What was your favorite part of MAPH? What do you remember most fondly about MAPH?
MAPH gives you a lot of time to do things you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, and think about things you’re unlikely to think about later. A lot of the overarching goals of my work – finding persuasive ways to express the value of human dignity, analyzing how people interact with institutions – was something that Andre Bazin, the person I wrote my Master’s thesis on, wrote a lot about, even if it was in an entirely different context.
What experiences and/or choices led you to where you are now? (In other words, what would a brief sketch of your career trajectory look like?)
AfterMAPH(TM), I went to the Czech Republic because I was chasing after a girl (who I would later get married to). I took a job with a local business magazine covering banking and finance, mostly because it paid me money, but I quickly found that I was fairly good at getting information from strange places and explaining it in clear words. When my wife finished her schooling, we relocated to Beijing, where we both spoke the language. I covered China for about seven years, first as a journalist, then as an economic researcher with the Economist Group, until I joined the Foreign Service in 2014.
Can you say a bit about your book project?
When I got to China, I quickly realized that A. China didn’t have a functioning financial industry. B. China was rapidly reducing poverty in a real and substantial way. The decline in poverty in China – 753 million people over a bit more than 30 years – is easily the largest reduction in human misery ever. If you were to tell a group of development experts that you could achieve this reduction in poverty while systematically redirecting money from the country’s poor towards State-owned enterprises that often went bankrupt, rarely made a profit and supported widespread graft, they would almost certainly not believe you, and perhaps assume that you were drunk.
And yet, it happened. There is really no questioning the fact that China is an exponentially better place than it was 30 years ago, despite still having a wildly dysfunctional financial system, and a tax system that’s partially dependent on violent land seizures.
A number of things contributed to Chinese growth during this period, but the explanation I really hit on in the book, is that development experts tend to systematically underestimate the value of migration as a tool to alleviate poverty. Over the past 30 years, the population of China’s cities have grown by half a billion people, driven by more than 260 million migrant workers. These people found better jobs in the cities, learned new skills, bought food, goods, places to live, developed new ideas, started new businesses. The standard estimate in the Chinese growth accounting literature, is that moving people from farms to factories contributed slightly over 20% of GDP between 1990-2010, or roughly 1.1 trillion dollars, an economy the size of Mexico. At times, building housing for urban residents accounted for 1/3rd of total GDP. Measuring the productivity gained by skills built in factories is somewhat more difficult, but the evidence suggests that it’s in the same realm.
The books looks particularly at the impact this mass migration has had on China’s political economy, and how China’s leaders have been forced to adapt in order to, in the words of Hu Jintao, “create 25 million jobs a year,” and deal with the concomitant strain on social services. The hope being that China’s experience could provide insights to policy makers in other countries dealing with similar problems, or, more broadly, convince policy makers to think of migrants as an asset rather than a problem.
The book also has some great stories in it. The first chapter starts with a kidnapping.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
When I was a journalist, my magazine used to do a regular feature, where we asked people 4-5 questions about how they make money and published it alongside a large photograph. A bit like Humans of New York with a business angle. I always walked away from those interviews with a deep respect for whoever I was talking to, an understanding of how work fit into their broader life plan, and usually a completely unexpected insight into their business.
For example, I once interviewed the owner of a store in Beijing selling American vintage clothes, which largely focused on the complicated shipping route he devised to minimize tariff costs. I also interviewed two women who were paid commissions to convince men to come to the bar they worked at and buy drinks (you can read between the lines). It was like talking to two accountants. They had their predicted turnover worked out two-three months in advance, including how many hours they would have to spend online after work to build relationships with their regular and new customers, and where they saw their careers heading in the future (one aimed to go back home and start a business, the other wanted to be the mistress of someone wealthy). My book includes a long segment about a high school drop out who is now the majority owner of a clothing factory.
I like being able to walk up to people, ask them a few questions, and get a general understanding of how their life works. What resources they are using to attack what problem. I am always impressed by the general ingenuity of people when you start digging into this.
