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Master of Arts in Art History - Admission Requirements

Mission Statement
The ASU art history faculty, one of the largest areas in the School of Art, is a dynamic center for the investigation of the visual. We seek to train students to engage with visuality in multiple ways and offer a diverse curriculum intended to foster critical understanding of aesthetics, production, patronage and consumption of art. We have three degree tracks: BA (Art History and Museum Studies), MA, and a cross-institute Ph.D. (in Design, Environment and the Arts). We work to tailor programs to student interests at undergraduate and graduate levels. There are ten full-time faculty study objects and images across time periods (from ancient to contemporary culture) and geographies around the world (Asian, European, the Americas), embracing multiple approaches and methodologies. We work at the intersections between disciplines, investigating media, geographies, borders, margins, interstices, points of mediation and technological developments throughout history. Collectively we also focus on four “niche” areas in our teaching, research and community activities: images and technologies; art in social and political contexts; histories and theories of visual culture; and art and visuality.

MA student policies and procedures are established by several university groups. The Graduate Education sets basic policies and minimum requirements. Additional program requirements are established by the Art History faculty and the director of the School of Art. Graduate Education policies and procedures are provided in the Arizona State University Graduate Catalog under Graduate Policies and Procedures and revised each year. MA students are responsible for being aware of the policies in the catalog on which they were admitted to.

Application Deadlines
The deadline for completed applications is January 15. This deadline is for admission beginning the following fall semester. We do not admit for spring semester.

Application Requirements
You must have a bachelor’s degree from an institution whose credits are acceptable to Arizona State University and GPA of 3.0 or better for the third and fourth years of undergraduate study. Credits from undergraduate degrees that are pending must have been completed by August 15 of the year in which you enter the MA program.

If you hold a degree in something other than art history, you must complete at least four upper-division art history courses (12 semester hours) with a B or better beyond such general survey courses as ASU’s ARS 101 and 102. Upon the completion of at least six of these, you may be accepted with deficiencies, on the understanding that the remaining hours will be completed during the first semester in the program. The 12 hours of deficiencies will not count as MA hours.

Please read all details listed below prior to applying.

Official Transcripts
You must have one set of official transcripts from every college and university from which you earned a bachelor’s degree or higher sent to:

Mailing address:
Arizona State University
Graduate Admissions Services
PO Box 871003
Tempe, AZ 85287-1003

FedEx, DHL, or UPS:
Arizona State University
Graduate Admissions Services
1151 S. Forest Avenue #SSV112
Tempe, AZ 85287-0112

Graduate Record Exam
The Graduate Record Examination is required for admission into art history. Scores must be official and sent directly from the testing agency to ASU Graduate Education.

Required Application Materials

Statement of Intent
The statement of intent should address your reasons for applying to graduate program in general, and the Herberger Institute School of Art in particular, as well as professional goals. It should not exceed two typed pages. Please submit with your application to Graduate Education.

Research Paper
A formal scholarly research paper for review is required. Please submit with your application to Graduate Education.

Letters of Recommendation 
Art history requires three letters of recommendation from professionals in the field and/or from faculty with whom you have studied. Please follow the instructions for letters of recommendation and submit with your application to Graduate Education.

Your résumé may include highlights of your academic success. Please submit with your application to Graduate Education.

International Students 
Please refer to international student information on the ASU Graduate Education website.

Regular Admission
If you qualify under regular admissions, you have no conditions to meet and are eligible for assistantships and scholarships. The minimum number of hours for an assistantship is six and the minimum number of hours for a scholarship is nine.

Regular Admission with Deficiencies
If your grades, test scores or portfolio are at an acceptable level but do not have the academic background expected for the MA in Art History, you may be required to complete courses to remedy deficiencies. In such cases the letter of admission specifies the courses that must be completed before you are awarded a graduate degree. In the School of Art these courses must be completed with a grade of B or better during the first year of study. Any extension beyond one year must have the approval of the temporary advisor and the chair of the graduate studio committee. Deficiency hours may not be applied toward the minimum hours required for the degree program.

Provisional Admissions
If you do not meet minimum academic standards but have counterbalancing evidence to suggest the potential for success may be admitted on a provisional basis. You will be reviewed by area faculty following 12 hours of graduate study, at which time the School of Art will recommend to Graduate Education either a change to regular admission or withdrawal from the program.

