Aug 14, 2018  
Rensselaer Catalog 2016-2017 
Rensselaer Catalog 2016-2017 [Archived Catalog]

Electronic Arts M.F.A.

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The M.F.A. program is designed for students pursuing artistic and academic careers emphasizing electronic media. Admission is highly competitive, and applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree and display a high level of ability in any artistic medium. The primary consideration in the selection process is the quality of an applicant’s creative work, and evidence of a commitment to development as an artist.

The M.F.A. degree requires 60 credit hours of coursework at Rensselaer, including up to 9 credit hours of master’s thesis. Completion of the degree generally takes two years. Independent creative work done under a faculty mentor’s supervision is encouraged. The degree emphasizes developing creative skills in digital video, computer music, imaging, animation, interactive media, performance, and installation art. The student’s work at Rensselaer culminates in a required thesis project, submission of written thesis document, and a thesis defense. The thesis project is a major artistic effort and may include a full-length performance, installation, or exhibition.

All students are expected to develop competency in using various media and in the theoretical and critical issues relevant to their fields of interest. Since the program is geared towards preparing students to participate actively in the art and music communities, practical aspects of production and presentation of creative work are emphasized.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum
Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:

  • demonstrate core knowledge of new media theory with emphasis on 20th and 21st century authors, key artists, movements, works of contemporary music, visual art, and electronic media. 
  • relate historical and theoretical learning to personal artistic practice.
  • employ library resources and other research methods to investigate and analyze historical and theoretical trends, specific art works, and theories.
  • demonstrate capacity for written and oral expression through regular exercise in response papers, discussion, group work, oral presentations, peer critique, and formal research papers
  • demonstrate proficiency integrating technologies appropriate to a personal creative artistic practice.
  • conceptualize, research, plan, and implement the development of large-scale interdisciplinary creative projects.
  • create a professional artistic portfolio including writings, recordings, and documentation of performances and professional presentations.

Exams and Thesis

  • Two Qualifying Reviews: The first Qualifying Review will identify the technical and creative areas to be addressed in the second review. The Arts Department faculty must agree that the student’s work shows competency and artistic merit in interdisciplinary media in order for the student to progress toward his or her final thesis.
  • Completion of the Thesis Proposal and the Defense of the Proposal to the student’s Master’s committee.
  • The Master’s Thesis is composed of a public presentation of the thesis arts practice and the thesis text.
  • The Master’s Thesis Defense: The student must defend the thesis in a Defense conducted by the student’s thesis committee.


  • 60 credit hours beyond the Bachelor’s degree  (See footnote 1 below).
  • Courses must have suffix numbers 4000-6999, with the further limitation that no more than 15 credits of 4000-4990 courses are to be allowed.
  • Three history or theory courses at the 4000 (four credits) or 6000 (three credits) level, one of which must be Electronic Arts Overview (Arts 6110).
  • Demonstration of Competency in two Qualifying Reviews, judged by Arts Faculty during end of semester critiques.
  • Enrollment in two semesters of Graduate Student Critique (ARTS 6080) in the fall or spring semester as offered.
  • A minimum of 2 and a maximum of 9 credits of Masters Thesis (ARTS 6990) in the second year of residency, with a minimum of 1 thesis credit per semester.
  • Arts Graduate Student Critiques (Crits) and Exhibition/Performance.  Students are required to participate in Crits and the Arts Graduate Student Exhibition, held at the end of each semester, with the exception of the semester in which students present and defend their thesis. Attendance at Crits is required for all students in residence. (See footnote 2 below).


  1. Individual requirements can be waived, in exceptional circumstances, by the department without decreasing the total number of credits for the degree. No more than 6 credit hours of graduate work can be transferred from other programs toward the degree.
  2. Students in residence may be excused from attendance at Crits and Exhibition/Performance due to special circumstances by the Department Head.


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