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MAPH and Art History - a narrative and qualitative description of my personal experience


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Oh hello, gradcafe! 

 

I've never posted anything, as far as I can remember, to this maelstrom of angst, nailbiting, and sniping, mostly because I'm not much of an angster, nailbiter (nvm I bite my nails like crazy) and I'm definitely not a sniper.

 

But I did want to contribute a narrative of my own graduate school journey to those of you out there you may find parallels or echoes with your own situation currently, if it be of any help to you.

 

I'm currently a MAPH student and I love it. Let me describe to you how I got here. 

 

I applied to five PhD programs last year, all Ivy League/University of California. Then something shocking happened: I got rejected from all of them. Except for a weird glimmer of hope that needled me and inspired resentment: an unfunded acceptance into the University of Chicago's MAPH program. 

 

Oh, where did I go wrong? I had an excellent GPA, had killed all of my art history classes in undergrad, and taught AP Art History to high schoolers for two years. I had attended an incredibly well ranked university, and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Surely I was ultimately qualified as anyone to be admitted? Well - no. I had been a printmaking/costume design major / art history minor in undergrad. I had no graduate degree. And no museum experience. None of these things are necessarily bars to being admitted to a PhD program, but combined with whatever the hell I wrote in my LOI, etc, it didn't cut it. So I went to visit Chicago for prospective student days.

 

I returned still skeptical of the program and what it would be for me. This is where the scary thing hit me: you cannot predict your own experience based on others'. So I thought, what the hell, I am not happy where I am, I might as well go. This is where you'll probably ask me about finances. I'm going to leave that discussion at this: I decided that the financial risk would be worth it. Obviously it's a huge risk. The amount of money that MAPH costs could buy you a nice parcel of land somewhere in Oregon and the supplies to build a yurt and maybe a goat or two. I thought about doing that. It was really appealing.

 

Something else sort of troubling happened when I was deciding whether or not to go to MAPH. I had wanted to specialize (like everyone and their mom) in modern and contemporary art. I found out during campus days that my POI was going to be on leave 2/3 quarters of the year. Between campus days and the start of the school year, the other modcon professor I was interested in working with also left. But I was also interested in Latin American art (precolumbian, colonial, modern, contemporary - the whole gamut) but had no background in it. There is a really wonderful Latin Americanist on the faculty, and I decided perhaps I could work with her, maybe. 

So I came to MAPH in September, skeptical and afraid. Most of the people in the program, it seemed, were there for English, Creative Writing, or Philosophy - about 1/9 of us are there for art history (or cultural policy). But I discovered something amazing - many people actually applied *directly to MAPH*, drawn by the program's reputation for sharpening writing and analytical thinking. At first I scoffed at them. Now I scoff at me. 

 

As soon as I started my art history coursework, I realized that I had made the right choice for me. For someone who loves art history and can be inspired academically by many different subfields, coming to the University of Chicago and having the ability to take courses with these amazing professors while a very supportive program works with you at every step of the way to help you make the most informed decisions about what to do with your life was about the best thing I could do, I believe.

 

Two-thirds of the way through MAPH, I have a much better idea of how to structure an argument, a much better idea of the different possibilities for careers in art history, and a much better understanding of how graduate school works. I have many friends in the PhD program who I love, and I can see from being in classes with them how unprepared I was to think at the level demanded by the University of Chicago. I'm working towards that level. 

I also learned - in case this wasn't common knowledge to many here - that having an MA is incredibly helpful if not required for getting into a PhD program. Obviously many people go straight in with a BA, but especially if your BA isn't in Art History it might be really difficult to get in. Whether this almost-necessity of a MA is a function of how qualified candidates actually are or is indicative of the larger over-credentialing and subsequent credential inflation in art history particularly is uncertain, but especially at the Ivy League level it seems to be a thing.

 

Applying to PhDs, i was convinced that I wanted to be either a professor or a museum curator. Mostly a professor. Now I'm much more conscious of the difficulties of the field (somehow hearing about the horrors of the job market from my successful professor was much more impactful than reading the horror stories on the Chronicle of Higher Ed.), as well as the possibilities that are open to people with Master's degrees. I'm also much more familiar with things like paper workshops, job talks, departmental politics and tenure negotiations than I was before. Ultimately, though I do not yet have a job lined up for after I graduate (I've been applying to various opportunities, many of which have actually been forwarded to me by people at the University of Chicago, not that I'm not doing my own independent hunting), I feel like I have already benefitted very much from my experience in MAPH. 

 

And just so you know - neither I, nor other users (as far as I know) are being paid by the program to promote it!!! (Swagato - PM me if you know differently - I'd love some cash right now :D ) We just believe in it so firmly that we feel compelled to testify. And as for the argument about the money, is it worth it, etc - so many people say that getting an education in the humanities is not an effective way to get a job. Do you really take those people seriously if you're applying for PhD programs in art history? No. If you know you can make it in the end, and think that whatever you're studying will not only launch you into a career in the field of your choice, but will also give you a sharper mind and develop skills in a way which you could not do on your own, then making the choice to follow that path seems like a just fine decision. It did to me, and I'm happy. As with anything, you get out of it what you put in to it.

So! If you've recently been accepted to MAPH, or if you are thinking about applying in the future, I hope this was helpful. If there are any other questions I can answer, I'd be glad to, just PM me. And if you're coming for campus days, I'll see you there and I'd be more than happy to talk to you! I love art history people. 

papelpicado

 

 

 

 

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Oh, where did I go wrong? I had an excellent GPA, had killed all of my art history classes in undergrad, and taught AP Art History to high schoolers for two years. I had attended an incredibly well ranked university, and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Surely I was ultimately qualified as anyone to be admitted? Well - no. I had been a printmaking/costume design major / art history minor in undergrad. I had no graduate degree. And no museum experience. None of these things are necessarily bars to being admitted to a PhD program, but combined with whatever the hell I wrote in my LOI, etc, it didn't cut it. So I went to visit Chicago for prospective student days.

 

I returned still skeptical of the program and what it would be for me. This is where the scary thing hit me: you cannot predict your own experience based on others'. So I thought, what the hell, I am not happy where I am, I might as well go. This is where you'll probably ask me about finances. I'm going to leave that discussion at this: I decided that the financial risk would be worth it. Obviously it's a huge risk. The amount of money that MAPH costs could buy you a nice parcel of land somewhere in Oregon and the supplies to build a yurt and maybe a goat or two. I thought about doing that. It was really appealing.

 

Something else sort of troubling happened when I was deciding whether or not to go to MAPH. I had wanted to specialize (like everyone and their mom) in modern and contemporary art. I found out during campus days that my POI was going to be on leave 2/3 quarters of the year. Between campus days and the start of the school year, the other modcon professor I was interested in working with also left. But I was also interested in Latin American art (precolumbian, colonial, modern, contemporary - the whole gamut) but had no background in it. There is a really wonderful Latin Americanist on the faculty, and I decided perhaps I could work with her, maybe. 

So I came to MAPH in September, skeptical and afraid. Most of the people in the program, it seemed, were there for English, Creative Writing, or Philosophy - about 1/9 of us are there for art history (or cultural policy). But I discovered something amazing - many people actually applied *directly to MAPH*, drawn by the program's reputation for sharpening writing and analytical thinking. At first I scoffed at them. Now I scoff at me. 

 

As soon as I started my art history coursework, I realized that I had made the right choice for me. For someone who loves art history and can be inspired academically by many different subfields, coming to the University of Chicago and having the ability to take courses with these amazing professors while a very supportive program works with you at every step of the way to help you make the most informed decisions about what to do with your life was about the best thing I could do, I believe.

 

Two-thirds of the way through MAPH, I have a much better idea of how to structure an argument, a much better idea of the different possibilities for careers in art history, and a much better understanding of how graduate school works. I have many friends in the PhD program who I love, and I can see from being in classes with them how unprepared I was to think at the level demanded by the University of Chicago. I'm working towards that level. 

