The MFA is a practice-based degree program where students develop a creative and research inquiry anchored in media production and engaged with relevant historical and theoretical contexts. The typical student profile is the maker whose practice lies at the core of an engaged critical inquiry. Students are expected to define their practice, its historical and theoretical context, and its position in relation to the professional field(s) with which they are in dialogue.
Course credits required for graduation must be distributed as described below. There is some latitude in how a particular course might fit into this scheme. A student may apply to have suitable courses not previously listed as “production” or as “media history/theory/interpretation” accepted for credit in these categories. Students must first consult with their faculty advisor in this regard.
Note regarding credit distribution: It is the intention of the department to switch most or all of its classes to 3 credits apiece beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. This may complicate getting the exact number of credits in each category. In the event that a targeted number of credits cannot be met exactly, it must be exceeded. The additional credit will count as elective. Credit requirements for students beginning in Fall 2021 and later are listed in the headers, below, while requirements for students prior to Fall 2021 are noted separately.
Production courses focus on making media. Students are encouraged to take courses in a variety of types of production. Cross- listed courses in visual studies, computer science, etc. may also be counted.
24 Production credits required for those entering prior to Fall 2021
This requirement may be satisfied by historical, theoretical, or critical courses in media study or other media-related theory courses in other departments. If in doubt, check with your faculty advisor. Students are required to take DMS 570, Media Theory. Supervised Reading, DMS 627, may also count in this category, as well as a number of other DMS courses.
12 credits in Media Theory etc. for those starting before Fall 2021
Graduate seminar I is a formative course in the theory and practice of media arts, with emphasis on research practices and methods. Graduate seminar II continues the thread of the first course, includes a graduate student show and a first formulation of the thesis topic.
4 Graduate Seminar Credits for those starting before Fall 2021
Students may choose any graduate courses that generally support their thesis research. Students should provide the graduate coordinator with approval from their faculty advisor for each course outside of DMS.
13 Elective Credits for those starting before Fall 2021
Thesis/project work is usually credited by registering for DMS 598 project supervision during the penultimate semester and DMS 700 thesis guidance in the final semester, in any combination of credits suited to the work.
7 Thesis Project credits required for those who started before Fall 2021
It is also a requirement that (at least) three courses are taken in (an) other department(s). This requirement does not represent an additional credit requirement, as these courses count toward other categories, usually directed electives and/or Media Theory and History. These may be DMS cross-listed courses. However, the idea is to show diversity in research. Students should obtain approval from their faculty advisor for each non-DMS class. All credits must be in graduate level courses (500 level and above). However, under special circumstances subject to approval by the DGS, a student may petition to a 400 level course accepted for graduate credit. Please see the graduate coordinator for help with this.
The MFA thesis serves as the culminating creative project of the MFA program and consists of a production as well as a manuscript. The thesis should demonstrate the student’s technical and aesthetic development and a level of depth and proficiency in communicating in written form ideas pertinent to the student’s field of concentration.
Through their thesis, an MFA candidate should be able to:
The thesis requires a written manuscript of substance (~10,000 words) as well as a production component. The proportions can be adjusted somewhat to suit the individual proposal. The manuscript may be critically or historically supportive of your project component—or vice versa.
A thesis must demonstrate originality and awareness of contemporary discourses in the media field in both content and presentation, as gauged by the faculty members of the candidate’s thesis committee. The MFA in media production is a terminal degree, and serves as a qualifying criterion for admittance to the professoriate. The thesis should exhibit mastery in relation to the candidate’s chosen area of specialization within the media arts field. It is expected that the thesis will display standards of professionalism in both its production and its manuscript.
Absolute integrity is expected of every member of the UB community in all academic matters. When a student submits any work for academic credit, he/she makes an implicit claim that the work is wholly his/her own, done without the assistance of any person or source not explicitly noted, and that the work has not previously been submitted for academic credit in any area.
