Table of Contents » Chapter 2 : Post Graduation » Chapter 2: Post Bac / Special Student Programs

Chapter 2: Post Bac / Special Student Programs

Many college and universities have some kind of situation where a non-degree seeking students can work for one or two semesters. Many people do this between undergraduate and graduate school so they can better develop their portfolio for applying the MFA programs, or right after graduate school as a way of transitioning out of school. Returning students enroll in post-bac programs as a way of transitioning back to school. A post-bac can also be a system to support visiting international artist, or someone working on one large project. A post-bac year is common in ceramics on account of a strong interest in community, sharing of facilities and mostly, needed time to space to work.

There are two types of programs, an official “Post – Baccalaureate Certificate Program” that requires a certain amount of credits to earn an official Post-Bac Certificate. There is also the casual “Special Student Program”, which varies as much as the schools that offers it. The difference in these programs can be mysterious, exciting or frustrating as usually this information is not on line, and you must email a busy faculty member for specifics. At the end of this page are some personal experiences with post-bac programs

Certificate’s Programs: Some schools have post-bac certificate’s program. This is a structured curriculum with specific existing certificate requirements. Often this program is 9-12 credits for the year.

Less Official Programs (Special Student Situations): Some school’s have a casual “post-bac”, this is also called special students, super seniors, 5th year students, visiting scholar or studio residents. The requirements, expectations and cost of this varies from school to school. Often students will enroll in 2-6 credits of independent study, internship or advanced ceramics, to focus intensely on their work. Student usually have full access to the facilities and some programs require “service” hours for this visiting student.

Post-Baccalaureate Programs with a Certificate:

University of Colorado, Boulder

University of Florida, Gainesville

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (note: Students can apply to both the MFA program and the Post-Bac. at the same time. If they don’t get accepted into the MFA their application is automatically bounced to the Post-Bac. review.)

Indiana University Southeast

Iowa State University

Program in Artisanry, UMass Dartmouth The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Oregon College of Art & Design

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

Special Student / Post-Bac Situations by State:


University of Alaska – Anchorage “This program is designed to give a student who has completed a B.F.A. (or equivalent) the facilities to: build up a portfolio for graduate school or residency program, work with new faculty and peers, continue with concept and technical development. In the fall, you will be required to sign up for ART A495 Practicum. Practicum is a course in studio management skills. Basically you will be my lab assistant for the fall semester. Tuition is covered by the ceramics area. It is a work for tuition arrangement. For the spring semester, You will be required to signup for ART A402 Advanced Wheelthrowing or Art A401 Advanced Hand Building. You will be working in the main working space with the rest of the students. We do not have private spaces for our special students, although we have plenty of room in the main area in wheel throwing and hand building. For more information, please contact Steve Godfrey at

University of Alaska – Fairbanks “We not have an official post-baccalaureate program, yet we do accept special students on a case by case basis. In the past we’ve accepted students for the purpose of building upon and strengthening their portfolio for application to our and other graduate programs. Space is limited, usually one to three credit independent study hours, plus lab fee, for those accepted. For more information please contact Jim Brashear


University of Arkansas “We understand the post-bac student as someone moving through a transitional stage toward a pre-determined goal. For many this goal is admission into a top-tier graduate program, for others it may be to develop a body of work that can launch a professional studio practice. The goals are varied, but whatever they may be, post-bac students are give the time and resources to ensure their goals can be met. For more information, please contact Jeannie Hulen or Matt McConnell at


Pitzer College “Our Special Student Program is an unofficial one year opportunity for 1-2 students to develop a portfolio of work in an independent academic setting. Special Students are responsible for doing five hours of work a week in exchange for 24/7 access to the ceramics facilities, materials and one-on-one mentorship. For more information, please contact Tim Berg at

San Jose State University “The Ceramics program at San Jose State University offers a 1-year residency program to a student who shows exceptional promise in the area of ceramics. This residency program offers a studio space located in the Ceramic graduate studio area and access to all kilns and ceramic studio facility. The artist who is selected to participates in this program will be required to work 10 hours a week as a volunteer. This program offers students who are between undergraduate and graduate school an opportunity to develop a portfolio and participate in a graduate level environment. For more information about this program please contact Stan Welsh directly. The deadline for applications is Feb.1st and the residency runs from August 1st-August 1st. For more information, please contact Stan Welsh at”