I also learned - in case this wasn't common knowledge to many here - that having an MA is incredibly helpful if not required for getting into a PhD program. Obviously many people go straight in with a BA, but especially if your BA isn't in Art History it might be really difficult to get in. Whether this almost-necessity of a MA is a function of how qualified candidates actually are or is indicative of the larger over-credentialing and subsequent credential inflation in art history particularly is uncertain, but especially at the Ivy League level it seems to be a thing.

 

Applying to PhDs, i was convinced that I wanted to be either a professor or a museum curator. Mostly a professor. Now I'm much more conscious of the difficulties of the field (somehow hearing about the horrors of the job market from my successful professor was much more impactful than reading the horror stories on the Chronicle of Higher Ed.), as well as the possibilities that are open to people with Master's degrees. I'm also much more familiar with things like paper workshops, job talks, departmental politics and tenure negotiations than I was before. Ultimately, though I do not yet have a job lined up for after I graduate (I've been applying to various opportunities, many of which have actually been forwarded to me by people at the University of Chicago, not that I'm not doing my own independent hunting), I feel like I have already benefitted very much from my experience in MAPH. 

 

 

Not to be rude, but don't you feel the financial aspect is the single most important part of undertaking an unfunded MA? It seems like this is the sort of decision you admit: A.) Won't hold true for everyone, and B.) that you don't yet know how it will affect you later on?

 

Personally, I just turned down an MA program that essentially wanted $80,000 out of pocket from me for two years. It would have literally been cheaper to not graduate from my BA and spend another year as an undergraduate taking internships and more art history classes! If the problem is lack of coursework preparation and field experience, do you have a reason why you chose to spend money on an unfunded MA as opposed to simply taking non-degree graduate coursework at a university and interning/working/volunteering? Is that not as feasible a route in your mind?

 

Many of these opportunities have been available to me elsewhere, and for free! re: "Horrors of the job market" stories, it's usually free or dirt cheap to take a professor or museum professional out for coffee and ask them about what they do, how they got there, etc. In fact, one of my professors required us to interview 5 different professionals -- her claim was that enough people are willing to talk about themselves that she's never had a student unable to get into contact with so many people. 

 

I guess my main question is: when cheaper or free options are available, what made the steep costs seem worth it? 

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If it helps anyone, I have been told many times by professors from the US and advisors of a different nature that having an MA makes it much easier to be considered for admission at a PhD program. This is so to the extent that even though I already have one, the Fulbright Commission wanted me to apply to MAs in order to strengthen my profile for future PhD applications. Nevertheless, after 7 years of undergrad coursework and a year of grad school, I think I'm ready.

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I guess my main question is: when cheaper or free options are available, what made the steep costs seem worth it? 

 

 

 

That the MA will be from Chicago. 

 

(This telegraphs a bunch of other things, obviously. You'd get to work with literally some of the top scholars in the field, at one of the most intensive and well-reputed departments in the field, be immersed in Chicago's almost-uniquely interdisciplinary yet cutting-edge humanities division, and just generally soak up things that are, frankly, unavailable at most of the other, cheaper, options.)

 

This is also why I've advocated for MAPH so strongly. Obviously it depends on financial circumstances. But if financially feasible? I'd always recommend Chicago, Williams, and the like over other options. It's more or less a given that earning your MA at a top department *does* matter. It's no guarantee, but it never hurts. 

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Not to be rude, but don't you feel the financial aspect is the single most important part of undertaking an unfunded MA? It seems like this is the sort of decision you admit: A.) Won't hold true for everyone, and B.) that you don't yet know how it will affect you later on?

In one word: no. For me, the most important aspect was the opportunity for intellectual growth that coming to the University of Chicago would give me. And if you think it sounds like I'm drinking the UofC's maroon Kool-Aid here, let me tell you: I was so deeply skeptical when I got here that it would be anything nearly as rigorous as they said it would be, that my socks were knocked off my feet by how incredibly smart everyone is here - and I don't just mean that they know things, but there is a whole different way of critical thinking that goes on here that is a mile deeper than anything I was exposed to even at an undergraduate institution ranked only a few spots below the UofC (not that those rankings mean a whole lot anyway). I'm absolutely certain that most "cheaper" options do not provide this. 

 

Naturally I'd rather that I didn't have to pay quite so much for it, but the idea that simply because you have to pay for it means that somehow it isn't worth it is deeply problematic. Just because you personally feel that it is not feasible for you, does not mean that it is not a solid option for others, and I hope that people reading this will be able to relate my narrative and subjective experience to their own, and weigh how well the two mesh when thinking about attending MAPH. 

 

These "cheaper" options are also great options especially if you want a traditionally strict art-historical training instead of a rigorous interdisciplinary intellectual atmosphere. If your work as a scholar focuses on more traditional ways of doing art history - like, for instance, pure iconography, formal analysis, and biographical interpretation - there might be better fits than the UofC. I would also say to anyone applying that knowing your methodology of choice is a good idea - I didn't when I applied! Find professors who work with your methodology. If you've done all this and you know methodologically who you would work well with, great, you might be more prepared to enter a PhD program than I was. But had I not done MAPH, I would never have known that I needed to know this. MAPH isn't just about expanding your background of coursework, it's about changing the way you think about scholarship and how you work as a scholar.

My advice to people who haven't applied yet: do include some MA programs in your portfolio, even if you think you are prepared for a PhD, because you may not be, and you may not know it. Do your own research on what program you think is the best fit for you. If you really want to become better at understanding and articulating and destabilizing complex arguments, MAPH is a great place. 

Personally, I do not know if I'm going on to do a PhD yet, because of the enormous time commitment and the complete possibility of doing several of the things I want to do with myself without one - doing research, writing books, working in a museum. Before MAPH, I was totally convinced, but now I'm aware of other options, I am content where I am for now :) I'll move on when I need to. Don't feel pressured (even internally) to jump in to a PhD just because it seems like the next logical step. 

 

Naturally, Swagato's points about the program are very valid. Thanks as always! 

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In one word: no. For me, the most important aspect was the opportunity for intellectual growth that coming to the University of Chicago would give me. And if you think it sounds like I'm drinking the UofC's maroon Kool-Aid here, let me tell you: I was so deeply skeptical when I got here that it would be anything nearly as rigorous as they said it would be, that my socks were knocked off my feet by how incredibly smart everyone is here - and I don't just mean that they know things, but there is a whole different way of critical thinking that goes on here that is a mile deeper than anything I was exposed to even at an undergraduate institution ranked only a few spots below the UofC (not that those rankings mean a whole lot anyway). I'm absolutely certain that most "cheaper" options do not provide this.

Naturally I'd rather that I didn't have to pay quite so much for it, but the idea that simply because you have to pay for it means that somehow it isn't worth it is deeply problematic. Just because you personally feel that it is not feasible for you, does not mean that it is not a solid option for others, and I hope that people reading this will be able to relate my narrative and subjective experience to their own, and weigh how well the two mesh when thinking about attending MAPH.

These "cheaper" options are also great options especially if you want a traditionally strict art-historical training instead of a rigorous interdisciplinary intellectual atmosphere. If your work as a scholar focuses on more traditional ways of doing art history - like, for instance, pure iconography, formal analysis, and biographical interpretation - there might be better fits than the UofC. I would also say to anyone applying that knowing your methodology of choice is a good idea - I didn't when I applied! Find professors who work with your methodology. If you've done all this and you know methodologically who you would work well with, great, you might be more prepared to enter a PhD program than I was. But had I not done MAPH, I would never have known that I needed to know this. MAPH isn't just about expanding your background of coursework, it's about changing the way you think about scholarship and how you work as a scholar.