Plagiarism in any form is unacceptable. Students must understand that they may under no circumstances knowingly represent as their own any idea or expression of an idea or work of another in any academic examination or term test, or in connection with any other form of academic work. Any work submitted by a student for the thesis should be original work. Outside source material must be acknowledged. Penalties for committing plagiarism may include warning, probation, or dismissal. Individuals have the right to defend themselves and appeal any penalties.
Students should submit only proofread written materials to the committee. Materials not sufficiently proofread will be handed back to the student for further work before any review. Students needing assistance with this part of the thesis should seek remedial help from the Writing Workshop or pay a professional proofreader. Students should consult the latest edition of A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Univ Chicago Press). This manual can be supplemented with the latest edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, (Univ Chicago Press). Students working on a thesis project must enroll for a total of 7 credits of thesis guidance (DMS700 for the written portion) and project supervision (DMS 598 for the production portion), in any combination of credits required, with DMS faculty who are providing advisement. Students should be prepared to devote a substantial portion of time to their thesis for at least one year.
The success of a thesis depends largelyon the student meeting regularly with their committee to ensure the project is advancing as expected and will meet appropriate levels of achievement. Students should aim to have a complete manuscript draft (all chapters, bibliography, table of content, etc., pending revisions) ready by the end of the 5th semester. At this point the student should be immersed in his/her media production (having a full sketch of the project ready) and able to discuss it (including budget, schedule for completion) with the thesis committee. Students are encouraged to solicit feedback from committee members as early as possible.
Please be advised that unless specific previous arrangements have been made, approvals cannot be considered during holidays, vacations, or any other time when faculty do not normally work. Students should arrange for all committee meetings, form submissions, etc. to fall within normal faculty schedules.
In particular, students are responsible for the delivery of manuscript draft and project proposal to each signatory in the semester prior to the student’s final semester (Semester Five), allowing one week for review by each person. Moreover, the thesis committee will probably need additional meetings if revision of the proposal is deemed necessary. If within a semester of initial review the student’s thesis draft or project proposal is not accepted by their thesis committee, a letter will be written to the student noting the final determination of the committee and summarizing the reasons for this determination. A copy of this letter will be held on file in the department office, along with a copy of the thesis proposal, and the student will not be permitted to continue in the MFA program. Students may request a meeting with the director of graduate studies for clarification.
The MFA at DMS is a three-year program. In order to graduate within the stipulated time frame students are required to organize their time and resources carefully. This includes keeping the DMS administration informed of progress or lack thereof. Students are strongly advised to consult with their faculty advisor to ensure that course selections (electives) meet DMS course elective requirements, especially during semesters that have no DMS internal requirements (semester 3, for example). Furthermore, students are strongly encouraged to make use of the summer break between semesters 4 and 5 to ensure timely (6 semester) completion of all the steps leading to graduation.
The following sections outline the flow through the 6 semester program (S1 to S6), listing mandatory courses and events.
All MFA students are required to present their ongoing research to the DMS faculty in the first year review, which will usually take place around the first week of May in the student’s first year.
• Courses: You should take approximately 12 credits. These should be selected in consultation with your interim advisor and should fill requirements within the overall course requirements above.
Each student should begin forming a thesis committee no later than the beginning of their 4th semester in order to have a fully formed committee by the end of the fourth semester. A thesis committee must consist of 3 or more faculty. At least 2 members of the committee, including the committee chair, must be DMS faculty and all members of the committee must be members of the graduate faculty. The committee chair should be selected first, with additional members identified in consultation with the committee chair. Any committee member outside DMS must be approved by the 2 full-time DMS faculty on the committee. The choice of committee members must align with the topic of the thesis research. Faculty members must have proven expertise in some component of the research area the candidate wishes to investigate. The DMS chair or DGS may require changes to the composition of thesis committees if this requirement is not met. The candidate is responsible for arranging to meet with the committee at least 3 times. The student is also responsible for confirming that the student’s committee members will be available to support a defense date in line with the student’s intended graduation date.
