Tell me more about the MAPSS curriculum.

Every MAPSS student takes our core class, Perspectives in Social Science Analysis. Since the course is offered in the fall quarter, MAPSS does not enroll new students in winter or spring.

We also have a methods requirement that may be satisfied in a number of ways. Students may take one of the offerings from our MAPSS faculty (Ethnographic Methods, Historical Methods, Data Analysis, Interpretive Methods, etc.); they may take one of 90 other approved methods courses offered throughout the Divisions and Schools of the University; or they may submit evidence of successful completion of an intensive methodology course from their undergraduate years. Students who select the last option are still held to nine UChicago graduate courses as part of their program requirements.

In addition to the core course, and however the methods requirement is met, all students must complete eight graduate courses and write a successful MA paper to earn the MA degree.


What is the "Perspectives" course all about?

The University of Chicago is famous for its tradition of general education courses in the social sciences. Our core class exemplifies this tradition on the graduate level. It is the first mission of the “Perspectives” course to provide all students with the fundamental vocabularies and historical understandings they will need to function as graduate students in the Division of the Social Sciences.

The course presents the social sciences as research perspectives. The composition of each theoretical perspective is established through reading foundational texts, contemporary variants, and exemplary research applications; through lectures by conceptual historians and contemporary practitioners; through intensive seminar-style discussions with the preceptors; and through examinations which demand “perspectival analysis” of current social science writing.

Whatever the student’s specialized field of research or theoretical commitments, the course offers a powerful way of reading social science texts.

Perspectives is also where our students get to know one another, to establish levels of challenge and expectation, before they transition to more individualized programs of study.

To download a copy of the "Perspectives" syllabus click here.    

Besides Perspectives, can I really choose the rest of my courses from anywhere in the University?

With the caveat that they must normally be graduate courses, that you can make sense of your choices to your preceptor and the MAPSS Director, and that you can meet the formal or informal prerequisites that the instructor has established (e.g. language facility, mathematical preparation), the answer is yes. MAPSS students take courses across the University, from the Social Sciences and the Humanities to our many professional schools (Public Policy, Law, Social Work, Divinity, Business). Approximately 85% of the University’s graduate courses are open to MAPSS students.

Is this what makes the MAPSS program unique?

Yes. The University of Chicago prides itself on an institutional culture which values intellectual conversation and research collaboration more than bureaucratic divides. Everywhere there is talk of the virtues of interdisciplinarity; UChicago’s institutional flexibility, however, is exceedingly rare among the world’s universities.

Because of this environment of open interdisciplinary choice, and because the courses you take as a MAPSS student are the regular doctoral and professional school seminars, MAPSS is different from any MA program that we have encountered.

With the flexibility to take as many or as few courses as you like from a single department, MAPSS also differs from the first year of graduate study in discipline-specific MA or PhD programs, where you are required to satisfy certain course distributions.

What if I want to take most or all of my courses from a single department, say Anthropology or History?

That's fine with MAPSS, and can be a good idea if you are switching fields or hope to continue your studies in a discipline to which you’ve had little prior exposure. The point is that you have the choice—and can alter your choices as you go along—in ways not readily available elsewhere.

I have a very specific area of interest and particular faculty with whom I'd like to work. How can I be sure they will not be on leave, and how can I learn which courses will be offered in my research area?

Our April Campus Days offer a good opportunity to learn about possible leaves. You can also email or schedule meetings with those faculty members, to see what teaching plans they have and what other UChicago faculty they would recommend for someone with your interests.

Rarely is it the case, with a University faculty this large, that there are only one or two persons who would be excellent mentors for your project.

The MAPSS preceptors keep up-to-date on these issues. If you cannot come to Campus Days, a phone call or email to the relevant preceptor will make sure you know which faculty may be away, and what alternative faculty there may be for someone working in your area.

To get a better idea of the course offerings in a typical year, browse the Time Schedules and the department webpages.

Choice and flexibility are great, but this program is beginning to sound a little daunting. How will I ever know which courses to choose? 

Course descriptions are usually available on the department web pages, and you can see which books have been ordered by checking the Time Schedule, browsing on Chalk, or strolling the course book aisle at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

You will also meet with your preceptor to discuss the courses that seem like good fits prior to registration.

More than that, the University’s tradition of course “shopping” is what really assures you peace of mind. Most students attend the first sessions of several courses before making their final decisions second week.

But don’t I have to start picking individual courses now? Can you send me a catalog so I can get a jump on things?

First, you should know that graduate courses at the University of Chicago never formally close, and that students are admitted at the discretion of the instructor, even if a course appears momentarily to be full. Final determinations are typically negotiated with the students who appear the first day of class.

Second, until the Time Schedules appear in September we can never be certain just which courses will actually be offered. This is a faculty-run university and last minute course changes, including unexpected additions, are always a possibility. Even so, you can normally get a good sense of the likely offerings by checking the department webpages.

What if I want to take more than nine courses?

The full-time load for a graduate student at the University of Chicago is three courses per quarter. You will, in addition, want to explore the 70 weekly and biweekly Workshops the University offers, where distinguished scholars and advanced graduate students present the first drafts of their work. There will be a number of visiting lectures and campus conferences that you will want to attend, many featuring scholars of international renown. And of course, you will need to carve out time to make headway on your MA thesis, and particularly the fieldwork or original research that will play a vital role in the intellectual contribution you make.

Given the intensity of our graduate courses, and everything else you have on your plate, you are not permitted to register for additional courses during the academic year.

Some students may wish to take additional courses before starting their MAPSS degree, or at the conclusion of their MAPSS year, in our Summer Language Institute or as a Graduate Student at Large. Those courses do not count toward your MAPSS requirements, and come at additional cost. We would be happy to consult with you on whether those courses would help with your intended trajectory.