My advice to people who haven't applied yet: do include some MA programs in your portfolio, even if you think you are prepared for a PhD, because you may not be, and you may not know it. Do your own research on what program you think is the best fit for you. If you really want to become better at understanding and articulating and destabilizing complex arguments, MAPH is a great place.

Personally, I do not know if I'm going on to do a PhD yet, because of the enormous time commitment and the complete possibility of doing several of the things I want to do with myself without one - doing research, writing books, working in a museum. Before MAPH, I was totally convinced, but now I'm aware of other options, I am content where I am for now :) I'll move on when I need to. Don't feel pressured (even internally) to jump in to a PhD just because it seems like the next logical step.

Naturally, Swagato's points about the program are very valid. Thanks as always!

I think my apprehensiveness of the program is not based on quality of what they do, but that the program itself seems to have unclear goals. It's not a straight up MA in Art History (Williams, as far as I know, does try to fund students), and it's only a year long. From what you said, it essentially sounds like a general advanced humanities prep degree (which can focus on art history!) but if it wasn't to prep you personally for a PhD, what does it prep you for? Alternative options all have their own MAs - Museum studies, cultural preservation, public history, arts administration, etc.

It sounds, essentially, like a very expensive career exploration class combined with a strong foundation in art historiography, theory, and criticism from a really well known university. That's mostly my problem -- that they've made a cash cow out of uncertainty about what to do next. Can you complete your language requirements for a PhD in that time like you could at Williams? How many internships can you complete (are you required to complete them)? I would recommend any serious potential graduate student begin reading books on Art history theory and criticism long before they start applying to PhD programs. To talk with their advisors about theory and method. If you went to such a great undergraduate school, surely some of these things should have been available to you? I don't want to be rude or confrontational but these are all things that my not so ranked university had available.

It seems like the program is designed to prepare students who weren't ready for graduate studies -- but if you're not going on to obtain your PhD, was the program even necessary? I would be especially discerning that if I was going to undertake such a program, it would be because the end goals I had in mind would be reached, or that at the very least I would be fully prepared for them. I feel like I'm largely skeptical because the entire premise of the program's worth is that UChi is 1.) very famous and 2.) very rigorous at teaching things that are also rigorously taught elsewhere. (Also that you cannot take any seminar courses seems detrimental to me)

The very fact that the program must be constantly defended (whereas other MAs rarely need such defense) sets alarm bells off in my mind.

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I agree with m-ttl. I went to state schools that are almost NEVER mentioned on these boards for my BA and my MA, and they both were very insistent about concerns with methodology, historiography, theory, and how these areas interacted with our individual areas of specialty and special problems our areas might face- so I, as a 19th century sculpture person, might interact differently with a Panofskyian sense of iconography than say my Italian baroque friend would, and we'd have different questions of connoisseurship or need for interaction with the object directly versus through reproduction, and issues of materiality or availability or primary documentation. Even my community college 101 classes touched on these kinds of problems at a basic introductory level. If I can get this at a school that never breeches the top twenty list for art history at the BA level, and which more than prepared me compared to students who came from top-tier schools in my MA, why are people putting themselves into debt for this? I get very uncomfortable when these sorts of programs are pushed as the best way into the field when they are inaccessible for large numbers of qualified students due to financial reasons, and no one involved seems to think this is a problem.

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Sure you can take seminar courses. I was in two during my time there.

 

The program is not at all unclear (and it's this easy misconception that actually necessitates the "defences" you mention). The program is explicitly designed to be so flexible as to accommodate a wide range of interests (bear in mind that it is something humanists of all stripes are considered for either via direct application or as a redirect from the PhD application), while also allowing for very focused development. This means, in other words, that someone with interdisciplinary interests is likely to benefit tremendously--more, probably, than at a 'conventional' MA--whether in Art History, Film Studies, Philosophy, etc. 

 

It's also an excellent sieve of sorts. I know several who, after experiencing the reality of graduate work and learning more about academic life (something the program specifically makes an effort to illuminate through events, etc.), chose not to proceed into a PhD. These people ended up with excellent preparation for an entry into industry, though. Of people in my graduating year, one is at the Field Museum, several are at major publishing houses (academic and non-academic), etc. I don't think they found the program unhelpful on the job market due to its unusual structure and design.

 

Re: internships. The program actually funds about half a dozen paid internships after completion. It's a competitive process. In addition, two positions for program mentors are available for the subsequent year. There's a rather thorough grooming process toward the end of the year for transitioning to the next step whether academic or otherwise. 

 

I did not go to a "great" undergraduate college (and this is another type of individual that MAPH offers tremendous benefits to). I had never taken an Art History course before. The entire culture of academia, its expectations, its norms, everything was completely new to me. I'll let the fact that MAPH was able to help me become competitive enough for subsequent PhD applications success stand for itself--quite aside from the obvious (that it opened several doors). 

 

The program is explicitly designed for those unsure or unprepared to proceed to PhD work. That's kind of the whole point, so it's very surprising to read that given your history of skepticism about the program. I guess I had assumed you'd at least done some fact-finding about MAPH before building your critique of it. It is exactly the case that MAPH exists to help such individuals either develop the foundations necessary toward future PhD applications and an academic career, OR move into industry based on their interests. That's the flexibility which, at least as far as I know, few or no other MA programs offer. 

 

And yes, of course it rests on the foundation of Chicago's academic rigor. The only thing I can say about that is that I have yet to experience anything that trumps Chicago's intellectual climate. It's just something special. 

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I agree with m-ttl. I went to state schools that are almost NEVER mentioned on these boards for my BA and my MA, and they both were very insistent about concerns with methodology, historiography, theory, and how these areas interacted with our individual areas of specialty and special problems our areas might face- so I, as a 19th century sculpture person, might interact differently with a Panofskyian sense of iconography than say my Italian baroque friend would, and we'd have different questions of connoisseurship or need for interaction with the object directly versus through reproduction, and issues of materiality or availability or primary documentation. Even my community college 101 classes touched on these kinds of problems at a basic introductory level. If I can get this at a school that never breeches the top twenty list for art history at the BA level, and which more than prepared me compared to students who came from top-tier schools in my MA, why are people putting themselves into debt for this? I get very uncomfortable when these sorts of programs are pushed as the best way into the field when they are inaccessible for large numbers of qualified students due to financial reasons, and no one involved seems to think this is a problem.

 

I also went to a large state school (as well as a smaller LAC) so the idea that a student would pay more to relearn things they should have already learned, could have studied in their own time, or are standard for learning at the graduate level is disconcerting to me. Art History Research methods is a required course at my school, and a minimum of two internships to graduate. 

 

I understand after the fact that the fact that getting the offer I did directly following my BA is almost unheard of (especially coming from a school which doesn't even make the top 100), but I think it's still fair to reject the commodification of the humanities degree because it takes advantage of people. I see absolutely zero difference between this scenario, and the for-profit BFA school problem. Students are warned away from going to for-profit art schools because the program cares about making money first, and everything else second. You may have great teachers and learn a lot at a for-profit art school, and you may even have a successful career afterwards, but you are still being used as a cash flow. The same seems to apply here: your desire to learn and better yourself as an applicant shouldn't be predicated on your ability to pay them for graduate studies. It's taking advantage of you, and as of right now, none of us can really determine the win/loss ratio happening right now. 

 

There are plenty of other MA programs available whose reputations don't center around being cash cows. Supporting these generalized cash funds as "good educational options" isn't just potentially mildly risky to the individual, it opens up space for the acceptance of this in the field, and the lowering of value placed on the students rather than the income they can bring in. 

 

I wish you all the absolute best, but I can't see supporting this program as a kindness to the future health of the field and have had various professors vehemently state much of the same - it's not good for us, or anyone. I think it would be wiser to choose a less expensive, or partially supported MA that may be less name brand than to encourage people to fork over money for a generalized MA and a maybe success. Applicants deserve to not be treated like income. 

