Category Archives: Practical Matters

All things useful and important.

I Just Got To Chicago! …What Do I Do? (Part 2/2)

Hey, MAPHers!  We here at MAPH Central are gearing up for the year ahead and can’t believe Colloquium is less than three weeks away!  It’s time to get excited and also to get prepared for the quarter to begin: it’s going to be a whirlwind!  Here’s your second installment of things to do once you get to Chicago:

Get a Bike


Despite the winter cold, for much of the year Hyde Park is an extremely bike-friendly neighborhood! Having a bike can cut down commutes within Hyde Park to just a few minutes and is a great way of beating rush-hour traffic. It’s also a great way to get to the Loop for free. Using the Lakefront Trail you can get from Promontory Point to Navy Pier in under an hour, and without crossing a single road. Bikes can be used to navigate the rest of the city, too: CTA buses have bike racks, and bikes are allowed on CTA trains during non-peak hours.

Cheap secondhand bikes can be found on Marketplace, Craigslist or at Blackstone Bicycle Works, a youth education program based at the Experimental Station just a few blocks south of campus. Blackstone is a bike shop dedicated to promoting ecological practices and empowering youth, teaching useful skills to young people from Chicago’s south side.

Chicago has a bike sharing system, Divvy, which offers a $55 student membership. You can also purchase a bike to use for just one trip. Be forewarned, though: if you don’t return the bike to another Divvy station within 30 minutes (which can be a tough deadline to meet – almost impossible if you are biking to the Loop) you will accrue overtime fees, which can add up. The bikes are also a bit bulkier than one you might purchase. All things considered, if you plan on biking regularly, purchasing a bike would be the better option.

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I Just Got To Chicago! …What Do I Do? (Part 1/2)

Dear MAPHers,

Welcome to Chicago! Now’s the time that some of you are arriving in the city and beginning to settle in. Below, we’ve complied a short list of the top things to do when you arrive here, before Colloquium begins. You can read part 1 of 2 here, and check back here next week to find the second installment!

Your Mentors,
Jess, Michael and Clancey

  1. Get your University ID Card

Your ID card is an invaluable resource for your time at UChicago. It’ll get you into the campus libraries, allow you to check out books, allow you to access the university gym and the university pub (with a membership), use Student Health & Counseling Services, copy, print, scan or fax at various locations on campus (including the Regenstein library), borrow equipment for free from the TECHB@R, and ride the 170, 171, and 172 CTA buses and the UGoDaytime and UGoNightRide shuttles for free.

The good news is that you can get your ID card right now! You can collect yours at the Identification and Privileges Office, located in the lobby of Joseph Regenstein Library – just take a sharp left immediately before the electronic barrier that leads to the main part of the library. They’ll make your ID card for you for free; the whole process takes only a couple of minutes. All you need with you is a government-issued photo ID. The office is open weekdays until 6pm and Saturdays until 1pm.

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Alumni Resources: Libraries, Life Insurance, Listservs and More


Welcome to the club!

By the end of the MAPH year, you probably feel as though you never want to visit the Reg again. But even a few weeks into, summer you’ll start to miss access to the thousands of books (and more) that you’ve enjoyed this year.

Luckily, UChicago alumni have access to the libraries for free! In fact, there are a whole host of resources available to UChicago alum, ranging from library and gym access to health insurance and career resources. Check below the break for details on how to take advantage of everything available to you as a newly minted UC alum!

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Finishing the Thesis: Do’s and Don’t’s

keep-calm-and-thesis-on-1Eighth Week is upon us, which means theses are due very soon. As you approach the Friday deadline, here are a few tips to keep you on track during one of the most hectic times of the MAPH year. Also, be sure to come by the office to let us know how things are shaping up!


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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 ( 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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