Transfer Credit

Students may transfer credits taken before admission to a graduate degree program as non-degree credit; up to 12 credit hours can be applied toward the MA degree. Additional information regarding transfer credit can be found in the Graduate Catalog.

Academic Integrity

As students in the MA program of this college, it is expected that you set a good example of academic integrity for the undergraduate and graduate students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. As you will be enrolled in graduate-level courses, you can set a good example by being in class early, assuming a leadership role in the classroom, getting engaged in classroom discussion, exercising scholarly discipline, turning in all assignments on or before deadlines and setting and achieving high personal goals. Graduate Education guidelines about academic integrity can be found in the Graduate Catalog under Graduate Policies and Procedures section.

Academic standing

To be eligible for a graduate degree at ASU, a student must achieve a GPA of “B” (3.0) or better in all course work taken at 500 level and above and in all work included in the program of study. Grades below “C” cannot be used to meet the requirements for the M.A. program. Grades of transferred work will not be included in computing the GPA. Graduate course work, other than research or thesis, reported “incomplete” must be completed within one year of the official ending of the course. Research or thesis is awarded a grade of “Y”.

Course load

Determined by the student in consultation with the advisor, but is not to exceed 15 hours of credit per term; nine hours is average. Students holding research or teaching assistantships must enroll in six credit hours.

Continuous enrollment

Continuous enrollment is required of all students once admitted to a graduate degree program. Students must be registered for a minimum of one credit hour during all phases of their graduate education, including the term in which they graduate.

Plan of Study

Each student entering the MA program is required to submit a Plan of Study at the end of the first year (second semester). The Plan of Study (iPOS) functions as a contract between the student, the academic unit and the office for Graduate Education. The iPOS must be approved by a student’s graduate faculty advisor, the head of the academic unit, and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education. A link to the iPOS is found at the student’s My ASU.

Degree Requirements

ARS 501 Research Methodologies
All incoming students are required to complete satisfactorily ARS 501 Research Methodologies (offered only in the fall) during the first year of residence. This course is specifically designed to equip students to engage in advanced research and to introduce them to pivotal art historical writings. Students may not enroll in ARS 501 until they are accepted into the program with regular or provisional status (except with the permission of the instructor).

Core areas
Four core areas are recognized in the M.A program in art history at ASU including Non-Western, Ancient/Medieval, Renaissance/Baroque, and Modern (1750 to the present, including Photography). Regardless of the area of specialization, an M.A candidate is required to take at least one course from each of the core areas as a way of ensuring breadth of knowledge.

Seminar requirements
Four seminars (ARS 591) or the equivalent of 12 credit hours are required for the degree program. This requirement can overlap with the core area requirement. 6 of these credits may be in other areas (e.g., academic courses in Anthropology, Architecture, History, Religious Studies, etc.)

Omnibus courses
Only 6 hours of the following omnibus courses can be included on the POS: ARS 590 Reading and ConferenceARS 592 Research, and ARS 594 Internship.

Thesis credits
6 and only 6 credits of ARS 599 Thesis are required to graduate. All course work and exams must be completed and a thesis committee approved, prior to enrollment.

Foreign language requirements

The student is required to have demonstrated reading competence by passing the Graduate Foreign Language Examination in an approved language. The selected language needs to be appropriate for the area of research concentration. Students intending to pursue doctoral study in art history are advised that Ph.D. programs require reading knowledge of two or three foreign languages, one of which is usually German. Students must successfully complete the Foreign Language prior to the Qualifying Research Paper or any comprehensive exam. It is strongly recommended that this exam be passed in the first year.

Graduate Faculty Advisor

Serves as advisor in most matters of curriculum, languages, etc. and in consultation with the professor(s) in the student’s area of interest. The advisor is available to aid students should any procedural difficulties arise, and will apprise them regularly of matters of general interest. Once each semester, prior to pre-registration, the student will meet with the Graduate Faculty Advisor to discuss progress in the program and plan a course of study for the coming semester. If changes in the course of study prove necessary, the student must consult with the Graduate Faculty Advisor. Unapproved course work will not be accepted for the Plan of Study.