 

 

 

Sure you can take seminar courses. I was in two during my time there.

 

The program is not at all unclear (and it's this easy misconception that actually necessitates the "defences" you mention). The program is explicitly designed to be so flexible as to accommodate a wide range of interests (bear in mind that it is something humanists of all stripes are considered for either via direct application or as a redirect from the PhD application), while also allowing for very focused development. This means, in other words, that someone with interdisciplinary interests is likely to benefit tremendously--more, probably, than at a 'conventional' MA--whether in Art History, Film Studies, Philosophy, etc. 

 

It's also an excellent sieve of sorts. I know several who, after experiencing the reality of graduate work and learning more about academic life (something the program specifically makes an effort to illuminate through events, etc.), chose not to proceed into a PhD. These people ended up with excellent preparation for an entry into industry, though. Of people in my graduating year, one is at the Field Museum, several are at major publishing houses (academic and non-academic), etc. I don't think they found the program unhelpful on the job market due to its unusual structure and design.

 

Re: internships. The program actually funds about half a dozen paid internships after completion. It's a competitive process. In addition, two positions for program mentors are available for the subsequent year. There's a rather thorough grooming process toward the end of the year for transitioning to the next step whether academic or otherwise. 

 

I did not go to a "great" undergraduate college (and this is another type of individual that MAPH offers tremendous benefits to). I had never taken an Art History course before. The entire culture of academia, its expectations, its norms, everything was completely new to me. I'll let the fact that MAPH was able to help me become competitive enough for subsequent PhD applications success stand for itself--quite aside from the obvious (that it opened several doors). 

 

The program is explicitly designed for those unsure or unprepared to proceed to PhD work. That's kind of the whole point, so it's very surprising to read that given your history of skepticism about the program. I guess I had assumed you'd at least done some fact-finding about MAPH before building your critique of it. It is exactly the case that MAPH exists to help such individuals either develop the foundations necessary toward future PhD applications and an academic career, OR move into industry based on their interests. That's the flexibility which, at least as far as I know, few or no other MA programs offer. 

 

And yes, of course it rests on the foundation of Chicago's academic rigor. The only thing I can say about that is that I have yet to experience anything that trumps Chicago's intellectual climate. It's just something special. 

 

 

The website states you need special permission to enroll in seminar courses. 

 

My critiques are:

 

1. A mere six internships isn't much - especially if your cohort is larger than say, ten. I say that as someone as (like I said) required to do two for my BA. I've done at least four. You should easily, especially in Chicago, be able to do far more than a single internship. 

 

2. That the program is explicitly for people unsure or unprepared and then wants to profit off of that is exactly why I object. Exploring your options should be free. Why pay money to prepare for uncertainty? If you want to obtain a PhD go to an Academic MA. If you don't, find one equally suitable (e.g. Museum Studies) which is more practically oriented. Both will have academic and/or professional aspects. I've never heard of a program that didn't at least touch upon both. 

 

3. Of course you have yet to see anything trump Chicago. You've been to what, three schools? Are we supposed to use a non-quantitative barometer here of your personal gut feeling for an important, educational and financial decision? You could (and many do) get equally great instruction and rigor elsewhere. 

 

4. While you may have had zero experience in art history (??? Why not take a few community college courses to at least test the waters??), the OP has a minor in it, and claims they went to a great school. So why pay so much money to attend MAPH? Other rejections aside, if they had truly believed they wanted to be a PhD a year ago, why not spend a year gaining experience and then reapply to full or partially funded MAs? If they thought they knew what they wanted then, why attend a program for people with zero prior experience, or no solid idea of what they want?

Plenty of people change their mind after an MA no matter what, but wouldn't it be ideal to make sure that choice cost you very little?

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m-ttl, I don't really understand why you seem to have such a problem with people doing programs which work for them, to be completely frank. I'm sure you personally are an incredible, exceptional scholar - but for those of use who aren't aware how far we have to go to be at your level, a program like MAPH is also helpful. It's also helpful in building humility and the ability to see from others' points of view without necessarily agreeing with them. 

Also, it should be reiterated - neither Swagato nor I were art history majors in undergrad. I took a bunch of coursework, but of course most of the people who applied in my pool had more. And the stuff I "should have already learned" - I'm sorry, this just came off as VERY rude and condescending. Like many people in this world, my undergraduate concentration was not in art history - so why would I have taken a methods class if it wasn't required?

 

And considering the actual support which I have received from MAPH which I *know* I would not have received had I gone to the closest state school in California for a masters which would have qualified as "affordable," I do not feel at all like I was taken advantage of. 

In short, I don't understand your insistence on promulgating your negative views of a program with which you are not particularly familiar. I do not think that the MAPH model will become the norm, I understand your paranoia of paid programs undercutting the availability of less expensive programs, but honestly I don't think it's such a threat to the field or students as you seem to sense it will be.  
 

Anyway, thanks for contributing to the negative noise from a skeptical outsiders' point of view. It was ungrounded opinions like yours which made me almost NOT choose to go to MAPH, and to question my decision heavily even after arriving until it hit me that what I had done, indeed, was a good choice for me and that I was reaping the benefits. It was also what prompted me to want to shift the conversation towards a qualitative description of the program instead of a rehashing of the cons. Not everyone can be so incredibly prepared as you seem to be! It's up to each person to decide whether an individual grad program is worth the time and money they will invest in it. (I also would like to point out that one year of MAPH, including living expenses, would actually be CHEAPER than a two year MA program at many private institutions even where you only have to pay tuition for the first year, but are responsible for your living expenses for both years. And then that year after MAPH you can work in the world and actually make money!) I would really appreciate it if GradCafe could be a space of understanding, openness, and collegiality, rather than aggressive sniping, rainbow-pissing, and insinuations of inferiority. I had a feeling that I was opening myself up to this as soon as I posted - even though everyone knows, on GradCafe, haters gonna hate  :rolleyes: And critical challenges do help you articulate your argument better  :) 

 

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m-ttl, I don't really understand why you seem to have such a problem with people doing programs which work for them, to be completely frank. I'm sure you personally are an incredible, exceptional scholar - but for those of use who aren't aware how far we have to go to be at your level, a program like MAPH is also helpful. It's also helpful in building humility and the ability to see from others' points of view without necessarily agreeing with them. 

Also, it should be reiterated - neither Swagato nor I were art history majors in undergrad. I took a bunch of coursework, but of course most of the people who applied in my pool had more. And the stuff I "should have already learned" - I'm sorry, this just came off as VERY rude and condescending. Like many people in this world, my undergraduate concentration was not in art history - so why would I have taken a methods class if it wasn't required?

 

And considering the actual support which I have received from MAPH which I *know* I would not have received had I gone to the closest state school in California for a masters which would have qualified as "affordable," I do not feel at all like I was taken advantage of. 

In short, I don't understand your insistence on promulgating your negative views of a program with which you are not particularly familiar. I do not think that the MAPH model will become the norm, I understand your paranoia of paid programs undercutting the availability of less expensive programs, but honestly I don't think it's such a threat to the field or students as you seem to sense it will be.  

 

Anyway, thanks for contributing to the negative noise from a skeptical outsiders' point of view. It was ungrounded opinions like yours which made me almost NOT choose to go to MAPH, and to question my decision heavily even after arriving until it hit me that what I had done, indeed, was a good choice for me and that I was reaping the benefits. It was also what prompted me to want to shift the conversation towards a qualitative description of the program instead of a rehashing of the cons. Not everyone can be so incredibly prepared as you seem to be! It's up to each person to decide whether an individual grad program is worth the time and money they will invest in it. (I also would like to point out that one year of MAPH, including living expenses, would actually be CHEAPER than a two year MA program at many private institutions even where you only have to pay tuition for the first year, but are responsible for your living expenses for both years. And then that year after MAPH you can work in the world and actually make money!) I would really appreciate it if GradCafe could be a space of understanding, openness, and collegiality, rather than aggressive sniping, rainbow-pissing, and insinuations of inferiority. I had a feeling that I was opening myself up to this as soon as I posted - even though everyone knows, on GradCafe, haters gonna hate  :rolleyes: And critical challenges do help you articulate your argument better  :) 

 

 

My undergraduate major is not in art history either... 

