Each master’s program has one or more seminars or courses designed exclusively for graduate students, which set standards for advanced work in the chosen discipline.
Within several graduate programs, small seminars are combined with biweekly private conferences with the course teacher. In these meetings, known as conferences, student and teacher identify the student’s specific areas of interest and begin to explore them, often via a project or research paper. These independent enterprises help each student develop and refine skills of analysis, interpretation, and writing. Frequently, a conference project becomes the basis for a master’s thesis.
Graduate students who seek to develop an individual research project or creative work more fully, or to undertake an intensive course of reading, may embark on a program of independent study. Permission is obtained from the student’s program director and approved by the dean of Graduate Studies.
Working with a faculty member, graduate students may design an individual course to deal with subject matter not covered in the regular curriculum that year. Conference courses are conducted through weekly meetings between the student and faculty member and must be approved by the dean of Graduate Studies.
Courses in dance, music, and theatre are specifically structured to integrate theory and practice. Working with an adviser, students select a combination of several components that together constitute a full program for the Master of Fine Arts degree.
At the end of each course, students list on worksheets all of their reading and a brief description of the written work they did for the course. Worksheets enable students to review each course in the perspective of the whole, and they allow teachers to review what has been accomplished before they write student evaluations. For this reason, conference work must be detailed on the worksheets with particular care.
Faculty members prepare written evaluations of each student’s work to augment the traditional grading system. End-of-semester evaluations summarize the continuing dialogue between teacher and student in class and conference, giving students a more complete sense of their progress.