A MAPSS Tradition

All MAPSS students work closely with their preceptors and the senior MAPSS staff to select graduate courses from across the University. It is exceedingly common for someone with sociological interests, for example, to take courses in the Sociology department, in the Harris School of Public Policy, in Political Science, in the School of Social Service Administration, and in Comparative Human Development.

In addition, MAPSS gives students the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of interdisciplinary research:

Committee on Social Thought

The Committee on Social Thought was founded in 1941 by the historian John U. Nef, the economist Frank Knight, the anthropologist Robert Redfield, and Robert M. Hutchins, then President of the University. Their guiding premise has been that a wide and deep familiarity with ancient and modern texts – in literature, philosophy, history, religion, art, politics, and society – will allow scholars to grapple with the fundamental issues, and the permanent questions, that underlie all serious inquiry.

Comparative Human Development

The Department of Comparative Human Development brings together anthropologists, biologists, linguists, psychologists, and sociologists to explore how biology and culture – gender, race, class, age, sexuality, and dis/ability – combine to shape social interactions and the processes of social change. Current areas of comparative research include the social experience of mental illness, comparative education, multicultural citizenship, and emergent conceptions of adulthood.

Computational Social Science

MAPSS students can earn a Certificate in Computational Social Science that will appear on their transcript. To do so, they must complete the Computational Math Camp in September, a three-course core (Perspectives on Computational Analysis, Perspectives on Computational Modeling OR Introduction to Machine Learning, Perspectives on Computational Research), and one additional course in computer programming (such as MACS 30500, Computing for the Social Sciences).

Students are also expected to attend the Computational Social Science Workshop on an occasional basis.

A minimum average grade of B will be needed for the Certificate to be awarded, following a petition submitted to our Managing Director.

Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science

The Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science draws on work in history, philosophy, and the social relations of science, with areas of research that include the history of biology, psychology, medicine, and psychiatry; the history of statistics and probability; the sociology and anthropology of science; and the history of communication and the book.

Education and Society

MAPSS students can now earn a Certificate in the University’s Committee on Education. The curriculum allows students to specialize in one of three areas. “Individual Development and Learning” explores how students learn, which pedagogies are most effective, and how schools are best organized. “Schooling and Society” examines how schools are shaped by cultural, familial, and neighborhood contexts, what role schools play in their wider communities, and what impact schools have on social inequality. “Educational Policy and Evaluation” investigates what principles of research design, statistical analysis, and program evaluation are most effective for assessing educational interventions, and what the best evidence implies for core policies like how to improve reading instruction, whether charter schools are more effective than public schools, or how to attract and retain talented teachers in under-resourced institutions.

Each of these topical areas requires an interdisciplinary lens. For example, psychologists are interested in the cognitive and affective dimensions of learning, economists study the development of human capital, and sociologists explore the role of schooling in processes of social stratification. Consequently, a psychologist might see how children become better learners, an economist might think about how incentives shape teacher and student effort, and a sociologist would see how a school’s organization shapes social networks and opportunities.

Students earning the Education and Society Certificate complete courses that combine these interdisciplinary perspectives in a coherent program of study. In addition, students can seek research placements in one of several education-related laboratories, research projects, or organizations at the University, including the Urban Education Institute; the UChicago Consortium on School Research; UChicago STEM Education; the UChicago Science of Learning Center; the Urban Labs; the TMW Center for Early Learning and Public Health; educational programs within the Office of Civic Engagement; or any number of ongoing faculty-led projects.

Gender and Sexuality Studies

MAPSS students are eligible to work with affiliated faculty in The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. The Center coordinates a number of courses, examining the study of gender and/or sexuality as a historical practice; as scientific concepts and sites of representation; in social movements such as feminism and gay and lesbian liberation; within feminist and queer theory; as family structures; in the gendering of labor force participation; as representations of women in literature and the visual arts; in the intersections of race and gender; in transnational movements; and as they impact women’s and men’s participation in politics, among other domains.

The Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies requires at least three courses in gender and sexuality studies (either cross-listed with GNSE or approved by the Center); a major research paper (preferably the MA thesis) with a substantial gender/sexuality component; and student attendance at a minimum of 6 Gender and Sexualities Studies Workshop. and or Working Group meetings.

Geographic Information Science

MAPSS students can work with affiliated faculty in the Committee on Geographical Sciences. The five-course concentration provides an introduction to spatial thinking, geospatial analysis, geo-computation, and geo-visualization techniques, with a focus on policy-relevant research across the social sciences.

