree.

Additional information

- Faculty

Thirteen full-time faculty members, all critically regarded for their artistic work in exhibition and publication, contribute to the MFA program. The faculty brings individual expertise and dedication to their work with graduate students, encouraging intellectual inquiry of contemporary art-making practices and aesthetics. The MFA program is supported by a staff of 30 full-time faculty members from the schools of Art and Photographic Arts and Sciences, faculty from the art history department, adjunct faculty members from George Eastman Museum, as well as noted regional, national, and international practitioners, critics, and historians. To learn about the MFA faculty, facilities, equipment cage, MFA events and curriculum, please visit the school's website at https://photography.rit.edu.

- Scholarships and graduate assistantships

All accepted applicants are awarded a university scholarship. Level of scholarship support is based on merit of application materials. Concurrently, the MFA program faculty grants graduate assistantships to all accepted applicants. Assistantships include a variety of positions, including team teaching, faculty assistant in the classroom and with research projects, gallery management, and working in an archive among opportunities. Upon acceptance into the MFA program, applicants are notified by the MFA director as to level of support for both the university scholarship and the graduate assistantship. Both scholarship and assistantship are renewable in the second year of graduate study.

- Transfer credit

Graduate-level course work completed prior to admission should be submitted for approval upon entrance into the program. Up to 8 semester hours of graduate work with a minimum grade of a B (3.0) or higher is transferable toward the degree, with the approval of the Graduate Director.

- Grades and maximum time limit

The average of all grades for graduate credit taken at the university must be at least a B (3.0) to qualify for the degree. University policy requires that graduate programs be completed within seven years of the student's initial registration for courses in the program.

- Policy regarding student work

The School of Photographic Arts and Sciences reserves the right to retain at least one original piece of work from a student’s MFA thesis show for inclusion in the MFA Collection, to be used for educational, promotional, and exhibition purposes. Graduates must also submit a copy of the thesis publication to the School's MFA archive.

- William Harris Gallery

William Harris Gallery (http://cias.rit.edu/spas-gallery/) supports the exhibition of graduate thesis work, student work, and the works of contemporary image-makers. It maintains a calendar of exhibitions, public lectures, and receptions. Importantly, it also provides real world experience for interested graduate students, where they learn firsthand about gallery operations, installation, and communications as a gallery manager or staff member.

Visit the Imaging Arts MFA page on the Rochester Institute of Technology USA website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited college or university. See the course description for more details.

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Recipient: Rochester Institute of Technology USA
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