The Master of Arts Program in the Humanities
Established in 1996, the University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH) serves a diverse community of students engaged in innovative intellectual work that draws on the remarkable resources of the Humanities Division at Chicago. A shared commitment to rigorous humanistic inquiry—the dual cornerstones of which are the MAPH Core course and the thesis—creates a strong sense of fellowship among MAPH students. The array of projects, academic interests, and backgrounds our students bring to the program fosters a rich conversation that makes MAPH a uniquely engrossing academic environment. A glance at past MAPH thesis titles reveals the intellectual and creative diversity of the program as well as our commitment to supporting forward-looking, interdisciplinary graduate-level work in the humanities.
This intensive one-year MA program offers students a rigorous academic course of study, providing them with the critical foundations necessary to successfully pursue further graduate work or alternatively to develop humanistic skills that have professional applications outside the academy. Students work directly with the University of Chicago’s faculty and have numerous resources for academic and professional development at their disposal. In the past fifteen years, MAPH has continually responded to changing conditions both within and beyond the University community, training students to think critically about the role of humanistic work in the contemporary moment both in the academy and in the world beyond it.
MAPH students arrive at the University of Chicago from many different backgrounds and with many objectives. While a substantial number of students enter MAPH immediately after completion of their undergraduate degrees, a majority of any incoming class has spent some time teaching, traveling, or working in another professional area. Some nonacademic professionals come to MAPH to experiment in a challenging intellectual setting or to hone critical tools to match their technical expertise. Still others have been developing creative projects on the side and are ready to bring them to fruition. Other MAPH students want to make a transition in graduate school to new careers, new interests, new options and new disciplines. MAPH students generally tend to fall in one or more of the following categories:
Students Considering Doctoral Work
Roughly half of new MAPHers expect to apply to Ph.D. programs after the completion of their time at Chicago. MAPH offers students a chance to strengthen their candidacy to Ph.D. programs, as well as to carefully evaluate how disciplinary graduate work in the humanities fits into their own intellectual and personal desires. Some MAPH students take the year as preparation for further graduate study; others find that their professional and academic goals change over the course of the year. While we strongly discourage students from applying to doctoral programs during their MAPH year, MAPH provides significant resources to potential Ph.D. applicants throughout the academic year.
The program helps to hone disciplinary focus and improve students’ academic writing skills, while providing tools and support to craft strong personal statements. MAPH annually holds discussions with alumni who have gone on to doctoral work
. In addition, the ‘Writing the Academic Statement of Purpose’ panel discussion gives MAPHers an opportunity to ask faculty members direct questions about the application process. These conversations provide vital insights into the expectations of admissions committees. And, aside from the faculty Co-Directors and faculty thesis advisors, MAPH students have access to their preceptors, mentors, and program staff
, all of whom can provide advice on the doctoral applications as well as other options for what comes ‘AfterMAPH
Students Considering an MA as a Transition to Non-Academic Pursuits
A Master’s degree can prove a vital means of professional advancement at any stage of one’s career. MAPH is not a continuing studies or professional degree. However, an in-depth year of study at one of the world’s leading graduate institutions certainly allows individuals the opportunity to test and enrich their critical capacities, to bring greater analytic force to their writing, and to carefully consider how to bring their intellectual interests into the world at large. Many MAPH alums go on to teach at community colleges and secondary schools, while others find (or return to) careers in law, the non-profit sector, and the arts.
For students uninterested in doctoral work, MAPH offers many resources for effectively pursuing opportunities in other fields. The University of Chicago's Career Advancement
offers regular office hours for MAPH students with a career advisor specifically focused on the needs of humanities graduate students. Career advisors also provide feedback on job applications, as well as advice on crafting resumes and cover letters. Graduating MAPH students can also apply for our paid summer internships program
(where our internship partners have included museums, a literary agency, and arts and non-profit organizations). An ever-growing MAPH alumni network
stands as an additional resource for students when it comes to making connections and planning next steps.
Finally, MAPH offers Teaching in the Community College
, a course taught by a MAPH alum who is now a tenured professor at a local two-year college. This class focuses not only on the development of classroom skills but on the assembly of an effective teaching and writing portfolio for job applications and includes the opportunity to present that portfolio to local community college administrators.
Creative Artists Looking for an Alternative to MFA Programs:
Many MAPH students come to the University of Chicago to undertake the completion of a creative project. Unlike traditional MFA programs, MAPH emphasizes the importance of putting critical theory into conversation with contemporary artistic practice (including creative writing, visual arts, music, and performance, as well as interdisciplinary and non-disciplinary creative practices). Though studio work, workshop, and critique are elements of a year doing creative work in MAPH, students undertaking a creative project also must satisfy the program’s critical requirements, including completion of the Core course. MAPH students who choose to produce a creative thesis project also develop and write a critical apparatus to support their artistic work.
MAPH has especially close ties to the University of Chicago’s Committee on Creative Writing
and many successful alumni authors
. Students interested in creative writing should review the Creative Writing Option
as a possible direction for pursuing creative writing in the context of rigorous critical work. Throughout the year, MAPH sponsors panel discussions and readings for both current students and creative writing alumni.
UChicago Undergraduates Completing a Joint BA/MA Degree:
Starting in 2012, MAPH and the College have offered a joint Bachelors and Masters degree program for elligible undergraduates. The Joint BA/MA program is designed to allow students to complete their undergraduate and Masters coursework concurrently (i.e. four years total to complete both degrees).
The application process for this track is different from regular MAPH applications. Interested UChicago undergraduate students should speak with the College's BA/MA advisor as well as the BA advisor in their major. After that they should also meet with MAPH's Associate Director and the Dean of Students in the Humanities divison.
For full information on the elligibility requirements and procedures, please visit the College's page on the Joint BA/MA in the Humanities.