Live & Learn

A Guide to the Low Residency Art MFA by David Vanadia, MFA

Review of the Goddard MFA IA in Port Townsend, WA

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I attended from Fall of 2010 until Spring of 2012. I’m writing this review to save someone from borrowing thousands of dollars to pay for Goddard’s MFA-IA program in Port Townsend, WA. While the program works for about 50% of those who attend, the other 50% of the people drop out and keep their stories to themselves.


Goddard’s Port Townsend campus on Fort Worden is a nice place to visit. It’s the perfect location for residency. You only have to go there two weeks out of each year. Getting to Port Townsend takes some time if you’re from outside of the the Pacific North West because you have to fly to Seattle and then catch a shuttle to the campus, but it’s an enjoyable trip and certainly not complicated.


Meeting other students is perhaps the best part of the Goddard experience. You will be introduced to folks from all over the country who are at different places in their lives and in their artistic careers. As the program grows, it becomes more difficult to develop close bonds with everyone but you will no doubt find at least a few people with whom you click.

Online Support

Goddard uses Google for its online communications. While this is adequate for email, the school could definitely create a better online experience for students. (I’m not the only one who expressed this concern.) When you enroll, you get a yourname @ email address. After you graduate you’ll be deleted from the system and won’t be able to access the student forums or posting boards.

Graduate Support

Goddard offers no job placement help and no official alumni network. There have been several attempts by former students to create online alumni groups but, without any funding or official backing from the school, they all seem to fall short.

Library and Resources

I never used Goddard’s library but my classmate did. He ordered books which got sent through the US mail to his home. He kept the books for the whole semester and then returned them to the college when he drove to the residency. Goddard gives you access to online databases such as JSTOR and they teach you how to access these resources each semester. The rest of your scholarly research will be done at your local college or community library.

Level of Education

Most Goddard students feel that they end up working much harder than their traditional education counterparts. Because Goddard offers no classes, no instruction, and loose academic standards, students are always reinventing the wheel, creating their own vehicle, peddling their own cart, and deciding which direction to go. Goddard is like real life with the added burden of documenting, explaining, and justifying everything you do in your personal and artistic practice. There are no teachers, only advisors.


Advisors really make or break your experience at Goddard’s MFA-IA program in Port Townsend. Some of the advisors are great people. If you get along with your advisor you can have a wonderful semester. If you don’t click then you’re stuck with each other for several months. Either way, it’s always the student’s responsibility to make the most of the advisor-student interaction. While I was enrolled there were several situations where advisors whiffed in the middle of the semester and students were left without correspondence for weeks at a time. When the students complained they were made to feel as if they were acting spoiled for being upset and/or wanting their money back.

Redress Procedures

If you have a conflict with the faculty or staff you have two choices in the Port Townsend Goddard MFA-IA: 1. Shut up and accept whatever they tell you. 2. Bring your complaint to the same people who you are complaining about. The second option is a bit like complaining to a mob boss about her thugs.

The Good

You will come to see how much in control you are of your education, your artistic practice, and of your life. In a lot of ways, Goddard gives its students confidence because they see how much work they can do if they set their minds to it. They also get to see how ridiculous the institution can be and that it doesn’t take anything but doing and practice to be an artist / activist / agitator.

The Bad

You might come to see how little you are in control of your education, your artistic practice, and of your life when you are paying someone else to hold an MFA over your head. In other words, in such a small school there are a very few people who have power over your academic progress. Because the requirements are so fluid, it can be very difficult to know how much work you have to do in order to meet the graduation requirements. 


Although there were good things that came from my graduate school experience, I cannot confidently recommend the MFA-IA program at Goddard College to prospective students. For $60,000 in tuition alone, chances are you can find more bang for your buck in another program. I had a bad experience at Goddard Port Townsend. Some students had a great experience. If you’re considering Goddard for your MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts, good luck!

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My Goddard College MFA-IA Port Townsend Experience
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1. patricia

I also had a horrendous experience at Goddard. The director of the program is a self-proclaimed spiritual guru. He is a narcissistic nutcase, cold and deceitful. I rode from Seattle with him for several hours; I the only student. He refused to say one word to me. The campus is horrendous and if you withdraw for their violation of contract they will sue you. Do not go to Goddard! I know more than I can write here.

2. Mike Puckett

I found the experience to be empowering and and a perspective that our society needs. Much of our institutions just teach us how to fit in a limited model that doesn’t encourage individual expression.  The Goddard model is challenging because it requires you to find your passion.  I can see that challenge can be too much for some.  I came into the experience knowing what I wanted to do and have been overwhelmed and confronted with some issue that have held me back from being the best version of myself.  Your adviser has a big role in your success and I lucked out in getting an amazing one.  I have been to several colleges and have found this model to be the best for me.  I will pursue my master here and encourage all that I feel have the out of the box type of mentality.

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