Selling the MAPH

One last semi-regular post–I promise.  For those who have been here from the beginning might recall that one of my concerns from way back at the pre-colloquium series of posts was how the MA delivered by the MAPH program would be perceived.  That is, while one is likely referred to the UChicago MAPH department due to their application to a Ph.D. program in History, Classics, Literature, Philosophy, etc. the degree awarded is a Masters of Arts degree in the Humanities generally rather than in a particular discipline.  So, one fear was that this cross-disciplinary approach–while allowing all sorts of awesome class cherry picking–might actually scare off an admissions or search committee comparing one applicant with a MA in Philosophy and another with an MA in Humanities.

So, what’s the final verdict you ask?  Well, from my oh-so-limited experience at applying to small, private liberal arts schools I can really honestly say that–“they don’t really know the difference or particularly care.”  It seems that most schools that grant an interview to an applicant or are otherwise seriously interested ask for a grad school transcript anyway which is used to peek behind the awarded degree and see if the candidate was actually educated in the topics/traditions that the potential school is looking for.  This means that even if your search committee is savy enough discern and have preferences for a particular approach to a given discipline–analytic v. continental in philosophy, objectivist v. constructivist in education, etc.–they will use the classes you took and the instructors of those classes to decide whether your degree really qualifies you to attend or teach at their institution.  However, it actually seems that–without prodding from an opinionated departmental head or within the context of some established debate–the little interdisciplinary differences that academics use to distinguish those with competing approaches or philosophical commitments just aren’t the sorts of marks that will distinguish one candidate from another.

Now, all that being said.  The beauty of the MAPH degree in “The Humanities” is that one can easily make a case that they are qualified to teach a broader range of classes than merely those within a particular discipline.  For example, I have successfully argued that my experience at UChicago qualifies me not only to teach history of philosophy courses but might also allow me to teach art history through the lens of aesthetics and even academic writing.  If one intends to teach at one of those schools that employs a Core or Gen Ed collection of professors then the MAPH can easily be sold as an advanced degree in a broad range of topics useful for humanities core classes.

So, if one really needs to demonstrate a graduate level grasp of a particular discipline or sub-discipline, the MAPH MA won’t hurt ones chances of doing so–assuming that the courses a MAPHer took and their grades in those courses bear out that argument–and if one needs to have a “fuzzy” degree that allows them to claim aptitude in a multidisciplinary “generalist” approach, the MAPH MA seems tailor made for doing so.  The challenge comes in knowing when–and to whom–one needs to argue for its specificity and when–and to whom—its breadth.


This is the final semi-regular post in the AfterMAPH series.  I do reserve the right to add future posts for the purposes of reporting on MAPH graduate’s experiences and opinions of the value of the Master of Humanities degree in The Real World!  or in order to amend or update details or policies related to the MAPH experience.  The daily traffic on the website has cooled down considerably over the summer–due in part to the lack of new posts and also to the fact that most MAPHers past and present are trying to enjoy some time away from the specter of UChicago–but I am gratified to note that web traffic still provides occasional banner days with upwards of 75 or a hundred people stopping by to browse the archives.  It is my hope–as always–that this website will provide the kind of insider information that will allow future prospective MAPH students to make informed decisions and provide some encouragement and advice for those in the midst of writing their first analytic exposition or feeling the weight of their thesis deadline.  It has been a pleasure to serve all of you on the net and to have worked with some really first-rate people including the site’s regular contributor Bill Hutchison, and guest bloggers Vincent Mennella, Alissa Smith, and Robert Minto.

As I sit in my new office in my new position as an adjunct racing toward a new school year where I am firmly–and finally–no longer on the student side of the glass, but one of the professors, my time in Hyde Park is already a lifetime ago.  My recollections of UChicago have solidified into anecdotes rather than old news or even memories–their quick transmutation perhaps owing to the spirit of alacrity in which they were initially forged.  I don’t miss Hyde Park.  What I set out to do, I have done–at least for now–and though I miss many who still reside there, we are all getting on with the business of our lives.  I am not haunted by UChicago the way that I feel oppressed by my remembrances of childhood nor return to it in order to relive and fantasize about some happier time.  If anything, Hyde Park stands as a ongoing symbol of a finite part of my life–a living monument to a transitional phase of my own academic growth.  While I might someday return, I feel no need to revisit it to prove that I basked in–for a time–some measure of its greatness.  The fingerprints of the place are all over me, but it persists and grows apart from me in order to mold and change others as I have been molded and changed.  More briefly still, I recommend the Grey City to you though know that one does not leave as one entered–though the change is painful, it is also for the best.

My best to all of you, my readers.




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