Category Archives: Academics

Tales of the academic prowess of MAPH alumni

Open Letter to MAPH 2012-2013 – Service and Humanistic Inquiry

Greetings, MAPHers!

Author Nathaniel Dell (MAPH ’12)

I hope this post finds all of you well. I appreciate that some of you may have time to read this, as much as I appreciate that many more of you may not have such time because you are so immersed in your zealous study of those recondite things we call the humanities. Whatever your passion that has drawn you to MAPH, whether literature, philosophy, music or art history—even classics—I trust that you respect the arduous labor of clarifying your thought as a labor of great importance. Between us, this feeling is mutual. However, in my personal experience with the humanities, the relevance of tarrying with the Platonic dialogues is something I have frequent need of renegotiating for myself. What ought I to do with my now clarified, or, more often, sublimely muddled thought? In MAPH, I was guided and fortified by the notion that my philosophizing should advance some common good. Credit that notion to all of the Socratic fan-fiction I’ve read from Plato; blame the generality of that notion to me. At any rate, Maren has graciously invited me to share how my experience in MAPH challenged me to think of how humanistic inquiry has informed my AmeriCorps service. I would also like to share how MAPH challenged me to re-think the spaces in which humanistic inquiry can flourish.

At the outset of my MAPH year last September, I was confident, though not certain, that I would find myself in a year or two attending some Ph.D. program in philosophy. At the same time, I thought it peculiar that I would have spent the past five years contemplating the common good along with my dead Greek friends, Plato, Socrates, and Marx (pretty much an Aristotelian) but doing little direct service towards forming the community I had been imagining. That said, towards the middle of my MAPH year, I became more confident that I would find myself working in some social service organization, which is just what happened. Through AmeriCorps’ Catholic Volunteer Network, I now work as a caseworker for the Guardian Angel Settlement Association at Hosea House in St. Louis, Missouri. GASA’s social services site, Hosea House, provides emergency assistance for persons and families in crisis who may need food, clothing, utilities or rental assistance. Hosea House also partners with other agencies to offer seasonal, public health, senior and back to school programs.

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Humanities Day 2012

Mark your calendars! Saturday, October 20th is the 34th annual Humanities Day at the University of Chicago. If you aren’t familiar with Humanities Day, it is an epic day of lectures from some of the heavyweights in the university’s Humanities Division. If you happen to be in town, please consider attending! Friends and family are welcome!

MAPH-affiliated faculty are making a great showing this year. The following talks may be of particular interest to past, present and future MAPHers:

There is also a MAPH reception directly after David’s lecture in the Logan Center, which is a beautiful, brand new building on the south side of campus. The reception will be next door to David’s lecture, in Room 801.

So if you’re looking for a great way to reconnect with your MAPH experience, please join us next Saturday, October 20th, for Humanities Day. Hurry up and register so we can save you a seat!

The Odyssey Project: Anna Burch and Marybeth Southard (MAPH ’12) reflect on their internships

Anna Burch and Marybeth Southard MAPH '12

I first heard about the Odyssey Project during a “What am I going to do with my life?” conversation with Hilary Strang, who teaches Critical Thinking and Writing to Odyssey students. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, other than what I knew from the description on the Illinois Humanities Council website: “The Odyssey Project provides a college-level introduction to the humanities through text-based seminars led by professors at top-tier colleges and universities to help adults with low incomes more actively shape their own lives and the lives of their families and communities.” This sounded compelling, but my true motivation at the time was gaining some solid tutoring experience for future job applications. I began tutoring with the OP in January, which meant I hung out at Robust Coffee Lounge on 63rd and Woodlawn for an hour or two on Saturdays. To get familiarized with the students and the course content, I began sitting in on weekly U.S. history classes. During the first day, students voiced their personal perceptions of America, and I was hooked. These students were eager to participate, brutally honest, and ready to learn. Attending the classes and meeting students during the Saturday writing workshops was a learning experience for myself; not only was I reading new texts that I had always meant to read but never got around to, but I was meeting students, hearing their individual stories, and learning how the Odyssey Project was directly impacting their lives.

Although I was familiar with the OP through my tutoring experience, this internship has given me the opportunity to really dive into the inner workings of the organization and learn about the variety of often-unseen responsibilities that go into non-profit administration. I was unsure what to expect going in, so I was surprised by how much independence and responsibility I have as an intern. I feel like I am actually able to do significant work within the organization, such as developing new events and workshops to provide continuing resources to enrich and sustain the community of OP alumni. I was given the opportunity to design and lead a creative writing workshop on my own, which was the most amazing (and nerve-wracking) experience. Searching for relevant readings, developing in-class writing exercises, and leading weekly workshops of about fifteen students without direct guidance was scary at first, but I now feel much more confident in my ability to design curriculum and teach adults. But even more than that, leading the workshop was a way for me to get to know the students that this organization serves; learning their stories and hearing how the Odyssey Project has affected their lives has shown me that I am working for an organization that I can really believe in. It may sound hokey, but this mentality is quite a change from my past jobs at hair salons and property management companies—this is a job where I am actually excited to come into work to see what else can be done to help make the Project even better.

-Marybeth Southard

MAPH ’12, focus in American Literature

 

In the midst of final papers and thesis work, all of MAPH was encouraged (at the time, “harassed” seemed like the proper word) to think beyond the last harrowing weeks of school and apply to the summer internships offered through the program. Looking at the list, I was both confused and intrigued by the Odyssey Project. After I did a little research and talked to Hilary Strang, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to combine my interests in humanities scholarship with a growing desire to get involved with the kind of socially progressive work done by non-profit organizations like the Illinois Humanities Council. After I took the Teaching in the Community College course offered by MAPH, I became more concerned with the social and economic barriers facing many adults who want to pursue higher education. The Odyssey Project tries to eliminate more of these barriers than any other educational institution that I am aware of—even covering bus fare and providing childcare during the classes.

