Graduate Student Package

The following guidelines are for the MFA degree in Art & Ecology. Because of the unique nature of our program, we occupy a distinctive place within the department, the university, and the broader context of art practice and education—nationally and internationally. Art & Ecology courses encourage students to investigate, question, and expand upon inter-relationships between cultural and natural systems. Our courses place emphasis on methods and tools from many disciplines—including the fine and performing arts, design, the sciences, and activism—to foster collaborative and field-based research and art-making. Working across many different fields and methods can be very exciting but also poses many challenges, and we are here to help you navigate those challenges. Please use this document as a guide and also keep in mind that you can and should approach members of the faculty for any questions or concerns that you have, specific to your situation.

Art & Ecology Faculty:

Subhankar Banerjee, Professor of Art & Ecology, Lannan Endowed Chair of the Land Arts of the American West Program //
Andrea Polli, Professor of Art & Ecology, Director of the Social Media Workgroup, Mesa Del Sol Endowed Chair of Digital Media //
Catherine Page Harris, Assistant Professor in Art & Ecology and Landscape Architecture //
Szu-Han Ho, Assistant Professor in Art & Ecology //
Jeanette Hart-Mann, Assistant Professor and Field Director, Land Arts of the American West //


  1. Basic Timeline of the Art & Ecology MFA Program
  2. Your First Year Advisor
  3. First Year Review System
  4. Thesis Committee and Qualifying
  5. Advancement
  6. Thesis Project – Resources and Requirements

Section 1: Basic Timeline of the Art & Ecology MFA Program
The following timeline is strongly recommended by Art & Ecology faculty, in accordance with the degree requirements for the MFA in Art Studio.

Sample course schedule:

Year One
*Develop work, meet with faculty, and identify possible thesis committee members
ARTS 502 Interdisciplinary Seminar 3 cr
ARTS 595 Art & Ecology Seminar (Graduate Tutorial): 1 cr
ARTS 5** Art & Ecology Course (or other studio course): 3 cr
ARTH 5** Art History: 3 cr
Shop Foundations (0 cr course, required for shop access)
[First Semester Review takes place at the end of the semester]

ARTS 595 A&E Seminar (Graduate Tutorial): 1 cr
ARTS 5** Art & Ecology Course (see list below) 3 cr
ARTH 5** Art History or Elective: 3 cr
ARTS 595 Graduate Tutorial with an A&E faculty member: Research Tutorial – project development and research: 3 cr
[Second Semester Review takes place at the end of the semester]

Year Two
Establish thesis committee (Fall), Qualifying (Spring)
Land Arts of the American West 12 cr
ARTS 595 A&E 1-Cr Seminar (Graduate Tutorial): 1 cr
ARTS 5** Art & Ecology or other Art Studio Course: 3 cr
ARTH 5** Art History or Elective: 3 cr
ARTS 595 Graduate Tutorial 3 cr: Research Tutorial – research and methodology in preparation for Qualifying Exam

ARTS 595 A&E Seminar (Graduate Tutorial): 1 cr
ARTS 5** Art & Ecology or Art Studio Course: 3 cr
ARTH 5** Art History or Elective: 3 cr
ARTS 595 Graduate Tutorial(s) 3 cr: Qualifying Tutorial – research and writing the qualifying paper

Year Three
Advancement (Fall) and completion of Thesis Project (Spring)
Optional : ARTS 595 A&E Seminar (Graduate Tutorial): 1 cr
ARTH 5** Art History or Elective: 3 cr
Outside Elective: 3 cr
ARTS 595 Graduate Tutorial(s), Advancement Tutorial – prepare for Advancement; define Thesis Project with chair of committee and outside collaborator if applicable; identify site; work towards final project: 3 cr

ARTS 699 Graduate Dissertation—completion of Thesis Project and Requirements: 12 cr

Art & Ecology Graduate Courses

ARTS 543 Aesthetics of Sustainable Landscapes
ARTS 542 Sculptural Infrastructure
ARTS 541 Computational Sustainability
ARTS 540 Grant & Proposal Writing
ARTS 544 Creating Change
ARTS 545 TEXT+IMAGE: Graphic Design for Artists
ARTS 546 The Politics of Performance
ARTS 551 Land Arts of the American West: Research
ARTS 552 Land Arts of the American West: Field Investigations
ARTS 553 Land Arts of the American West: Creative Production
ARTS 554 Land Arts of the American West: Presentation/Dissemination
ARTS 593 Graduate Theory and Practice Seminar

ARTS 529 Changing Topics courses taught by A&E faculty:
ARTS 529 T: Species, Space and the Politics of Survival (Fa)
ARTS 529 T: Integrative Ecology & Social Transformation (Sp)
ARTS 529 T: Rehearsing the Self: Experiments in Narrative Writing
ARTS 529 T: Vizcaya CAP Lab (Miami)
ARTS 529 T: Re-Mix Culture (Albuquerque/Cd. Juárez)
ARTS 529 T: CO-EVOLUTION: Art + Biology in the Museum
ARTS 529 T: Bio-Art & Design
ARTS 529 T: Field Work in Biodiversity and Art

Section 2: Your First Year Advisor

You will choose or be assigned a first year advisor from the A&E faculty. The first year advisor will help you prepare for reviews, provide feedback on your work and meet with you at minimum two times a semester during your first year. After this year, you will choose your committee for your Qualifying, Advancement, and Thesis Project.

