Thesis & Independent Study

Independent Research in Studio Art

Any student who has demonstrated strong aptitude and insight in the 300 level studio courses may propose an advanced independent study (ARTS 350) project, which consists of one semester of self-directed studio research under the guidance of a studio faculty advisor. An independent study project may involve collaborative research, may combine more than one studio discipline, and may be structured to earn a full or half credit. Students who pursue independent projects in studio art are expected to exhibit their work publicly. Note that ARTS 350 projects do not substitute for regular advanced course work in the minimum major or minor and should be proposed only after completing all the advanced course work available in a studio discipline.


Senior Thesis in Studio Art
1. Eligibility
College legistation requires that a student should have earned at least a 3.5 average in all work above the 100-level in the major field in order to be eligible for the Honors Program. Exceptions to the GPA requirement are made only in rare instances, following a departmental recommendation and a formal appearl to the Curriculum Committee of the College.
In addition, students who wish to do a thesis in Studio Art must have completed all 100-level requirements, as well as at least 5 additional courses towards the major. Students pursuing honors should plan to enroll in ARTS 317 in the Fall of their senior year, ARTS 318 in the Spring, and must exhibit their work publically in the Senior Exhibition towards the end of the Spring semester in their senior year.
2. Preparation
A candidate for honors in studio art should begin to think about a senior thesis project in the second semester of their junior year, and should at that point consult with a faculty member as a potential thesis advisor. Normally they will have taken at least one studio course with their advisor, and have completed all the structured courses available in their identified area of interest.
3. Advisor
An advisor should be someone who knows the student's work and with whom they have taken at least one course in a subject area related to their proposed thesis. Most faculty members decline to accept students whom they have not taught in the classroom. Please be aware that faculty members on academic or personal leave cannot supervise honors work.
4. Thesis Proposal
A candidate for honors must submit a two or three page thesis proposal, outlining the major questions and references propelling their studio practice, along with a portfolio or documentation of 10-12 examples of recent studio projects and a list of Art courses taken. The full studio art faculty meets to review this material and to make recommendations before the deadline.
They should explain how work in the major (and/or outside it) has led the student toward their proposed project. Related courses should be named and any relevant intellectual work should be described. They should include a short bibliography identifying the most important primary and secondary sources discovered thus far. This proposal should be prepared in close consultation with their advisor and must be approved by the department.
5. Application Materials
For the Class of 2023, eligible students should submit the following materials by Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at noon:
  • a cover sheet, signed by your faculty advisor (see here)
  • your thesis proposal and bibliography
  • an unofficial copy of your transcript
The Program Director and the full department faculty read the application in order to assess the student's fitness to do an independent project.
The Registrar will not permit students to sign themselves up for honors, or to be signed up by a member of the faculty other than the Program Director. The Studio Program will send the Registrar's Office an official list of approved students to be registered for an honors project; students do not need-- nor will they be able-- to register themselves for honors work.
6. Mid-Year Meeting
Each student working on an honors project will have a mid-December meeting with their advisor and all members of the Studio Program, at which they will present the work they have done and discuss their plans for completing the project. If these faculty members judge that progress on the thesis has been satisfactory and that the project is likely to be successfully completed, they will approve the student's second semester of honors work. If the faculty members judge that the thesis is not likely to be successfully completed, the student's name will be withdrawn from the official list of students doing honors work in the spring, and they will not be registered for ARTS 370. In such cases, credit and a grade are then given for the semester of 360 work already completed.
7. Funding
The College offers a number of funding opportunities for students pursuing honors work. A few such examples are detailed here:
The Samuel and Hilda Levitt Fellowship
The Samuel and Hilda Levitt Fellowships are intended to support the thesis work for nine honors students, three each in the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences. Each fellowship consists of $3500 and is awarded in the spring of the recipient's junior year, so that it can facilitate honors work, both during the summer preceding the senior year, if needed, and during the senior year. The fellowship is also intended to recognize students with a commitment to service. For more information, click here.
The Jerome A. Schiff Fellowship
Schiff Fellowships are merit-based awards available to students currently registered in 360 Senior Thesis Research and to students intending to enroll in a 360 in the spring. Awards range from $2,000 to $3,000 and students from all deparments and programs are eligible to apply. For further information about the application process and deadlines, click here.
Student Research Grants
The Office of the Dean of the College administers a number of grants to support student research and travel. The maximum award is $750. For more information, click here.
Pamela Daniels '59 Fellowship
The Pamela Daniels Fellowship is offered annually in the fall to support an original senior project. One or two fellowships are typically awarded. Seniors in good standing are eligible to apply. Completed fellowship applications are due in early October. Finalists will be interviewed by the Selection Committee in the last week of October (note: a recipient of the Daniels Fellowship is not eligible to also receive a Schiff Fellowship). For more information and specific application deadlines, click here.
8. Completing the Thesis
The Studio Art thesis culminates in a formal exhibition in the Jewett Arts Center or PNW, accompanied by a 15-20 page paper documenting the conceptual, visual, and technical development of the project.
The project just be installed and ready for public view during the Ruhlman conference. An orals committee consisting of at least 4 faculty members will assess the work and written materials during the reading period in May to determine whether the student has earned departmental honors.
9. General Information
For College-wide deadlines related to the thesis, see the Registrar's page here.
The Wellesley libraries have carrels available for honors students. Sign up online or contact the Clapp Library service desk at x2166.
Senior Studio Art majors intending to do honors work should be enrolled in ARTS 317/318, which will grant them dedicated studio space for the year. Should some level of access to additional studio spaces be necessary, students should speak to their advisor.

Updated March. 2022