From masterful storytelling to innovative architecture, University of the Arts’ Museum Exhibition Planning and Design MFA students are critical and strategic thinkers who use their creative tools to design experiences that cultivate curiosity, build empathy and inspire people to action. Our graduates are expert storytellers, content creators and designers for a broad range of audiences, and go on to work in museums, creative agencies and nonprofits.

After more than 25 years, the nation’s only Master of Fine Arts in Museum Exhibition Planning and Design (MEPD) program remains at the forefront of the rapidly evolving museum field. As part of the School of Design, our MFA focuses on design thinking and creative problem-solving. 

Our museum programs are purposefully multidisciplinary. Students may choose elective courses outside of the MEPD core curriculum, such as Explorations in Sustainability, Grant Writing, Professional Practice, Team Dynamics, and Universal Design and Accessibility. They may also select courses from studio and seminar resources in the School of Design.

With premier facilities located on campus, students have access to the Center for Immersive Media, Makerspace and Product Design studio to take their coursework from a theoretical realm to the physical as they are challenged to prototype and evaluate their ideas.
 

Whether already in the field or aspiring to affect the public good, applicants from all backgrounds are encouraged to use their talents and passion to advance the missions and impact of our great cultural institutions.

The Museum Exhibition Planning and Design MFA degree program provides a boutique learning experience: Class sizes are kept small to allow for personalized attention from an impressive faculty of working museum professionals. Theory is put into action through inclusive practice, with opportunities to work with real-world clients and in cross-disciplinary teams.

Our classroom is Philadelphia, the nation’s first UNESCO World Heritage City, with behind-the-scenes access to hundreds of museums, cultural institutions and historical sites that are as lively and active today as they were in the 1700s. Our national network of alumni and partnering museums provides students with valuable and practical internship experiences.

Museum Programs at UArts

MA Museum Studies

Museum Studies students become powerful advocates for museums and other institutions. Our graduates craft and execute missions and strategic plans, expand and educate audiences through marketing and community outreach, write grants, and raise money to fund vital museum efforts. This 45-credit program takes 1.5 years, full time, to complete.

Explore Museum Studies

MFA Museum Exhibition Planning & Design

The MEPD Program prepares students to be critical and strategic thinkers in the world of exhibition and program development and design. Our graduates are expert story-tellers, content creators and designers for a broad range of audiences, and go on to work in museums, creative agencies and non-profits. This 60-credit program takes two years, full time, to complete.

MA Museum Education

The Museum Education program prepares students to lead the way for museums and nonprofits to fulfill their missions, educate their audiences, and implement key educational initiatives. You’ll gain the tools for pursuing knowledge through inquiry, exploring visual arts and digital design, engaging in creative problem-solving, and empowering your community as a collaborative partner. This 45-credit program takes 1.5 years, full time, to complete.

Explore Museum Education

Events

Twice per year, the Museum Studies Department takes advantage of our unique geographical position to visit renowned institutions and design firms along the Northeast corridor, from New York to Baltimore to Washington, D.C.

There are additional field trips embedded in certain core courses. For example, students in Exploring in Philadelphia Museums take weekly field trips to some of the city’s iconic museums and hidden cultural and historic gems. Philadelphia has a wonderfully generous museum community that is committed to engaging with future leaders in our field.

Museum Exhibition Planning and Design students research, plan, develop and design exhibitions and interactive experiences; create digital and physical models of three-dimensional spaces; build and test prototype components; practice audience research; and engage in other aspects of museum work. 

Students learn from experience designer Ben Baker about accessibility in museums.
An accessibility workshop with experience designer Ben Baker.

Centered around a collaborative studio environment, students balance hands-on work with real-world challenges through partnerships with museums, nonprofits and other cultural institutions. The program is designed to be collaborative and offers students opportunities to apply the theory about traditional and contemporary approaches to complex team-based projects—the standard in the museum field. 

Areas of study include 

  • Accessibility,
  • Audience research,
  • Building materials and techniques,
  • Content development,
  • Community engagement,
  • Computer aided design,
  • Drawing and sketching,
  • Exhibit design,
  • Model making,
  • Lighting,
  • Prototype testing,
  • Storytelling,
  • Sustainability, and
  • Universal Design.

