MFA Program at UIC

Intense, Exhilarating, and Cross-disciplinary

UIC's MFA degree is an intense, exhilarating, and dynamic program. It is positioned within Chicago’s largest Research Public University and reflects the values of inclusion that public civic institutions are designed to offer. The curriculum is intended to provide a rich theoretical and conceptual background meant to deepen MFA candidates’ studio practice—and to help cultivate vital work within an interdisciplinary context that reflects the global art world. UIC’s School of Art & Art History’s commitment to interweaving artistic praxis with issues of social justice and civic engagement provides an additional framework for the making of art and its impact.  

Community of Artists and Scholars

We are a small and intimate program. Every student has a private studio space on site, in UIC's Art & Exhibition Hall. Because of our size, students receive significant feedback, critique, and support. The manifold viewpoints of the faculty and students at our urban university foster a vigorous intellectual and artistic ecology.  

MFA candidates work with active and committed artists and faculty, develop lasting peer relationships, and also have opportunities to engage in the classroom with the Art Department’s diverse undergraduates. These experiences empower our MFA students to transform themselves—and the world—through their work.

Interdisciplinary Approach

All MFA students are encouraged to fully engage in the school's interdisciplinary program and to explore the social, conceptual, and aesthetic possibilities of art practice. Students work in close conversation with faculty and their peers to create significant work in an array of media, including drawing, painting, photography, moving image, new media arts, performance, and sculpture. The School of Art & Art History offers seminars on the practice and theory of contemporary art and art history. These are another important component to a robust curriculum where students are equally encouraged to fulfill elective requirements in other Departments at the University.

Our interdisciplinary approach allows students from different backgrounds to explore areas and mediums they may not have encountered prior to joining our program. The integration of Advanced Critique courses equally enhances discursive and production skills crucial for an art practice today— and gives students a forum from which to examine and probe distinct ideas through open dialogue. 

Teaching Experience

Students in the MFA program can gain valuable classroom teaching experience through our teaching practicum program. In this practicum, MFA candidates observe a faculty member teach a course throughout the semester. In their second year, MFA students typically have the opportunity to teach a 100-level class as instructors of record.

All MFA students are encouraged to fully engage in the school's interdisciplinary program and to explore the social, conceptual, and aesthetic possibilities of art practice. Students work in close conversation with faculty and their peers to create significant work in an array of media, including drawing, painting, photography, moving image, new media arts, performance, and sculpture. The school of Art and Art History offers seminars on the practice and theory of contemporary art and art history. These are another important component of a robust curriculum where students also have the option to fulfill elective requirements in other departments across the University.

In addition to the Graduate College minimum requirements, students must meet the following program requirements: 

  • Minimum Semester Hours Required: 64.

  • Required Courses: ART 520 Seminar in Contemporary Theory (16 hours); Advanced Studio Critique (16 hours); Advanced Studio (20 hours).

  • Electives: At least 12 hours of graduate-level electives are required.

  • Comprehensive Examination: None.

  • Thesis, Project, or Course-Work-Only Options: Project required. No other options are available.

  • Project: All MFA candidates must present a public exhibition or showing for review. Documentation in the form of a major paper on the project must be presented to the school for archival purposes.

  • Other Requirements: Continuation in the MFA program beyond the second semester requires an evaluation and recommendation of the Graduate Advisory Committee in the student's area.


For the current application cycle the deadlines are:

December 15, 2022 for consideration for a fellowship. 

February 15, 2023 for regular application.

The fellowship application deadline is meant to put forward candidates from the pool of early applicants. It is very competitive, and it comes with a hefty funding package. Here are the terms of the award. Applicants to our program have been successful in receiving fellowships, however the Graduate College offers a limited number of these. To learn more about the fellowships and awards that the University offers visit the Graduate College website.

In January, when we select an applicant to continue for the University Fellowship round, they are immediately admitted to the program, but they still have to compete for the fellowship. If someone is not put forth for a fellowship, they are not immediately admitted but their application to the MFA is reviewed after the February 15, 2022 deadline alongside all the other applicants. 

Our non-fellowship MFAs are partially funded during their first year but there are no stipends.

Apply here now


We are not able to review links or any work in advance, as we adhere to important protocols for reviewing applicants’ portfolios. As much as we will focus on the applicant’s portfolio, we will also carefully review the application essay.

Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies with any questions.

Berlin Residency

This month long international residency enables MFA students and PhD candidates in Art History from the University of Illinois at Chicago to activate their creative process and research by working in the city of Berlin, and in dialogue with a peer from the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig.

Included in the residency is a spacious work and living space in Berlin at the Institut für Alles Mögliche, a public exhibition at a local gallery, and a public talk in Leipzig. Students from both cities have the opportunity to work in dialogue with one another, collaborate if desired, and compare and contrast their practice and scholarship in Berlin, one of the most vibrant places for the arts today.

This residency provides an outstanding experience for students to connect with an international art scene, and meet peers from another University. Learn more »

For Current Students

GEO (Graduate Employees Organization) GUIDELINES FOR ART

Graduate Teaching Practicum

100-Level courses in Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Moving Image, New Media, and Photography

Teaching practicums provide an opportunity to MFA candidates to actively experience studio and/or seminar curricula alongside a faculty member in the Department of Art. The practicum takes place within the context of an undergraduate ART, IDEAs (Interdisciplinary Education in the Arts), or Art Education course, and offers a pedagogical opportunity for the MFA candidate to learn about teaching a college‐level course through observation and participation. An additional significant pedagogical goal of the practicum is to give MFA candidates who might be interested in teaching in the Department as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (or Graduate TA)—or after graduation—the prospect to become familiar with our programs' undergraduate culture and curricula. 

The faculty member assigned to teach the undergraduate students and administer the practicum is the sole instructor responsible for the course. All course planning, instruction, grading, and any other course-related work is conducted by the faculty instructor. While the input of the enrolled MFA candidate is encouraged and valued,  practicums do not include an expectation that MFA candidates assist the primary instructor in any planning and decision making. This practicum is voluntary and intended strictly to provide an opportunity to MFA candidates to gain insight into different teaching styles and approaches. Students should select their practicum course based on their abilities and on which course they hope to teach as a Graduate TA during their second year in the  program.  Only one graduate student is permitted to carry out a practicum per  course, at a given time.  

Voluntarily enrolled MFA practicum attendees may participate in classroom discussions and demonstrations but are not responsible for any activity outside of the classroom. They do not assist in developing or initiating the lesson plan/syllabus, and they do not administer grades or evaluations. 

Participating graduate students may ask to be exempt from attending one session at any time during the semester so that they may concentrate on their other course and studio work without consequence. Additionally, they are not expected to attend any class sessions during the dates of their midterm and final critiques. They are, however, asked to communicate with the faculty whom they observe regarding any obstacles that impede them from being present and / or punctual. 

As noted, the teaching practicum is a many‐fold pedagogical opportunity for the MFA candidate aimed at facilitating their future development as an educator by observing the approaches and methods of a faculty member. The practicum can be a significant professional practice opportunity offered within our program: many of our MFA candidates enter our program in anticipation of succeeding as artists and college‐level educators. While the practicum is not the only requirement for the allocation of available TA positions to MFAs in excellent standing, it is strongly recommended for MFA candidates interested in being considered for a TA position: the MFAs engagement in a practicum is an important gauge that faculty rely on to determine the readiness of an individual to teach  their own course. 

MFA Candidates must enroll in ART 500 (Teaching Practicum) via the specific course and section number assigned to the Faculty with whom they will observe. Refer to the table of contents for information on the registration process.


Graduate Teaching Assistantship in Art (Instructor of Record, also referred to as Graduate TA)

100-Level Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Moving Image, New Media, and Photography

The Graduate Teaching Assistantships are  available to qualified, second-year MFA Candidates. These are essentially “Instructor of Record” positions, wherein a Graduate Student is given the opportunity to teach an introductory level art course within their disciplinary expertise..  Graduate TAs receive support and mentorship from full-time faculty,  including help on syllabus and curricula development, writing course expectations and objectives, crafting their teaching style, and carrying out successful in-class critiques. Teaching Assistantships provide rich, instructional experiences for our graduate students, and help prepare them for adjunct teaching, post-graduation. 

Paid Teaching Assistantships are available to second-year MFA Candidates only. MFA Candidates are considered eligible for this position based upon excellent academic standing, their expressed interest in teaching, as well as the recommendation of their Faculty Advisor. Taking on a paid Teaching Assistant position is voluntary, and not a requirement of the MFA Program at UIC. Please note, paid TA positions can not be guaranteed for all second-year MFA Candidates at this time.


