Social Practice

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
Location(s): Foggy Bottom - Main Campus, Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

Program Overview

The Master of Fine Arts in Social Practice with a focus in public policy is a unique program that connects art, policy and collective action. The program is designed for emerging artists and creative thinkers looking to develop skills in both the arts and public policy sectors during an intensive, two-year, 60-credit degree. The program brings together artists, designers, organizers, researchers and policymakers to initiate learning opportunities and projects that address the critical questions of our time. It combines study in experimental, relational and performative creative practices with academic research, collaborative work and field-based experiential learning in Washington, D.C. - a global hub for policy makers, tech leaders, NGO's and cultural institutions. To support their creative work, students in the program take academic coursework across the university, including the departments of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Administration.


Students who are especially interested in working with diverse populations and who wish to create a hybrid studio practice focused on issues of social justice, collaborative methodology and ethical innovation are candidates for this MFA in Social Practice. We particularly seek applicants whose statement and/ or portfolio demonstrates a broad-based creative practice, which may include professional work outside the arts; an understanding of the challenges and opportunities of working with diverse communities in an art context; and familiarity with more than one language.

**Note: This program will begin accepting applications for the Fall 2020 term.**

Admission Requirements

Admission deadlines:

Fall – April 1 (February 1 for fellowship consideration)

Spring - October 1

Standardized test scores:

GRE is not required. 

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the PTE Academic is required of all applicants except those who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university in the United States or from an institution located in a country in which English is the official language, provided English was the language of instruction.

Minimum scores for the MFA in Social Practice are:

  • Academic IELTS: an overall band score of 6.0 with no individual score below 5.0; or
  • TOEFL: 550 on paper-based or 80 on Internet-based;  or
  • PTE Academic: 53

Please note that students admitted to this program who are required to take an English for Academic Purposes course (EAP) must be available to complete the course in the summer prior to enrollment.


Recommendations required:

Two (2) recommendations

Prior academic records:

Transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned, the program was completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended must be uploaded to your online application. Official transcripts are required only of applicants who are offered admission.

If transcripts are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. The English translation alone should be uploaded into your application.

Statement of purpose:

In an essay of no more than 750 words, describing your artistic intent, conceptual foundation, research interests, and impetus to complete an MFA degree.

Additional Requirements:

A portfolio of artworks is required.

Your portfolio should speak to why you want to study socially engaged art and your skills related to problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and commitment to social justice. We are interested in your breadth of experience and your potential to leverage art practice in the areas in and beyond the gallery and museum. The portfolio should consist of a maximum of 20 images or 10 minutes of time-based work.

For applicants without backgrounds in art, portfolios can include documentation of socially engaged work in any field, sketches and detailed proposals of future work, thorough descriptions of hypothetical systems, or any other media that you feel well represents your creative voice.

Portfolios should  be submitted as a PDF. All parts of the portfolio submission should be clearly labeled and should include captions or project descriptions. Examples of information to include would be medium, date created, publication or exhibition date and venue, and motivation for making the work. If video work is submitted in the portfolio submission, it should be submitted in the portfolio pdf as a link accompanied by a brief project description that clearly states the role of the applicant in the making of the video, e.g., script writer, director, primary camera, editor, or any combo, etc.

Writing Sample:


A 2-3 page writing sample.



Finalists will complete an interview with program faculty.

International applicants only:

Please review International Applicant Information carefully for details on required documents, earlier deadlines for applicants requiring an I-20 or DS-2019 from GW, and English language requirements.

For more information on the admission process, please visit the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Frequently Asked Questions page.

Supporting documents not submitted online should be mailed to:
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences – Graduate Admissions Office
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street NW, Phillips Hall 215
Washington DC 20052

Contact for questions:
[email protected] ~ 202.994.6210 (phone) ~ 202.994.6213 (fax)
8:30 am – 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday