Criteria & Guidelines

Honorary degrees are awarded by VCFA for the purpose of formally recognizing and honoring living, distinguished artists (defined in the broadest sense to include writers, visual artists, designers, filmmakers, and practitioners working across arts disciplines), arts educators, and patrons of the arts, as well as exemplary service to VCFA. Honorary degrees recognize those who have made profound and enduring contributions to the arts, scholarship, and culture. VCFA will give priority consideration to mid-career or lifetime achievement of national or international significance, and will seek recipients whose work, character, and contributions to the arts reflect our values as an institution.

While honorary degrees benefit recipients by recognizing their contributions to their fields, they also benefit VCFA in many ways, direct and indirect, including building potentially fruitful relationships between the college and the noted artists, educators, and patrons we award, and by linking the VCFA name with prominent names in various disciplines. An honorary degree nominee need not have a prior or established relationship with the college.

VCFA may award up to three Honorary degrees per calendar year and generally will work to avoid awarding degrees in the same artistic discipline more than once every two years.

Honorary degrees may not be conferred in absentia, and must be received in person, with reasonable exceptions, such as a global pandemic.

Process for Nominations

Nominations for candidates may come from a variety of sources, including individual faculty members, departments, programs, the Board of Trustees, or any other member of the VCFA community. Consultation with respective program faculty or other relevant college departments is recommended.

Nominations must be submitted to the Academic Affairs Committee through the online Honorary Degree Nomination Form. Nominations are accepted on a rolling basis and will be considered twice annually to be approved at the Board of Trustees meetings in May and November. Complete forms should be submitted for consideration by October 1 or April 1 to ensure timely review and adequate event planning.

Nominations should include a brief summary of the nominated individual’s professional achievements and a rationale for the nomination. Supporting material such as a CV (if available) or additional letters of support may be included but are not required. See the form linked above for complete submission instructions.

Review, Selection & Notification

The Academic Affairs Committee will review nominations in consultation with the President or other relevant departments. Nominations will be considered and voted on by the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees. Recommended nominations will be submitted for approval to the full Board of Trustees which holds the authorization to award honorary degrees. The nominee will be informed of the status of their nomination only after action by the Board of Trustees; communication will be coordinated by the Office of the President.

The Board of Trustees may approve honorary degrees twice a year, at its November and May meetings, but the nominating group or program can (in consultation with the Institutional Advancement Committee) be involved in decisions about how and when to bestow the degree.


Individual nominations and discussions of nominees will remain confidential throughout the process. No announcements or promotion will be issued regarding the nominees until final approval by the Board of Trustees.


Once the Board has approved a nominee, the Institutional Advancement Committee will coordinate with the nominator and/or pertinent academic program to discuss the ways in which IA can support conferral of honorary degrees with respect to event planning and promotion. An honorary degree recipient must be present at the conferral of the degree, but the exact timing is flexible; a proposed event may correspond with a program residency, a mid-semester event, or another college visit or special event.

Details on event support should be discussed and agreed upon as soon as possible following the Board decision to award an honorary degree. Event support will vary case by case, but may include:

  • Campus space & services
  • Event promotion to VCFA audiences (email, social, etc.)
  • Event promotion more broadly (TBD)

Following/accompanying the bestowal event, VCFA can:

  • Write and distribute a press release
  • Work with nominators on earned media
  • Add details to the website