Tell me more about the MAPSS curriculum.
MAPSS has one required class (Perspectives in Social Science Analysis); a graduate methods requirement that can be met through any of about 100 different class offerings during the MAPSS year (including eight or nine that are offered by the MAPSS faculty); and seven additional courses that can be taken from any graduate program or department of the University (provided that you meet whatever prerequisites their faculty may stipulate).
In rare cases, students may petition to have a prior course satisfy our graduate methods requirement, and take another graduate course in its place. That is rarely advisable, however, since the graduate methods courses on your MAPSS transcript will attract the most interest from both PhD committees and professional employers. Many MAPSS students take two or three methods courses for that reason.
In addition to their nine courses, all students must complete the MA Proposal Workshop and write a successful MA thesis 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 at 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. Each perspective is explored through reading foundational texts, contemporary variants, and exemplary research applications; through weekly lectures; through intensive seminar-style discussions with preceptors; and finally through assignments 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, before they transition to more individualized programs of study.
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 meet the formal or informal prerequisites established by the instructor (e.g. language facility, mathematical preparation), and that you discuss your choices with your preceptor, the answer is yes.
MAPSS students take courses across the University, from the Social Sciences and the Humanities to our many professional schools (in Business, Divinity, Law, Public Policy, or Social Work).
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 disciplinary divides.
Because of this environment of open interdisciplinary choice, because the courses you take are the same ones selected by PhD students, and because you have the opportunity to work with any faculty member of the University on the MA thesis, we believe the MAPSS program is very different from any MA alternative you might encounter.
What if I want to take most or all of my courses from a single department, say Anthropology or History?
That is 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 have 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 faculty to inquire about their plans and ask which 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 developments. If you cannot come to Campus Days, an 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 websites.
Choice and flexibility are great, but this program is beginning to sound a little daunting. How will I ever know which courses to choose?
Prospective course descriptions are usually available on the department websites. Past and current course descriptions are available on the University’s Time Schedules.
You will also meet with your preceptor prior to registration to discuss the courses that seem like good fits.
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 in the 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 on 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 websites.
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 many 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 take more than 3 courses per quarter during the academic year, and no more than 9 altogether for your MAPSS degree.
Some students may wish to take additional courses before starting their MAPSS degree, or at the conclusion of their MAPSS year, 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.