Interview with Ms. Nadine Bourgeois, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management

Interview with Ms. Nadine Bourgeois, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management

at Parsons School of Design

What are the top three reasons that students choose to pursue a graduate degree in the visual arts?

Students applying to Parsons join our programs for the following reasons primarily:

  1. To pursue more focused, advance study in a particular area of interest.
  2. For the opportunity to study in New York City with leading art and design professionals.
  3. To have access to the resources afforded study in a global design community.

Professionally speaking, why should students pursue graduate programs in art? What advantages can they attain from it? When is the best time to pursue one?

The most successful students in our graduate programs enroll after taking a break in their educatoin. We find that students who have some had work experience (in virtually any area) are better adapted to the graduate study experience. For some students, professional credentials (such as a Masters of Architecture degree) are the primary reason for returning to school. While for others, the opportunity to engage in a more narrowly defined area of study - such as Lighting Design - is a huge advantage for someone with a background in either Interior Design or Architecture. Students pursuing their own work find the luxury of time to focus on their body of work a tremendous opportunity.

What are the three most important factors that prospective students should consider when evaluating and choosing a graduate program in the visual arts?

  1. Faculty
  2. Location
  3. Facilities

How is your graduate art program different than those at other schools? How is technology integrated into your programs?

Many of our graduate programs take direct advantage of our location in New York City as a primary resource in the program of study. In our Design & Technology program, the curriculum allows students to engage in both design problem solving coupled with hard-core coding work. Some of our programs are extremely small (by design) and entry is extremely competitive. Virtually all of our graduate programs integrate technology in different and dynamic ways whether in the creation of virtual environments in Architecture to complete immersion in the digital landscape in Design & Technology.

How selective are graduate schools for the visual arts, and what are some hot tips for getting accepted?

Our program is highly selective. Students should investigate carefully the size of the program they hope to enter and what percentage of students are accepted. One of the single most useful tips about applying to graduate schools is FOLLOW THE APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS - especially when it comes to specific requirements about the type and forms of work accepted for consideration. That, and doing a little homework up front to be sure that you are really selecting a program that meets your needs and interests are essential. Many schools require a statement of intent - and countless students assume this is not a critical part of the process compared to their portfolio. This is a grave error. Students can use the statement as a way of clearly defining specifically why the program they are applying for is a good fit for their educational and artistic goals.

How do most students fund their graduate education? How available are scholarships and other forms of financial assistance at your school?

Most students use a combination of scholarships and loans to finance their education. Parsons offers generous scholarships to meritorious candidates.

Can an MFA include a focus on just about any visual art discipline? What's the difference between an MFA with a specialization and an MA in any given specialty?

Currently we offer MFA degrees in three separate disciplines - Painting, Sculpture, and Design & Technology. The faculty, curriculum and students are all distinctive in these programs. Our MFA programs are two year degrees - our MA in Lighting is a one year degree (with less credit requirements).

How does your school help its students to find jobs in the visual arts?

There are three primary ways that students locate jobs:

  1. Career Services Office - which has an on-line resource to match students up with potential employers.
  2. Faculty & Department - often connect students to internships and later jobs upon graduation. Potential employers contact our departments for referrals.
  3. Self Selecting - many students identify a place they are interested in and begin while students to develop a relationship with the organization (sometimes as an intern, freelance assistant, or the like).

Tell us about some of your noteworthy faculty. has tons of interesting bios within each department.

Please write and answer three other questions you think of that would benefit prospective students.

  1. I have no portfolio but am interested in studying art in graduate school, what should I do?

    Although Parsons only offers programs with portfolio requirements, there are some schools - particularly large state universities - which offer fine arts programs not requiring prior studio study or a portfolio.

  2. Should I just write a biographic statement for my statement of intent?

    Avoid falling into, "I have been painting/drawing since I was three" essays. Schools can gain biographic information from your resume. Use the statement of make a case for why you and the school are an excellent fit - talk about specific faculty, courses, and more importantly work you hope to produce in the program - and why the program might be a good match for those goals.

  3. What are the advantages/disadvantages of selecting a small private school of art and design compared to a large public university?

    As a graduate, finding the best environment for you to achieve your academic/artistic goals is your most important decision. Think careful about your needs - what kind of resources, facilities, faculty, flexibility do you need to reach your goals. There are major tradeoffs between the two types of institutions. Private schools of art and design offer small classes, very focused areas of study, and often faculty which are practicing professional. The entire environment is about art and design. Sometimes facilities and cost are issues at such schools. At a large institution you often have the luxury of size and space - with a much more reasonable price tag (at least at a public institution). The trade-offs can often be larger classes, tenured faculty (who are not practicing professionals), and less attention to the individual student.

Graduate Program Profile: Parsons School of Design

Enrollment: 2,600

School Tuition (in-state/out-of-state): $22,630

Student/Faculty Ratio: 15/1 (even better in some of the graduate programs)

Graduate degrees and programs offered in visual arts: Architecture (MRCH), Lighting (MA), Painting (MFA), Design & Technology (MFA), Sculpture (MFA)

The mission of your graduate art school: To educate the next generation of designers and educators in the visual arts.

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