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Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences

This is an archived copy of the 2012-13 catalog. To access the most recent version of the catalog, please visit

Executive Committee

  • Ralph A. Austen (Emeritus), History
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, South Asian Languages and Civilization, History 
  • Elisabeth Clemens, Sociology
  • Michael P. Conzen, Geographical Studies
  • Chad Cyrenne (Ex officio), Social Sciences
  • Jane Dailey, History
  • Judith B. Farquhar, Anthropology
  • Raymond D. Fogelson (Emeritus), Anthropology, Comparative Human Development
  • Morris Fred (Ex officio), Social Sciences
  • Rachel Fulton-Brown, History
  • Susan Goldin Meadow, Psychology, Comparative Human Development
  • Ramón Gutiérrez, History
  • Gary Herrigel, Political Science
  • Alan L. Kolata, Anthropology
  • John J. MacAloon (Ex officio), Social Sciences
  • Martha K. McClintock, Psychology, Comparative Human Development
  • Omar McRoberts, Sociology
  • Howard Nusbaum, Psychology, Computational Neuroscience
  • Nathan Tarcov, Political Science, Social Thought
  • Richard P. Taub, Sociology, Human Development

Earl S. Johnson Instructor

  • Darcy Heuring, History       

 General Information

The Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS) is a one year program of graduate studies leading to the A.M. (Masters of Arts) degree. MAPSS offers a wide variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary opportunities for advancing academic or career goals, while allowing flexibility unusual among graduate programs. MAPSS makes the resources of a great university available for student-centered and highly individualized programs of graduate study. Each student works closely with the director and an assigned preceptor on all aspects of the program, from designing a customized curriculum, to defining the area of scholarly research, to writing the master’s paper. MAPSS provides every student with a vibrant and collaborative intellectual community and core course training in social science theory and methodology. Students choose seven additional courses from the full range of regular doctoral and graduate professional offerings of the departments and committees of the Division of the Social Sciences and of the other divisions and professional schools of the University. A dual A.M./M.A. degree with the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy is also available.

The program is well suited for those who wish either to take advantage of the resources of several disciplines to study a problem or area of interest, or to strengthen their training and achievement in a single discipline. Some MAPSS students acquire skills and knowledge for careers that make use of the social sciences; others prepare for further graduate work or professional training. The program further provides students an opportunity to explore fields in the social sciences in which they may have little background before making a major professional or educational commitment.

MAPSS offers sophisticated counseling and application support to students who confirm their vocations for doctoral or professional school study. MAPSS graduates have received and presently pursue doctorates in all of Chicago’s social science departments and committees, as well as Ph.D., J.D., and M.D. degrees in the various professional schools. They are likewise welcomed into advanced study at other major research institutions in the U.S. And abroad.

Graduates of the program also enter or return to a wide range of careers for which the A.M. is increasingly the entry level degree. Such careers include community organizing, contract research, business consulting, teaching, counseling, publishing, health care, government service, public affairs, nonprofit administration, arts and museum curation. A national network of MAPSS alumni, in concert with the University’s office of Career Counseling and Placement Services, enthusiastically assists current students in identifying career possibilities and securing challenging positions.


Students work closely with one of the preceptors in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences. Preceptors guide students in defining their areas of academic specialization as well as in choosing courses. Preceptors also assist students in selecting faculty sponsors for their A.M. papers and take an active role in guiding and evaluating the research and writing of these papers.

Program Requirements and Course Work

Students in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences are expected to complete nine graduate level courses with a minimum grade average of B, and a master’s paper that must be approved by both a faculty sponsor and a MAPSS preceptor.

Course Work

The nine courses must include the core course and meet the methods requirement, as described below. The core course, Perspectives in Social Science Analysis, provides a critical understanding of the major theoretical approaches used by professional social scientists. It supplies all MAPSS students with a common technical vocabulary and evens out their foundational preparations across the various disciplines. Because Perspectives is offered only in the Autumn Quarter, students may not begin the MAPSS program in any other quarter.

Students must also fulfill a social sciences methods requirement. MAPSS offers courses in historical, ethnographic and political theory methods. Survey research methods courses are sponsored by the Division of Social Sciences. Dozens of other methods courses from statistics and policy methods to interview and case study methods are available to fulfill the requirement in any given year. Students may also fulfill the requirement by demonstrating prior methods course work.

Courses are selected with the guidance and approval of a MAPSS preceptor and the MAPSS director. The full time graduate student registers for three courses each quarter, and completes the nine course requirement in three quarters.