Sample Curriculum:

Total Credits: 60
Duration: 2 years, full-time

Year One

Fall: 16.5 credits        
Museum Exhibition Design Studio I (4.5c)        
Museum History & Theory (1.5c)    
Museum Audience & Evaluation     (3c)  
Environmental Graphic Design (3c)
Architectural Drawing as a Visualizing Tool (1.5c)    
Essentials of Graphic Software (3c)        

Year Two

Fall: 15 credits    
CAD: Vectorworks & Exhibit Design or Exhibit Content Development (1.5c)
Museum Exhibition Design Studio III (4.5c)                
Museum Internship (3c)
Thesis Development (3c)
Elective (3c)

Spring: 16.5 credits
Prototyping for Community Engagement (3c)
Museum Seminar: Museums & Society (3c)
Museum Exhibition Design Studio II (6c)
Museum Lighting (1.5c)
Computer-Aided Drafting: Vectorworks (1.5c)
Exhibition Materials & Methods (1.5c)

Spring: 9–12 credits
Digital Media for Museum Interpretation (3c)
Thesis (3c)
Elective (3–6c)

Summer
Museum/Studio Internship (3c)

 


Electives include Explorations in Grant Writing, Professional Practice, Sustainability, Team Dynamics, and Universal Design and Accessibility and can also be selected from incredible studio and seminar resources in the School of Design.

Explore the full curriculum.

 

Community Engagement & Social Impact        

Students pose for a picture behind their pop-up exhibit for Museum Studies.
Students test out their interactive pop-up exhibit.

Museums play an important role as catalysts for new dialogue and potential action. In addition to each semester’s coursework, you will participate in an annual design sprint. The sprint is a carefully choreographed, three-day process that answers critical questions and produces innovative solutions through design, prototyping and idea testing.

You’ll be able to collaborate with content experts, local organizations and members of the community on real-world problems. You’ll develop and design interpretive pop-up exhibits for public audiences, which provide a powerful context for applying concepts and principles from your course of study.

 

Internships

The summer internship provides students with an extended opportunity to gain hands-on experience at one or more of the 70 museums in the greater Philadelphia area and in other cultural institutions or design firms elsewhere in the U.S. or beyond. Individual internship choices are made based on each student’s needs, academic specialization, professional museum goals, experience and skills.

Our students intern for a wide range of art museums, history museums, science and technology centers, and natural history museums, as well as aquariums, children’s museums, gardens, historic houses, societies and zoos.

Recent summer internships include

  • Walters Museum of Art, Baltimore;
  • Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia;
  • New York Hall of Science, New York City;
  • Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.; and
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art.

University of the Arts, in conjunction with the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, awards an annual, fully funded internship at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore to a student in the Museum Exhibition Planning and Design program. See the Scholarships tab for more information.

As a student in the Museum Exhibition Planning and Design program, you’ll have behind-the-scenes access to hundreds of Philadelphia’s museums, including cultural institutions and historical sites. In addition to local museums, you’ll have the opportunity to intern at institutions, design and development firms across the nation.

A student speaks with workshop leader Ben Baker about accessibility in the Franklin Institute.
A trip to the Franklin Institute.

Recent institutions that have hosted internships include

  • American Museum of Natural History, New York;
  • Bluecadet, Philadelphia;
  • de Young museum, San Francisco;
  • Field Museum, Chicago;
  • Franklin Institute, Philadelphia;
  • Guggenheim Museum, New York;
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston;
  • New York Hall of Science, Queens, New York;
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art;
  • Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia;
  • Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; and
  • Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Recent design and development firms that have hosted internships include

  • Ralph Appelbaum Associates, New York;
  • Jane Clark Chermayeff & Associates, New York; and
  • SKOLNICK Architecture + Design Partnership, New York.
A student tests out motion-capture technology with projections.
Motion capture demonstration at CIM.

Center for Immersive Media 
UArts’ new Center for Immersive Media (CIM) is a 5,600-square-foot facility dedicated to exploring the fields of virtual and mixed reality, performance motion-capture, and human-computer interaction. The space includes

  • optical motion capture system for full-body performance capture and location-based virtual reality applications;
  • a four-channel audio system, multiple video projectors and lighting, as well as a control station; 
  • a 16-station computing classroom with PCs optimized for real-time graphics rendering; and 
  • two large project rooms with ceiling grids for the development of installations and virtual environments.

