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Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Cultural Administration

Focused upon social equity and the support of cultural community growth, this two-year master’s program integrates administrative tools and techniques with socially engaged leadership through the blending of organization skills and community outreach programming.

The IAIA Masters in Cultural Administration program recognizes that an in-depth knowledge of cultural heritage sustainability and active community engagement practices are critical requirements for successful cultural-based institution administrators to possess.

The MFA in Cultural Administration program is comprised of online coursework, summer residencies, and a community-driven thesis project in which the student practices collaborative models of leadership and community support.

Students will choose one of two areas of emphasis: either Tribal Museum and Cultural Center Administration, or Arts Administration.

“In fact, culture matters. Many Indigenous scholars are arguing that modern management and business practices and knowledge are important for Indigenous peoples, but that they must be reconciled with and built upon traditional cultural values and knowledge.”

Brian Calliou and Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

“A Wise Practices Approach to Indigenous Community Development in Canada” in Restorying Indigenous Leadership: Wise Practices in Community Development.

Cultural Administration Emphasis Tracks

Tribal Museum and Cultural Center Administration: Across the globe culturally-based museums and cultural centers are becoming extremely popular as audiences seek to understand and appreciate diverse cultures.  And in the current political environment, an awareness of the rich fabric of humanity needs to be offered to a wide array of peoples. Tribal museums and cultural centers act as a strong support system for cultural heritage and as a grounding space for cultural events, community meeting places, and places of education for all age ranges and walks of life.

Arts Administration: Arts administration is a field that facilitates art programming within cultural organizations and communities. With the continuing need of tribal communities to be able to support their artists financially and publicly, a culturally-centered degree allows students to enter into the field of arts administration geared towards aiding tribal communities in their impetus to support and advance both their traditional and contemporary Native American art genres – thus, acting as a continuum of Native American culture.

The Low-Residency Model

While course work for the two-year MFA in Cultural Administration is conducted fully online, students are expected to attend a week-long intensive residency during two summers. This week-long residency is comprised of seminars by professionals in the museum/cultural center and arts administration fields. Workshops and field trips are also offered during the residencies, as well as providing a platform for upper-level students to present upon their thesis research proposal.

The residencies are designed to offer students the opportunity to learn about current trends and wise practices, build upon their administrative knowledge by providing hands-on, experiential workshops, and to build a rapport with their cohort, faculty, and visiting professionals in the field.

Campus housing and meal plans are available through a competitive fee based upon Santa Fe, New Mexico costs, although students are welcome to set up their own lodging and meal plans.

How the Program Works

The IAIA Low-Residency MFA in Cultural Administration Program begins in June with an introductory eight-week intensive course in cultural administration. The week-long residency begins immediately after the summer course concludes, usually the last week of July.

During their two years of study students generally take three courses per semester (fall and spring) with their final year of studies focusing upon conducting a semester-long internship with the community/institution of their choice. The MFA in Cultural Administration thesis focuses upon the collaborative work that the student has accomplished with their chosen host site.

This program and its curriculum is designed to help the student produce a substantial thesis by the end of their academic studies, and support for obtaining a meaningful and rich internship position is available in the event that the student does not have a host community or institution in mind.

The Requirements of the Program

Following is a breakdown of the course work and residency requirements:

First Year Requirements:

First Summer Semester:

  • CADM500 Cultural Administration (3 credit hours)
  • Residency I: Seminars on Cultural Administration (2 credit hours)

First Fall Semester:

  • ARTA514 Cultural Arts Policy OR MUSM517 Protocols Surrounding ethnographical Material (3 credit hours)
  • ARTA521 Art Marketing & Promotion Management OR MUSM526 Curatorial & Collections Administration (3 credit hours)
  • CADM532 Collaborative Research for Cultural Heritage Sustainability (3 credit hours)

First Spring Semester:

  • ARTA565 Grant Writing for the Professional OR MUSM543 Legal & Repatriation Issues in Museum Administration (3 credit hours)
  • CADM564 Human Resource Administration & Labor Relations (3 credit hours)
  • CADM580 Focused Readings & Research (3 credit hours)

Second Year Requirements:

Second Summer Semester:

