COVID-19 Update from the Program

The MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Writing will offer a virtual Fall 2020 Intensive in response to concerns over COVID-19. Our low residency format already gives us the chance to supplement the intensive with excellent online learning. We look forward to working with our students in virtual residence and online this semester. Please reach out if you have questions about upcoming residencies or applying  for Spring 2021. For more information, please contact: Cindy Shearer, MFA Department Chair ( or Megan Jacobs, MFA Program Coordinator (

The Interdisciplinary Arts and Writing MFA at CIIS is a two-year, low-residency program with six-day intensives twice a year in San Francisco. Our unique degree focuses on the vital role of inquiry in art-making, the value for diverse writers and artists to engage across forms and disciplines, and the advancement of our students as artists in the world.

No two artists are the same. That belief shapes our innovative design to meet our students where they are and take them to where they want to go.

Mission at Tenth Launch Party MFA Spring Intensive 2020, Desai Matta Gallery at CIIS, photo by Paula Junn


Our community of makers is eclectic. We welcome performers, novelists, clowns, filmmakers, memoirists, poets, painters, mixed media, glass, textile, and interdisciplinary artists—and beyond. Some students make work that doesn't fit neatly into a discipline or genre, or that stretches the boundaries of more than one form. Our students also include those committed to arts activism and working collaboratively with artists and communities.

Through classes, workshops, and arts events, we engage artist to artist in a culture of inquiry that helps students to further develop and better articulate their work. We believe that through this process of articulation in a conversation across the arts, real discovery happens.

Cyanotypes of the Salton Sea Cyanotypes from the Salton Sea by MFA alum Quin de le Mer


Our students hail from around the world. We’ve built the foundation of our program on the value of diverse racial and gender identities, nationalities, and abilities. We support diversity in artistic and personal identities as well as in our teaching faculty and visiting artists. Recent visiting artists include graphic novelist and comic Mari Naomi, visual artist Ajuan Mance, writer Kate Walbert, glass artist Cheryl Derricotte, and director Deborah Eliezer.

Students at Spring 2020 intensive, photo by Paula Junn. Students at Spring 2020 intensive, photo by Paula Junn.


The MFA at CIIS, like other programs in the School of Consciousness and Transformation, asks students to explore questions core to our work and lives. These inquiries lead to new knowledge, more insight, and plans for action that have the power to transform us personally and in turn, the world. In the MFA, meaning-making and making art are one. We believe that making is a way of reshaping experience and cultures. Embracing the maker inside you will give you the ability to take action in the world.

MFA alum Heidi Kraay pictured center in 2018 theater production, "Small Matters" with Migration Theory company in Boise, ID. Photo by Andy Lawless.

Integrated into Your Life and the World

Our low-residency format includes both on-campus and online learning and is ideal for working adults. The MFA is a 39-unit, two-year program. Fall and Spring semesters each year students participate in six-day intensives in the San Francisco Bay Area and continue the learning experience online for the remainder of the semester. The degree also includes a required online summer semester between the first and second years.

Throughout the program, students have individualized sessions with faculty advisers and art mentors of their choosing. Students have the opportunity for four mentorships with art professionals to hone their craft or learn new skills. This one-on-one support helps students expand their creative range and prepare for their next steps as art professionals.

Core faculty member Carolyn Cooke and MFA Alum Xiaotian Liu. Photo by MFA alum Marie Markovic. Core faculty member Carolyn Cooke with MFA alum Xiaotian Liu. Photo by MFA alum Marie Markovic.

Our curriculum is designed to launch our students:

Students gain a global arts perspective through classes and our summer overseas options in the United Kingdom, Germany, or an international location of their choosing.

 In the final year, coursework in the MFA is geared toward learning the tools for bringing student art practices into their professional work, developing skills for careers in media, coaching, publishing, education, and as artists with practices that sustain. 

Core faculty member Carolyn Cooke and MFA Alum Xiaotian Liu. Photo by MFA alum Marie Markovic. Lola Victor, MFA ‘20, artist-in-residence at BNIM San Diego. Photo by Troels Haahr Graugaard.
Cindy Shearer

Questions about admissions or the MFA Program?

Admissions Counselor:
Danielle Niakaros
(415) 575-6291

MFA Academic Programs

MFA Academic Programs

At CIIS, we offer the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts & Writing.

For more information on any of our programs, including our Accelerated BA/MFA option, contact

Experience the MFA from a student's perspective

Knights of the Clown Table by Joan Howard — MFA@CIIS on Medium

Pomegranate Seeds by Noelle Correia — MFA@CIIS on Medium

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