 

I still took a methods class because I was required to, and because I knew I wanted to go to grad school. If you have to apply during fall and winter, you still would have had plenty of time to take a methods class in the spring. I am sensing you probably didn't ask professors what would prepare you for the very thing you wanted to do. They probably could have told you why applying only to the Ivies was a bad gamble even for a perfect applicant.

 

I have no desire to rainbow-piss here. What I AM saying is that right now, today, at my university there was a rather large conference on-going wherein one of my professors live-tweeted and other uni-profs and guest speakers in academia criticized this very same model for all the reasons I've outlined. When an entire conference of professionals meets to say: "Hey this is really bad for our field, how can we stop this and/or fix it?" I am inclined to believe them that it is a problem. (They discussed: The danger of unfunded grad programs, the risky behavior in taking more students than can be funded, the need to downsize classes and fund more, the future of PhDs, the future of an influx of MAs and PhDs, balancing this, and emphasized strongly not to profit from students.) A wide variety of professionals don't simply talk because they're "paranoid". All my advisors didn't just up and decide "Paying money = bad." for no reason. 

 

I don't "hate" you. I think the program takes advantage of students and is risky in an undesirable way. Also given that funded and stipend-ed offers in the MA world do exist, I don't think MAPH is necessarily cheaper by any means. Everyone here is a person of hubris, we just try not to be victims of ourselves. 

 

Your qualitative pros are basically that they taught you things and you became a better scholar. Bluntly put: every graduate program should do that. Why choose MAPH over something else?

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Since I believe this exchange isn't exactly proving productive, I'll include a final comment on this purely for future readers. Obviously, I remain in complete disagreement with m-ttl.

 

First, "special permission" = Ask the faculty member. It's that simple.

 

Second, I don't believe it's a program's responsibility to secure internships for its students. Those half a dozen internships are funded by the program itself. You're obviously free to pursue your own options (as should be the case).

 

Third, MAPH does come with a number of partial (and lately, apparently a few full) scholarships. I don't especially see anything objectionable in a non-funded MA. Clearly, it's aimed at those who believe the investment is worth it. Others are welcome to pursue other options. For me, despite the steep cost, it was a worthwhile investment because I realized I value a year spent at Chicago, working with Chicago's faculty in Film and Media Studies (and other faculty members of interest in other departments) was far more than the sticker price. I also realized, given the program's placement history to top-tier PhD programs, that it basically offered me the best possible platform for a future PhD application. And if, somehow, I discovered that a PhD was not up my alley, I'd still be left with an MA from Chicago--something that, as I mentioned earlier, did prove to unlock doors simply because of the name. It certainly helped tremendously when I remained in non-academic work for an intervening year. Coming from my BA, I saw quite clearly how far the right name goes. So yes, all of this combined outweighed MAPH's sticker price for me. YMMV, as may those of others. This is no reason for me to object to the program itself, nor does it seem logical to cite personal preferences as criteria for a program's merit or lack thereof.

 

Fourth, I'm a bit perplexed by your condescension ("You've seen, what, three schools?"). Granted, you may have experience with 13. The fact remains that I now have experience with one institution on the far lower end of things, and two on the far upper end. Now, you may be convinced that it's possible to experience what Chicago offers at other places. But that, as you yourself point out in criticizing me, is your "personal gut feeling" and no more. I am not sure how it may be possible to benefit from the presence of Tom Gunning, Robert Pippin, WJT Mitchell, Jim Lastra, Bill Brown, and many others *outside* of Chicago. Ultimately, it's a question of what -you- value and how much it's worth to you to have an opportunity to interact with certain people. Obviously, the fit of your own interests plays a significant role. If not for my interactions with some of the people at Chicago, I strongly doubt my current interests would be what they are. That, in turn, influences the possibilities of success in A. Admissions to PhD programs; B. Future publications; C. A whole host of other things that come with academic development. In short, no, I absolutely do not believe that Chicago's peculiarly interdisciplinary approach is common, and while I certainly think Yale's approach is unimpeachable, I also recognize individual differences where one program just works better than another. Chicago's history of tenure-track placement in Cinema and Media Studies speaks for itself. Do you seriously think--financial issues notwithstanding--it makes sense to pass up a chance to work at literally the top department in the field? If you do, that's your own "personal gut feeling" and your own perspective. It doesn't mean everybody shares it.

 

Fifth, why on earth would I want to take courses at a community college when I have an opportunity to do so at Chicago? Again, if it were financially unfeasible this would not be a concern. Such was not the case for me. It's quite inexplicable to me why you seem bent on translating personal financial circumstances into universal suggestions.

 

Methods courses are not the same everywhere. Some simply are better than others. In your response to the other person, you again show a bizarrely condescending attitude when you presume they "probably didn't ask professors...." Nobody needs to be told that applying "only to the Ivies" is a bad idea, for the simple reason that it's well-known that the best department aren't always at the Ivies. There are unfunded graduate programs of many stripes. I sincerely doubt that many would question the worth of an MA from Chicago, whether it be for further academic pursuits or otherwise. 

 

You have no experience with the program, as was clear from your lack of actual knowledge about the program. Yet you take it upon yourself to criticize my apparent lack of experience with multiple programs. You might think the program "takes advantage of students." I don't think the many graduates who are presently at leading programs across most fields in the humanities, or those who are well-settled into non-academic careers exactly because MAPH opened doors would agree with that sentiment. Funded MAs certainly exist. They also are not at Chicago (at least for the present). So, again, we return to the question of ***whether the individual deems it a worthwhile investment.***

 

You miss the point, yet again, when you reduce MAPH to "every graduate program." It is precisely the fact that MAPH adopts a *different* approach utilizing resources *not available* everywhere that sets it apart. 

 

In closing, I will reiterate that I find it absurd that you impose your personal ideals and preferences upon everyone and then to criticize them when they point this out. Yes, I get it. You find MAPH morally objectionable, regardless of its remarkable success with regard to its explicitly stated goals. I get that you, personally, would not pay, even for an MA at Chicago in Art History. For me, it was Film Studies, as that is my primary area of interest and Chicago unquestionably has the most powerful department in the nation. None of this gives you any ground to criticize ***the program itself*** as though it were somehow failing in its mission or were deceptive. All you have, in the end, is your own (lack of) experience and "personal gut feeling." You may have been well-served by your choices. I have by mine. Many others, graduates of MAPH, have been by theirs. 

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I should also mention - I didn't know when I was in undergrad that I wanted to go to grad school. My grad school intentions at that time were that I *might* get an MFA in printmaking, maybe, if I felt like I needed it, eventually. I worked for three years as a high school teacher, got to teach Art History, spent a lot of time reflecting on what I wanted to do with myself, decided that working with art history was what I wanted to do with my life, and decided I would apply for grad school. It takes some people a while to figure out what they want to do. This is OK. This is healthy. The professors I consulted for my application all seemed to think that I stood a decent chance - now, I question their judgment or their honesty, but how could I know then? So I didn't take a formal methods class.

 

(I'm really curious - what did you major in that it is required for if not art history? And are we talking about specifically art-historical methods, or broader methods of criticism? I feel like some of the types of criticism we do in art history are so specific to the discipline). 

 

As for the rest of your points, m-ttl, I think Swagato just did an excellent job of responding to your argument so I'm not going to add to the contestation.

I hope this thread can go back to its original programming as a place where interested students can get first hand information and demystification about MAPH instead of re-reading the same tired evangelization of recycled rumors from people who have moral objections and no particular knowledge about the program itself. 