University of California, Davis “We have no official post back program, but having said that, I have taken students as ‘special student status’ to work in the studio over the years. The university has any number of paths they can follow to take classes for a year. ‘Concurrent student Status’ is one way: they enroll in classes or if they are really advanced, work as independent study students. We don’t always have the space in the studios, but when a strong and deeply engaged student requests this, we do our best to accommodate their needs. We also have something called ‘unpaid volunteer’. We reserve this for students who have graduated but still need time to work on their portfolios to finish or further a body of work for grad applications. This is a great opportunity for our students to spend a ‘fifth year’ working. They get space but pay a nominal lab fee for materials. The additional benefit is they get to be TA’s for the lower division classes in the studio, this gives them great teaching experience even though they are undergrads. When they get to grad school, and are assigned classes as TA as part of their work load for school, they already have some leadership and teaching experience. For more information, please contact Annabeth Rosen at”


Colorado State University “The program is a one year position starting in the fall. We usually accept two students each year. It is an intensive studio program and we assume that students will be highly self motivated. The development of your work should be your highest priority during the special student year. We’ll meet weekly or bi-weekly (depending on where the work is at) and schedule a formal/group critique twice a semester. Special students also participate in many of the activities involving the Advanced Class (visiting artist critiques, field trips, etc. ). We don’t have a graduate program in Ceramics at CSU which allows us to spend a lot of time with the special students. We also count on them for a lot: helping out with classes, undergraduates, and keeping the studio together. Please contact us for more information about applying. For more information, please contact Sanam Emani at”

Adams State Colorado “Our special student program is labeled as a Grad Special program. We welcome students with experience to take our graduate level ceramic courses in the fall or the spring semesters. We have a large shared studio space with hand building tables, wheels, shared materials, and electric, gas, salt, and wood kilns. Please contact Jenny Gawronski at for more information.”


University of Hartford (Hartford Art School)  “Our Special Student Program is not an official program, but we typically accept up to two students per year. Qualifications are a BFA and the ability to work independently as well as with a group. Special Students are required to register for three credits per semester and have their own private studio space to work in. They meet weekly with faculty and establish their own goals – usually to build a portfolio that will get them into a Residency or Grad program. For more information, please contact Matt Towers at .”


The University of Kentucky “The ceramics program at the University of Kentucky does have a post-bac program for students who have completed a bachelor’s degree and need to prepare their portfolios for application into the graduate program. Students register for a graduate level ceramics class (A-S 670) that meets twice weekly. There is no specified application procedure, but we recommend contacting a ceramic faculty member prior to registration. Enrolled post-bac students have full studio access, participate in graduate and undergraduate group critiques, get one on one feedback from the instructors, and have time to fully develop a cohesive body of work. For more information, please contact Hunter Stamps” at”


Illinois State University “Students pursuing post-undergraduate work at ISU will take credits as a “Graduate Student At Large”. These students are given studio space and will get materials through a minimal lab fee. “lSU accepts 1 to 2 special students each year. We seek individuals who wish to develop their work in the interest of applying to graduate programs or residencies or to make a significant shift in their work. The application is unofficial so we have an open application process reviewed by the ceramics area’s two full time faculty, Albion Stafford and Tyler Lotz. Once accepted by the area, students would enroll with the University as a “Graduate student at large” which is the official designation. For more information, please email Tyler Lotz or Albion Stafford

Southern Illinois University – Carbondale 
“We do have a post graduation opportunity, but it is unofficial. What we do is ask students to submit images and reference list to me at: If selected they are required have to submit an application to our graduate school as an undeclared graduate student and register for a single credit. There is 24/7 access to the studio and no material fees, but we ask that the student do some basic studio jobs to cover their material usage. The students share a large classroom area with the Ceramic Majors which can be from 3-10 students. We have had as many as 2 post-bacs at a time, but depending on the number of majors could accommodate up to 4.”

Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville “We usually have space for two ‘unclassified Grads’ along with our 4-6 full time graduate students. The application procedure is much the same as for the grads except that we have the post-bac students apply directly to the area (ceramics) instead of through the Graduate School. Our address is Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Department of Art and Design, Box 1774, Edwardsville, IL. 62026. Attn: Ceramics. Contact Joe Page at for more information.”

Governors State University “We have a MA program which could actually be considered a Post-Bac program since it is not terminal. This is my first semester here and I can see many changes in the future but the previous professor had not established a Post-Bac program. Students can take graduate credit classes without being enrolled. We offer a BFA and MA but not an MFA. We do not have individual studio space but we have a glaze lab and clay mixer, but only electric kilns at this time. Please email Leanne McClurg for more for more information at”


Herron School of Art & Design (Indiana University)
We do have a special student program, called a ‘non degree seeking student. For more information, please contact Leslie Baker at”

Indiana University – Bloomington We have a track record of hosting some special students – but as yet it is not a program or certificate earning process. We are slowly moving to some degree of formalization but generally the student would enroll for continuing education credits through the Graduate School. That is, currently, as formal as it gets. We take people on an ad hoc- word of mouth basis with no application per se. For more information, please contact Malcolm Smith at  .”

IUS Indiana University Southeast  “It’s really affordable, just 1 credit each semester and a $78 lab fee. Materials and firings are paid for. 24/7 access to a the main studio and all facilities, and each post bacc gets a small private studio. We have 10 kilns (4 computer controlled electrics, 1 computer controlled gas car kiln, 1 gas test kiln, a small anagama style wood kiln, a gas crossdraft soda kiln, a raku/saggar/burnout kiln, and a pit kiln). The post bacc would also have access to a Shopbot CNC router.” For more information, please contact Brian Harper at


Kansas City Art Institute “Students who seek advanced experience in ceramic art, but who are not working towards an undergraduate degree, may apply for enrollment in the KCAI Special Status Student program. These students enter KCAI with the intent to strengthen their portfolios for application to a premier graduate school or to refine their skills and qualifications for other professional positions. Special status students work under the guidance of a ceramics faculty, participate in departmental critiques, and attend a professional practice seminar. For more information, please contact Cary Esser at

Kansas State University “The K-State Ceramics Non-Certificate Post-Baccalaureate program was created to offer opportunities to artists who have completed a bachelor’s degree program and are looking to work in an active academic ceramics studio. Post-bac students at K-State receive a personal studio space and are actively involved in the K-State Ceramics program. Post-bacs attend the advanced undergraduate ceramics seminar and are invited to participate in group graduate critiques. Opportunities to assist faculty in teaching and in the studio are also offered. There are anywhere from one to six post-bac students studying at K-State at any given time. Through individual meetings, seminar classes, and interaction with faculty, graduates, and the resident artist; students receive valuable critical feedback and guidance in pursuing a career in the arts. For more information please email Amy Santo at

Wichita State UniversityThe Ceramics Program at Wichita State University offers Post-Baccalaureate opportunities on a semester-to-semester basis. We welcome applications from students who have completed a bachelor’s degree and seek to further prepare themselves for graduate study or other professional development, such as residency programs. Once enrolled in a 4 credit hour, advanced-level undergraduate course, Post-Bac students spend the semester engaged in independent, studio-based studies that also include regular feedback through one-on-one meetings with faculty, as well as formal and informal critiques with their peer group. Post-Bac students are closely advised and receive individual attention from faculty, often with tailored research projects or other skill and knowledge-based activities. Interested students please contact  Ted Adler at


Louisiana State University “LSU has a post bac program. On average we take up to four students a year. Students get a shared studio space with other post-bacs and undergraduate students. Students enroll in the undergraduate ceramics seminar for 3 credits, and audit the graduate seminar. For more information, please contact Andy Shaw or Michaelene Walsh at or .”


