July 17, 2019 | 78° F

Mason Gross expands design program with masters degree

Photo by Rutgers.edu |

Many of the services of the Master of Fine Arts program are offered in the Civic Square Building in downtown New Brunswick, such as computer labs, printmaking facilities, a wood shop and project rooms for works that are in progress.

Mason Gross School of the Arts has begun a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program, which will allow graduate students to research topics and content for projects in a deeper way, said Jacqueline Thaw, an associate professor in Design at Mason Gross. 

“The MFA in Design prepares students to initiate and develop research-driven design projects,” she said. “The program’s purpose is to gain skills and experience in self-initiated, rather than client-focused, design.”

It is a studio program where students are deeply involved in hands-on production alongside studies in design history and theory. It is also an opportunity to collaborate with experts in their areas of interest throughout the University. 

The program directors are trying to understand applicants’ skills, interests and concerns, Thaw said. Typically, applicants will have an undergraduate degree in the visual arts, but students with an informal background from professional experience apply as well. 

“We are looking to see the applicant’s research interest in their written statement. What issues and questions do they want to explore, and critically unpack, using the tools and methods of design? Applicants must also submit a visual portfolio,” Thaw said. 

Each faculty member has a different area of scholarship and practice. Thaw operates as a graphic designer at large, collaborating with social service and cultural organizations on their public messaging. 

Gerry Beegan, chair of the Arts & Design program and associate professor in Design, is a writer, curator and designer who explores the relationships between art, design, media and audience. According to his biography on Mason Gross’ website, his writings on the history and theory of reproduction have been published internationally. 

Atif Akin, an associate professor in Design at Mason Gross, “is an artist and designer whose work examines science, nature, mobility and politics, often using data, photography and a wide range of media associated with design,” Thaw said. 

Overall, the program’s faculty is made up of adjunct professors who are mostly design practitioners in New York City, she said. 

Through the Department of Art & Design, the program has access to several computer labs, extensive printmaking facilities, a wood shop and project rooms for works in progress. 

“There is also a dedicated sculpture building,” Thaw said, “with the University’s makerspace across the street. Perhaps our most valued and beloved facility is our 4,000-square-foot, multi-room gallery, where students have an opportunity to put on their exhibitions.”

All design students create websites, mobile application concepts, wearables, installations and print and digital publications. 

“MFA students will embrace these formats and go beyond, in pursuit of their research interests,” Thaw said. 

Brendan Brightman

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