Learn more about CIM

A student points to the 3-D printers in the Makerspace.
3-D printers in the Makerspace.

Makerspace
The University of the Arts’ Albert M. Greenfield Makerspace is a 3,500-square-foot digital and traditional fabrication studio that brings together the entire university community and serves as a catalyst for the collaboration, experimentation and innovation that’s characteristic of UArts.

The Makerspace houses state-of-the-art digital and analog equipment that allows students to create virtually anything they can imagine. It is outfitted with

  • 3-D printers and scanners;
  • a router and a mill;
  • laser, vinyl and substrate cutters;
  • a printed circuit board and decal printers;

and much more.

Learn more about Makerspace
 

Our faculty are all working museum professionals who are well-known in their respective fields and are parts of extensive networks of prominent professionals and institutions.

Program Leaders

Museum Exhibition Planning & Design program leader Stephanie Reyer
Stephanie Reyer

Museum Exhibition Planning & Design (MFA)
Museum Exhibition Planning & Design Program Leader
Mickey Maley
Mickey Maley

Museum Education (MA)
Museum Education Program Leader
Karen Pollard, Acting Director, Museum Studies
Karen Pollard

MFA '00 (Museum Exhibition Planning & Design)

Museum Studies (MA)
Acting Director, Museum Studies Program Leader

Featured Faculty

Michael Adams
Mike Adams

Museum Studies (MA)
Director of Education at the National Constitution Center who commits to serving the small museum community.
Jane E. Boyd
Jane E. Boyd

Museum Exhibition Planning & Design (MFA)
Independent curator/exhibit developer, museum consultant, and freelance writer and editor.
Polly McKenna-Cress, Director of Museum Studies
Polly McKenna-Cress

Museum Studies (MA)
Chief Engagement Officer for the Please Touch Museum with over 30 years of experience in museums and design firms.
Richard Cress
Richard Cress

Museum Studies (MA)
Principal of Alusiv design studio with over 30 years of experience in design services.
Lauren Duguid headshot.
Lauren Duguid

MFA '10 (Museum Exhibition Planning & Design)

Museum Exhibition Planning & Design (MFA)
Exhibition Designer with experience working in collaborative environments in the museum field.
Stacey Mann
Stacey Mann

Museum Studies (MA)
Interpretive strategist and learning experience designer with over 20 years of experience in the museum industry.
Ellen Owens
Ellen Owens

MA '06 (Museum Education)

Museum Studies (MA)
Merle-Smith Director of Learning Programs at the Penn Museum and President of Emerging Art Leaders: Philadelphia.
Dana Schloss
Dana Schloss

MFA '06 (Museum Exhibition Planning & Design)

Museum Studies (MA)
Prototyper and exhibit developer in science and children's museums.
Beth Van Why
Beth Van Why

MID '06

Museum Exhibition Planning & Design (MFA)
Project Manager at Becker & Frondorf with 20 years of design, museum and construction experience.
Robert Vosburgh headshot
Robert Vosburgh

Museum Studies (MA)
Director of Gift Planning at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mira Zergani headshot
Mira Zergani

Museum Studies (MA)
Director of Development at the Morris Arboretum with over 25 years of experience in fundraising and non-profit management.

The small cohort size in the Museum Exhibition Planning and Design program allows for personalized mentorship from the program director and faculty, in order to guide students toward their anticipated career paths. 

Two students look over a document at the Mercer Museum.
A trip to the Mercer Museum.

Internships are an opportunity for students to gain practical experience and mentorship outside the program in a variety of museum fields. Students can also learn from and network with industry professionals during seminars and guest speaker events. Over the course of the program, students’ portfolios are developed through projects, internships and theses. 

 

Internships

Students can gain hands-on experience at one or more of the 70 museums in the greater Philadelphia area and in other cultural institutions or design firms, elsewhere in the U.S. or beyond. 

Our students intern for a wide range of art museums, history museums, science and technology centers, and natural history museums as well as aquariums, children’s museums, gardens, historic houses, societies and zoos.