Thesis proposal, topic, abstract and bibliography (400 word abstract).
Each student should meet with his/her thesis chair throughout their 4th semester to discuss the thesis project and to develop a proposal. The initial proposal includes:
In proposing a thesis, students may be asked to establish their qualifications for undertaking such a project by providing samples of work from their portfolio demonstrating their experience and skill in the relevant area. Committee members may suggest or request changes to the proposed topic. The student must submit the final version of the proposal, along with the signatures of the committee members, to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will also sign and place the proposal and signatures in the student’s file.
Manuscript Draft and Production Proposal
Here, the student should expand on the thesis idea and propose a production component. The thesis draft requires the student to coherently formulate a thesis idea and to put it into writing. It allows faculty to assess the student’s ability to progress towards candidacy. Here is a list of requirements for this stage of the thesis:
A student should have a thesis draft approved by the thesis committee, following any revisions that the committee may request or require, during or by the end of the 5th semester.
1. Finalizing Official Thesis Committee and Target Graduation Date
Prior to the student’s graduation, all committee members must agree on the student’s target graduation term. Any necessary changes to the student’s committee should have been made by this point, and the student should plan to graduate with this committee. This should be done in the 5th semester, but no later than the beginning of the semester in which a student intends to graduate. The student will ask the committee members to sign an online form declaring the target graduation term. This form declares the student a candidate for the degree and sets an expected date for graduation that should only need to be changed under exceptional circumstances.
2. Applying for Graduation in HUB
Each student must apply for graduation on HUB by the beginning of the semester that they intend to graduate. Complete instructions can be found at this link (https://grad.buffalo.edu/succeed/graduate/apply-for-graduation.html).
1. Completing the thesis
Upon completion, the student submits the thesis project to his/her committee. The committee may at this time require revisions or even a substantial amount of further work, so it is strongly advised that students consult their committee members regularly. In general, students submitting a complete thesis draft two months prior to the requested graduation date should have no problem meeting their requested graduation date provided the committee members request only minor modifications. The final, revised and complete submission (that takes all committee member comments into account) must occur no less than 3 weeks prior to the graduation date.
If the project is approved by the committee, the student will be recommended for graduation. If the project is not approved, the student's graduation will be postponed. The thesis project is considered successfully completed once the committee members have signed off on the thesis m-form.
2. Thesis presentation
Excepting special circumstances, MFA candidates must publicly exhibit the production portion of their thesis in such a manner as to make it readily viewable by the thesis committee, the students, and faculty of the department, and, if possible, the UB community. Such exhibitions must be arranged in consultation with and approved by the thesis chair. Two copies of the exhibition announcement should be submitted to the graduate coordinator. Once completed, all thesis projects are expected to be submitted to at least two appropriate venues (festivals, conferences).
3. Submitting the final completed manuscript to DMS and the graduate school
The director of graduate studies must receive an electronic copy of the manuscript (that has been accepted by the thesis committee) before the M-form can be signed and submitted to the graduate school. After approval, students submit the M-form and an electronic copy of the manuscript, which will be included in the UB libraries, to the graduate school. Note that the graduate school requires a submission fee for accepting the electronic copy of the manuscript (which the graduate school refers to as a thesis). After the director of graduate study sign-off, students must submit an electronic copy of the manuscript to DMS, along with the other required materials including a copy of the media production project in the highest quality format possible. Any performance, web-based, or installation elements must be suitably documented, and the presentation as a whole should conform to professional portfolio standards. This material will reside in the DMS archives.
Below is a detailed list of the materials to be submitted to DMS after the thesis committee has signed off on the manuscript, before the DGS will sign off on the M-form (note that specific exceptions to the below may be agreed upon by the student’s committee and the DGS):
One electronic copy of the final, completed manuscript
Two project showing flyers for the thesis project
Proof of submission to two festivals/calls for papers, etc.
as well as…
for film or video production:
… for a screen play:
… for new media:
Once these materials are deposited with the graduate secretary and the director of graduate studies has signed the M-form, it is the responsibility of the student to deliver the M-form to the graduate school by the posted deadline, and to file their manuscript electronically (including payment of the graduate school’s filing fee).
