Category Archives: Practical Matters

All things useful and important.

To Prospective Students: Advice That I Got and Didn’t Listen to & Advice I Didn’t Get But Wish I Would Have Before Starting MAPH (I Probably Wouldn’t Have Listened to That Advice Either)

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Bill Hutchison, MAPH ’12, who is a now a PhD candidate in English at the University of Chicago. Bill will be on Sunday’s alumni panel.

IMG_2362Hello, potential MAPH students! I’m an alumnus of the program from 2011-2012, and worked in the program as a mentor the following year. Now I’m a second-year PhD student in the English department at University of Chicago. I want to get one thing out on the table between us before you read this. I want you to know where I’m coming from. I’m a big, big fan of the program. I’m neither apologist nor evangelist, but definitely a proponent. If you want skepticism, seek elsewhere. Do MAPH right and it will change your life, or so say I.

1. Do a Thing Because You Want to Do That Thing, Not Because You Want to Do Something Else

Come to MAPH because you want to sharpen your mind and learn to be a better human, not because you want to “be a professor.” And let’s be honest about that, too. Some of the best advice I got from an advanced PhD student working as one of MAPH’s astonishingly bright instructors was: “Get a PhD because you want to write a dissertation, not because you want to be a professor.” It’s smart advice. The American Association of University Professors says that 76 percent of university staff appointments are for non-tenure track positions. The nature of academia is in flux, and romantic notions of academia and “being a professor” can blur the realities of the world so many of us want to be a part of. If you come to MAPH, come because you think it’s awesome (you’re right). Instrumentalizing the program as a way to do something else is a good way to miss big and important chunks of MAPH. Come to this program if you want to do something amazing while you are in the program. That seems like the best way to do amazing things later, too.

2. You Will Change Your Mind About a Lot of Things a Lot of Times: Go With It

loungeI was totally, totally sure what I was going to write my thesis on. I was going to write about the industrialization of animals, and was going to do it in the Philosophy department. I actually ended up writing my thesis on animality and The Island of Doctor Moreau in the English department. Yeah, there’s a bit of conceptual overlap in my actual thesis and lumpy mass of ideas I originally thought I wanted to write about.
But I found a set of ideas in MAPH that were totally unexpected, and I found them in a class I would have had no intention of taking when I started the program. This is not a unique experience. Don’t resist these experiences. Ideas like to be alive and jump around and do unexpected things. Professors here frequently talk about “the graduate student imagination,” and part of that imagination is learning how to interact with those ideas in a way that doesn’t involve cooping them up and contorting them into unnatural shapes. Follow your ideas around; they go such interesting places.

3. I Don’t Know How One Does This, But Try to Let Go of Your Ego

I’m realizing now that all the things I have to say are basically the same pieces of advice said in different ways. Nevertheless, MAPH is an intense experience. I like to say that it’s impossible. But that’s one of the amazing things about it. By the end, you have accomplished something impossible. It’s impossible to take 150% of the PhD student workload and write a high-quality thesis in a year. It can’t be done. And yet with the enthusiastic and effective support of the staff and instructors, you do it. And then even more impossible things become possible. But it requires a lowering of defenses that can be tough. Come into MAPH with an open head and open heart, and it will alter you in very real and direction-changing ways. It’s a good place to come and dismantle yourself and build an even better version. Sure, it’s a little painful at times, but it’s transformative. You don’t come out the same as when you went in, and ego makes the process more difficult than it needs to be.

4. Here Is the Secret to Getting Into Any PhD Program You Want


Be lucky. Really, really lucky. And, to quote my MAPH thesis advisor, “work your bloody ass off.” But ninety percent of it is just to be really, really lucky. That is to say, MAPH Central will tell you lots of things about why it’s important to not just do PhD prep stuff while you’re here, and why you should meet with the career people and come to the events with non-academic alumni. Listen to them! Go to those things! Just like it’s really hard to get a tenure-track job, it’s really hard to get into a top-notch PhD program. It’s hard to get into PhD programs of any notch! If you want to get a PhD, go for it, but don’t bet the the whole farm on it. Have a contingency plan. MAPH Central is the very best place to plan your plan. It doesn’t take much effort, but it can come in surprisingly handy. Yes, MAPH is a great place to hone the skills you need to be a good PhD student. Yes, lots of MAPH alumni get into great PhD programs all over the place. But sometimes it takes another couple of rounds of applications. Sometimes people don’t want to do a PhD anymore. Sometimes people just don’t have the luck when they need it. However it’s going to go down, MAPH will help you prepare for it. Use what they have to offer. Work hard in lots of different ways.
MAPH is a great place to (more really good advice I got) “put yourself in the path of opportunity.” Come and visit, ask lots of questions, and listen to the answers. Question marks and and open minds lead to revelatory experiences in MAPH. That’s my experience, anyway. And I think it’s available to anyone.

PS: One last note—

MAPH is expensive. There’s not much aid available to Master’s students. You’re likely to go into a fair amount of debt to do it. You may want to ask people if it’s “worth it.” It’s an impossible question to answer, not least because it asks for a false equivalence between knowledge and debt. Whether to take on the debt, if that is your lot, is a personal decision.
I’ll say this about my decision: What if I hadn’t gotten into a PhD program? Would it have been “worth it?” I wouldn’t regret it, that’s for sure. I don’t regret it, even though I’m ostensibly training for a job in a mostly low-paying and disappearing profession. But I’m interested as a general state of being, and that doesn’t change whether I’m in a PhD program or not. And if you’re out there looking at this program and eyeing higher education, you’re probably interested, too. So maybe a better question is—how much do I want to get even better at being interested?