Maryland Institute College of ArtThe MICA Ceramics department accepts Special Students on a case by case bases. The program is designed to support highly motivated young artists in the development of their work towards graduate program application or other opportunities. Space is limited and special students are only accepted when adequate studio space can be set aside for their work. Students work directly with MICA faculty and with the advanced undergraduate cohort of students in the department. Undergraduate or Graduate credit is available. Please contact David S. East at for more information”


Michigan State University “The Post Baccalaureate experience through Life Long Education at MSU allows students to complete two semesters of Advanced Studio Ceramics – enrolling in four credits each semester. This is an excellent opportunity for a student with a BFA, BA or MA to build upon and strengthen their portfolio. For more information, please contact Blake Williams at


The University of Minnesota “We don’t have a official “Post Bac” program at this moment, but what we have been suggesting to people is that they can simply register our 5810 – Advanced Ceramic course. For more information, please contact Tetsuya Yamada at”

Jorgenson Pottery – Internship Program JD Jorgenson Pottery offers internships, assistantships and mentoring opportunities. The internship is like a post bac program, as it is a structured experience, however, rather than working in a College or University, the interns work at the Jorgenson Pottery. This internship can be, but is not required to be in conjunction with the College of St.Benedict, St. Johns University or St. Cloud State. The internship allows the students a hands on approach to learn about native clays, wood firing, community, food, exhibitions to open studio sales and the day to day life of a small studio. In addition to internships, Jorgenson Pottery also offer assistantships, mentorships and other opportunities through the studio for clay students and artists who are not bound to to the specific school schedule. For more information please contact JD Jorgenson at .


University of MississippiWe do not have an official special student program, however, we often do take students for a semester or a year as non-degree seeking students. They would take one class in ceramics, pay the fees for a one credit course, and have access to the facility and equipment, as well as matriculate with the BFA and MFA students. We do not have any dedicated space for them, but they will have some locker space. For more information, please contact Matt Long at”


The University of Montana “In ceramics we accept 1-3 studio residents a year depending on studio space. We are interested in working with people passionate about ceramics, wanting to be part of a community, and interested in learning and expanding their own studio practice. Studio Residents sign up for a modest amount of class credits, sitting in on advanced courses and critiques; in addition they are required to preform 8 hours of service to the studio a week. Via email please send 20 images of work, two references with contact information, a resume, and cover letter stating what you hope to accomplish during the year and why the University of Montana. Please contact Trey Hill at”

Montana State University The ceramics department has an occasional special student position open with the intent to offer BFA graduates a method to continue developing their work within a critically challenging and engaging environment. Students have full access to our facilities, faculty and a vibrant peer community. In addition to rigorous studio production, participation in class critiques, firings, visiting artist lectures and exhibitions is expected. Basic studio maintenance and mentoring of undergraduate students is part of the responsibility as this is a stepping stone towards graduate study and professional practice within the field. For more information please contact Josh Deweese at”



University of Nebraska, LincolnThe Special Student program brings in up to 3 students who have received their undergraduate degree and are looking for an intense ceramic experience in order to prepare for graduate school application or other future goals. For more information, please contact Margret Bohls at .

New York

Syracuse University “Usually we have 2 or 3 students that stay for about one year. It is usually dependent upon space availability. Each student receives roughly a 10′ x 10′ space in the majors room, contributes 10 hours of work to the studio a week that covers the cost of a lab fee for normalish use of materials. Students sign up for one graduate credit through the University College and are required to take the graduate seminar class. It is not unusual for a post bac to ‘shadow’ a professor in class if need and interest are there – this does not count against the 10 of work/wk. For more information, please contact Peter Beasecker at .”

School for American Crafts (RIT) 
“We have a studio residence program, students audit two credits per semester, have a space to work a and meet with the professors. Often the student perform some kind of service to the department such as assisting in studio up keep or firing kilns. Studio residents are welcomed into the supportive SAC Ceramics Community. For more information, please contact Jane Shellenbarger at”

SUNY New Paltz “At this time we do not have an official post-bac program, however on occasion we do take a special student on a case by case basis. For consideration, please contact Anat Shiftan at”

