Not everyone who attends the SMFA is looking to earn a degree. Some students come for the school’s studio diploma program, a rigorous course in which students develop as artists and earn a certificate of completion. “You start as a beginner, and develop the skills you need to be successful,” said program director and Professor of the Practice Nan Freeman. “It’s college-level, serious art, and that’s the joy of it.” Here are four people who have completed the program through the years.


Laura Milkins

Laura Milkins, Tucson, AZ

Received diploma in: 2000

Artistic disciplines: painting, sculpture, performance art   

Artistic path: Milkins entered the diploma program after earning a post-baccalaureate certificate from the SMFA in 1996. She went on to earn an MFA from the University of Arizona in 2008. In 2009, she completed a Fulbright scholarship for a project called Walking Stories: Mexico, and her latest storytelling venture is a radio show in Tucson that aims to de-stigmatize depression.

Thoughts: “I was doing some weird art, but I didn’t understand how it fit into anything. I was searching for connection, for a perspective about contemporary art. The SMFA was hugely influential. Our teachers showed me: Here’s your family of artists.”


Minoo Emami

Minoo Emami, Somerville, MA

Received diploma in: 2017

Artistic disciplines: drawing, sculpture, painting, photography, multimedia

Artistic path: Emami is a BFA candidate, Class of 2019. She has exhibited worldwide, including solo shows at Harvard and group gallery exhibitions from Tehran to Boston.

Thoughts: “I first saw the SMFA when I was forty-nine, and I just loved it. I went home to Tehran and applied. I had to sell my home. It was scary, but the SMFA accepted me like a family. Before, I could never say that I am an antiwar artist. Anything about war, back home, is governmental territory. No one can touch it. But here I can explore it! I am so grateful for that opportunity, and I am looking for the time that I can pay back to society here or at home.”


Cathryn Griffith

Cathryn Griffith, Boston, MA

Received diploma in: 2008

Artistic disciplines: photography,book art

Artistic path: Griffith’s award-winning work has been exhibited in Havana, Boston, and Miami, and has been published in her book Havana Revisited: An Architectural Heritage.

Thoughts: “The mentoring I found was fabulous. I was in my sixties and asking myself, What am I doing in art school? In one semester, under the guidance of an involved teacher, I produced something that’s been collected by museums. Not everybody can expect that, but that was encouraging.”


Ibrahim Ali-Salaam

Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, Boston, MA

Received diploma in: 2001

Artistic disciplines: drawing, painting

Artistic path: Ali-Salaam was a student at the Art Institute of Boston when he decided to enroll in the diploma program. Today he makes his living as a Boston-based artist, selling his work at both solo and group shows.

Thoughts: “I took a year off from the Art Institute of Boston to get more of a studio experience. My heart was in the studio, and the Museum School was a perfect fit. My teachers drilled in me that I have to be in the studio every day to be taken seriously and to make a living as an artist.”





Portrait of Laura Ferguson

Laura Ferguson, senior writer at Tufts and regular Tufts Now contributor, can be reached at