Syracuse University

This is the review for the Museum Studies program at Syracuse University, College of Visual and Performing Arts. If you weren’t previously aware, here are some facts about the university and its Museum Studies program:

  • The program has a Museums and Contemporary Practices MAYmester course where students spend a week in D.C. or NYC taking private tours and meeting with museum professionals.
  • There are 161 graduate students enrolled in the College of Visual and Performing Arts with 61% identifying as females
  • GRE is not required, however, if you submit them, they will be reviewed.

This information was found here, here and here.

Syracuse University s a private research university located in Syracuse, New York.

I have received 11 responses for the Museum Studies program at Syracuse University from students who graduated less than a year ago to 15 years ago. The breakdown is: 9 respondents graduated 0-5 years ago, 1 graduated 6-10 years ago, and 1 graduated 11-15 years ago.

Aspects of the program that theses graduates considered advantages were:

  • Worked in on-campus galleries to gain direct experience with installation, collections care, and exhibit development
  • Community support and opportunities for hands-on learning with the SUArt Galleries and local museums and field trips
  • Museum professionals as teachers
  • Strong connections to working professionals for extra information
  • Classes being cross-taught with different programs (i.e. Library Science, Anthropology, Art History)
  • Access to internships in the Central NY area
  • Program was fast paced and could be completed in 1.5 years
  • Not as expensive as other programs
  • Relatively small number of students in the program fostered a close, peer community.
  • Good breadth of courses of offered. We gained an understanding of how museums function on the whole.
  • Assistantships in the art collection
  • Has a heavy background in studio/contemporary art/art history background and group work focused
  • Location
  • Ability to easily pursue dual masters (Art History, Arts Leadership, etc.), Ph.D., or certificates which make students stand out to employers
  • small, tight-knit faculty
  • growing program
  • Easy access to university art collection and archives
  • An exceptionally strong on-campus museum with both ethnographic and art collections

Aspects of the program these graduates considered disadvantages were:

  • Lack of diversity in faculty (i.e. there are so few faculty that you don’t get a lot of diversity in terms of what classes you can take– only a few disciplines are really covered well)
  • Few opportunities for field trips to other museums and institutions
  • Lack of thesis
  • More hands on approach – less theory
  • Financial aid is a tricky situation, as the program has limited full scholarships and prefers to distribute the aid evenly among all incoming students (hopefully this will change); as a result, since the program has increased in size the aid has spread out more/become “watered down” (often dual degree students get around this issue by having more aid from their other program); second years are always preferred for TA/grad assistant positions (which are always part-time positions and have limited benefits, as opposed to full-time TA positions); often the program is susceptible to politics and issues within the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), since it is based in the School of Design
  • Under-funded program, with limited resources: restrains options when designing and installing exhibitions, attending school-funded conferences, etc.
  • Central New York weather can be challenging, so living close to campus is a must.
  • Lack of a proper ‘home’ on campus, classes are held wherever there is room.
  • professors are employees it would have been nice to have professors from other institutions
  • More expensive than a state school
  • Not much help after you graduate. No effort to get you in contact with fellow alums.
  • The program is growing a bit too large- it was easier to learn in smaller groups.

The overall score of this program as it was when these graduates attended is 8.18/10.00

The overall score of this program as it is now is 7.71/10.00

This change in score is due to the program growing in size, professors changing, and a different director.

6 of the 11 graduates do live near Syracuse University. Near is defined as within the same metro area or graduates meet many alumni when attending regional conferences.

4 of the 11 work in art museums, 3 work in academic galleries or museums, 2 work outside of the museum field, and 1 works in a history museum.

4 of the 11 graduates have duties in their job that include registration, 3 of the graduates’ work includes administration, exhibitions, curatorial duties, and collections management. 1 graduates’ work includes archival/library duties and education.

Some examples of current job titles are:

  • Social Media Coordinator
  • Collections Specialist
  • Finance and Operations Coordinator
  • Registrar for Exhibitions and Loans

Some dream jobs are:

  • Registrar
  • Collections Manager
  • Curator of Education
  • Museum Anthropologist

My Summary:

In my opinion, after looking through the website and reading through these responses, this program seems solid, especially for those looking to work in art museums. I like that gaining certificates in different subjects and/or taking on another program seems to be not only accepted but encouraged.

Field trips are mentioned on both the advantage and disadvantage list. Reading over the Career Development page, it seems as though the program is working to bring field trips and conferences into the curriculum. It’s mention as a negative and a positive are individual experiences inside the program. Meaning, it may be something to bring up when speaking with someone from the program.

This program does seem like a very hands-on program. Which is perfect for some (one graduate listed crate-building of things they learned how to do. How cool is that?!).  However, with only 33 credits needed to graduate, this may mean that students spend less time on theory. There may still be opportunities to add this theory in with electives in different areas of study. Again, something to bring up when speaking with someone from the program.

A quick defense of Central New York weather: yes, it’s cold. And snowy. And windy. And sometimes icy. So yes, I agree that living near campus is a must. However, weather should not stop you, the persevering museum studies student, from picking the best academic program for your needs. Plus, it’s not that bad. Winter lasts from November to March/April depending on the year.

If you are interested in checking out this program here is the website. If I missed something or you don’t agree, fill out the survey, contact me, or comment below.


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