The Master’s Paper

Students write the paper under the supervision of a regular faculty member in the University and a preceptor, both of whom provide a written evaluation and a letter grade upon its completion. The Master’s paper may be based upon: empirical research testing a social science hypothesis or deploying a specified social science perspective; a theoretical critique of existing social science literature on a selected topic; systematic survey or evaluation research; or any other topic acceptable to the faculty sponsor, the preceptor, and the program director. During the winter quarter, preceptors hold regular thesis proposal writing workshops. Any faculty member from any school, division, or department of the University may serve as the thesis paper sponsor. In any two academic years, as many as 240 individual faculty members supervise MAPSS papers.

A selection of M.A. paper titles may further suggest the range of research interests accommodated within the MAPSS program.

“Democratic Leadership in Athens and its Role in Thucydides Political Thought.”

“Holocaust Representation and Memory: The United States Holocaust”

“Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. And the Belt Hashoah Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles.”

“The Cloning Debate: A Cultural Psychology of Morality.”

“Joint Attention, Attention, and Word Learning.”

“Queer Nation and the Use of Culture and Symbolism in Contemporary Social Movements.”

“Mothers of Capital: the Intersection of Globalization, Naturalization, and Indian Immigrants in Chicago’s South Asian Diaspora.”

“Learning to Listen: An Investigation into Variables that Augment Perceptual Learning.”

“The Gift Horse: International Post Disaster Aid Reconstruction and its Hidden Consequences.”

“Everyday Work: The Moral Economy of a Bosnian Black Market.”

“Post Philosophical Politics in a Literary Culture: A Critique of Richard Rorty’s Twenty first Century Narrative.”

“Multinationals, Labor, and the Chinese State: A Comparative Case Study of Motorola and McDonald’s in China.”

“Sacred Travel Sites in Cyberspace.”

“Resolving Trauma Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

“What Does Neuroscience Reveal About the Phenomenon of Freud’s Compulsion to Repeat?”

“Chinese and Creole, an Identity in Transition: The Chinese community and Associations in Jamaica, West Indies.”

“To Make Georgia Howl: Just War Theory and the Strategy and Tactics of William Tecumseh Sherman, 1861 65.”

“Toward the Eradication of the Trafficking of Women: Rectifying Rights and Rescue in Theory and Practice.”

“Beyond the Pale of Sovereignty: the Problem of Indigenousness as the Basis of Citizenship in the Post Colonial African State.”

“Truman, MacArthur and the Untold Story: 1949 1951.”

“Vertebral Wedging of the Lumbar Vertebrae in Primates: Possible Evolutionary Implications for Bipedal Locomotion.”

“The Application of UN Refugee Policy: A Case Study of Tanzanian Refugee Policy toward Burundian Refugees from 1993 2002.”

“Labor Unions in a Global Economy: Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities.”

“Psychological Distress and its Relation to Ethnic Identity among Korean American Youth in Chicago.”

“British Public Opinion and Open Diplomacy During the Greek War of Independence, 1821 1829.”

“The Public Housing Reform Act of 1998: A Case Study in the Creation of Public Policy in America.”

“Mourning, Memory and Memorialisation: Gender and First World War Commemoration in Britain and France, 1918 1929.”

“Lost Souls the Persistence of Traditional Belief in Haitian Immigrants Perceptions of Mental Illness.”

“The Political Economy of Finance and Corporate Reform in East Asia.”

“American Indian Powwows in the 21st Century: Creating Cultural and Ethnic Identity and Community through Dance.”


Applicants for the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences are expected to meet the graduate admissions requirements of the division. Submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores is required. Applicants from non- English speaking countries must provide evidence of English proficiency by submitting scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

MAPSS is designed to be completed in one academic year (three or four quarters on a full time basis). All financial aid is merit based, and the MAPSS program offers partial tuition scholarships on a highly competitive basis. Persons with flexible daytime schedules may make part time arrangements, but such students will not be eligible for financial aid.

How to Apply

The application process for admission and financial aid for all Social Sciences graduate programs is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at: .  Most required supplemental material can be uploaded into the application.

Questions pertaining to admissions and aid should be directed to or (773) 702-8415. All correspondence and required materials that cannot be uploaded should be mailed to:

The University of Chicago
Division of the Social Sciences
Admissions Office, Foster 105
1130 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

For additional information about the program, contact the MAPSS departmental office at: 773-702-8316, visit the MAPSS webpage at: or send an e -mail to .

You may also contact E.G. Enbar, Student Affairs Administrator at: 773-702-8312 or .