This research study critically examined personal and professional issues related to visual arts MFA graduate students and myself as we participated in a course entitled, "Issues of Relevance and Character in the Fine Arts." The course explored a graduate student's developing sense of self and its impact on the different roles he or she often embodies while pursuing an MFA (individual, student, artist, teacher, and future professional). Employing an educational participatory action research methodology, I was also a participant in the study and documented the oral, written, and visual data that emerged from the participants' interactions. This paper briefly reviews studies conducted on graduate student development, students in MFA programs, and the historical development of the MFA degree. Findings indicated the following: First, strong convictions seemed to be intrinsic to the participants' pursuit of their MFA degrees, and each participant expressed interest in teaching in higher education. Second, participating in the course seemed to offer a receptive platform to convey the voices of the "characters" the participants embodied as MFA students. Their personal and professional development was influenced by the complex relationships they shared with others in their MFA programs. A third theme addressed the impact of my participation within the study. With an established background in art making and teaching within Art and Visual Culture Education, the findings suggest that I was able to empathize with the three other participants on several fronts. The implications of this research study suggest the need for more action research studies of MFA graduate students.
MFA degree, MFA students, MFA programs, sense of self, personal and professional development, transformative learning, participatory action research
Copyright © 2014 Barbara J. Bergstrom
Bergstrom, Barbara J. "Earning the MFA: Investigations of Curricula and Pedagogies as a Means of Developing Graduate Studio Art Students' Sense of Self." Marilyn Zurmuehlin Working Papers in Art Education 2014 (2014): art.2.