There are four key moments of evaluation and forward progression in the course of the MFA student’s matriculation:
End of first semester (Graduate Seminar I); First Year Review; End of fourth semester (Grad Sem II); MFA Defense.
Faculty teaching Graduate Seminar I evaluate the end of first semester presentation (Grad Sem I for MFA).
The entire faculty evaluate the First Year Review.
Faculty teaching Graduate Seminar II evaluate the end of fourth semester exhibition. The MFA Thesis Committee evaluates the MFA Defense.
The Director of Graduate Study may observe the MFA Defense and evaluates (approves / denies) the final submission of MFA project / thesis.
All first year graduates are required to present their work and work in progress to the DMS faculty in their second semester of the MFA program. The first year review provides the faculty with an opportunity to assess students’ engagement with the department, and to appreciate their progress. It allows students the opportunity to situate their practice within the field they identify with and to indicate new directions of their research/art practice.
In selecting material to show for the first year review, students should consider that the presentation will be limited to 15 minutes including work and explanations. Students should choose work that gives some sense of their level of productivity and intellectual engagement. If the material is very specialized, a brief statement for faculty can be helpful. An artist statement should include critical self-assessment, including progress made or not made during this first year in the MFA program.
Students must send the department secretary a link to a URL with all required materials 4 days before the review date. Students are responsible for ensuring that their presentation materials can be viewed on the computer in CFA 232 (internet browsers and pdf viewer are available. Specialty software must be installed prior to the presentation - contact the equipment manager well in advance).
Statement of Interest (2 pages, roughly 500 words) submitted one week in advance. Please include working bibliography (not part of the total word count).
Presentation (15 minutes)
After the review each student will receive written notice as to whether they have passed or not. Students with a provisional pass will be asked to complete a summer study package. Completion of this package is mandatory.
The M-form, which must be signed by the thesis committee members, certifies completion of all degree requirements. It serves as the master control document ensuring a student’s compliance with DMS requirements. Students should meet with their thesis committee prior to the m-form submission date. Also, students should meet with the graduate advisor well ahead of time to ensure that courses, thesis/project, and all paperwork are in order by the deadline.
The defense, which consists of two parts: the project presentation and the examination by committee of the PhD/MFA dissertations/thesis, is the final stage of the candidate’s academic progress towards their PhD/MFA. The default departmental policy is that all dissertation/thesis defenses be public, meaning advertised openly via department listservs, as well as being open to academic and non-academic persons, unless the candidate and Chair of the Defense Committee agree, for whatever reason(s) they deem fit, to hold a private defense.
In principle, the project presentation (which is normally expected to be held in a public venue, excluding the CFA, and preferably off-campus) should be public and open to all, but the final decision on whether to have a public presentation is left up to the candidate and supervisor, as is the final decision regarding the examination by committee.
In a public defense, the examination by committee is open to all faculty and instructors. The examination by committee is also open to all students, and the greater public, unless the candidate requests otherwise. The Chair of the Defense Committee reserves the right to ask any non-member of the committee to leave the presentation and/or examination at their discretion.
For public defenses, every effort should be made to send out announcements two weeks ahead of time to all pertinent DMS listservs. Project presentations, ideally at a location off-campus, should take place before the the examination by committee, which should follow afterwards, preferably the day of or the day after, unless the timing is impractical. For private defenses (the project presentation and/or examination by committee), the announcement, project presentation, and examination by committee can be either partially or entirely private, based on the decision of the candidate and Chair of the Defense Committee.
