Yes, graduation is several weeks and a thesis away, questions about Convocation weekend are starting to trickle in. So, here’s all the relevant information for that all-important weekend collected for your convenience.

June 3: Note that grades are due to the Registrar’s Office by Friday, June 3. This means that you need to have submitted your final papers in time for your professor to grade them by this date, or else arranged with your professor to take a Convocation grade. The latter is a stand-in grade (usually a B or B-) given to you so that you meet the required number of class grades for graduation. Your professor will change this grade in the summer after they’ve reviewed and assessed your final paper, and the updated grade will be the one that appears on your transcript.

Early June: This is a good time to pop over to the UChicago Bookstore and buy your cap and gown, which are required if you want to walk in the graduation ceremony. The cap/gown combination costs around $52. Keep your eyes peeled for an exciting MAPH competition in Spring Quarter with a first prize of one lovely second-hand cap and gown set.

June 10: The MAPH Friends and Family Reception will take place in Classics 110 from 3-5pm on Friday June 10th. This is a great chance to introduce your friends and family to your MAPH friends, the directors, the MAPH staff and, most importantly, your mentors.  Of course, all MAPHers are welcome to attend this especially-fancy final social hour-esque event without bringing any guests. Come and eat delicious food, drink champagne and meet adults that look vaguely familiar. We hope you can all attend!

June 11: Convocation(s). The University of Chicago holds multiple convocations on graduation day (which apparently many universities do, but was news to me last year).

The University-wide convocation starts at 9:15 am and is held on the main quad. This ceremony is for the whole university: tickets are not required. There will probably be a guest speaker and the opportunity to walk in a big crowd of people dressed identically to you.

MAPH will host a lunch for you and your friends and family in Bartlett Commons at 11:30 am (No tickets or RSVP needed). From the lunch, MAPH graduands will go directly to the Reynolds Club (the Humanities division graduation takes place in Mandel Hall) and wait in line while everyone gets thoroughly alphabetized. The Maph staff will shortly thereafter direct your guests over to Mandel Hall to take their seats.

Convocation will begin at 1:45 in Mandel Hall, and the ceremony usually lasts about an hour. Once again, no tickets are needed for guests to attend the ceremony. Afterwards, we hope you’ll join us for the post-ceremony toast (with champagne!) on Bartlett Quadrangle starting at around 3pm.

After that, we hope you’ll all celebrate your fantastic achievements!


Always feel free to email us with questions. We’ll also be putting out more posts about transportation, things to do, recommended places to take your family to dinner, etc., but here at least are the date and an outline of what the weekend looks like. For questions about graduation requirements and deadlines (for instance, questions about restrictions or incompletes), consult Maren and/or your preceptor.

The university’s official website for Convocation can be found here and, for the Humanities Division in particular, here.


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Campus Days 2016: What to Do if You Get Here Early!

Here at MAPHCentral, we are gearing up for Campus Days 2016 and are excited to meet everyone this weekend! You can find an outline of the schedule for Campus Days here and a more detailed schedule here.  

If you get to Chicago before Campus Days or have some time here afterwards, or if you are a current student hosting someone and want to point out things to do and see, below are some suggested spots and activities!

Within Hyde Park


Promontory Point

Although this weekend your focus will likely be on the University, Hyde Park as a whole has a lot to offer. To enjoy some time outside, we strongly recommend Promontory Point, the east end of 55th Street. Promontory Point provides one of the most beautiful views of the Chicago skyline and of Lake Michigan. If the weather is warm, we also recommend taking a stroll on the Lakeshore Path.

Hyde Park also has several bookstores worth browsing. We have the Seminary Co-op (which is also next to one of our favorite coffee shops, Plein Air Cafe), and its sister store, 57th Street Books. On 55th is an excellent selection of used books at Powell’s. (Also, there are often a couple of boxes of free books, of mixed quality, on the sidewalk outside Powell’s. Who doesn’t love free books?)

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Campus Days 2016: Transportation!

Hello, Prospective Students!
We’re excited to meet you all for Campus Days. But first, here is some advice for getting to Hyde Park and even exploring other parts of 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 Chicago O’Hare to the Loop, where you can hop on ctathe 6 or 2 bus down to Hyde Park.