North Dakota

North Dakota State University “We have a new Special student program in Ceramics and printmaking. In ceramics we have three people that teach or contribute which includes a full time tech. We have a brand new amazing wood kiln, out of this world facilities and I am very interested in working with students who are interested in social practice, community. The term is 1 year long, very reasonable fee – $600 per semester + 200 fee which is unlimited material (we have a free clay source). We also ask that special students spend 6 hours per week working in the studio on a variety of tasks as part of the clay community. For more information, please contact Michael Strand at


Bowling Green State University “We have a fifth year program of sorts, though not a formally “developed program” we do admit students as an un-official post bac. Its availability depends on the graduate enrollment for the year. Requirements: BFA preferred, 1 credit hour of Graduate Studio course, lab fee each semester that covers all materials and firings, and 10 hours of studio technician work per week. Receives: Personal studio space, sits in on graduate and advanced undergraduate courses, access to all materials and firings (covered by lab fee), interaction with graduates and faculty. For more information, please contact Clay Leonard


Penn State University “The program is for one year – you enroll as a non-matriculating student and pay for one credit/semester. We also ask that you do some work for the studio – about 5 hrs/week directed by faculty or grad students. Special students participate in the 480/580 Ceramics Class. This is a kind of individual projects/ seminar/ discussion class for Grads, BFA’s, and Special Students. In addition to this class you are welcome to audit any of the other classes in the ceramics area at no additional cost. Please contact Liz Quackenbush at for application information.”

Tyler School of Art The Ceramics Program at the Tyler School of Art is accepting applications for the Special Student program for the 2018-2019 academic year. This is a non-certificate program and is intended to help students build their portfolio for the next stage of their artistic career. Preference will be given to applicants that intend to participate in the program for the entire academic year. Students enroll in either 3 credits of a graduate ceramics course or as a continuing education student in a noncredit bearing program that mirrors the academic calendar. “We ask the interested party to contact one of us directly for more information and availability.” Contact Chad Curtis at”

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania “We offer at two types of post-bac opportunities at Edinboro University of PA. One position, called a “Volunteer Technician” is much like a Residency. The Volunteer Tech is given a modest studio space and reasonable amounts of free materials in exchange for 10 hours of work per week (mixing glazes, overseeing kiln firings, etc). Another opportunity we offer is the “Special Student” status whereby someone may enroll in a graduate-level Ceramics course each semester up to a maximum of 9 credits. This is a non-degree program, but credits may be transferred. For more information, contact Lee Rexrode at

South Carolina

University of South Carolina “The students sign up for a advanced class (3 credits) and have a studio area. The costs for classes all materials for their studio use, firings etc is included in these credits. We accept students in the fall and spring semesters. They do need to go through the USC acceptance and enrollment through the Continuing Education area of the University. For more information, please contact Virginia Scotchieat”

Clemson University The Ceramic Special Student program at Clemson University aims to provide emerging ceramic artists with the space, time, equipment, and professional relationships to advance their development and focus. The duration is intended to be one year, with a maximum of two years, depending on performance evaluation of the first year and availability of space. Applicants are chosen for the quality of their portfolio, motivation, potential for growth, and the ability/willingness to contribute to the community within the Ceramics studio. Please contact Valerie Zimany at


University of Tennessees – Knoxville “We have a great post back program, its an affordable one year program, usually 1-3 students are accepted, depending on space. For more information, please contact a faculty member. For more information, please contact Sally Brogden at”


Southern Methodist University “SMU Ceramics welcomes applications from ceramists who want to continue making in a community setting. The special student should already have a BFA degree or equivalent experience as demonstrated in a portfolio, experience that allows the special student to work autonomously in ceramics. The special student will work during one academic year toward a specific goal, or toward general portfolio development, while also working weekly on tasks for the ceramics studio. In addition, the special student will serve as a role model & advisor for other students through consistent & persistent presence & work in the ceramics area. For more information, please contact Brian Molanphy at”

University of Texas – Arlington “The Department of Art + Art History’s Clay Area at the University of Texas Arlington (UTA) allows for BFA degreed clay emphasis students to enroll in its’ undergraduate advanced level studio classes at UTA. This is not an advertised program however, based instead on individual basis or request. This contact information would be at Nicholas Wood at”