How does your job relate to MAPH? Do you see connections between MAPH and where you are now?
My core skills in any job are:
- The ability to find information.
- The ability to turn that information into clear readable prose.
While MAPH wasn’t great for my writing skills (you can’t teach Lacan and writing at the same time, you get to choose one), it was probably the best entry point to the world of research you could have. I’m largely self-trained in economics, yet I somehow managed to crank out a book with a 17 page bibliography that was endorsed by a Nobel Prize winner in the field. MAPH deserves a share of the credit for that.
Do you have any general advice for current MAPH students, including those interested in a career in writing?
Writing isn’t really a career. It’s a useful tool for doing other things, but it’s important to have those other things that you want to do.
The first few years after University are spent trying to integrate yourself into institutions (at least if you were like me and weren’t smart enough to do it during University). It’s a really difficult process, and one that often takes unexpected turns, but once you find whatever group institutions you end up working with things get a lot easier. Figure out how the institutions around you work, and use your writing to sell your ideas.
If you really want to be a professional writer, look into technical writing. You can make a ridiculous amount of money.
Bradley Gardner is a research associate at the Independent Institute, and a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. The opinions expressed are his own, and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government.
Be sure to also check out our AfterMAPH blog, where we post about past MAPHers’ experiences with these summer internships, including the Odyssey Project, Chicago Humanities Festival and The Newberry Library.
There are five internships being offered this year: (1) Programming/Education Fellowship for the Chicago Humanities Festival (2) Intern for The Odyssey Project (3) Editorial Intern for the Art Institute of Chicago’s publishing department (4) SMART Museum Communications Intern and (5) Manuscripts and Archives Intern for The Newberry Library. Details on all of the internships are below.The deadline for all the Summer Internships is Monday April 10th. Please submit all internship applications to firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are coveted positions. Last year there were roughly 80 applications submitted to the 12 internships available. NB: you can apply to more than one!So get your resumes and cover letters ready and see if you can get yourself a JOB!
Here at MAPHCentral, we are gearing up for Campus Days 2017 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
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 a little farther south to Osaka Garden (which is now called Phoenix Garden). The garden was built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and has recently been rehabbed and reopened with North America’s only art installation by Yoko Ono.
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 57th 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?)
Hyde Park is also home to some top-notch museums and galleries. The SMART Museum of Art, UChicago’s own art museum, boasts a large collection and is currently featuring a collection of works in their current Classicisms exhibition.
For more art, venture to the Hyde Park Art Center on 51st Street. The Oriental Institute on campus has an impressive collection of artifacts from the Ancient East. The Museum of Science & Industry, which is in a building constructed for the Chicago World’s Fair, is just east of campus, near the 57th Street beach, and the DuSable Museum of African American History is just to the west.
Lastly, Hyde Park is home to the Robie House, a famous Frank Lloyd Wright house from 1910. It is right on campus (by the Seminary Co-op) and offers daily tours for 14-17 dollars.
Getting downtown is pretty easy and quick (see our previous post on transportation). The #6 bus runs regularly between Hyde Park and downtown. During weekday rush hour, the #2 bus is also convenient and takes you downtown.
Downtown Chicago houses the city’s most famous piece of public art – “Cloud Gate,” more commonly known as “The Bean.” It is located in the lovely Millennium Park with other sculptures, great views of iconic buildings, the Pritzker Pavilion, Crown Fountain, and Lurie Garden and is a nice place to walk around and enjoy free art. Downtown Chicago also houses some of the country’s most prestigious museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago (right off the #6 bus and right beside Millennium Park), which you can access for free while you’re here. Enter through the Modern Wing, and at the front desk say you’re with the University of Chicago and that there are 40 free admission passes in Maren Robinson’s name.