  • Open Elective – can include courses from other emphasis track (3 credit hours)
  • Residency II: Seminars on Project Based Research (2 credit hours)

Second Fall Semester:

  • CADM680 Community Based Internship (4 credit hours)
  • CADM681 Thesis Production (2 credit hours)
  • Open Elective – can include courses from other emphasis track (3 credit hours)

Second Spring Semester:

  • CADM688 Project Based Community Outreach & Dissemination (3 credit hours)
  • CADM695 MFA Thesis (6 credit hours)

Students must complete 46 credit hours in order to graduate. Requirements include:

  • Students must receive a P in all required coursework (courses are Pass/Fail only)
  • A bibliography of no less than 10 focused readings through the Focused Readings & Research course – to be decided upon by the student and their Thesis Committee members
  • A successful semester-long internship with a chosen host community, during which the student will work collaboratively with the host community on a mutually chosen project; the student will be expected to utilize their acquired collaborative models of leadership
  • A successful presentation of the student’s research topic(s) for the IAIA community during the second residency
  • A 35-50 page master’s thesis following the Chicago Manual of Style and a Works Cited page
  • A successful defense of the master’s thesis with the student’s Thesis Committee members at the end of the MFA Thesis course

Deadline and Application

The deadline to apply for the academic year is February 15 by 5 pm (MST). Decisions will be made by February 28. Each academic year begins with one 8-week intensive June course and a late July or early August Residency. Applications received after the deadline will be reviewed for the waitlist and for the following semester. The Institute of American Indian Arts’ Low-Residency MFA in Cultural Administration program is among the most affordable MFA programs in the country. For a detailed accounting, see Tuition and the college catalog.

MFACA 2024 Residencies

June 3–July 26, 2024Summer Course
July 28–August 3, 2024Residency
August 19–December 13, 2024Fall Semester Courses

Attending the Virtual Residency and Online Courses

During the week of residency, seminars and workshops will be held virtually from 9 am–5 pm.

During the remote semesters, students will generally enroll in 3 online courses each semester and will have off-campus access to IAIA’s database as well as the IAIA Library’s collection of e-books.


We fully support students who are seeking administrative skills involving both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. This requires qualities of kind leadership, the capacity to integrate multi-perspective ideas and visions into positive action, projects, policies, and procedures, and the ability to allow communities to decide the best ways that cultural support systems can be achieved.

Guiding Statement

The curriculum of the two-year, low residency MFA in Cultural Administration is focused upon the support of community-led growth and preservation of cultural arts, histories, and philosophies.


Our commitment is to assist up-and-coming leaders and supporters of cultural-based arts programming and institutions.

Learning Outcomes

Students in the MFA in Cultural Administration Program will demonstrate the ability to:

  • Assist communities in their impetus to preserve traditional history, arts, and culture
  • Support cultural communities’/tribal nations’ efforts in sustaining and building strong and vibrant cultural heritage
  • Utilize collaborative-based and community-driven administrative skills regarding eh maintenance and preservation of cultural heritage

Apply to the Low-Residency MFA in Cultural Administration

The graduate application for the MFA in Cultural Administration is available at IAIA Online Application. Please note that the Low-Residency MFA Program begins with an online introductory course in June, and a week-long residency in late July/early August. Please choose “Summer” on the application. If you find you need to submit additional materials, please email those documents to or mail them to the Admissions Office at the address below. Your application will not be considered for admission until it is complete.

To process your application, we will need:

  • Completed Online Admissions Application
  • A $25 non-refundable application fee
  • An application essay (see guidelines below)
  • A sample craft or scholarly essay (see guidelines below)
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Official college transcripts confirming your bachelors degree

Application should be submitted electronically or mailed with a $25 application fee (payable to The Institute of American Indian Arts). Please submit all requirements either by email to or by mail to:

Office of Admissions
Institute of American Indian Arts
83 Avan Nu Po Road
Santa Fe, NM 87508

Once we have received all of your application materials, your application will be reviewed. Materials must be received by 5 pm on February 15th, the closing date for all applications. Applications completed after 5 pm on February 15th will be considered for any remaining openings, wait-listed, or considered for the following year. At this time, we are only accepting students into the program for fall semesters. Admission will be competitive; we will be accepting only 20 students into the program each year. There is no separate application for the Institute of American Indian Arts’ scholarships; students who submit their applications by February 15th will be considered for all IAIA scholarships.

