FAQ: Several things that I wish someone had told me (or that I had listened to when they did) before I started MAPH.

Halloo, MAPH!

MAPH Central has been abuzz with new students, and it has been heartwarming to see the bonds of friendship being forged.

We have entertained and overheard a number of questions from you, and herein we will endeavor to answer those questions, as well as several questions we will save you the difficulty of having to ask. Let us begin! (Don’t forget the official FAQ, too!)

• I’d like to email/talk to Professor So-and-So. How should I go about that?

Excellent question! The short answer is: don’t. Not yet, anyway. You are doubtless a fine person with many redeeming qualities, but professors should be approached carefully and respectfully. Though I thought I was the very picture of deferential humility, I managed to embarrass myself several times very early on. Save yourself the trauma of replaying such a memory over and over. Wait until you know your way around, and talk to a mentor or your preceptor first. They can often suggest ways to navigate the niceties you may not know you need to know and tell you when you are pronouncing words incorrectly.

• When will I get the syllabus for Colloquium/Core?

POOF. It’s done. Go here for the Colloquium syllabus and here for the Core syllabus.

• Can I get the Course Packet from you?

Yes! But not yet. The Course Packet contains many of the readings that will be assigned for Core, which begins on October 1. I can promise that you will have access to the Course Packet in ample time to do the readings. It will cost less than $40. You will receive an email when MAPH Central is ready to start exchanging Course Packets for currency.

• I’m pretty sure I already know what my thesis topic is going to be. What can I do to get a head start on it?

For right now, hold the idea loosely in your mind. Ninety percent of writing is thinking, and you’re about to be stuffed with food for thought. To start shaping your thesis now is to constrain your own brilliance, intellect, and imagination. At the beginning of winter quarter, you’ll make your initial forays into your thesis. What would appear very logically right now to be “working ahead” may actually serve to limit or set you back. This will make more sense later; for now, I hope you’ll trust us.

Diagram of MAPH Central’s offices

• What’s the deal with MAPH Central/the MAPH Lounge? Can I go in there?

Most definitely! We welcome you. Both areas stay open for student use during the week, though either might be briefly closed for the occasional meeting. Whilst in MAPH Central or the Classics building, please recall that many good souls are working diligently at their jobs, and modulate your noise accordingly.

There is no cleaning staff and no reception staff for MAPH, which means it falls upon each of us to be civic-minded and tidy up after ourselves. There is no quicker way to earn the ire of MAPH Central than to leave crumbled foodstuffs, unwashed dishes, or other detritus in your wake.

This is what happens if you leave a mess:

The MAPH Lounge is a fantastic place to study or decompress, especially when the weather gets chilly and the lampposts get tongue-stickingly cold. There’s a calendar in the MAPH Lounge that will remind you of upcoming events, as well as couches and chairs in which many a nap has been taken.

There is also a piano! It is fun to play but quite loud. Please check in with MAPH Central before any ivories are tickled. There are classes throughout this building, and while we appreciate your dulcet tones, interrupted faculty will not.

• I have already decided which courses I am going to take!

Cool! Wait, is that a question?

It’s great to have an idea of what you might be interested in, but in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, there are unknown unknowns looming ahead. Your preceptors and mentors have arcane knowledge about faculty and classes at UChicago that they will impart to you in secret rituals knows as “conversations.” Heed them well, my friends! Heed them well!

[All such conversations are strictly off the record and may be strenuously denied later. —Eds.]

A valiant preceptor with precept group in tow.

• What’s the difference between a mentor, a preceptor, a thesis adviser, and a faculty advisor?

What an excellent question! They are your guides throughout the year.

Mentor: A MAPH alumna/alumnus from the previous year. We offer advice, emotional support, career help, and evidence that one can survive and thrive in MAPH.

Preceptor: A advanced PhD student who will lead your Core discussion sections and guide you throughout your year. They will be your MAPH cornerstones, and they know many, many things – about faculty members, academia, UChicago, their field, and other really freaky stuff.

Thesis Advisor: A faculty member or other academic appointee who will advise you during the thesis-writing process. For all intents and purposes, your thesis advisor will remain a general concept and not an actual person until the beginning of the second quarter. If you already have a thesis advisor in mind and would like to meet with them early, please see the first question in this FAQ.

Faculty Advisor: Usually someone in your department, roughly, maybe, probably. They will provide various levels of advising or information about their division, department, or committee. Their message is often most useful when taken in conjunction with a preceptor’s commentary.

• Is there a Maru video that works as a perfect metaphor for how I feel about fitting into MAPH?

Funny you should ask.

4 thoughts on “FAQ: Several things that I wish someone had told me (or that I had listened to when they did) before I started MAPH.

  1. Chrissy

    I think that Vocal Coach thing is just a ploy to make you look like a child playing Dumbo in a school play.

  2. Pmeidlinger

    Funny! I went to your site today looking for serious and helpful advice for undergrads looking for a graduate program. Now all I can do is think about carnivorous rabbits, and cats and small boxes. Well done, MAPH! Thanks for making my morning.

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