In 2011, Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) created the first low-residency MFA in Graphic Design. Founding faculty member and Academic Dean Matthew Monk likens the program’s conception to heading into uncharted territory: “An educational model and pedagogical approach like ours had never been attempted in graphic design education.” But the faculty believed that a student-centered, inquiry-based program in graphic design could thrive.

“We approached what we were doing as a massive experiment,” Monk says. “We were diverging so far from how any of us had ever taught or been taught. But we trusted our hunches that the old ways of teaching design were not only outmoded, but that they may never have been as effective as many would have had us believe.” VCFA’s program was built from the ground up, questioning the authority of dominant voices and canons from day one.

Ten years later, this “massive experiment” has grown into a leading program for design education, thanks to a diverse, committed global community of bold and curious educators and students.

Bonita Tanaka (’13) remembers: “My first advisor was Nikki Juen. Her verbal, visceral acknowledgment of me as a designer allowed me to take a deeper breath, transition from the external pressures of being a design professional, and become my own creative director and content creator.”

Vic Rodriguez Tang (’22) joined the program in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, when residencies were forced to move online. However, Vic says, “I don’t feel like I have missed out on anything so far at VCFA. The faculty and other students provide a safe space during the residency. My work keeps getting better, mainly because I can genuinely show up and do my best work in this type of environment.”

As faculty member Ian Lynam notes, “Other schools have changed the course of society aesthetically or through literature, but I feel that our collective efforts are changing society as an aggregate whole.”

About Vermont College of Fine Arts
Vermont College of Fine Arts is a global community of artists continuously redefining what it means to be an arts college. It is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) and offers Master of Fine Arts degrees in Film, Graphic Design, Music Composition, Visual Art, Writing, and Writing for Children & Young Adults.

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