State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta

Updated 9/26/2016

This is the review of The Cooperstown Graduate Program based on 24 responses.

For some context, here are some quick facts about The Cooperstown Graduate Program:

  • The Cooperstown Graduate Program is an academic division of SUNY Oneonta
  • approximately 15 students are accepted into The Cooperstown Graduate Program per year
  • on average, graduates have a 90-100% success rate in finding a job within 12 months after graduation
  • there are 4 full-time faculty with additional adjunct professors teaching about 30 students
  • partnered with the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA)
  • part-time assistantships are available as well as grants and scholarships

The above facts can be found here

The Cooperstown Graduate Program is located in Cooperstown, New York.


The responses are from graduates that attended the program less than a year to 16 or more years ago.

The breakdown is 50% 0-5 years, 4% 6-10 years, 17% 11-15 years, 25% 16+ years

The advantages of the program are:

  • gives a well-rounded selection of classes that build knowledge and skills in most aspects of museum work and teaches how departments of a museum should all work together in a productive way. They also added a science museum track in 2015
  • lots of out-of-classroom/hands-on experiences, internships and field trips are included in the curriculum
  • small program and class sizes that allows students to develop close relationships with faculty
  • classes are taught by museum professionals and academics, offers seminars by visiting museum professionals
  • the alumni network is very large as well as the support of current museum professionals
  • offers financial aid and tuition is relatively inexpensive when it’s compared to other programs*
  • classroom and labs have been recently relocated in a top-notch custom-made facility
  • pushes students with its project schedule
  • Committed to service and the community
  • Is diverse in their student population; there is a mix of recent graduates and professionals gone back to school as well as a mix of educational backgrounds

Some disadvantages about the program:

  • Is focused on the East Coast
  • Housing can be difficult, classes may start before housing is available
  • limited electives available for classes on in-depth history or art history, only overview or survey courses
  • lack of financial aid*

Cooperstown is isolated, about 40 minutes away from the main campus (see map below). Also, this graduate program only takes about fifteen students a year so this does mean small class sizes but also means you spend two years with the same fifteen people which could get a bit intense.


*financial aid is listed as both an advantage and disadvantage because some participants listed it as the former and others as the latter. I contacted the program and the Director, Gretchen Sorin responded that, “Yes, some students receive more financial aid than others.  We work very hard to raise money for our students and every student who requests financial aid receives some level of support.  First year students typically receive between $3,000 and $5,000.  Second year students receive more.  We have several special scholarship awards that come from alumni designated endowments and are awarded based on specific criteria.  Some second year students also receive gradate assistantships or inclusion fellowships.  We raise money to increase scholarship support through an annual appeal to alumni and friends and through grant writing each year.”

This program’s overall rating as it was: 9.1/10

This program’s overall rating as it is now: 9.3/10

According to the responses, the program has improved their curriculum, and had a building designed and constructed for museum studies. Other reasons for a change in rating were that:

  • the thesis is no longer a requirement
  • financial aid has improved
  • doing more to create connections between alumni and students
  • expanded courses in museum administration

96% of the participants do not work near the Cooperstown Graduate Program.

35% works at a historical society or history museum, 20% in art museums, 10% in specialty museums, 5% in higher education, 5% in natural history museums, and 5% works for a state museum association

45% of graduates now do work that encompass exhibitions, 30% include curatorial duties, 25% include administrative work,  15% in collections management, 15% in education, 10% in archival/library, 15% in visitor services/membership, 5% in registration, and 5% in other.

Only 8% of participants responded as searching for a job.

Some current job titles are:

  • Chief Curator
  • Community Development Coordinator
  • Executive Director
  • Assistant Curator of Collections
  • Curatorial Assistant
  • Exhibition Developer
  • Assistant Curator of Exhibitions

Some dream job titles are (these do not necessarily correspond with the titles above):

  • Vice President of Visitor Engagement
  • Executive Director
  • Curator of Collections
  • Chief Curator
  • Collections Manager
  • Museum Consultant


My Summary:

Based on these responses and my research on the Cooperstown Graduate Program, this program seems like a good fit for individuals looking for a general background in museum studies. Their graduates have gone on to work in a variety of museums and similar institutions in various roles. The program offers lots of practical courses and encourages hands-on learning experiences. The program is partnered with NYSHA which, in theory, provides students with that hands-on learning piece and networking opportunities.

I only see two real potential drawbacks, depending on the individual (I’m ignoring the financial piece at the moment; it’s grad school in the United States, it’s going to break your wallet). A few participants pointed out that the program is geared toward East Coast museums and history. Also, this program is not theory intensive. However, there are classes available on theoretical issues in the museum world and more abstract topics (Class, Race and Gender course must make for a packed semester). Overall, I’d say it’s worth living in rural Upstate New York for a couple years if you come out with a well-earned degree from a respected school with plenty of alumni to use as a network.  If you would like to add your input, go take the survey or comment below.

If you would like more information on this program go to their website.

Their page on the SUNY Oneonta site has a fair amount of information as well.

I will be updating this post as I receive more responses about The Cooperstown Graduate Program and do some more research on the school so be sure to check back! As always, feel free to comment or send feedback.


4 thoughts on “State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta”

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