 

A Guide to Transportation: Campus Days 2015

Hello Prospective Students!

We are excited to see you all for Campus Days this weekend and have some excellent events planned for you all. But first, here is some advice for getting to Hyde Park and even exploring Chicago, if you have time. Below are our recommendations for transportation. Feel free to email us (ma-humanities@uchicago.edu) if you have any questions!

From the Airport:

O’Hare: The Blue Line runs straight from ORD to the Loop, where you can grab any other L train or the buses that go to Hyde Park (see below).

ChicagoElevatedTrainMidway: The 55 bus goes straight from Midway to Hyde Park. The 55th & Ellis stop is essentially on campus, but some of you might be staying farther east, as ask your host (or Google) which stop you should use. You can also jump on the Orange Line from Midway. This will take you to the Loop, where you can grab a train to another neighborhood if you are staying/hanging out outside of Hyde Park.

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Campus Days: Schedule of Events

Campus Days Schedule

April 12-13, 2015

Sunday, April 12th

1:00 pm Paul Durica, former Preceptor and owner of Pocket Guide to Hell will lead a tour of the secret history of UChicago (optional). Meet in front of the Reynolds Club.

3:00 pm Welcome from the Directors (Logan Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Screening Room)

3:13 pm Readings from Colloquium (Logan Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Screening Room)

4:00 pm Alumni Panel (Logan Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Screening Room)

1335562301-logancenter5:00 pm Current Students Panel (Logan Center for the Arts, 2nd Floor Screening Room)

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Campus Days: Housing Options

Hello Prospective Students!

The Maph office is getting excited for Campus Days, on April 13th and 14th. We’re looking forward to meeting you guys and to introducing you to this program. Over Campus Days, you’ll have the chance to meet Maph students, visit classes, and, as is MAPH tradition, eat lots of food while engaging in a series of intellectual conversations.110212-NEWS-Professors-Row-Halloween-Julia-Reinitz_5-1024x680

We try to place as many people as possible with current students, but any one who isn’t housed with a Maph student, either because placements fill up quickly on a first-come, first-serve basis, or because you’d simply like a different housing experience, below are some suggestions for housing. Continue reading

Maph Internships

Below are some brief descriptions of the internships offered through Maph for the Summer of 2015. But first, a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • You can apply for more than 1 internship, and in fact we encourage you to apply to multiple internships. The deadline is Monday, May 4th at 5:00 pm EXCEPT for the MAKE and the Spudnik Press internships.
  • Interns will be expected to provide 300 hours, 30 hours/week over 10 weeks (there is some flexibility here, be sure to communicate with Maren and with your supervisor). All interns will receive a salary of $3300.
  • Matt and I can, and will, look at the application materials for internships. Kerri and GSA are also great resources to utilize.
  • All materials should be submitted to the Maph office, except for Make Magazine and Sputnik Press which go through this site.

Adventure Stage Chicago

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10 Books to Read Before Grad School

MAPH is an intense year, and reading time quickly becomes a scarce keep-calm-and-love-reading-64resource—so we here at MAPHtastic polled some of our current students, staff, and alums to see what books they wish they had read before doing the program. See below the jump to see what might be a good beach book for the summer before, or what theory people wish they had read before the MAPH Core class in fall!

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Stress Relief…. or Treat Yo Self

This is a very busy, stressful time of year. I remember Week 8 last year as a haze of frantic typing, coffee spills, and semi-permanent relocation to the Regenstein. I wish, however, that I had set aside more time to take care of myself. I would have had a better time during finals and also spring break.

capybara-citrus-11Some of the office’s favorite stress reliefs:

  • Sarah recommends baths. For the right person, this is a relaxing activity, made even more relaxing with the right bath salts (here are Sarah’s favorite).

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Winter Recipes (some healthier than others)

images-3For me, at least, winter is a time of warm comfort food. And also root vegetables- they hold up well in winter. Winter Quarter is the hardest time to cook for ourselves, because we are so busy and it is just so cold outside. Below are some relatively easy recipes, to help.

Cooking is good for the budget and it just feels good to create something! This is a project you can start and finish all in one day, which can be a nice change of pace from papers and the more scholarly work. Continue reading

Tempus Fugit: The Fine Art of Time Management

Dali-Persistence-of-Memory-1931-Museum-of-Modern-Art-New-York

Lo! Behold the bleak, surrealist landscape of Winter Quarter.

Come winter in MAPH, most students find that they have much less structured time than they did in fall. Without Core twice a week and the set precept/social hour schedule on Fridays, the average MAPHer’s week looks very different from the fall.Winter inevitably means lots of unstructured time and lots to accomplish in ten weeks—which makes time management one of the biggest challenges this quarter.

For instance, I know a lot of you only have Tuesday/Thursday classes this quater—how do you make sure you’re structuring M/W/F (and the weekend) to stay on track and keep making progress with your thesis, course readings, and job hunts? Keep reading for some tips on managing your time and staying productive through the long winter months!

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Advocating for some Advice on Advisors

Winter quarter contains a lot of uncertainty.

Who do I want to be my advisor? How do I ask him or her? What is my thesis object (some of you may not know yet- hang in there!)?

What will I eat on Fridays, now that social hour is only once every few weeks?

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I have so many questions!

How can I do reading for class as well as for my thesis? There are only 24 hours in a day, and I need 8 of them for sleeping!

And then there is the question on so many of our minds- What will the last season of Parks & Recreation be like? What happened in that three-year time jump? So many questions!

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