Students talk with a museum expert at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
A trip to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Recent internships include

  • American Museum of Natural History, New York;
  • Bluecadet, Philadelphia;
  • de Young museum, San Francisco;
  • Field Museum, Chicago;
  • Franklin Institute, Philadelphia;
  • Guggenheim Museum, New York;
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston;
  • New York Hall of Science, Queens, New York;
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art;
  • Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia;
  • Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; and
  • Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

 

Featured Alumni

Graduates of the program hold leadership positions in museums and cultural institutions across the country and are innovators in their fields. 

Recent graduates include

  • Ciara Cryst MFA ’19, Content Developer, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
  • Adrienne Testa MFA ’19, Vice President of Museum Experiences, Sciencenter
  • Celia Helfrich MFA ’18, Designer, History Colorado Center
  • Holly Mutascio ’18, Exhibition Designer, Musical Instrument Museum
  • Sarah Aman MFA ’16, Exhibit and Graphic Designer, PGAV Destinations
  • Michael Keys MFA ’16, Exhibition Manager, Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
  • Louise Barrett ’14, Visitor Logistics Coordinator, Princeton University Art Museum
  • Helaina Blume ’14, Director of Exhibitions, Museum of the Earth and Cayuga Nature Center
  • Allison Aubrey ’13, The Franklin Institute
  • Layla Ballner ’13, Visitor Services Representative, Penn Museum
  • Karl Allens ’12, Production and Facilities Manager, The Mercury Store
  • Kelly Floyd ’11, Senior Director of Design and Project Management, Denver Zoological Foundation
  • Ken Davis MFA ’10, Exhibit Planner, National Park Service
  • Ed Mooney ’10, Design Director, Experiences at National Geographic
  • Christine McMonagle ’09, Communications Director, Metro Pictures Gallery
  • Amanda Ramierez ’08, Senior Designer, Getty Museum
  • Kate Quinn ’07, Director of Exhibitions and Special Programs, Penn Museum
  • Dottie Miles ’06, Associate Director, Interpretation and Exhibitions, Longwood Gardens
  • Allegra Burnette ’95 Principal, Allegra Burnette & Associates LLC
  • Michael Christiano, Deputy Director and Curator of Public Practice, Smart Museum of Art

 

Philadelphia-based museums and institutions that have hired UArts alumni include

  • Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University,
  • African American Museum,
  • The Barnes Foundation,
  • Fleisher Art Memorial,
  • The Franklin Institute, 
  • Magic Gardens,
  • Museum of the American Revolution,
  • Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia,
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and
  • Penn Museum.

 

Our Grads Love What They Do.

Alumni Spotlight: Connecting with Claire is a portrait of alumna Claire Cossaboon MA ’13 (Museum Communication), who is currently the membership manager at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey.  


Want More? Explore Our Network. 

Our more-than-25-year legacy at UArts means we have over 300 graduates working in the field. You can see more of our graduates on LinkedIn; you can also request to join our LinkedIn group.

 

Common careers a graduate of the MEPD program could obtain are

  • content developers,
  • exhibition designers,
  • independent entrepreneurs,
  • interpretive planners,
  • museum and nonprofit leaders,
  • project managers, and
  • prototypers and fabricators.

Scholarships

Graduate merit-based scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence and demonstrated talent. These are awarded based on entrance materials; no separate application is required. The Trustee’s, Dean’s and Director’s scholarships are highly selective awards and range in amount, up to approximately 40% of tuition.

 

The Museum Studies von Hess Internship Fellowship

With the generous support of the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, UArts offers three, fully funded internship opportunities to UArts Museum Studies students, in partnership with three acclaimed institutions: the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; the Baltimore Museum of Art; and the Walters Art Museum, also in Baltimore.

Benefits
Successful students professionally benefit from a 10-week internship experience tailored to their area of study, as well a living stipend of $7,000–$8,000, depending on internship placement.

How to Apply
Graduate students must be enrolled and in good standing (3.0 or above) in one of the three Museum Studies degree programs. Students apply at the start of their second semester (February) and complete the von Hess application by the due date (including a résumé, an essay of one’s professional purpose and goals, two letters of recommendation from MS faculty and an official UArts transcript). The department makes recommendations to host museums, which select the final fellows. 