Midwestern State University “This programis more of and Artist in residence, or visiting artist type position with a modest stipend and possible exhibition opportunities. This self-directed residency is designed to provide a ceramic artist with studio access, as they make the transition from or between academic settings. Furthermore, the program is intended to allow a resident the time and space to pursue a body of work in a creative and energetic environment while enhancing the art program at Midwestern State University. The accepted artist will participate within the ceramics area as an informal collaborator and mentor for students, while working in the common studio space. For more information, please contact Steven Hill at”


Utah State University When we have an opening in the studio we sometimes allow students to register as though they were seeking a second bachelors degree. Of course there are also those that are actually seeking a second bachelors – esp. those with a BA or BS seeking a BFA. Usually these students take only one class – the 3 credit advanced ceramic studio. This requires paying for three credits of non-resident tuition, but it gives these students full access to the facility and a supportive community. People should visit first, this is the best way to get a sense of the place otherwise. Space-wise there is no way that we can responsibly accommodate all the people that inquire, so the “visit first” policy seems to help. For more information, please contact John Neely at”

University of Utah “We do have, kind of, an unofficial 1 year post-grad generally aimed at students who have applied to our program but have holes in there portfolio. We suggest they take a few classes from us to fill those holes and reapply or apply to other programs. The students would be registered as non-matriculated which can be some what costly but we have had great success with those that have taken this road. For more information, please contact Brian Snapp at”


Virginia Commonwealth University “At VCU there is a 5th year program. Usually there is only one student per/year/media area. Student will either work closely with the senior level course work and area faculty or with graduate level course work and area faculty (to be determined by the department chair and lead faculty in the media area applying to). studio space and use is determined on a case by case basis 5th yr students enroll in 1 credit of either undergraduate or graduate credits (to be determined by the department chair and lead faculty in the media area applying to) plus pay a materials fee. To apply for ceramics please contact Blair Clemo at


Central Washington University “We have a special student program, for more information, please contact Stephen Robinson at RobisonS@cwu.EDU.”

West Virginia

West Virginia University “This self-directed post-bac/special student residency is designed to provide a ceramic artist with individualized mentoring and studio access, as they make the transition from or between academic settings. Furthermore, the program is intended to allow a resident the time and space to pursue a body of work in a creative and energetic environment while enhancing the ceramic program at West Virginia University. The accepted artist will take part in the MFA seminars and critiques, assist with the WVU Ceramics Production Studio and participate within the department as a collaborator and mentor for younger students, while working in the ceramic studio. By the end of the year, the student will produce a portfolio of their work. for more information, please contact Shoji Satake at “


authors note: it has been my experience that the undergraduate programs in Canada are exceptionally strong: Alberta College of Art & Design, Emily Carr, Sheridan College by Toronto, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design to name a few, have absolutely superb curriculum and extremely intelligent students and high quality education.

Alberta, Canada

Alberta College of Art & Design “Accepted applicant join us as a “fifth year” student. Our current process of review is for the interested student to email a faculty member. Our openings are determined by the size of the 400 level class, space available. However we are willing to overbook our facilities as we see students as a very valuable infusion of new information and energy for the rest of the cohort. Please contact Zimra Beiner at or Martina Lantin at”

Nova Scotia, Canada

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

Personal Experiences:

Courtney Murphy

“After graduating college with a degree in Sociology, I moved to New York and took a Ceramics class at a local Ceramics center. There was a sign on the bulletin board about a young production potter looking for an assistant; she couldn’t pay anything, but in exchange for work I could have access to the studio.

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Rob Geibel

“A post baccalaureate program is a wonderful opportunity for those looking to further develop their portfolio prior to graduate school while gaining some “real life,” experience.”

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Chandra DeBuse

“I completed a year of “special student status” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I came to clay outside of academia and pursued it as a hobby for a number of years before seeking growth within an academic setting.”

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Matt Causey

“I did a post bac at Oregon College of Art and Craft. I went there because I wanted to learn how to soda fire and letter press.”

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Matthew McGovern

“I did post bac work, we liked the term “Special Student,” at UNL. It was a great year and if I were younger and not hell bent on going to Grad school I would have traveled the country doing it everywhere I could.”

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