Midway: The 55 bus goes straight from Midway Airport to Hyde Park. The 55th & Ellis stop is essentially on campus, but if you’re staying a little farther east, ask your host (or Google) which stop you should disembark at. You can also jump on the Orange Line from Midway, which will take you to the Loop, where you can grab a train to another neighborhood if you are staying or exploring outside of Hyde Park.

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Spring Break Write-In

Planning on writing during Spring Break? Looking for something to keep you motivated?

Regardless of whether you have a thesis, seminar paper, or other project to work on, Spring Break can a good moment to catch up, even while you’re taking a deep breath. At the same time, it can feel Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 9.45.46 AMdifficult to get motivated and isolating to work–especially when it seems like no one is on campus, and there’s no class to attend. From March 21-25, join master’s students from across programs for three hours (9AM-1PM in Classics 110) of intensive writing each day.

UChicagoGRAD will provide coffee and breakfast on Day One, and lunch every day. Lunch is from 12-1. You’re free to keep writing after, until 1:45. Put your money where your mouth is: put down a deposit of $50. If you attend every day throughout the week, you get your money back, no questions asked! Space is limited as this is annually a popular event. Bring your Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 9.46.02 AMdeposit to Levi Hall 224. Questions? Contact Kalee Ludeks (kalee@uchicago.edu). To register, follow this link!

This much-loved event is not to be missed!

If you have any questions about this event or maintaining winter-quarter momentum over Spring Break, do come see the mentors.

All the best,

The Mentors

MAPH Internships and Internship Panel

Hey, MAPHletes!

This is the time of year where the one-year sprint to the finish can start to feel so overwhelming. We get it! Winter quarter finals can be brutal. But you are going to make it: there is a light at the end of tunnel! (Not to mention the weather today is gorgeous. Take a deep breath and a nice, long walk.) And speaking of the light of the end of the tunnel which is attached to that intimidating train called What-to-do-next?, we are always here to help you think towards the future about post-graduation plans, and today, we are doing so by telling you a bit about the several summer internships MAPH offers. Each year, MAPH sponsors a few internships at humanities, cultural, literary, and non-profit organizations around Chicago. These are a great opportunity to gain experience working with vibrant institutions in the city looking for people with skills just like yours!

Next Thursday​,​ March 10th, MAPH will host ​our annual​ ​I​nternship ​P​anel​ at 5:00 p.m. in Classics 21. All the panelist​s​ for this event have held MAPH internship​s​ previously and will share their experiences both during and after their internships. You can read more about MAPH internships​ here and here. If you follow the second link, you will find posts on our alumni blog guest-written by those who have held internships about their experiences.

*​For international students​*: If you are interested in an internship, now is the time to begin OPT paperwork. We are more than happy help at any stage of the OPT application process. Feel free to reach out. You can also read more about the OPT timeline here.


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Works In Progress Conference 2016

Last Friday, eight MAPH students presented their ongoing thesis research at our annual Works in Progress Conference. Working on topics ranging from Art History to Linguistics and Music Philosophy to Cultural Studies, each of our presenters shared fascinating, nuanced projects that are well on their way to becoming impressive MA theses in the spring. You can find summaries of the conference papers and photos from the event below.

Kate Schlachter

Kate Schlachter

Kate Schlachter‘s project focuses on a tapestry and performance piece by artist Indira Allegra entitled “Saint Davis of Savannah”, and explores how we can use the concept of witnessing as a framework for considering the elastic relationship between presence and event in trauma.

Nick Rekenthaler is currently working on a creative thesis project which takes the form of a fiction novella. The analytic component to Nick’s thesis draws on the philosopher Ian Hacking’s concept of ‘making up people’, a process of creating new categories of being through assigning a specific label to a person.

Nick Rekenthaler

Nick Rekenthaler

Sam Grayck‘s  thesis is a comparative endeavor to break down the relationship between two major First World War literary texts, Undertones of War, by Edmund Blunden, and Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel. Sam argues that each ostensible “memoir” is actually a highly crafted creative work, comprised of three dominant layers: real events, artistic rendering, and collective memory.

Nic Holt focuses in his project on the video artist Juan Downey’s 1973 performance installation Plato Now, which is loosely based on Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Nic examines the ways in which Downey simulates and diverges from this source material in an attempt to provide a re-conceptualization of the Platonic Idealism the allegory was originally devised to illustrate.