 

Financial Aid

Most graduate students enrolled on a full-time basis are eligible for some type of need-based aid. Additionally, some scholarship opportunities take need-based criteria into account. All students who are U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens and are enrolled in a degree program are encouraged to apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Learn more about graduate financial aid.

Cost of attendance includes annual tuition and can also encompass on-campus housing, meals, books and supplies, laptops, transportation, a student services fee, lab fees (for certain courses), health insurance, and personal expenses. Many of our graduate students receive financial aid and scholarships to help offset these costs.

See graduate tuition and fees.
 

How to Apply

Application Deadline

Fall 2020: The University is currently reviewing applications to this program on a rolling basis. Students may continue to apply after the February 1 priority deadline and will be considered for admission and scholarships on a space-available basis. Please review Graduate Tuition, Financial Aid and Scholarship for further information.

To apply, the following materials are required:

  • Application Fee of $60 (nonrefundable; submitted with your application)
  • Official Transcripts
    • Official transcripts from all prior undergraduate and graduate schools attended are required. Transcripts should be issued directly by the Registrar's Office at the college(s) attended and sent to the Office of Admissions, The University of the Arts, 320 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 or via email to gradcredentials@uarts.edu. For transcripts from outside the United States, please refer to the instructions provided below for international students.
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
    • Letters of recommendation may either be requested through the online application form, or mailed to the Office of Admissions. At least two must come from professors or professional in your field familiar with your capabilities and credentials. The third may be from a colleague, collaborator or a peer.
  • Statement of Intent & Resume
    • Your statement of intent and your resume are uploaded and submitted as part of your online application. Statements should be a minimum of one to two pages and detail your professional plans, interests and goals. What do you hope to gain by your studies at the graduate level? 

    • Your resume should highlight all of your professional accomplishments, including employment, internships, honors, exhibitions and publications.

  • Creative Portfolio
    • A portfolio of professional work samples submitted through the UArts Graduate SlideRoom Portal is required for all Museum Studies applicants. There is a $10 fee to submit a portfolio in addition to the $60 application fee.
    • The portfolio should showcase your strengths as a potential student. Provide a curated selection of work you have completed. This might include, but is not limited to, examples of 2-D and 3-D design, creative or critical writing, event or program plans, etc. Your work should demonstrate design thinking, critical thinking, versatility and/or collaboration.
  • Personal Interview
    • After the application has been processed, each applicant is contacted for a personal interview conducted by the program director. For applicants who cannot interview at the university, interviews can be conducted via telephone or Skype.

International Applicants

In addition to the requirements listed above, international applicants or those with foreign credentials must submit:

  • Official Transcripts
    • All transcripts from outside the United States must be in English and must be official. The Office of Admissions may request that international students obtain a transcript evaluation from a third-party credential evaluation service (such as World Education Services or Educational Credential Evaluators) in cases where further information is required to assess international credentials. 
       
  • Proof of English Language Proficiency
    • International students whose native language is not English must submit the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Duolingo English Test. A minimum TOEFL score of 79, IELTS score of 6.0, or Duolingo English Test score of 100 is required for admission. In lieu of the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test, completion of Level 9 in the University of the Arts ESL Institute will be accepted.   

Applicants who meet the academic and creative requirements for admission but whose scores do not meet the English proficiency requirement for degree study may receive an offer of conditional admission that first requires enrollment in the University of the Arts' English as a Second Language Institute (ESLI). Applicants who successfully complete Level 9 of ESL study in ESLI will then be able to begin their degree program studies.

In special circumstances, applicants who have not taken the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test can request a waiver of this requirement. The request should be submitted in writing and include the reason for opting not to take the exams. Requests will then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may require an interview. A waiver may be considered for those applicants who enrolled full-time in an accredited college or university in the U.S. and successfully completed two semesters of college-level English, not taken in conjunction with ESL study, and earned a minimum GPA of 3.0 in those classes.

I20/F-1 International Student Visa Information: Upon acceptance, students will be contacted by the University of the Arts International Student Programs Office regarding visa counseling and all materials required to create an I-20 in order to obtain an F-1 visa. Contact Mara Flamm, Director of International Student Programs, with any questions regarding your I-20 or F-1 visa.

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