Section 3: First Year Reviews

Reviews are an opportunity to meet faculty in the larger MFA program. If you need to organize a visit to a site for your review committee, rather than a studio visit, please contact Kat Heatherington with plenty of advanced notice. If appropriate, you can present collaborative work. If you choose to present collaborative work, have your collaborator(s) on hand for discussion as a group at the review. Public reviews can seem daunting. Remember this is an opportunity to receive feedback, references and critique—vital to engagement in discourse about your work.

Section 4: Second Year Benchmarks: Thesis Committee and Qualifying

Art & Ecology students should qualify in the fourth semester (second semester of Year 2). The process of qualifying is designed for you and your committee to assess your most recent work: where you are coming from and where you are at the present moment in your artistic practice. You do not yet need to completely define your thesis project for your qualifying exam.

Qualifying, Advancement, and the completion of the Thesis Project requires a thesis committee. You will choose your committee, which must consist of a tenured/tenure-track faculty member as chair, two additional tenured/tenure-track faculty members, and one additional member who may be faculty or an outside mentor. A&E graduate students are strongly advised to have an A&E faculty member as chair of this committee. All A&E students must establish their committees by the end of the third semester.

  1. Chair – A&E faculty (tenured or tenure-track)
  2. Member – other faculty: A&E, Art Studio, Art History, Art Ed or other (tenured or tenure-track)
  3. Member – other faculty: A&E, Art Studio, Art History, Art Ed or other (tenured or tenure-track)
  4. Member – other faculty / possible outside mentor or UNM faculty outside department. If you are interested in a specific area of research, ask your committee members or the A&E faculty at large, and we will help you connect with a mentor. (Note: If the selected member is not tenure-track/tenured, will need to go through Office of Graduate Studies OGS approval).

To qualify in a timely fashion, you would need to be active in your first year to:

  1. Meet faculty and receive feedback on your work in studio/site visits.
  2. Work with A&E faculty to identify possible outside mentors and projects.
  3. Get to know ongoing projects of A&E faculty and participate if your work may benefit from current projects and opportunities.
  4. Start to define your interests and the scope of your Thesis Project.

If you go on Land Arts in your second-year Fall semester, you will need to plan ahead. You will be using work from your Land Arts experiences in your Qualifying, so you will need to be conscious of that as you travel. This means it is crucial that you make concerted efforts to get to know other faculty (and possibly other departments) in your first year.
Qualifying Paper

Your Qualifying requires a written component. We would like to suggest the following guidelines for you to keep in mind:

Writing IS a form of thinking and making.  

In Art & Ecology, we believe that the qualifying paper should be an integral part of artistic practice and should guide you in the process of developing your ideas through original research and critical analysis.

Writing is NOT a solitary pursuit.  

We strongly recommend that all A&E students take at least one Graduate Tutorial with an A&E faculty member before or during your Qualifying semester that focuses on research, writing exercises, and feedback leading to a completed Qualifying paper. Tailored to your work, this tutorial may include the following aims:

  1. the articulation of artistic goals and objectives
  2. the development of methods and methodologies for the creation of new work
  3. a critical analysis of previous work
  4. a highly focused literature review
  5. original research that may be drawn from artistic practices and from practices in the sciences and humanities, such as interviews, site analysis, other observations, and data collection as appropriate.

Sharing your work is a skill.

We believe that it is important to frame your work within the public discourses that exist beyond those here at UNM. We strongly encourage you to consider submitting a paper that is based on your research and qualifying paper to conferences, symposia, and publications as a part of your 4th semester tutorial.

Section 5: Advancement

Advancement requires committee approval of 1) a draft/mock-up of your final exhibition catalog or publication and 2) a plan for your final exhibition/performance/site installation and/or community engagement; this includes securing a venue or site. You should start thinking about the venue or site at least one year in advance, as spaces in the city get booked far in advance. Some representative work for your thesis project must be initiated and visible in some form to your committee. You are advised to take graduate tutorial(s) with your committee chair and/or members to work on all the details and presentation of your project for Advancement. With prior approval, it is possible to define a collaborative project as a thesis project.  

Section 6: Thesis Project – Resources and Requirements

A thesis is a cohesive major work or body of work demonstrating conceptual and aesthetic mastery appropriate to the completion of the MFA degree. In Art & Ecology, you may use a traditional gallery setting to frame your work OR you may present outside that setting. Forms of exhibition that may be used in conjunction to satisfy the thesis requirement include, but are not limited to: a work in public space, a community collaboration, a performance, and other modes by approval of your committee. If you work collaboratively, and your collaborator is in the program, you should work with your committee and the Graduate Office to articulate roles. If your collaborator is not in the program, s/he should still be present for your reviews and committee conversations.

Catalogue Requirement:
The catalogue component is an important tool for sharing your work with a wider public. Consider who your public(s) consist of and to which venues it would be appropriate to distribute them. We strongly recommend that you include a 1,500 word written component to your catalogue. This essay can be thought of as a more extensive artist statement or a further development from your qualifying paper, building in the newly produced thesis work and the ideas embedded within. We also strongly encourage you to produce an online component based on (or in conjunction with) your printed catalogue.
You are required to submit the requested number of images, along with credits, to the Graduate Advisor at the completion of your thesis.

Finally, we believe that the potential modes of art-making in the contemporary context are expansive, and the possibilities for your thesis work should reflect that openness, experimentation, and criticality. We provide these guidelines to be used in the way that is most instrumental for your process. We are here to facilitate this process and to help you develop your work to be as ambitious, rigorous, and generative as it can be. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your advisor, Kat Heatherington, or another A&E faculty member. We are so excited that you have chosen to pursue your degree with UNM Art & Ecology and look forward to working with you!

All content © Copyright 2019 by Art&Ecology.
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