Panel 1 Q&A Session, L-R: Moderator Matt Hauske, Kate Schlachter, Nick Rekenthaler, Sam Grayck, Nic Holt

Julia Gantman

Julia Gantman

Julia Gantman‘s thesis project explores images of sight and vision in Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Julia considers how these images relate to language drawn from Joseph Priestley’s eighteenth-century accounts of optics and light in Vision, Light, and Colours.

Trevor McCulloch’s project looks at the visual construction and architectural spaces of two films directed by Nicholas Ray: Rebel Without a Cause and Bigger than Life. Trevor focuses on the domestic spaces represented within the two films in order to uncover how their unique visual approaches to architecture constitute and reflect the anxieties concerning gender identity in 1950s America.

Trevor McCulloch

Trevor McCulloch

Sarah Welch‘s project is an examination of a merge between gerunds and participles in the syntax-semantics subfields of linguistics. Whilst linguists agree that the two word types appear to be merging, Sarah argues that the two have certain fundamental differences.

Jake Mecham is working on a project in Music Philosophy. Jake claims that the problem of music’s capacity is what of music remains after layers of symbolism have been stripped. As part of his project, Jake dissects semantically over-determined musical examples to show how our musical outlook changes as we grow from infancy to adulthood, and, more importantly, how it stays the same.

Panel 2 Q&A Session, L-R: Julia Gantman, Trevor McCulloch, Sarah Welch, Jake Mecham

Panel 2 Q&A Session, L-R: Julia Gantman, Trevor McCulloch, Sarah Welch, Jake Mecham

Thank you to Kate, Nick, Sam, Nic, Julia, Trevor, Sarah and Jake, and to Matt, our moderator. Moreover, thanks so much to all of those MAPH students, preceptors and faculty who came out to support our presenters.


MAPH Night at the Smart

This Friday after the MAPH Works in Progress Conference we will all make our way to the University’s Smart Museum of Art at 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. for a very special reception. There will be food, a cocktail bar, gallery tours, special guests, and a instagram/twitter caption contest!


Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago

The Smart Museum is currently showcasing over 60 works from the Monster Roster group, the first truly unique style of art to come out of Chicago and one of the Midwest’s most important contributions to the art world. In contrast with the dominant abstract style of the majority of postwar art, Monster Roster works are figurative, deeply psychological, often dark and disturbing, and semi-mystical. The influence of psychoanalytic theory and surrealism is palpable in these existential pieces.


We are excited to announce that there will be an Instagram/Twitter caption contest. The most creative (witty, poetic, original) image/text combo taken at the Smart and tagged ‪#‎MonsterRoster‬ ‪#‎MAPH‬ by 03/04 will win a copy of the Monster Roster catalogue.. The posts will be judged by Smart staff/curators. Andrei Pop from Social Thought will be with us to give us a private tour of the Monster Roster gallery. We will also be joined by special guests Tom McCormick and Katie Blehart.

Below is a schedule of events for the evening:

  • 4 pm: buffet and bar will be set up, reception starts, galleries open
  • 4:30 pm: C.J. Lind will welcome us to the Smart and announce catalogue giveaway
  • 5 pm: private Monster Roster tour with Andrei Pop from Social Thought
  • 6 pm: reception ends


See you there!

~ The Mentors

Three Spinners

An Interview with Alexandra Van Doren (MAPH ’13), CEO of Three Spinners

Alexandra van Doren (MAPH ‘13) is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Co-Founder/CEO of Three Spinners Inc., a new non-profit which works to provide food, clothing, and shelter for Syrian refugees admitted into the US. 

Alexandra kindly agreed to answer the mentors’ questions about the work Three Spinners does, her Ph.D. program in Comp. Lit., her time in MAPH and her advice to current MAPHers. You can read her responses below, and find contact information for Three Spinners at the end of the article!

Could you tell us a little about the non-profit that you recently founded, Three Spinners, and the work that it does?

In January 2016, my colleagues and I co-founded Three Spinners Inc., a charitable organization based out of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, with the purpose of advocating for human rights that are being violated amidst the chaos ravaging Syria on an unprecedented level.  Our organization provides not only the very basic needs of food and shelter, but fosters and facilitates educational opportunities such as English language instruction and job training.  Generous members of the Champaign-Urbana community are opening their doors to refugees accepted into the US and offering their homes to incoming families and individuals.  Basically, if you supply the space, we will provide the rest.  Drawing from a multitude of resources in our community and charitable monetary donations, we are creating a network of support for those in desperate need of safety.  By hosting a series of ongoing food, clothing, and item drives and working in conjunction with local businesses, restaurants, non-profit organizations, etc., we are establishing Champaign-Urbana as a self-sustaining community with the resources to provide for refugees in need.

