Program Structure and Degree Criteria

MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program Structure and Degree Criteria

MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program Structure and Degree Criteria

The low-residency MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program is a five-semester, 60-credit terminal degree program designed to facilitate students in articulating an original vision, refining expressive skills, and experimenting in new directions.

You will attend 8 day residencies at the beginning of each semester. During this time, in collaboration with faculty, you will craft study plans which guide your individually designed learning goals and activities. One-on-one work with faculty takes place over the course of 15 week semesters.

To earn the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts degree, you must successfully fulfill the program’s Degree Requirements, which include:

  1. Fulfillment of the Degree Criteria supports your holistic, integrated development of expressive, aesthetic, and process skills; critical exploration and articulation of your practice within historical, theoretical, cultural and other relevant contexts; and strategies for ethical engagement with audience, communities, and the world.
  2. Residency Participation builds discourse and community, as you engage in workshops, presentations, and dialogue on contemporary issues in art-making with faculty, peers and guest artists.
  3. Practicum Project invites you to explore, through practical experience, the diversity of roles artists might play, and new possibilities for living and working in the world.
  4. Sharing Work at residency allows you to fully engage your community of peers in a teaching/learning moment, receive feedback and strengthen presentation skills.
  5. Culminating Degree Portfolio documents and synthesizes the essential character of your work, integrating practice, research and theory.
  6. Final Presentations contribute the research, new knowledge, and evolving practice you have constructed while in the program back to the community.

Request more information from an Admissions Counselor.

The Faculty

The MFAIA Program Faculty members work one-on-one with students as faculty advisors throughout the semester, as well as facilitating group studies, teaching workshops at residency, and acting as second readers to students’ final projects. Our faculty is comprised of national and international scholar practitioners with extensive experience supporting students taking charge of their learning. Faculty members’ work with students is focused, clear, and rigorous.

Learn more about our faculty.


Twice a year, at the start of each semester, students attend an intensive eight-day residency at the College’s Plainfield, Vermont campus, Goddard’s historic main campus, or the Port Townsend, Washington campus, a vibrant arts community on the Pacific Coast. Residencies are a rich time of exploration, connection, and planning.

During the application process, you choose one of the two residency site options for the duration of your studies. Each program site is home to a lively community of interdisciplinary artists and allows you to engage with a unique physical landscape in a retreat-like setting.

Goddard College programs operating in Washington State are authorized by the Washington Student Achievement Council. For more information, please refer to Accreditation and Approvals.

Low-Residency Model

At the start of the semester, students attend an intensive eight-day residency in Vermont or Washington, followed by 16 weeks of independent work and self-reflection in close collaboration with a faculty advisor. Goddard pioneered this format nearly a half century ago to meet the needs of adult students with professional, family, and other obligations seeking learning experiences grounded in the real-world.

Residencies are a time to explore, network, learn, witness, and share with peers, staff, and faculty. Students work with advisors and peers in close-knit advising groups to forge individualized study plans that describe their learning objectives for the semester.

Working closely with their faculty advisors, and supported by fellow learners, students identify areas of study, personal goals, relevant resources, and avenues to achieve these goals. Students also attend and are invited to help organize workshops, keynote addresses, celebrations and other events intended to stimulate, inspire, and challenge.

This low-residency model combines the breadth of a collaborative community with the focus of personalized learning, enhanced by insightful exchanges with a faculty advisor.

Degree Requirements

The MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts degree criteria are the goals toward which your individualized graduate studies are aimed. Throughout your course of study, you are expected to deeply engage with the criteria, working toward a full and sustained demonstration of them by graduation. 

Personal Practice
Students will articulate, discuss, and demonstrate a personal practice that includes evidence of sustained inquiry; a critical understanding of the traditions in or against which they are working; an embodied understanding of the techniques, strategies and languages that enable their practice; and the capacity to contribute to the advancement of their fields.

Engagement with Praxis/Integration of Theory in Action
Students will reflect an understanding of the nature of praxis, the ways that ideas can be enacted and embodied through action, as well as the means by which art practice is advanced through its relationship with theory.  There should be clear evidence of the integration of a personal theory of art into a student’s practice as well as an engagement with other theories of art.

Rigorous Exploration Within the Context of One’s Art Practice
The process of experimentation can deepen experience, expand knowledge and strengthen practice.  By documenting processes of active exploration, assessing outcomes in relationship to intentions, and applying new learning into subsequent experiments, students will demonstrate how they have actively investigated artistic, intellectual, cultural, social and/or political contexts, questions, forms, or media that inform and/or enable their work.