A bachelors degree is required, but it need not have been with an administrative focus.

Should you be accepted into the program, you will need to pay a $200 deposit by May 15 to hold your place. For questions about the application process, please contact admissions at

Application Essay

Please submit an essay (3-5 typed, double-spaced pages) that addresses:

  • What track in the MFA in Cultural Administration you are interested in (Tribal Museums/Cultural Center Administration or Arts Administration)?
  • Educational goals & professional plans; how will this degree further the vision of your chosen profession?
  • Your interest in the MFA degree program; what do you hope to gain from the course work?
  • Background in Indigenous communities or cultural associations, if any.

More than transcripts or letters of recommendation, the essay gives us some understanding of your goals for work in the program, your readiness to work in the low-residency format, and the appropriateness of your admission.

Sample of Scholarly Writing

Please submit a writing sample (10-15 pages, double-spaced) of original work that is academic in nature (i.e. research paper, article, thesis, manuscript, reports, briefings).

Letters of Recommendation

Please submit two letters of recommendation, sent directly from the referee to the IAIA Office of Admissions (either by mail or email attachment). One letter should address the applicant’s academic and/or professional background, and one letter should address the applicant’s character, experience, and potential as a collaborative and kind leader.

College Transcripts

Official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended should be sent directly from the college/university to the IAIA Office of Admissions.

Reapplying for Admission

If you are reapplying to the MFA in Cultural Administration program within one year of your previous application, submit the following:

  • New or revised application essay
  • New or revised sample of scholarly writing
  • New application form
  • $25.00 application fee

Updated references are optional. New transcripts are only necessary if they differ from previous submitted transcripts.

Housing Application

Students who are accepted into the program will be emailed a housing application prior to the late July/early August residency.


Students who demonstrate a true desire to support a community-driven museum, cultural center, or arts focused institution, and want to build and administrative role that is inclusive of community voice and desires are encouraged to apply. Admission is based primarily on the quality and promise exhibited in the application manuscript.

MFA in Cultural Administration 2022–2023 Tuition and Fees

Summer Semester$3,000*
Fall Semester$4,500
Spring Semester$4,500**
Total Annual Tuition$12,000
Total Tuition Cost of Degree$24,000
Residency Lodging & Meals* (Summer Semester Only)
Single Room$213
Meal Plan$225***
Required FeesSemester
Technology Fee (Full-Time)$300 (per semester)
Technology Fee (Summer Only)$200 (per summer)
Technology Fee (Thesis Extension)$45 (per thesis extension)
Miscellaneous Fees and Deposits
Admissions Application Fee$25
Library/Research Access Fee$75 (per semester)
Duplicate Diploma$40
Graduation Fee$100
Housing Deposit$250 (refundable)
Key Card and Room Key$20 (refundable)
Returned Check$35
Registrar's Office$30 (one-time fee)
Student ID Replacement$20
Tuition Deposit****$200

* Includes 3 credit summer course, 2 credit summer residency, and $500 residency classroom and activity access.

** Graduating students participating in May Commencement are responsible for accommodations and meal plan. IAIA rate is available at Inn at Santa Fe, five miles from campus: (888) 871-7138

***Meal Plan: Presentation of student ID is mandatory at each meal or cash payment will be required.

****The $200 Tuition Deposit will be deducted from tuition if student enrolls in the MFA program; the deposit is non-refundable once a student registers for classes. Students should also consider indirect costs (not billed by IAIA) such as books, supplies, personal expenses, and travel expenses which will vary according to degree plan or by individual; for questions about tuition and fees, please contact the Student Accounts Office at (505) 424-5732.

Jessie Ryker-Crawford, PhD

Jessie Ryker-Crawford, PhD

(White Earth Chippewa)

Cultural Administration (MFA)
P (505) 424-2361

Dina Velarde

Dina Velarde

(Jicarilla Apache)

Program Coordinator
Cultural Administration (MFA)
P (505) 424-2362