Expectations for course Graduate Teaching Assistants

  • Newly appointed TAs are required to attend the TA orientation offered by the University shortly before the start of the Fall semester. 

  • In consultation with faculty, Graduate TAs will finesse their own syllabi—including lecture topics, project assignments, and readings. Graduate TAs are given access to syllabi and course material from courses previously taught by faculty in their assigned area. 

  • While an occasional absence is to be expected, Teaching Assistants are required to inform the Head of Art, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and their Area Coordinator of any absences—as well as to make appropriate arrangements to cover their class. Suggestions of how to cover a class due to extenuating circumstances can be found in the brochure: Teaching at UIC: A practical manual for instructors and teaching assistantspages 52-54. Teaching Assistants maintain office hours (totalling up to 2 hours per week). The TAs office hours may be arranged by appointment.

  • Courses taught by Graduate TAs have enrollments capped at a maximum of 24 students, although generally, this number is lower due to capacity limitations of classroom facilities. 

  • Graduate TAs are expected to grade assignments and exams (if any are given) and are responsible for recording their students’ midterm and final grades by the deadline set by UIC.

  • Graduate TAs are responsible for coordinating the administrative aspects of teaching, including communicating with the Department of Art’s Staff, Lab Specialists, and Area Coordinators. 

  • Graduate TAs are encouraged to communicate with the School’s Academic Advisor. The Academic Advisor can offer guidance in situations when an undergraduate student is absent for multiple classes or when other student-related challenges arise. 

In addition to knowledge in their specific  area of artmaking, Graduate TAs are expected to provide the following basic content in their classes: 

  • Introduction to professionally accomplished work in the designated field of study.

  • Introduction to basic tools, hands-on approaches, and other instruction appropriate to course content and objectives.

  • Introduction to appropriate critical engagement and conversation in the context of artmaking. 

  • Clear articulation of course syllabus with clearly stated assignments, goals, and processes for evaluation.

  • Guidance in the use of the School of Art & Art History (SAAH) resources, such as Lab Specialists’ workshops, as well as other matters that may require coordination with administrative staff and the faculty member who acts as Area Coordinator (for example, the Area Coordinator in Moving Image is a full-time faculty who teaches in that area).


Accountability and Evaluation

Graduate Student teaching opportunities are an important part of graduate education in Art. We are committed to offering teaching experiences to graduate students who wish to gain in practice knowledge in pedagogy. Generally, MFA candidates get to teach one or two courses in their second year of the two-year MFA program. However, the Department of Art cannot guarantee that an opportunity will be available for all MFA students. To  equitably distribute teaching opportunities, we will consider the following criteria: 

  • Whether or not applicants have previously had a chance to develop their own courses.

  • How the proposed course might support the applicant’s progress through the program.

  • The likelihood of successful outcomes for the undergraduate students enrolled to study with the Graduate TA.

TAs will be evaluated every semester by an assigned supervising professor (typically, their Faculty Advisor).  A brief statement summarizing an evaluation will be presented to the Graduate TA at the end of the semester. Final decisions on all matters of teaching reside with the Administration and Faculty of the Department of Art. Any serious course-related problems related to Graduate TAs’ academic performance—or any ethical or personal issues that might arise—should be brought to the attention of the Graduate TAs Advisor, the corresponding faculty Area Coordinator, the DGS, and / or the Head of Art. 


Appointment Criteria

The Department provides Graduate TA appointments in the following areas: General Education and 100-level introductory courses in Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Moving Image, New Media, and Photography. In specifically qualified cases, a graduate student might be able to teach a 200- or 300-level Topics course in Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Moving Image, New Media, or Photography. Furthermore, in specific cases, a qualified MFA candidate may be assigned to teaching an undergraduate seminar. The latter is particularly rare. 

The Department of Art will make considerable efforts to assign all appointments and reappointments for Graduate Teaching Assistantships according to the policy outlined below. The governing criteria are: 

  • Advancement of the Graduate Student Employee’s educational and professional goals through appropriate TA appointments.

  • Consistent distribution of workload across TA appointments. Typically the expected workload is an average of 10 hours per week throughout the semester, with the most substantial time demand frontloaded at the beginning of the semester.