Ethical Engagement & Thoughtful Action
Contemporary art practitioners are engaged with the world in many ways, situating themselves in relationship to others through a range of modalities, aesthetics and situations.  Students will demonstrate their understanding of how contemporary art practices have grown beyond established sites of artistic discourse, presentation, and performance, and document how their own practice is reflectively and critically engaged with the world.

Understanding the Concept of Interdisciplinary Art
All students will be able to articulate an understanding of interdisciplinary art practice.  In documenting their personal practice, students will demonstrate a full understanding of the general disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts in which their work is located as well as an understanding of the political and institutional implications of disciplinary structures.

Practicum Project

As with all aspects of the MFAIA degree, the practicum project is individually designed, providing each student the opportunity to engage their unique set of knowledge, skills, vision and perspective with new individuals, communities, or collaborative initiatives. Inspired by a range of contemporary art practices — including, but not limited to, community-engaged work, environmental art, and new genre art — the practicum allows students to explore new and alternative vocational and avocational possibilities.   This individually crafted degree requirement is an opportunity for students to reflect, through practical hands-on experience, upon their role as artists within a community, to look deeply into that relationship in ways beyond traditional artist-audience models, and to explore what they are able to contribute to the larger world.

Sharing Your Work at Residency

Goddard students bring with them rich and varied backgrounds and experiences and are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise at residency. In the spirit of our dialogic learning process, students are required to share creative, research or other work directly related to their practice with the Goddard community at residency at least once after their G1 semester and prior to the graduating residency. This is an opportunity to fully engage the Goddard community in a teaching/learning moment, receive feedback, and strengthen presentation skills. We encourage the use of existing forums for sharing work or the invention of new methods for presenting creative work at residency.

The MFA-IA program acknowledges the diversity of forms in which students are engaged and thus supports the idea that it is important to cultivate a variety of presentation formats during each residency. Some students may feel ready to present work in their G2 semester while others may want to wait until later in their studies. Alternately some students may want to present work each residency while others may want to be an engaged audience member for much of their time in the program.

We believe that presenting work during a residency should be something students are excited to do and we hope that a broad range of opportunities will inspire involvement in a variety of ways. Residency presentations are not limited to showing only polished work. Rather, this is a chance for students to present elements of practice, as well as to seek advice and feedback from peers. Furthermore, student presentations are good occasions for the MFA-IA community to engage in discourse about the philosophy of art, social issues, and to build new knowledge together. Residencies are a special opportunity to build understanding across and between practices.

Several means exist for the presentation of work. Please look to the residency schedule for each semester’s specific opportunities. Some examples include:

  • Considered Space—An opportunity to be fully considered as a developing artist, in a reflexive space; an opportunity to show works in progress and invite feedback from peers.
  • Student-Lead Workshops—Scheduled workshops and presentations created by a student usually related to the residency theme.
  • Student Exhibitions—Group display, exhibition, installation, and performance of works in and around campus.

Additionally there are other possibilities for student-led initiatives. To ignite imagination, students may consider the following examples:

  • Peer Learning Communities – Interdisciplinary groups of eight to ten students meet for two hours over the course of three afternoons. Each student has a certain set amount of time to present work and receive feedback. Details related to presentation and feedback styles would be decided upon together by the group.
  • Panel Presentations – Interdisciplinary groups of three to five students consecutively present their work. For students looking to develop concise presentation skills this format may be ideal.
  • On-campus Installations and Performances – While installation and performance space may be limited during the winter residencies, Goddard’s two residency sites afford many opportunities for installing work and performing during the summer.

Culminating Degree Portfolio

The Culminating Degree Portfolio is a manifestation of the student’s praxis, demonstrating the personal integration of theory and action.  The portfolio presents and/or embodies, as well as reflects on theoretical understandings and artistic practices developed during graduate studies.

Final Presentations

Culminating students attend a three-day Commencement residency following their final semesters. It is at this residency that graduating students offer the required graduating student presentations, meet with their advisor, and participate in Commencement Ceremony.

In addition to the Culminating Degree Portfolio, all culminating MFA-IA students present work to the Goddard community at their final residency. These presentations may take whatever form the student finds best communicates the recent progress and current stage of his/her work. It is a forum in which to share what has been learned as it pertains to the student’s art practice. This can include reading from the portfolio, showing a selection of documented work, contextualizing and performing a piece, etc. The presentation is an exciting opportunity to share with peers, faculty, staff, friends and family the essence of the students new research and evolving creative practice, and in turn, to contribute something to the community.