Interview with Ms. Fiona Jappy, MFA Program Graduate Student

Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the visual arts?

I wanted to develop my work further within a professional environment with also having the ability to engage in critical discussion with other students that are at the same stage as myself. Also the School of Art and Design maintains a vital, creative ambience in which developing artists with strong motivation develop a clear, mature and professional focus and that is exactly what I wanted in pursuing a graduate degree.

How did you decide that it was the right time for you to pursue one?

I took a year off between my undergraduate degree and starting my masters and in this time thought alot about what I wanted to achieve in life and being an artist I felt it was the right time to go back and study in a university environment. The opportunity to be with other like-minded people is also very encouraging to the development and growth of my own work. I was glad to take a year out though, it gave me the opportunity to experience other issues such as the job market which in turn reinforced my desire to further my art.

What are the most important factors that you considered when evaluating and choosing a graduate program in the visual arts?

The actual course that is offered by the university is the most important, here at SIUC work is supported and extended through formal studio courses and studies in the history of art. Graduate students can also enroll in the Certificate Program in Art History which in turn, can significantly enhance your academic knowledge, skills and employment prospects. Aswell as the opportunity to further my work within a studio environment, the actual opportunities with regards to experiences such as teaching played a significant part in choosing a graduate program.

Were there any important qualities about your school which made it stand out more than the others on your list of possibilities?

The School of Art and Design at SIUC provides you with a professional studio environment, encourages self-discipline, high standards and productivity. High quality creative activity is also encouraged through peer exchange. Also going back to having the opportunity to teach, the school is committed to offering teaching experience as part of the program and normally all grad students who are accepted are guaranteed some kind of graduate assistantship which means that everybody receives some kind of financial assistance. These were important qualities to me but also the location of the school made it stand out from others. The surrounding area is very beautiful where lots of inspiration can be drawn from the landscape and as my work is based on the landscape and different cultures this sounded ideal.

Given what you now know, what are tips could you provide for other students with regard to choosing and getting accepted into school?

My main tip is to start preparing your application form early so you have plenty time to think about writing your resume and artist's statement. The artist's statement communicates an insight into what ideas you have been developing in your work and within the arts you may not be entirely sure about the way in which it is going to develop but at least the statement lays down a sort of foundation to your thought process. Also, it's a good idea to prepare your slides in advance so a clear indication of your work is given.

How did you fund your graduate education? How available were scholarships and other forms of financial assistance?

I am funding my education through a graduate assistantship. These are available as quarter-time and half-time assistantships where you either teach or are involved in research and through this, your tuition is paid but you still have to pay your fees. This is an enormous help because study in the visual arts can be very expensive due to material costs and also with the assistantship you get paid a monthly stipend. Overall, I find it to be invaluable experience because I teach drawing and also lead 3 discussion groups for introduction to art history which then gives me another opportunity to think about in my career choice. I know that there other financial assistance opportunities available, one being a fellowship where again your tuition is paid for you.

Exactly what is your graduate degree?

I am pursuing a MFA because I am a painter and it gives me the opportunity to advance my own painting in a studio environment which is the most important factor to me. I can concentrate and specialise in painting but at the same time I can learn new skills, for example, I am taking a printmaking course to learn new possibilities of creating an image.

How does your school help its students to find jobs in the visual arts? What are your employment goals?

Within the school a variety of career goals are addressed ranging from preparation for an academic career to sustaining oneself as an artist. I'm not completely sure exactly how the school assists you in finding jobs because I have just started but I know if anyone has any questions about the subject, any lecturer would only be too willing to help you and answer your questions. Also, I've found here that even though you are still in university, it's more like being in a real life situation because you are juggling teaching with developing your own work. My career goals are to establish myself as a Scottish and international artist while maybe teaching part-time so I can pass on my knowledge to other aspiring artists.

Tell us about your education at your graduate school. What did you like and dislike about it?

I have loved every moment of it, it is an intense course because of my graduate assistantship and then also trying to create and develop my own work but the experiences I am having, well I would not change any of it. I think if you know that you want to develop your work and be focused and serious about what you do, then it is very beneficial. There's also the other side to it, meeting new people, people from all different cultures and countries and also the lecturers in the visual arts are artists themselves, they just have more experience in their field and you can learn from that.

How much difference does a good teacher make? Tell us about one good and one bad experience that you had.

A good teacher does make a difference, I think it is important if the teacher stimulates the class, passes on the knowledge that they have on the particular subject so the student can learn it and then develop it in the way they want to. In high school I had a particular French teacher that was not very good about communicating the subject to us and in the end I had to primarily teach myself the subject through conversations with other foreign language teachers and then taking extra work home to cover.

Please write and answer other questions you think of that would benefit prospective graduate students.

How can I afford going to grad school?

Going to grad school can be very expensive and the idea of debt looming over you is not very nice but check to see if the school you are applying to offers financial assistance because that can take a huge burden off your mind. Also look out for other types of grants and financial aid; check on the internet, ask in your local library - there is alot of funding available out there but start looking early as often you are required to submit a written statement to say why you need funding before a deadline date.

Why apply to grad school?

If you are thinking about going to grad school try and think about what you want out of going. If you are passionate and serious about your work then I suggest you apply because you only have one life and it's better if you try and make the most of it. Just think about all the knowledge and skills you can acquire along with meeting a culturally diverse group of people. It really is an amazing experience, one which can be looked back upon hopefully with many laughs (and maybe a few tears) and from which you can say that you are glad you did it.


Graduate Program Profile: Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, School of Art and Design

Enrollment: 55 graduate students in MFA Art and Design

School Tuition (in-state/out-of-state): In-state: $130.60 per credit hour; 12 hours or more, cost is $1,567.20. Out-of-state: $261.20 per credit hour; 12 hours or more, cost is $3,134.40.

However, according to Ed Shay, head of graduate programs, this official cost is irrellevant because all graduate students accepted into the SIU Carbondale School of Art and Design receive a tuition waiver and a guaranteed ΒΌ-time assistantship.

Student/Faculty Ratio: 2:1

Graduation rate: 96%

Graduate degrees and programs offered in visual arts: MFA in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture/foundry, ceramics, metals/blacksmithing and glass

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