Program accreditation
National Association of Schools of Art and Design

Mission statement

The M.F.A. in Design program is interdisciplinary because designers face complex problems that defy easy categorization. Students are trained to understand audiences, collaborators and clients in original and authentic ways, combining aspects of fine art studio practice, graphics, digital craft, architecture, fashion and product design to form a hybridized education. Designers, increasingly, need to navigate between and blend disciplines, maximizing resources and working adaptively to create new environments, visuals, messaging and products. The program’s strength lies in its ability to support each student’s unique interests, providing a custom education, tailored to each individual.

The program sets high expectations, requiring a high degree of discipline and rigor in pursuit of nuanced, meaningful work. Students are inquisitive and open-minded, eager to explore and experiment. In the program, they develop acuity with a variety of tools, materials and processes, combined with a grounding in theory and research. By these means, each student is empowered to develop a unique research focus and body of work.

Program goals

  1. Creative production: Students will produce authentic and innovative work, which is personally motivated but broadly accessible, leveraging each individual’s unique voice.
  2. Integrated research: Students will integrate practice and theory, producing rigorous research writing alongside systematically developed tangible outcomes. The program provides multiple opportunities for both individual and collaborative research activities with an applied focus.
  3. Critical perspective: Students will seek nuanced solutions via patient, thoughtful progress, developing habits of iterative development. Students will practice vigorous, cross-disciplinary exchange, honing their ability to communicate effectively and persuasively.
  4. Cultural impact: Students will engage and raise social awareness. Students will practice depth of understanding as a pathway to meaningful innovation.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate in speech about their research and studio activities.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate in writing about their research and studio activities.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to practice lifelong learning by dealing with new forms of design practice and other changes in the discipline.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to integrate ideas from historical, social and cultural movements; from policies and theories; and from the dynamics of historical, social and cultural change.
  5. Students will demonstrate the ability to apply appropriate technologies to projects in their field.
  6. Students will demonstrate the ability to synthesize knowledge from different disciplines to solve design problems.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

The student handbook is available online.