  • 25% appointment.

  • TA training, mentoring, and oversight by an assigned faculty member in the Department of Art (such as the MFA candidate’s advisor) and/ or the corresponding Area Coordinator.


Appointment Compensation

Teaching Assistantships for course instructors receive a tuition waiver and a stipend at a rate set by the University. See the Graduate College’s guidelines:

Appointments are guaranteed only after an appointment letter has been signed by the Department of Art’s Assistant Director and the MFA candidate. All Teaching Assistantship holders are encouraged to approach the Head of Art, the Director of Graduate Studies, and/ or their Faculty Advisor with any concerns about their appointment.


Planning for Sick Days and Other Emergencies

Should you need to miss teaching class due to illness, our policy is that you must notify the following people (via email) that you will not be able to teach class: the Department’s Facilities Manager, the Area Coordinator for your class, and the Office of the School of Art & Art History (

Below are suggestions for plans to have in place in addition to notifying the above should you be unable to teach:

Being sick is terrible, but if you couple being sick with the possibility of canceling your class or the need to cover the class due to absence and it is even worse. You can focus on resting and recovering if you have a sick day plan lined up ahead of time. Sick day plans should account for two possibilities: canceling class, and having someone take over your class for the day. You should always plan for both of these situations because the decision over which happens will often fall to your department and not to you personally. A sick day plan for canceling class should have two parts: an email to your department and an email to your students. You also need to know ahead of time who in your department you should be contacting if you are ill; it could be your department's administrator, the department head, or the lead instructor. Make sure you have this information at the beginning of the semester so that you aren't scrambling to figure out what to do on an actual sick day! Here's a starter template for the email to your department:

Good Morning {name},

I'm very sorry, but I'm ill this morning and cannot possibly teach my {class number} class scheduled for {time}. My plan is to cancel class today and continue with my normal teaching schedule from the next class period. I will contact my students through email, but it would be a great help to me if you could also put a sign on the classroom door (building and room #) to avoid confusion.

I have also included a copy of the message I will be sending to my students below, in case you have inquiries from any of my students.

Thank you in advance!



And here is one for your students.

Good Morning Students,

Unfortunately, I am not well today, so today's class is cancelled. 

Please have your assigned readings and homework for both today's class and the next class period ready when we next meet.

Any appointments/office hours planned for today are also cancelled. I will contact you to reschedule as soon as I am able.

See you all on {date}.



Having someone take over your class requires more planning, but it also is better for your students. However, there are great ways to have productive classes even when you cannot be present that avoids the “just play a movie” strategy.

Students generally regard this as a waste of their time, and you may see repercussions in your teaching reviews if you use this strategy. Some students also take this to mean that attendance in class is not that important, and so you may find that this has a negative impact on attendance, especially if students begin reporting it on your evaluations, or other professor review websites.

However, there are times and specific concepts that can be well supported through the showing of a particular movie or series of video clips. To do this effectively, you need to plan for the movie along with a movie guide to help students connect the film with the course concepts. A series of clips can be used to address specific concepts or to act as a review of a larger set of concepts. Provide a PowerPoint that has questions for the students (and answers in the note section for your TA or colleague who will be filling in for you!) and discussion points for a variety of video clips. This opens both small and large classes to a discussion and a more interactive session. They will never know you are gone!


Strategy 1 - Guest lectures

While planned guest lectures are great additions to your regular teaching plans, setting up an emergency class swap with a colleague can be a great way to deal with an unexpected sick day. Find someone whose research is relevant to the class, and ask them if they would be willing to come and present their work if you are ever ill. This allows them to practice that conference paper they are working on or recycle old presentations about their research and prevents them from having to come up with something new on the spot. This also allows students to see what cutting edge work in the field looks like, get a greater sense of what kind of research is done at your university, and works well even without assigned readings. Of course, this option should always be used in conjunction with another backup, just in case your colleague cannot make it to class on such short notice.


Strategy 2 - Discussion leaders

Contact your students ahead of class and let them know that someone else will be teaching class and tell them that you expect that each of them will come to class with one question that they would like to discuss (for many classes, this will just be a reminder of what they ought to be doing daily anyway). Remind students that those who come to class unprepared will lose participation points for the day. Let your colleague know that they simply need to call on students to share their questions and facilitate discussion of the answers. If you have concerns that your class will not be as talkative with a new instructor; ask your colleague to break them up into groups of three or four and to go between the groups to keep them engaged and on task.