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Methods courses are not the same everywhere. Some simply are better than others. In your response to the other person, you again show a bizarrely condescending attitude when you presume they "probably didn't ask professors...." Nobody needs to be told that applying "only to the Ivies" is a bad idea, for the simple reason that it's well-known that the best department aren't always at the Ivies. There are unfunded graduate programs of many stripes. I sincerely doubt that many would question the worth of an MA from Chicago, whether it be for further academic pursuits or otherwise. 

 

You have no experience with the program, as was clear from your lack of actual knowledge about the program. Yet you take it upon yourself to criticize my apparent lack of experience with multiple programs. You might think the program "takes advantage of students." I don't think the many graduates who are presently at leading programs across most fields in the humanities, or those who are well-settled into non-academic careers exactly because MAPH opened doors would agree with that sentiment. Funded MAs certainly exist. They also are not at Chicago (at least for the present). So, again, we return to the question of ***whether the individual deems it a worthwhile investment.***

 

You miss the point, yet again, when you reduce MAPH to "every graduate program." It is precisely the fact that MAPH adopts a *different* approach utilizing resources *not available* everywhere that sets it apart. 

 

In closing, I will reiterate that I find it absurd that you impose your personal ideals and preferences upon everyone and then to criticize them when they point this out. Yes, I get it. You find MAPH morally objectionable, regardless of its remarkable success with regard to its explicitly stated goals. I get that you, personally, would not pay, even for an MA at Chicago in Art History. For me, it was Film Studies, as that is my primary area of interest and Chicago unquestionably has the most powerful department in the nation. None of this gives you any ground to criticize ***the program itself*** as though it were somehow failing in its mission or were deceptive. All you have, in the end, is your own (lack of) experience and "personal gut feeling." You may have been well-served by your choices. I have by mine. Many others, graduates of MAPH, have been by theirs. 

 

Because as I have repeatedly stated, I have been informed by a wide variety of professionals the pitfalls of paying for an MA completely.  (Also come on, UChi isn't even an Ivy school. Let's not kid ourselves here.)

 

Because as I am pointing out, and as Borden pointed out, your cases of financial feasibility are the outliers, and recommending the program BROADLY from the start when there are other, more feasible options available IS you expecting the vast majority of people to be able to do what you did. 

 

My lack of experience is going to put me in $0 more debt. I am criticizing any option which is presented above the free or considerably cheaper and equally good options to potential upcoming applicants. I've never been the only one:

 

As someone who did their undergrad at UChicago, and having been in some mixed ug/grad classes and solely grad classes alongside MAPH students, I can definitely vouch for the quality of the coursework and interactions with professors that you'll experience if you come here and take full advantage of what the program has to offer. My impression has been that some of the philosophy department faculty don't view MAPH and its students as favorably, but that certainly isn't the case in the art history department. You begin conceptualizing your thesis as early as the end of fall quarter (which ends in December), and from there it's a fast track to completing it, under the guidance of both faculty and current PhD students who act as your preceptors. The program is ideal for people who didn't have much undergrad coursework in their intended area of PhD study, and want to build a solid foundation to switch fields.

As for whether it would "make a big difference for your application," having MAPH on your CV could serve as affirmation to other peer institutions that you have what it takes to do rigorous grad level art history work even without an undergrad major, and at a fast pace. Recent art history department 'rankings' (whatever they're worth to you) have placed UChicago in the top 3 programs in the nation. Also, what is your concentration within art history? Are you probably going to continue with medieval? Aden Kumler, the medievalist in the art history department, is awesome and teaches some really exciting grad seminars.

That said, you are very right to bring up the fact that if you choose UChicago MAPH (which is only a year), you'd only be about a third through the program by the time you'd be submitting PhD applications for 2013-2014. It's possible, but not ideal, and even "discouraged" according to this page on the program's website. I have a friend who has also been accepted to MAPH for this year (for Anthropology, switching from Philosophy in undergrad) and she's certain that she's applying to PhDs this fall. So it's definitely possible, just maybe not what most people would advise you to do. You start your MAPH Core 2 weeks before UofC's fall quarter even begins, so in early to mid-September- which would give you some time to develop relationships with professors early if you 1) really hit the ground running and 2) choose your fall classes very carefully.

I don't know much about Rutgers but it sounds like a very solid program, and the fact that you'd be there for 2 years might really appeal to your desire to take a tad more time before applying to PhDs. Given that you haven't had much art history coursework yet, just as you brought up in your latest ^ post, it also might be really beneficial to take classes across a wide spectrum of media/time periods, etc. just in case you end up becoming really excited about a subject and shift your area of focus. And of course, you can't beat the proximity to New York.

All in all, I suppose that however much I love UChicago and tell people to come here  :) , I'd probably go with Rutgers in this case because the 2 year length of the program plays into your desire to "really establish a strong background in art history." The art history classes I've taken at Chicago have been outstanding, but Rutgers would give you a lot more time to hone your specific interests, which would be good to eventually showcase in your PhD applications.

 

 

 

This has been a very interesting discussion for me to read! I only applied to (and now need to choose between) MA programs, and my main struggle is between Williams and NYU. I'm so attracted to the all-star faculty at NYU (especially since I'm a mod/contemporary person) and the prestige of the department, but if I might get very little time with these all-star faculty and the department's prestige doesn't drip down into the MA degree--well, that gives me a lot to think about.

I'm pursuing my MA with the hopes of leaving open the doors to a PhD. Would I be right in saying that a MA from Williams would be better in this respect than an MA from the IFA? (Williams' program director said their PhD rate was around 50%, which is significant.)

 

I'm not an expert on this topic by any means, but the reason why I would not accept an unfunded MA is twofold:

1. Debt

2. Risk

The amount of debt you're looking at is huge, as Josephine pointed out. The odds that you will land a job that will help you pay off that debt while still having a high quality of life are small. I think I read somewhere that you shouldn't take out more than half of your future yearly salary in loans (say, if you think you'll make $50k/year, no more than $25k total debt).

I feel so rational right now and I don't want to say you shouldn't pursue your dream, but the potential cost is so huge. I know that when I signed for my undergrad loans I thought I knew what I was getting into, but it didn't really hit me until I started paying them back.

 
 

I am a long-time lurker: I am on the academic job market in Art History, having gotten my PhD at a top-ranked pubic R1 (research university). Let me say in no uncertain terms that it would be pure folly for you to pursue an unfunded MA. The most compelling reason for turning down the IFA would be a financial one. It makes no sense for your financial health to go over $70,000 in debt for an MA in art history...at all. Even if you do eventually want to go get a PhD. I know that everybody wants to think that they will have a great job after they complete their studies, but this is just not the case, even for people who wrote great dissertations, won a ton of prestigious fellowships and who have published in peer-reviewed journals. I know that you all probably do not want to hear any of this, but it's worth knowing what awaits you on the other side. I would advise each and every one of you to turn down any offer, whether PhD or MA, that requires you to fund yourself. The ONLY way to do graduate work in the humanities is through fully-funded programs. Hold out until you get the offer you deserve, or re-think your career options if you are unwilling to wait. Good luck.

 

From the English forums:

 

 

I can't upvote this enough. The bottom line is that you have your whole life to get this PhD. I know that this point in the admissions game is the worst; you can start to feel desperate. You feel bad that you didn't get accepted anywhere, and to offset that bad feeling you just want to go somewhere, anywhere, to feel like you have a future. My first year out was the worst. It felt like everyone else was getting these incredible offers from high-ranked schools without any effort, and I was getting shut out everywhere.

 

However rough this time is, it's not the time to make a $60,000 decision. Life is long, and few people enjoy success right out of the gate. Tbh, a lot of people I know who got multiple top offers right out of the gate aren't happy in their programs. (Part of me wonders if it's because they didn't have to struggle as hard, but that's neither here nor there.)