Our foundational principles are simple: we believe that no individual should ever be persecuted on the basis of religion, race, or gender; no child should ever be subjected to violence or hunger; and no man or woman should be denied their basic human rights to food, shelter, safety, and education.  While our housing process is non-discriminatory, our first priority is families with children.


What drew you to further graduate studies in Comp Lit, and what kind of academic projects and questions are you currently working on at the University of Illinois?

 My time at the University of Chicago was ultimately what both challenged and reinforced my decision to pursue further graduate studies in Comparative Literature.  As everyone reading this well knows, the UChicago MAPH program is rigorous to say the least.  I came to Chicago from a relatively small liberal arts school in Los Angeles, so being thrown into the belly of the research beast really made me consider moving away from a career in academia.  While I loved my courses and advisors at UChicago, I wasn’t quite convinced an even more research-intensive PhD program was the right choice for me.  After I graduated from the MAPH program in 2013, I moved to Poland for a number of months to pursue some language training and independent writing projects I had begun in one of my poetry classes at UChicago.  I ended up meeting a librarian/archivist from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Lublin who ended up being a great resource since I had been considering museum work pertinent to the Holocaust.  The more we discussed career goals and trajectories, the more I found myself talking about my MAPH thesis project and related research I wanted to conduct in the future.  Whether it was museum work or a position in the professoriate I was after, it was clear to me after that conversation that my scholarship really thrived in an academic environment, not to mention if I wanted a shot at working in Holocaust archives, it would be a long shot without a PhD and three or four languages under my belt.  After my time abroad, I came back to the states, filled out my PhD applications, and eventually moved out to the cornfields in Champaign.

As a PhD student, it’s rare to be able to talk about the projects you are working on without any funding on the line, so forgive me if I’m a little over-eager to share some of my current research endeavors.  I work in Polish, Spanish, German, and American literatures and languages, but predominantly on Polish poetry.  My dissertation, entitled “‘Where foot knocks against/the unburied bones of kin’: Topographies of Memory in Mass Graves in Poland and Spain,” identifies and refashions a critical point of convergence between Poland and Spain’s national histories under the umbrella of Holocaust and Memory Studies.  My current research has landed me at an intersection between the poetry of witness that began to surface in the immediate wake of the Holocaust in Poland and more recent depictions of Franco’s mass executions in documentary and photography from modern-day Spain.  Immediately following the end of WWII and the collapse of the concentrationary universe on Polish soil, survivors began the Sisyphean task of reassembling the history of a people intended for annihilation.  Witnesses sifted through the rubble of Babel to reconstruct a language that could speak of Auschwitz, ovens, mass graves, and the mechanized murder that had ravaged the Jewish population of Europe, producing volumes of poetry that were initially met with opposition by the general populace or, at best, apathy.  Less than a decade before the Second World War in Poland, Spain faced its own internal crisis, “La Guerra” (the Spanish Civil War), with the institutionalized massacre of Republicans at the hands of the Nationalists/Rebels under Franco.  Perpetrators were mindful of the evidence of these summary executions, often concealing the corpses of victims in mass graves in both remote forest-laden areas and also in cities and towns in which the shootings took place.  Only within the last decade has the weight of “La Guerra” on the fabric of Spain’s topography become a topic ripe for inquiry with the recent excavations of these mass graves, but the process of distinguishing propaganda from scholarship has grown increasingly difficult to navigate.  The resistance to literary and visual depictions of memory in Poland and Spain poses a multitude of questions at the crux of my research, questions that revolve around the representations of the physical and metaphorical body in mass graves and the sociological, historical, and political implications of their documentation and/or exhumation.


How did your experience MAPH impact upon your career choices, both in graduate school and the non-profit sector?

As I mentioned before, my experience in MAPH helped me evaluate the right career path for me.  As far as the impact the program has had on my graduate studies, in retrospect I feel like I walked away from MAPH with a really solid foothold in critical theory that helped build the foundation for a lot of my PhD research.  Additionally, the research methodologies employed in our preceptor meetings and in the classroom set me up for success at another R-1 institution.  MAPH was my introduction to what real literary scholars and historians looked like and it gave me the tools to climb the ladder that I hope will lead me into those ranks in the coming years.