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Jane Hanna (MAPH ’11) on the Cultural Policy Option and her work as Social Media Strategist for the Field Museum

Every year a handful of students choose the Cultural Policy Option of the MAPH program.  Jane Hanna writes about her experience in MAPH, the Cultural Policy and her really cool job at the Field Museum.

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

MAPH '11 Alumna Jane Hanna

I worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in CPC while I completed the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities in 2010-11. As a MAPH student, I chose the Cultural Policy option, and much of my coursework was taken at the Harris School and Law School. I was looking for an academic program which would allow me to have an interdisciplinary focus, combining my interest in the arts and humanities with my career experience in marketing, and assist me in my aspirations towards a career in museum administration. I’m also a technologist and gamer and my research areas included mobile and social media and the ways in which these complicate traditional museum exhibition, education, and marketing strategies. At CPC, I helped with the preparations for the CultureLab Emerging Practice Seminar 2011, which was focused in part on engaging arts audiences through the use of technology.

Additionally, I was involved with the lunchtime workshop series as both an employee of CPC and an enthusiastic attendee. After graduating, I also participated in the marvelous Future of the City: The Arts Symposium by virtue of my association with CPC. Betty Farrell served as my supervisor as well as my thesis advisor and professor.

What do you do now?

I am the Social Media Strategist for The Field Museum of Natural History here in Chicago. In this capacity, I am responsible for maintaining a broad and ever-growing portfolio of social media pages for the Museum, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Yelp, and many more. I work closely with the scientific staff to develop engaging content that educates and entertains our digital community of fans and supporters.

I also deliver up-to-the-minute news about exhibitions, educational programs, special events, and promotions to the public several times per day, seven days per week. I monitor and evaluate the performance of these pages using Google Analytics and other tracking tools, and continually look for short- and long-term ways through which the Museum can leverage these properties for various strategic purposes. I think I have one of the best jobs at the Field not only because I am uniquely positioned to collaborate with staff working in all of the Museum’s departments, but also because I spend a large portion of my time interacting with our enthusiastic public, answering their questions, inviting them to participate in dialogues and citizen scientist activities, and learning valuable insights from their feedback.

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Meet an Alum: Steve Capone

Steve, living that grad student life.

I caught up with Steve Capone right before he embarked on a marathon grading session.  Steve is in the midst of finishing his coursework in the Philosophy Ph.D. program at the University of Utah (Salt Lake City) and we spent a few minutes commiserating about grading.  But  it turns out that the life of the mind–at least in the Rocky Mountains–has  some pretty great perks.  Aside from his academic pursuits, Steve skis and snowboards.  He has a season pass at Snowbird, and was planning on getting out to The Canyons Resort the day after we spoke.

“I’ve been so busy with work that I’ve probably been out there only ten days,” Steve told me.  It’s the kind of complaint that would roil the blood of any skier locked in the frigid flatness of the nation’s midsection (read, any MAPHer past or present suffering through the useless cold early spring weather).

Steve graduated from MAPH in 2007 and spent a year in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.  Asked to describe his gap year, Steve recalled, “I managed a bookstore and prayed that I got into a Ph.D. Program.”  Things worked out, and he is now on track to finish and defend his comprehensive paper (which Utah does in lieu of an orals exams) in the Fall.  For this paper, Steve is working on a critique of luck egalitarianism.  Though he is also working on a project related to the popular scholarship of Richard H. Thaler and Cass Sunstein (authors of Nudge), we spent the bulk of our conversation talking about luck egalitarianism, and its various critiques. Continue reading

Meet an Alum: Zeke Reich

I interviewed Zeke Reich about his MAPH experience and his current position at the Veterans Administration in Washington, DC.  Here’s what he had to say:

What were your goals upon entry into MAPH?

I came into MAPH with the primary intention of connecting with a constellation of people and ideas that can be found in the U of C Philosophy Department and almost nowhere else. There were a group of professors (Conant, Finkelstein, Pippin, Haugeland, Lear…) and interlocutors (Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Cavell, Austin, Putnam, Baz, McDowell, Brandom…) whom I felt I needed to connect with in order to make my basic education as a philosophical person complete. I’m happy to say that that intention was met: I was welcomed into advanced classes and workshops, and spent time with upper-level graduate students who were having all the conversations that I had wanted to be part of. And I still feel that the U of C Wittgenstein/Cavell/Heidegger/pragmatism axis plays an extremely important role in my sensibility and worldview. Continue reading

How I Sold My Thesis

Our alum Anna Jarzab, AM ’07, has just sold her thesis to a publisher, and she has graciously taken the time to share a little bit of that adventure with us.

-Braden

Even though I knew I wanted to write a creative thesis for MAPH, I never intended to write the project I ended up writing. I wanted to write a series of short stories based on my grandparents’ experiences in World War II, but it soon became clear to me that I wasn’t a mature enough writer yet to handle such dense, weighty material, and I didn’t have enough time to do the research that would be necessary.
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MAPH Alum Anna Piepmeyer: Awesome and Nerdy

Anna Piepmeyer (MAPH ’07) is the Ambassador of Awesomeness for the new peer networking site, Dweeber (think of her as the equivalent to Tom of MySpace; if you join the site, she is automatically your friend). This site, however, distances itself from other peer networking sites, sites that usually serve as distractions to things like school work by actually serving to specifically help students with their homework and school assignments. Catering most predominantly to primary and secondary school age groups (though I can imagine this being helpful even in MAPH situations, especially in trying to figure out Core material!), the site lets its users see what assignments their friends are doing so that they can work on assignments together, ask each other questions, post helpful web links, give directions, etc.
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