Coursework and milestones

Painting of a grey object that resembles folded paper.

Artwork by former MFA student Paula McLean.

Full-time students require five consecutive terms to complete their MFA. It is expected that students reside in the Waterloo area during active enrolment, making regular use of their on-campus studios.

Under the supervision of all faculty, students in their first term carry out work in their chosen area of specialization in FINE 690. They also complete an additional elective of their choosing and take the first in a series of four seminar courses. These courses deal with issues, motives and concerns in contemporary art. At the end of the first term, two faculty advisors are assigned to work with each student for the program’s duration. These faculty are also present as members of the candidate's thesis defense committee.

At the end of second year, each MFA candidate mounts a solo exhibition of work completed in their area of specialization. To ensure that the candidate's work is carried out at a high standard of professional competence, completion also includes the defense of his/her thesis before a committee of three (one of which is an external examiner).

Degree requirements

The specific course requirements are outlined below. The Department may add other requirements if it feels that an otherwise well-qualified student needs upgrading in particular areas, particularly art history. Full-time students normally complete their requirements in five consecutive terms, beginning in the Fall term. Course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.

Note: It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that s/he is properly enrolled in the required courses before each semester begins.

Term One (Fall)

FINE 690 Graduate Studio (1.0 credit)
FINE 680 Issues in Contemporary Art 1 (0.5)
Elective (0.5)  See Elective courses below.
Pedagogy Elective (0.5) (For those following the pedagogy elective stream)
Teaching Assistantship (TA) with one full time faculty member
Academic integrity workshop (milestone)
WHIMIS training (milestone)
Term Two (Winter)

FINE 691 Graduate Studio 2 (1.0)
FINE 681 Issues in Contemporary Art 2 (0.5)
Elective (0.5)
Teaching Assistantship (TA) with one full time faculty member, or the teaching of an introductory fine arts course (e.g. Fine 150)

Term Three (Spring)

FINE 692 Graduate Summer Studio (1.0)
The Keith and Win Shantz International Research Scholarship comprises the first half of this term. This involves a six week commitment to research abroad. The second half of this term is continued development of independent studio work.  An exhibition and evaluation of this work takes place in September in the departmental gallery or an agreed alternative.

Term Four (Fall)

FINE 682 Graduate Senior Seminar 1 (0.5)
Elective (0.5)(Only for those not following the pedagogy stream)
FINE 699  (milestone): Graduate Thesis Exhibition (2.0)
Teaching Assistantship (TA) with one full time faculty member, or the teaching of an introductory fine arts course (e.g. Fine 150).

Term Five (Winter)

FINE 683 Graduate Senior Seminar 2 (0.5)
FINE 699 (milestone): Graduate Thesis Exhibition (2.0)
Graduate Thesis Defense (milestone) (This can be put into a term six when required)

Elective Courses

MFA students must complete three half credit (0.5) elective courses as part of their degree requirements. Of the three courses, one may be taken at the undergraduate level, however the other two must be taken at the graduate level (e.g. Fine 694 or Fine 695). Students may choose from Fine Arts course offerings, from courses offered by other departments within the University of Waterloo, or another host University. If either of the latter options is chosen, the course must be approved by the Graduate Associate Chair, Fine Arts, before registration to ensure relevance. In cases where a student chooses an elective from outside of the UW Fine Arts Department, s/he must provide the Associate Chair with a full course description and a letter from the instructor confirming that the course will be taken by the MFA student at the graduate level.

Required milestones

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
WHMIS training is a milestone requirement in the MFA Program. Students cannot use the East Campus Hall (ECH) studios without WHMIS certification. WHMIS workshops are offered online through the UW-LEARN (to take the online WHMIS course you must first "self-enroll" in the WHMIS course).  MFA students must take WHMIS training in the first term of their program.

Graduate Academic Integrity Workshop 
This is a required workshop. It is for all students enrolled in graduate programs and the workshop typically takes place in September. More information is available at Graduate Student Resources.

699 Studio
In 4th and 5th terms of second year, the studio course (FINE 699) is a milestone, meaning that students are automatically registered in it by the Graduate Studies Office (GSO).

MFA Thesis Exhibition and Defense
The physical exhibition of the student's artwork is considered the thesis and is a required milestone for an MFA degree at the University of Waterloo. The thesis work is accompanied by a Thesis Support Document—an illustrated, written document that is expected to be an insightful and scholarly sound explanation of the student's artwork. Both of these must be defended at a date specified by the Associate Chair and follow a specified structure.