As a MAPH student, you will quickly learn to speak a highly specialized jargon specific to UChicago.
You’ll learn to navigate the “Quarter system.” You’ll have “analytic expositions” to write for “Core” while you study in “The Reg.” And you’ll visit “MAPH Central” to say hello to “the mentors” and get “free coffee.” (Rest assured, the coffee is actually free.)
You’ll learn one of these specialized terms very soon when you get an introductory email from your “Preceptor,” who will be one of the most important figures during your MAPH experience. Here’s quick explanation of who this mysterious person is and why they will be so helpful to you as you complete your MA…
MAPH divides each year’s cohort into groups of 10-12 students, loosely organized by interest. Each one of these groups is called a precept and is led by a preceptor, who is an advanced PhD candidate studying here at UChicago. This year, there will be eight preceptors hailing from all kinds of different departments including (but not limited to) English, Philosophy, and even the Committee on Social Thought. You can read bios of the preceptors (and other MAPH staff) here. Generally speaking, preceptors are an invaluable resource to MAPH students—they know the university inside and out, and can give advice on academic issues ranging from course selection to thesis advisors to what writing a dissertation is really like.
The relationship with preceptors tends to evolve a bit over the year, but during fall quarter, the preceptor is primarily an academic advisor and instructor for the MAPH Core Course.
In the early weeks of the quarter, you’ll meet with your preceptor to discuss classes—he or she will be a great resource at this point, and help guide you toward the right courses for your interests. They will have to sign off on the classes you register for (in fall and beyond).
However, the preceptor’s main function in fall is leading core discussions and grading analytic expositions. Each Friday, precepts meet to have discussions of the texts covered in core earlier in the week; your preceptors will lead these weekly discussion sections. They will also grade your assignments for core (called analytic expositions), in consultation with the faculty directors. Of course, they’ll be available to meet to discuss academics and dispense advice on a number of different issues—but through fall quarter, the preceptor is definitely an instructor, not just an advisor.
Toward the end of fall, your preceptor will begin guiding you through the thesis process—they’ll help you produce a polished proposal in January and help you seek out an advisor, for instance. We’ll blog about the thesis process in greater detail later in fall (no need to worry about it quite yet!), but rest assured that the preceptors will also be instrumental to guiding you through the thesis process from start to finish.
In short, a preceptor is
1) an academic advisor and invaluable resource as you learn to navigate UChicago, 2) an instructor for the Core Course, and 3) an intelligent, outgoing, incredibly helpful human being who will help support you through your whole MAPH experience. They are like the Virgil to your Dante or the Gandalf to your Bilbo. And you’ll be hearing from them very soon!