 

Think about it this way: next year you might have a funded offer at this time, and then you'll be relieved that you didn't spend your (yet unearned) life savings on something that you can get for free.

 

 

 

I'm going to chime in with those who have been told by our professors to avoid unpaid grad programs. My post might come off as harsh and brutally honest, so I apologize for that in advance.

 

No, you should never pay a cent for grad school. Even if you got your degree from a high ranked program and that helps you to get into a high ranked PhD program, remember that your debt will not go away the moment you start a new program. The fellowships you may and should receive for the PhD program you enter won't pay off the debt you collected while doing your MA. And we all know what the job market situation looks like. If not, buy a copy of Semenza's Graduate Study for the 21st Century and educate yourself by reading The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

Besides, think about where you will be attending grad school at least for a couple years (or more if you got your PhD at NYU). New York isn't cheap. The cost of living is high. Do you really want to juggle your coursework, research, possible teaching opportunities with other jobs just to survive off of ramen soup every night? I don't know where you're from, but the winters back east are severe. I wouldn't want to imagine how much heating costs in the winter while I'm trying to find some extra cash to pay rent. Coming from CA and moving to the Midwest for grad school, I have to say it was quite the culture shock. I needed a full blast of AC in the summer and the heater on all throughout the winter, and luckily I have the means to pay for it without losing sleep.

 

Since I assume you've never attended grad school, it's probably hard for you to imagine how much work it is to juggle all the different responsibilities you have to your coursework and research while trying to remain sane. As much as my mentors prepared me for it as an undergrad, I was still shocked at how quickly time flew by whether I was ready for it or not. There's already so many things to worry about while in a grad program like taking the right classes, meeting the right professors, getting along with your peers, contributing to scholarship, etc. that you shouldn't let something like debt distract you from doing what you're supposed to be doing.

 

I would suggest taking the year off to do something outside of academia. Do an internship. Do volunteer work. Do something that you love as well as something that will make your applications stronger even if it means just studying for the GRE. Do research on funded MA programs if you think a year off without classes won't help make your app stronger for a PhD program. Learn a foreign language because it will help fulfill one of the requirements for practically all doctoral programs.

 

Of course, you're going to do what you want. And if you think attending an unfunded MA program at NYU is a viable option, go for it. Just do your research. Consider all your options. Imagine the worst case scenarios and decide for yourself if you can live with them. Just don't go into any program blindly.

 
http://theprofessori...ant-guest-post/ I'll point out that it's unnecessary to act as if my advice is completely individualized simply because I vehemently rejected the MAPH as irresponsible for me financially when swagato tried to pitch it to me. All it takes is a quick search of this forum "MAPH" to run across dozens of other similar comments to mine.
 
Since the people having "moral objections" in my circles have been tenured professors with PhDs, I see nothing wrong with listening. Look if you're rolling in cash, literally nothing is stopping you but your pride. Everyone knows people with money have more options -- the advice of this forum tends to be for the median student who probably already has prior debt to consider and based on the BROADER accepted ideas about humanities funding. 
 
As for the purpose of the thread, since the questions I did raise: are you prepared for the language requirements? do you do internships while taking coursework (apparently only after?) went unanswered... 
 
My initial misunderstanding -- teaching is not tutoring, and I assumed you applied straight out of the gate -- is my own error. 

(My own major was museum studies which meant my methods course was directly in art history. I've also taken museology methods based courses.)  

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there is a whole different way of critical thinking that goes on here that is a mile deeper than anything I was exposed to even at an undergraduate institution ranked only a few spots below the UofC (not that those rankings mean a whole lot anyway). I'm absolutely certain that most "cheaper" options do not provide this. 

 

[...]

 

These "cheaper" options are also great options especially if you want a traditionally strict art-historical training instead of a rigorous interdisciplinary intellectual atmosphere. 

 

 

 Funded MAs certainly exist. They also are not at Chicago (at least for the present).

 

I don't have a horse in this race, but you guys are coming off as kind of pretentious... Is Chicago really so superior to every other program in existence that you have to pay for the privilege of attending?

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If you're really sincere about finding out more about Chicago or MAPH - please PM me, with any sort of question. I feel like this conversation has turned so negative (gradcafe at its true form) that this rehashing of points is really not productive. I really don't have anything else to say about the whole unfunded MA conversation which has happened so many times on the Art History / Humanities forums which people clearly feel quite strongly about in totally legitimate ways. 

 

If you're coming for visit days in April, let me know, I look forward to meeting you! 

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m-ttl - to your questions about language and internships:

1. We typically don't do language during MAPH. It's easy enough to study on your own if you can (I can read and translate French pretty well, but have never taken it in a formal class), and most PhD programs require you to have translation proficiency by a certain point in the program, not right off the bat. We typically focus on classes in our field (art history, philosophy, cultural policy, what have you) instead of doing languages. Most art history concentrators seem to come into MAPH with at least one language down already - I had undergrad coursework in Italian and German, and a pretty solid grounding in Spanish which I've improved through doing research for my thesis in Spanish. As I understand, most tests for AH language requirements focus on translation - god help me if I tried to speak German! (Maybe I'll take some classes at the Goethe Institut at some point...) But there is also nothing stopping you from signing up for language classes as part of your MAPH coursework. (Especially if you're looking for some really esoteric language that you can't easily find at your local community college - for example, we have a faculty member who specializes in Yucatec Maya which could be useful if you're interested in being a pre-Columbianist).

 
2. We also typically do not do internships during the program as we focus on our coursework. Many students, however, have work-study jobs in parts of the UofC or its affiliated institutions like the Oriental Institute, the Smart Museum, the Arts Incubator, the Hyde Park Art Center, and the University of Chicago press. Most students I know have work-study jobs and they all do super interesting things. So there are opportunities for students to gain work experience in the program, but most people don't do internships at outside institutions during the program. That said, there's nothing that's going to stop you from doing an internship at the Art Institute or the MCA if you want, as far as I know, so if you're really driven to do that, you can. 

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Someone make an MAPH forum and we can be done with all of this bullshit. It's ironic that you're complaining about "tired evangelization" Papelpicado, because there's been a non-stop MAPH circle-jerk on these forums for months now. It's obnoxious, and more often than not, quite tone-deaf. 

As a side-note, it floors me that the following sentence was written by a graduate student; I would have been embarrassed to have written it in high school. 
 

For someone who loves art history and can be inspired academically by many different subfields, coming to the University of Chicago and having the ability to take courses with these amazing professors while a very supportive program works with you at every step of the way to help you make the most informed decisions about what to do with your life was about the best thing I could do, I believe.

 

 

I'd also like to say that "Now I scoff at me" is grammatically incorrect. What you are trying to say is "Now I scoff at myself." Perhaps your atrocious writing played a part in your rejections from PhD programs...

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The defensiveness, the insecurity, the misplaced aggression and personal attacks! Oh, academia.

 

Seriously... although I want to say that this sort of defensiveness, insecurity and misplaced aggression has been the rare exception, rather than the rule, of my own experience in academia. I've found that most people are generous--motivated to figure out the argument you are actually trying to make, rather than reading your argument with blinders on looking only for fodder for their own arguments.

 

@poliscar: attacking a person's character based on your reading of his/her grammar, whether on an anonymous internet chat forum or in person, is just plain mean. And I suspect that papelpicado's sentences "At first I scoffed at them. Now I scoff at me." were written that way for rhetorical effect.

 

In terms of MAPH, I think there are really good, nuanced arguments to be had about it -- and I do think there is much merit to m-ttl/borden's sincere concerns about who the program includes/excludes. But rather than dismiss the program wholesale, or paint all non-funded MA's with a broad brush (many Tufts/Williams MA students are unfunded too), why not frame your concerns in a way that allows those "defenders" of the program to respond? They're serious concerns, and I think they deserve a serious debate.