Strategy 3 - Case Study

Prepare a case study assignment ahead of time that asks students to apply the major lessons of the class. This is something that you can use either as a great review tool near the end of the semester or as an activity that works well when a colleague takes over your class. Print out all of the material for this ahead of time so that your colleague simply needs to pick up the handouts, pass them out to the students, and keep student groups on task. If your colleague is in the same field as you are, it is likely that they will not only find this an easy activity to assist your students with, but that they will also bring a fresh perspective to it that makes the activity even more rewarding for students.

Preparing a sick day plan when you are at the start of the semester seems like a tremendous amount of work, but being sick is generally a surprise to everyone! This time spent planning, like all of your course planning, will be valuable in those cases you just cannot make it to class. And if you get to the end of the semester, find yourself tired, uncharacteristically unprepared for class, or just need a mental health break, you can always incorporate one of your sick day plans yourself. This planning is time well spent.


Sick Day and Emergency Planning: Summing It Up

Planning your lessons in advance and keeping a file of lesson plans that worked well for you and your students is the single most important thing you can do for your teaching career. Carefully planned lessons will ensure that your students learn the material, and will be reflected in student grades and end of the semester evaluations. These lesson plans will also help you to assemble a strong teaching portfolio that showcases your particular approach to teaching and provides concrete evidence of the perspectives and commitments you will describe in your teaching statement. These lesson plans will also be available to you for reuse in future classes, either as they are or as inspiration for when you sit down to prepare for new classes. Finally, years from now, you will be able to look back at the lesson plans you have collected and see how your teaching has grown and evolved over the years, helping you to continue honing your craft. Lesson planning is a difficult habit to begin, but it is well worth the effort.


Services for Students with Disabilities 

The University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities as defined by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. As a TA you may have students in your class who present a note requesting accommodations for a disability. A student must first request approval for accommodations for a disability by contacting the Disability Resource Center located in room 1190 SSB. The Disability Resource Center ( is a campus resource that provides academic assistance, advocacy, counseling, and information and referral to students with documented disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are made for students with disabilities on an individual and flexible basis. 

These accommodations may take many forms such as sign language interpreters, readers, course or exam modifications, or note takers, to name a few. It is the responsibility of the student to seek assistance and request accommodations through the Disability Resource Center. Students who have received approval for classroom accommodations will present a note from the Disability Resource Center identifying the accommodation that must be made in the classroom by the instructor and/or TA. Any questions regarding the accommodations that need to be made for this student can be clarified by contacting the Disability Resource Center ( or 312-413-2183). In addition, make the Director for Undergraduate Studies aware of the situation. 


Avoiding Sexual Harassment 

Teaching Assistants are in a position of authority over their students, and therefore it is essential that they protect themselves against claims of sexual harassment and conflict of interest by avoiding social or personal involvement with their students. It is very important for University employees -- in particular TAs -- to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and what to do if they become aware of it. TAs are responsible for understanding the University’s policy on sexual harassment viewable on the Office of Access and Equity’s website at

Claims of sexual harassment are time consuming and stressful to resolve. TAs should pay particular attention to these guidelines in an effort to avoid claims of sexual harassment. Claims of and questions about sexual harassment should be reported immediately to the Directors of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies. To avoid social and personal involvement with students, refrain from dating, touching, personally complimenting, or going to parties with students. Do not provide students with your cell phone number, and make email correspondence with the entire class, not individual students, whenever possible. 


Beginning July 1, 2020, the Department of Art will do the following:

  • Distribute these guidelines to graduate students, faculty, and staff at the start of each academic year. 

  • Solicit the advice of graduate student employees when developing or revising appointment and reappointment guidelines.

  • Communicate to MFA candidates which factors enhance their eligibility for a Teaching Assistant appointment.

  • Ensure that appointments and assignments are not made in an arbitrary or inconsistent manner.


Beginning July 1, 2020, the School of Art & Art History will do the following:

  • Issue letters of appointment no later than 45 days before the start of the appointment (in the case of appointments made less than 45 days before or 45 days after the beginning of the semester, the letter of appointment shall be expedited as soon as possible).


Additional TA/Teaching Resources on Campus