There are a lot of food and drink options downtown, as you might imagine. Favorite places for deep dish are Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s. (If you want to order deep dish, give yourself ample time! Deep dish takes a while to prepare!) In Hyde Park there are several good food choices, like Pizza Capri (53rd Street), Valois (Obama’s favorite restaurant), Harold’s Fish and Chicken, LSTC Refectory and Sola Cafe, Z&H Cafe and Salonica! All of these places are highly recommended by MAPH staff and Students.
Chicago is home to more than 200 neighborhoods. Find hipster paradise (and plenty of good bars) in Wicker Park. You can visit the Zoo & Conservatory in Lincoln Park (which is free), browse a non-profit used bookstore in River North, or eat some dim sum in Chinatown.
We also recommend looking at Time Out Chicago, which you can find here. They’ll help you find various activities in the city and also have great recommendations for food and drink!
~ Your Mentors
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 (email@example.com) if you have any questions!
Get Out (of the Airport)
O’Hare: The Blue Line runs straight from the basement of Chicago O’Hare to the Loop, where you can hop on the 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.
The 6 Bus runs express to/from the Loop and 47th all day everyday and into the night (south from 5:00 am until 1:00 am and north from 4:00 am until ~midnight). It’s a quick (and rather scenic) way to get to and from downtown, dropping you along Michigan Avenue. If you’re staying outside of the neighborhood, this will probably be your bus, as it connects to all CTA train lines in the Loop.
The 2 Bus runs express to/from the Loop and 57th & Stony Island. This bus only runs during weekday rush hours, so it’s somewhat more limited. But the 60th & Ellis stop will drop you off directly across the Midway from the Classics Building (1010 E. 59th Street), home of the MAPH Office and many Campus Days events.
The Metra goes from Millennium Station to 57th and 59th street. Riding the Metra is a little more expensive than the CTA, but it is speedy and pleasant. Like the 2 Bus, the Metra’s schedule is less frequent: it’s worth looking up the Metra’s times to avoid a wait.
Getting Around: Hyde Park Edition
There is also a 53rd street shuttle that makes getting from campus to businesses and residences near 53rd & Lake Park a breeze.
The UGO NightRide shuttles will come in handy after hours. These shuttles (North, South, East, and West) run into the early morning, and will likely take you to or near to your destination if you are staying in Hyde Park. A couple of the shuttles pick up near the Logan Center, where our reception will be on Sunday evening. We’ll provide you will passes for the shuttles in the information packets you’ll receive on Sunday.
Parking on the weekend shouldn’t be a problem, though parking near campus will prove harder on Monday. If you’re driving to campus on Monday, then, we recommend you budget extra time to find a spot, as parking spots around campus tend to have disappeared by an ungodly hour on the weekday. You can usually find something on the Midway after circling around a few times, but, if that doesn’t work out, there is a free lot on 60th & Stony Island that is open 24/7 or a parking structure on Ellis & 55 (though you do have to pay for this one).
Get a Ride!
Hailo can help pin down cabs in places where it is harder to hail one, or you can head to the Museum of Science and Industry, where there is always a cab line.
Well, OK, it’s not spring, but apparently these days winter lasts about two weeks at the end of December. For all intents and purposes it’s Spring.
Big thanks to the parts of the current administration that are trying to get us out of the Paris accord. Real win for America, that. I’m sure Steve Bannon knows science better than…..scientists.
Are you interested in seeing how you or your home will disappear into the sea? Check out this interactive map to learn just how much water your community can stand!
Can you believe Spring Break (woo) is approaching? Just two short weeks from now you have the luxury of realizing how far behind on your thesis-work you are, and how little time it will be before you are once again ejected into the cold reality of professional life.
We of the MAPH office thought we might check in to highlight a few things to do over the next month or so in Chicago, and offer some advice as the end of the year races towards us.OK Important Stuff First: Self-Care
This can be among the most stressful times of the year for MAPHers. You may feel isolated, under siege, and not up to the task of the final months of the program.
Don’t forget your project here: being a MAPHer is harder than being a first-year PhD student, because you are producing your thesis in addition to a FULL class load.