The concentration in Geographic Information Science includes three foundational courses in spatial analysis and spatial data science (Introduction to Spatial Data Science, Geographic Information Science I and Geographic Information Science II) and an independent reading course oriented to MA thesis research (Readings in Spatial Analysis). The fifth course is selected from three options: a course that develops the computational aspects of geographic information science (Geographic Information Science III); more advanced statistical treatment (Spatial Regression Analysis); or a practicum to refine the MA thesis (GIScience Practicum).

Students are encouraged to participate in the Center for Spatial Data Science, which organizes a weekly study group that draws faculty, post-doctoral lecturers, and students from across the University of Chicago. Finally, students write their MA theses with a member of the GIS faculty, applying spatial analysis and geographic information science to a particular question in the social sciences.

Latin American and Caribbean Studies

MAPSS students with a strong interest in Latin America can work with affiliated faculty in the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) to develop a personalized program of study. More than 50 faculty members throughout the University focus their teaching or research in the area, offering a full range of disciplinary and regional coverage. Students can select courses in economic development; Mayan art and architecture; immigration; the environment; human rights; urban studies; revolution and dictatorship; law and citizenship; slavery and its afterlives; politics and public policy; crime and criminal governance; wealth and inequality; literature and society; religion; commodity capitalism; and many others.

The Certificate in Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) requires students to enroll in a foundational course and take three additional electives in Latin American Studies; demonstrate language proficiency in a regional language (most often in Spanish or Portuguese); write an MA thesis on a theme or topic related to Latin America, advised by a faculty member affiliated with CLAS, or approved for that purpose by CLAS; and present their research in one of the Latin America-focused workshops.

LACS students are strongly encouraged to participate in CLAS-sponsored events and one of the two Latin America-focused workshops. CLAS brings dozens of Latin American scholars, activists, writers, and policymakers to campus each year.

Quantitative Methods and Social Analysis

Quantitative Methods and Social Analysis (QMSA) draws from the interdisciplinary faculty of the Committee on Quantitative Methods in Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences. There is an ever-greater demand for scholars who can apply sophisticated theories of statistical inference to tackle challenging problems in areas like poverty, crime, health disparity, public opinion, political participation, human development, cognition and emotions, genes and environment, and knowledge diffusion. Here students can gain exposure to the latest techniques in geospatial modeling, longitudinal data analysis, multilevel modeling, measurement, machine learning, network analysis, causal inference, econometrics, demographic techniques, survey methods, and content analysis.

The QMSA Concentration requires students to complete 5 courses in statistical theory and advanced quantitative methods, from an approved list. In addition, students select graduate 3 electives in their social science field, they participate in the weekly QMEHSS Workshop, and they write an MA thesis with a member of the QMSA-affiliated faculty.

International students who graduate from our MAPSS/QMSA Concentration are eligible for three years of work authorization in the US, as a STEM-approved field of study.

Applicants who declare an interest in QMSA admission must have a minimum quantitative GRE score at the 75th percentile. They must list up to five prior courses in the social sciences, and up to five prior courses in mathematics, statistics, or quantitative methods. They should have prior exposure to calculus and linear algebra. They must furnish a statement of purpose indicating a domain of substantive interest in the social or behavioral sciences, outlining their intended research, and naming two QMSA faculty members they most hope to work with.

Students admitted to other MAPSS tracks may petition to change their track to QMSA after accepting their offer. Only students who have met the following eligibility requirements may petition to change: a minimum quantitative GRE score at the 75th percentile OR qualified transcripts that show successful performance in calculus, linear algebra, and post-introductory statistics courses. Information on the petition process will be sent to all students in the summer.

The Formation of Knowledge (IFK)

How do we know what we know? What makes expertise? What can we gain in the 21st century by exploring the contexts of knowledge production, past and present?

Housed at the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge (IFK), the Formation of Knowledge concentration explores how claims to knowledge are shaped by disciplinary, social, historical, and political contexts.

Led by a diverse team of faculty, students are introduced to a broad range of historical, sociological, and anthropological case studies that exemplify and challenge disciplinary practices in the social sciences. They take one core seminar, two elective courses, and they work closely with a IFK-affiliated faculty member on the MA thesis. In addition, students engage in IFK’s dynamic intellectual life, including the “Cultures & Knowledge” workshop and the research blog Formations

Recent courses include Modern Science in the Anthropocene; From Cabinets of Curiosity to Big Data: Collecting, Classifying, and Ordering the World; Gender, Science, and Technology: From the Enlightenment to Algorithms; How We See and Know; Digital Media and Movements; Scientific History Through Literature; Literature as Political Engagement; Science and Religion in Early America; Political Theologies of Slavery and Freedom in the Atlantic World; and The Invention of Hunger.

Our goal is to prepare students for interdisciplinary PhD study, and for leadership positions at research institutions, government agencies, non-profits, and the private sector.