Qualifying Writing Project – Deadline of Oct. 1 and March 1 each year

After having completed 15 credit hours of MA work the Art History MA student is required to submit a qualifying paper to the Art History faculty. The purpose of the Qualifying Writing Project is to demonstrate to the faculty and the student that he/she is ready to begin thesis work.

Choice of Writing Project
The paper submitted is normally one written recently for a seminar or upper level class. Papers/projects may take various forms:

  1. A research paper on a focused topic (the traditional early-career seminar paper)
  2. An exploratory paper on a possible MA thesis topic in consultation with an art history faculty,
  3. A sustained work of art criticism (in the form of two related, shorter essays); or
  4. A scholarly catalog essay. 

It is strongly recommended that the student work further on the written submission with a tenure track faculty member in preparing it for qualifying submission. An exploratory paper, art criticism essay, or exhibition catalogue should all be at least 15 pages in length.

Submission Procedure
The student will provide three hard copies of the written submission to the Art History Graduate Student Advisor by 5 p.m. on the deadline day along with the name of one of the art history faculty whom the student selects to be a designated reader. If a student believes that extenuating circumstances warrant a deadline extension, a written petition must be made to the Graduate Student Advisor prior to the deadline.

Evaluation and Assessment
The project will be read and evaluated by three art history faculty: two selected by the Graduate Student Advisor and one selected by the student. Faculty readers will utilize the criteria below and provide the student with an assessment of the project within three weeks of the deadline.

Projects will be assessed as: Pass or Revisions Required. If a project does not pass, the student may revise and resubmit or submit another paper of different content. In either case, it is critical that the student work with an art history faculty member. Only two submissions are allowed to fulfill the requirement of the Qualifying Project. Plagiarism or any form of academic dishonesty is not tolerated; see university policy.

In this paper, the student will:

  • Define a question or problem and contains a clear statement of a thesis
  • Clearly indicates the methodology used in the paper
  • Discusses relevant literature on the topic and indicates how it relates to the paper
  • Convincingly argues the thesis
  • Demonstrates ability to analyze works of art, use relevant secondary literature, and be capable of critical thinking
  • Consistently uses a conventional scholarly format for bibliography, foot- or endnotes, in-text citations if used, and citation of illustrations. The Chicago Manual of Style is recommended. The most recent edition is available in Hayden Library Reserve.
  • Accompanies illustrations with captions in a consistent format
  • Is free of spelling and grammatical errors
  • Uses foreign language sources if relevant to the paper topic 

Thesis Chair and Committee
After passing the Qualifying Paper, the student will select a Thesis Chair and with the advice of this person, a Thesis Committee. The head of the academic unit recommends the supervisory committee to the Vice Provost for Graduate Education who reviews and appoints the Committee. The Thesis Committee, consisting of the Chair and two (in exceptional cases, three) other faculty members, is responsible for advising and directing the thesis. The Chair and at least one other member of the Committee must be members of the art history faculty and should be the most appropriate advisors for the topic chosen. Adjunct or visiting faulty members or qualified individuals in the profession may serve on a Committee with the approval of the Graduate College and may, again with approval, co-chair a Committee together with a member of the regular art history faculty.

Thesis proposal and proposal meeting
The thesis proposal, consisting of 6-10 pages plus extensive bibliography, is submitted to the Chair of the Thesis Committee, who will meet with the student to discuss it, and share the proposal with the other members of the Committee, who will then schedule a proposal meeting with the student. The proposal should include the following: a statement of the thesis topic, a review of the current state of research relative to the thesis, an explication of the methodology to be used and theoretical premises, a narrative outline (chapter by chapter) of the thesis, a statement of what has already been done and a plan of future research, and a bibliography of materials both already read and to be consulted.

The Master’s Thesis demonstrating significant research abilities and methodological skill will be written by the student under the guidance of the Thesis Committee. To forestall unwanted delay in the degree program, it is strongly recommended that the thesis be of such a nature that it can be completed within a year. An MA thesis should not exceed 100 pages of text inclusive of footnotes or endnotes, but exclusive of the table of contents, bibliography, appendices, and illustrations. Students are encouraged to prepare a study that can be published after completion. Students must follow the Graduate Education’s deadlines and rules of the defense when scheduling the thesis orals through the link at their My ASU. Creation of a flyer to advertise date, time and location of oral examination including an abstract will be used as notification to post and email.