But it will get a little easier in Spring quarter. As you know, next quarter you will only have 2 classes. For about 3 days, you’ll say something like, “The rest of the year is a breeze! I love Spring Quarter!”
Then you will say something like, “I fucking hate Spring Quarter.”
It can be hard to get real serious about your thesis. It’s stressful to have looming deadlines. And you will find that having two classes still keeps you extremely busy (after all, you may have been ignoring roughly the amount of reading of a full class between your three winter classes).
But overall, I think MAPHers really come into their own in Spring. All of a sudden your cobbled-together mass of thesis starts to look like a professional piece of academic work. You get onto the Irony listerserv and start seeing all the badass jobs you can do as a humanist. You start to internalize the waves of theory that have been hitting you for six months (thaaat’s what Hegel was doing!)
The weather will be gorgeous. Or it will be super cold. Or it will get to like 90 degrees and humid. Pretty much up in the air.
(see what I did there? up in the air? the weather is up in the air?)
You might actually have some breathing room. You might actually be motivated to get out of Hyde Park. I think you SHOULD get out of Hyde Park. Get a little Vitamin D, see this great city. Take the architecture tour. Take care of your mental health.
On that note, here are some things to do in the coming weeks. There is SO MUCH going on, this is only a tiny slice of stuff that jumped out at me.Things to Do: Baconfest: April 1
It’s baconfest people. ‘Nuff said.Women Perform Shakespeare: March 3-26
Nothing says springtime in Chicago like a presentation of East Asian flowers brought to this continent in the 1700’s. Seriously though, they are gorgeous. Or if you want to go emo, check out their corpse flower. If you can get there, it’s worth it. Add a trip to the B’hai temple while you’re up there.
See 10,000 blooming orchids at the Orchid Show, with morning music Tuesdays & Thursdays, orchid sales March 11 & 12 & 30, and an Evening with Orchids cocktail tasting March 16 at Chicago Botanic Garden.
Personally I would prefer blooming onions, but this is cool tooPeace on Earth Film Festival Mar 10-12:
Take a break from the blockbusters and learn a thing or two at the Peace on Earth Film Festival, which showcases a series of social justice-oriented films and filmmaking panels.
The three day event showcases films about social justice and human rights with the aim of advancing world peace. This year’s opening night films address prison reform with “Beyond the Wall”, a behind-the-scenes documentary and a drama by award-winning director John Hancock starring Nick Nolte. Other notable films include Sharon Stone’s conversation with Skokie resident and Holocaust survivor Sam Harris and a documentary about the Onondaga Nation waging a battle with the U.S. government for its land in central New York.
Adult Variety Show: March 3 – June 23
If you haven’t been to the music box, you should go.St. Patrick’s Day Parade: March 11
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade goes north on Columbus Drive from Balbo to Monroe, rain or shine. Free.
Celebrate St. Patty’s day like a true Chicagoan: Get drunk at 10am, get in a fight at 10:15am, vomit into the river at 10:28am (they turn the river green!) and fall asleep at 10:35am.
Repeat at Noon, 5pm, and 10pm.
Or maybe you don’t want to celebrate like an as–I mean, like an enthusiastic Chicagoan. If so, check out the Irish-American Heritage Center’s St. Patrick’s Festival:
Not down for the madness of the downtown parade but still want to celebrate? Celebrate a more traditional way with Irish food, dances, and live music at the Irish-American Heritage Center’s St. Patrick’s Festival.Mar 17-19: Take in a series of workshops, competitions demonstrations at the Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention, where artists from across the nation come to show off their skills. You can even get inked yourself.
Free Food Festival: March 18
Sorry, did you not see that? FREE FOOD FESTIVAL.Chicagoland Family Pet Expo. Shop for the latest pet treats and toys, or meet with breeding clubs and rescue organizations. No pets allowed lol.
OK, that’s it for now. Have a great spring break y’all