The Department of Media Study Announces the Defense of:
(Student’s Name), PhD/MFA Candidate in Media Study
Dissertation/Thesis Supervisor: (Faculty Name)
Abstract/Artistic Statement/Synopsis (…)
Date: (Where & when for project presentation and examination by committee)
The defense, including presentations and examination by committee, of PhD/MFA dissertations/thesis are the final stages of the candidate’s academic progress towards their PhD/MFA. Project presentations are open to the public. Examinations by committee are open to all DMS faculty and instructors, and are also open to all students, and the greater public, unless the candidate requests otherwise. The Chair of the Defense Committee reserves the right to ask any non-member of the committee to leave the project presentation and/or examination by committee, at their discretion.
Contact Info: Department of Media Study: firstname.lastname@example.org (716) 645-0924
While each student may consult the graduate coordinator at any time, their primary source of information for academic matters should be their faculty advisor. For incoming students, this will be your interim advisor, who you are assigned prior to your first semester of study. If another faculty member agrees to be your advisor, you may change your advisor any time after the first year review, with the cooperation of the faculty. Once you pick a committee chair, the chair becomes your faculty advisor.
Students are considered to be enrolled full-time if they have at least 12 credits in a given semester, or 9 credits if they hold a Teaching Assistantship. Although students may decide to take classes part-time in some semesters, many students are required to have full-time status. Teaching Assistants must be enrolled full-time. Most international students are required to be full-time due to their visa requirements. Students may have guidelines through their parents’ insurance company or through the university’s insurance about whether they must be full-time or at least half-time. Many students with loans will need to be at least half-time so they do not go into repayment.
Students who have begun work on their thesis may petition the graduate school for full-time status once they have begun to do work on their thesis. The idea here is that the student will do additional work beyond their coursework in working on their thesis and are therefore full-time students even if their credit load does not reflect that fact. Students needing additional help to fill out this form may contact Brad Hendricks at email@example.com.
There have been questions from students and faculty about DMS 600 Independent Study and DMS 627 Supervised Reading. Theoretically, 600 is charged a lab fee unless there is reason not to. 627 has no lab fee. Based on that and their titles, it should be obvious that 600 is more appropriate for production work. However, if a student wants to have a non-production DMS 600, they should make clear in their independent study proposal that no equipment will be needed. Though professors and students are welcome to use the DMS 600 title for theory courses if they wish, using 627 is also acceptable and may be more appropriate in some cases. Students may prefer to have a mix of 600 and 627 courses on their record to avoid appearing to have too many of the same course. Either 600 or 627 may count as an elective or a theory course but only 600 may count as a production course.
Petition for Transfer Credit
Graduate students may apply credit hours from graduate institutions or programs earned prior to their studies at UB. These so-called transfer credits may be applied towards the completion of a degree's required course load. Transfer credits must be courses offered by an accredited institution and such courses should be listed in that institution's catalog. Credits may only be applied for classroom courses (including virtual class courses) and certain independent studies, thus credits earned from the completion of thesis, dissertation, or similar project completion modules will not be considered for transfer. Likewise, transferred credits may not substitute for thesis, dissertation, or project-based credits.
The maximum number of transfer credits allowed by DMS per degree is as follows:
PhD 24 hours
MFA 12 hours
MAH/MS 7 hours
Students are asked to coordinate with their DMS advisors closely to ascertain which outside credits would be most appropriate for transfer. The Petition for Transfer Credit form is available from the graduate coordinator, Brad Hendricks. Students should provide a copy of the course syllabus/syllabi in addition to an official transcript stating the grade/mark earned for each course. Students may be asked to provide additional documentation of work completed in the courses to support their request.
Petitions are examined on a case-by-case basis via a careful comparison of the external course and the DMS course it is intended to replace. If necessary, a student’s advisor will seek input from other faculty who teach those courses under consideration for substitution before approval is given or the petition is denied. The advisor will confer with the DGS for final approval/denial of the petition. The timing of this process can be somewhat variable, though earlier in a graduate student's studies is better, as it will allow for an advisor and student to plan a course of study efficiently.