MFA | 2-year program

Digital + Media places technology—as both a creative medium and a cultural-historical phenomenon—at the center of the graduate program. Within this context, the department encourages students to explore diverse subject matter and develop multidisciplinary research methodologies and creative strategies (analog or digital) to interrogate the social, psychological and cultural consequences of ubiquitous or emerging technologies. A strong conceptual approach to research and making helps students develop socially engaged artistic practices.

Informed by the fields of art, media theory, cultural studies and the social sciences, the flexible curriculum includes research studios, seminars and innovative electives that support a deep investigation of critical and social theory while fostering robust, independent studio practices. Faculty also encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through partnerships with other researchers at RISD and Brown University, as well as with individuals and institutions that typically operate outside the world of art and design.


Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar I
Media Perspectives
Digital + Media studio elective
Open elective
Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar II
Critical Theory + Artistic Research in Context
Digital + Media studio elective


Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar III
Digital + Media Writing
Open elective
Open elective
Thesis Project
Open elective

Graduate student work

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • develop a thorough understanding of a range of technologies, including their material capabilities and characteristics, appropriateness for specific strategic applications, relevance within larger systems and impact on people and society.
  • demonstrate proficiency with a vocabulary of multiple material practices.
  • exhibit fluency in history, theory and criticism with respect to art, technology and new media practice.
  • organize teams and work collaboratively with people from a range of disciplines.
  • present work professionally through exhibitions, publications and other relevant contexts.
  • communicate cogently about their ongoing studio art process.
  • demonstrate effective writing skills as part of or in support of artistic practice.
  • contribute to the ongoing dialogue about research and new work in the field.

Creative culture

Each year Digital + Media admits a talented and mature cohort of approximately 12 graduate students from a variety of fields including art, computing, literature, science, anthropology and more. Semesters are punctuated by ongoing conversations with a team of accomplished faculty from such specializations as sound art, sculpture, media theory, glass and narrative design, as well as lectures and opportunities to collaborate with a diverse set of visiting critics, artists, researchers and academics.

In dialogue with faculty, D+M students chart a tailored course of study that defines their personal and collaborative approaches to practice. They are also heavily involved in determining which distinguished visitors to invite, and drive the annual focus of department-sponsored research studios. Students can also opt to take a wide range of courses at Brown and enjoy access to the university's many research libraries along with resources in the larger community like the historic Providence Athenaeum and the Northeast Regional Planetary Data Center, among others.

Extended learning

In combination with coursework, students may assist in faculty research and develop skills through technical assistantships. The college also provides opportunities to explore exhibition and curatorial opportunities through RISD's Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery and other spaces in and around Providence. Internal funding opportunities such as the Graduate Studies Grant and the Maharam STEAM Fellowship support new or developing work and extended, professional research practice. During Wintersession second-year graduate students in D+M may apply to teach a course of their own design to gain valuable experience in the field.

RISD Careers also hosts professional networking events such as the annual Design Portfolio Review and a separate Fine Arts Portfolio Review, and offers students and alumni individual advising on grants, residencies, entrepreneurship, Fulbright applications and more.

Thesis project

Building on an independently directed body of research, D+M students in the second year of the program develop new, leading-edge approaches to sustainable artistic practice. Working with a thesis committee, MFA candidates integrate conceptual and technical skills in order to articulate a polished, intellectually robust thesis project. D+M thesis projects take a variety of forms including experimental games, performance, video installation, interactive sculpture, speculative design and more. All graduate students publish a thesis book and participate in the RISD's annual graduate thesis exhibition.