 

My own anecdotal experience: as a PhD student at the University of Chicago, I've seen plenty of friends of mine from MAPH over the years benefit tremendously from the program--landing spots in top-PhD programs, or really cool jobs, etc. I've also seen friends who seem to fall through the cracks--not managing to foster the sorts of valuable relationships with faculty mentors that other students are able to foster. 

Edited by qwer7890
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In terms of MAPH, I think there are really good, nuanced arguments to be had about it -- and I do think there is much merit to m-ttl/borden's sincere concerns about who the program includes/excludes. But rather than dismiss the program wholesale, or paint all non-funded MA's with a broad brush (many Tufts/Williams MA students are unfunded too), why not frame your concerns in a way that allows those "defenders" of the program to respond? They're serious concerns, and I think they deserve a serious debate.

 

My own anecdotal experience: as a PhD student at the University of Chicago, I've seen plenty of friends of mine from MAPH over the years benefit tremendously from the program--landing spots in top-PhD programs, or really cool jobs, etc. I've also seen friends who seem to fall through the cracks--not managing to foster the sorts of valuable relationships with faculty mentors that other students are able to foster. 

 

I think for many of us, the difference between an unfunded Tufts or Williams degree and MAPH is that the degree is two solid years in Art History which is preferable for someone who knows they want an Art History PhD. The concerns I laid out: It's essentially a moneymaker, there's no traditional language prep (like there would be at say, Williams) although you can enroll in language courses, which is nice, you start your thesis basically while PhD apps would be due, and thus the program admits applying during the process would be difficult. 

 

What you described: the success of some, and the failure of others, is how a lot of programs work. The key success point you noted was that some of them fostered valuable relationships, and others didn't. 

 

Other questions which I feel would be fair: How many classes had "repeat" professors in only 1 year? How did you get to know them if you didn't take classes with the same people? What do you do if someone you're interested is on leave? Are there MAPH events? Can you attend department meetings or use departmental resources? How was your Autumn advisor assigned - was it based on your SOP? 

Did you get along with your Preceptor? Do you feel that program works, and is a Preceptor assigned based on your SOP/interests or at random? Is it helpful to have a doctoral student guide you on your thesis, or can you also ask for a professor's help?

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Other questions which I feel would be fair: How many classes had "repeat" professors in only 1 year? How did you get to know them if you didn't take classes with the same people? What do you do if someone you're interested is on leave? Are there MAPH events? Can you attend department meetings or use departmental resources? How was your Autumn advisor assigned - was it based on your SOP? 

Did you get along with your Preceptor? Do you feel that program works, and is a Preceptor assigned based on your SOP/interests or at random? Is it helpful to have a doctoral student guide you on your thesis, or can you also ask for a professor's help?

 

IMHO, these are rather bizarre questions to ask *now* given your professed stance against the program. Perhaps these might have been issues to have clarified *prior* to mounting blanket offensives against a particular program? Anyway...

 

1. What you seem not to comprehend is that there is little distinction between MAPH and the regular PhD. In fact, aside from the one Core seminar course, students are able to take any graduate courses, anywhere in the division of the humanities. Thus, I routinely found myself in PhD seminars, mixed graduate/undergraduate courses, or introductory graduate/undergraduate lecture courses. So, as in any department, the number of "repeat" faculty members will vary from year to year. In my year, I had two faculty members with whom I took two courses each. 

 

2. How do you get to know any faculty member with whom you don't take classes? You talk to them. Just like in any graduate program.

 

3. What do you do with anyone who's on leave? You establish contact and build a relationship. If they're able to meet, you meet.

 

4. Yes, there are MAPH events of all stripes spread throughout the entire program duration. Career-advancement (academic/non-academic), panel talks, faculty talks, a weekly social hour allowing for mingling between students and faculty, etc.

 

5. You can obviously access the full resources of Chicago, since you are a graduate student. So, yes, you can access departmental resources. I don't know if you mean the kind of departmental meetings that set agenda or clarify matters for PhD students and the PhD program--if so, then no, since you are not a PhD student. 

 

6. The initial advisor is assigned just like it is in most PhD programs. After that, you choose your own. 

 

7. How on earth is it even remotely relevant to **the program** whether or not someone gets along with their preceptor? Isn't that wholly upon the individual to sort things out?

 

8. Yes, Preceptors are assigned based on research interests. It wouldn't really make sense not to do so.

 

9. Your faculty advisor directs your whole thesis from beginning to end. You can, obviously, approach anybody else--whether PhD student or faculty--for advice or whatever.

 

Once again you insist on comparing MAPH to programs explicitly dedicated to a particular approach, even though MAPH is designed to be different--it is designed to appeal to those with more interdisciplinary approaches. I don't really know how to state this any more bluntly. Furthermore, you're perfectly welcome to audit any language courses you wish--nothing restricts you from NOT pursuing language learning. It is true that the program is designed so that PhD applications are best completed the year after graduation, which is actually an advantage to my mind. Again, personal preferences will differ. Again, if the program isn't FOR YOU, that is no demerit of the program itself.

 

You may be perplexed as to why I am so stubborn in defending the program. It's because on the one hand, I experienced it (and you didn't), and so know first-hand what it does and what it doesn't. On the other hand, almost every one of your criticisms have to do with personal preferences rather than the program's merits or demerits. In fact, the only point you've made that counts as a demerit against the program itself is its unusual timeframe, which encourages PhD applications a year afterward. Everything else either stems from your lack of knowledge about the program (witness all these questions you ask *after* your criticisms), or from how you believe programs should work (necessarily funded, etc. etc.)

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I did the MAPH program two years ago and made my decision today to accept an offer from my top choice. BEST DAY EVER until I came across this thread. I hesitated initially to respond, but I have to admit - especially on a day like today - without MAPH, I wouldn't have been accepted into a PhD program, let alone one of the best places to pursue research in my field. 

 

If you can't afford it, then that's that. I don't want to waste your time. It is a very expensive program. So was my undergrad. I'm sure at one point, for my parents, it felt like driving a luxury car off a cliff every year. BUT if it IS one of the few options you have, and you can afford it (or you handle the pressure of having student loans like a lot of people in my cohort did), u of c has a lot to offer, but ultimately with any program, it is up to you to make best of it. Generic advice I know, but really simply put, no one program does it all, and for me, knowing how much it cost, I was really determined from the beginning to get my money's worth. 

 

I went to an ivy league school for undergrad with a major in art history, senior thesis with a great professor, and scored 1590 on the GRE, so I was really disappointed the first time around. But looking back, there was no chance in hell I would have gotten in. I didn't have a developed research focus and wasn't well-read in terms of current literature in my field beyond readings from undergrad classes, and at the very least, I was off to a pretty good start after a year at U of C. The core class fall term was hella challenging, but I survived it and got an A, and most of the seminars I took, I was the only MAPH student which made me feel out of place to join in on the discussions, but I just had to get over that. I found what really helped me was being proactive in reaching out for advice and feedback from professors and students, and I plan on continuing that as a PhD student. In choosing my thesis advisor at U of C, I was really lucky to have been able to work one-on-one with a professor whom I respect very much, and she was incredibly supportive during the entire application cycle afterwards - both in encouraging me but also letting me know the areas I needed to improve on. Some of my peers had to push themselves a bit harder to find that. My preceptor was also the best human being in the world and a huge part of my support system even after I left the program. 

 

By the time I applied (a year after the MA), I had a better statement, three new letters, museum internships, improved proficiency in my second foreign language, and stronger drive to pursue a PhD. From my precept group, one friend applied right after MAPH and got into one of the most best programs for his field of study. It was different for others, and a lot of them simply realized they didn't want to be in academia and got jobs (working at a bank, teaching at a community college, joining an education dept at a museum, founded a curatorial collective etc). So, no it might not be a traditional art history program, but it worked for me. 
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