In terms of the program’s impact on my career choice in the non-profit sector, I have always been involved in community service organizations and activities and there was no shortage of them at UChicago.  There were always opportunities to get involved in Chicago communities that really benefited from local non-profit efforts and contributions, which helped keep my feet on the ground throughout the MAPH program.  I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but when you’re in the throes of your thesis, you sometimes forget to look up from your books and remember there’s a world outside the brick and ivy and the community service opportunities at UChicago gave me a productive outlet, especially since my research material topics are so heavy.

What does your role at Three Spinners look like on a day-to-day basis?

At the moment, it’s a lot of hurry up and wait.  I spent a lot of time over this last winter break brainstorming ways to provide some sort of rescue and relief effort to aid in the Syrian refugee crisis, and eventually resolved to starting with a community food drive.  After pitching the idea to a colleague in the Comp Lit Department, she and her husband jumped on board and after we saw the amount of interest expressed by fellow students and local businesses, we realized that we could do something much bigger.  We registered our organization with the Secretary of State the next day, submitted all of our paperwork to the Attorney General and IRS, and launched our website just a few weeks later.  Right now I’m really focusing on community outreach and strategizing/logistics.  A lot of state representatives in the U.S. have expressed their unwillingness to shelter refugees, so we’re working on creating a self-sustaining community independent of government funding that can support a community of refugees. The last few weeks have been a lot of phone calls, emails, and office visits to businesses and individuals that have volunteered to host food barrels, run item/clothes drop-off centers, provide housing, host fundraisers, etc.  Once we have the final approval from the Attorney General, it’s all plug and play.  The day I get that letter in the mail, we’re delivering food barrels to our volunteers and accepting, sorting, and storing material donations so that we can get a better estimate of how many refugees we can support for up to one year.  The sooner we have the resources in order, the sooner we can reach out to the Department of State and get families in need to a supportive and safe environment.

How have you integrated your academic, political and creative interests into your career?  How would you suggest that current students think about this for their future?

Honestly, I’m still figuring out how all of these things weave into the career tapestry I want to create, but that’s part of the graduate school journey.  The beauty of working in Comparative Literature is that there’s no limit to the kinds of literature, film, and information I have access to.  I read a few English translations of Tadeusz Różewicz’s poetry years ago and decided I was going to learn Polish.  Now I work on Polish poetry.  This last year I couldn’t read most of the Nazi documents I was investigating for a research project and needed translation programs just to get by.  Now I’m learning German.  While my career choices have been in flux for several years, the constants have remained: I enjoy research and historical investigation, I embrace crossing linguistic borders as a polyglot, I am deeply invested in advocating for human rights, and I can’t live without poetry.  None of these things fit neatly into a career package, so you have to write your own job description.  Working in academia as a student and teacher as well as branching out into the non-profit sector allows me to create the career I think would most contribute to the world instead of molding myself into a prepackaged one.  That is my advice for students that have not yet found a path that calls out to them or that are struggling to tailor themselves to the job market’s expectations.  Of course you have to be realistic about your prospects, but don’t carve your edges to fit into a ready-made puzzle.  If you haven’t found your niche, build your puzzle around the pieces you already have.

What advice would you give to current MAPHers interested in working in or founding a non-profit, or to those interested in a hybrid career?

You don’t need much to start a non-profit, so don’t hesitate.  Anyone pursuing that field of work, presumably, already has admirable intentions since we all know no one is going to strike it rich in non-profit work.  That’s not why we’re in this.  We’re in it to make a difference and to repair pieces of the world that perhaps we didn’t break, but need healing nonetheless. Three Spinners Inc. started out as a maybe-I’ll-start-a-food-drive-or-something kind of idea that, after a conversation with a friend over tea, became something that will change hundreds (hopefully eventually thousands) of lives.  Start building your network of resources now; you’re in the best place you could possibly be in at a university.  There is such a diversity of talents, skills, expertise, etc. among students and professors.  You can literally find at least one person in any given classroom that speaks a different language, grew up in another country, is pursuing a degree in law/medicine/education, etc.  Truly, all you need is an idea (and the ability to run without sleep for a while), and you can get your project’s wheels off the ground.  There are never too many warriors for social justice.

You can read more about Three Spinners via their website here, visit them on Facebook here or subscribe to their Newsletter here. Below are the contact details for the Three Spinners team – don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to learn more!

Alexandra van Doren

Meagan Smith

Timothy King