So How’s My Life at The University of Chicago So Far?

Pretty Good!

…I probably should be more specific! UChicago is great, and I’m having a good time here. Yes it’s very busy, and yes it’s stressful, but I’m enjoying it! I’ll just give a general update on what I’m up to:

My Classes: My classes are going great! UChicago’s quarter system means my classes are only 10 week long, instead of 15 weeks under a semester system, so they’re very fast and very intense. I’m taking a Statistics of Research course, an Interview Methods course, and a course titled Language, Culture, and Thought. Stats is great! I haven’t taken a math course since Intro to Stats my freshman year of undergrad, but this Stats course is excellent. The teacher is a great lecturer and very enthusiastic. My Language, Culture, and Thought class is also superb. While I have no background in linguistics, I do know my psychology (“thought”), and last quarter I did a good amount of work in anthropology (“culture”). The professor is absolutely brilliant, and his lectures are engaging and informative. While I’ll probably never study linguistics seriously, either from a psych or anthro perspective, the insight I’ve gained from this class will be very helpful throughout all of my studies. My third class is Interview Methods. The professor is also great, and I took a class with him last quarter so I’ve gotten to know him well. He’s made me much more enthusiatic about qualitative methods, and I’m very excited about performing interviews. I’ve always wanted to sell myself as a mixed-methods researcher, and this class is solidifying that goal. This class will also be producing the main body of my thesis….and speaking of my Masters Thesis….

My Thesis: My thesis topic has gone all over the place! Originally when I came to UChicago, I wanted to study political psychology. However, when I found out that the main political psychologist here was on leave all year I wavered in my commitment to political psychology. Then once I took seriously the possibility that I may leave MAPSS and not pursue a PhD, I wanted to make sure that the skill set I gained at UChicago would be useful outside of academia. So on that possibility I shifted focus from political psychology to education research. During my studies in education in the first quarter, the most interesting topic for me was gender differences, and how those are reproduced in the classroom.  I ended up writing most of my first quarter papers on gender and education. This led me to start planning a thesis that was centered around this topic. I knew that there would be no way for me to study children in the time I had, so I decided to study teachers. I had already decided that my Interview Methods class was going to produce the main part of my thesis, so I thought I would interview teachers to study how their attitudes regarding gender affected how they taught children. However, I quickly realized that this would be a difficult topic to study. A) Getting a hold a teachers was not going to be easy, and convincing them to be interviewed would be even harder. Teachers often feel like they’re being accused of something when being asked about their attitudes regarding gender, and getting good data from these interviews would be tough; B) I work in a psych lab that studies teachers, and after investigating, there was no way I could attach my thesis work to the projects already being run in the lab; C) There was absolutely not way I would be able to get into a classroom and actually observe teachers teaching in the amount of time I had; D) There has already been a plethora of research performed on teachers and gender affects in the classroom, and I would have a hard time saying something novel. With all these factors considered, I decided early in my Interview Methods course that I needed to change topics, and fast! So I asked myself, where can I still study this relationship between gender attitudes and interactions with children while being able to say something novel and interesting? It didn’t take me long to think of something: Gay/Lesbian parents! This is an area that still has a lot of research that needs to be performed, and it would be much easier to find and talk to these parents then it would be to talk to teachers.

So over the last few weeks I’ve refined my thesis topic around this new area of research, and my research question for my thesis is as follows: How is the meaning of gender among same-sex couples reflected in their experience of raising children? My method for this research is that of the qualitative, in-depth interview. Looking back I’m amazed that this ended up being my topic. My background is in experimental psychology and political science. So this is not only a unfamiliar method, it’s also a unfamiliar topic! To add on to that, there’s pretty much nobody at UChicago that studies gender issues and the LGBTQ community, so I’m also having a hell of a time finding an advisor. But all that aside, I’m very enthusiastic about this thesis. Mainly this will be my way of proving to PhD acceptance committees that I can do qualitative methods on top of the quantitative methods I already know (and am utilizing in my psych lab). Whether I want to study gender for my PhD is still a question I’m considering. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about my thesis as I get closer to completing it.

Lab Work: So I’m working in Sian Beilock’s Human Performance Lab at UChicago. It’s a cognitive psych lab, and right now the project I’m working on is a huge study of math anxiety among teachers and 1st-2nd grade students. It’s funded by a large federal grant, and the eventual goal is to figure out ways in which we can lower teachers/students math anxiety, thereby allowing them to perform better in math and math related activities. I’ve been doing a whole lot of data collection, including testing kids and teachers, and data entry. I absolutely love working in the lab! The people who work in it are great, I’m getting a lot of good research experience, and I enjoy contributing to the lab’s mission! It also allows me to continue working on my quantitative, experimental psychologists skills while I polish my anthropology boots for my thesis. I am hoping that I can continue working with the lab over the summer, and if I stay in Chicago for the following year while I apply to PhD programs, perhaps I will be lucky enough to work there all next year?

International House: So I live at the International House at the University of Chicago. Let it be said that I plan on writing a “full review” of my experience at the International House soon, that way any prospective students who stumble upon my blog can get my full opinion of the International House. So to keep it simple for the moment, living in the International House has been fun. The social environment is what really makes it worth it. Especially what makes it great for me is that there are several other MAPSS students who live here as well, so we often get together and study. While there are certainly draw backs to living at the I-House, of which I will discuss in a future review, overall it’s suiting me well enough.

Game: Unlike the majority of students who spend their saturday nights either A) getting drunk, or B) writing papers, I spend my saturday nights playing table-top RPGs with some friends. Yes it is super nerdy to spend every saturday night of graduate school playing what is essentially Dungeons & Dragons (I’m actually playing GURPS, for those who know what that is), but I find that this is a much better, and healthier, way to relax and be social then partying. I love my game! I have four dedicated players, and every saturday night we get together, order food, drink some beers and play some GURPS. The setting we are playing in is a unique setting I’ve created, which allows me a lot of creative freedom. I’m preparing a players’ handbook for my game, and as of now it’s over 20 pages, single space, and no where near completion! RPGs are going to be my life-long hobby, and I hope to carry this setting on with me no matter where I go and who I’m playing with. My game, and Game Mastering advice, is certainly something I will be writing about in the near future.

So overall I’m having a great time in Chicago! I’ll be writing more about it in the near future. Also, I can see that much of the traffic I get on this blog is for my music posts, so I’ll be sure to write some more on that topic!

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5 thoughts on “So How’s My Life at The University of Chicago So Far?

  1. Hi Jeff,

    I would be very interested to hear your review of the U. of Chicago i-House if you are still inclined to give your views on the matter. I’ll be a student in the CIR MA program next year so its interesting to hear your perspective on the matter.

    Incidentally, I also liked your post on GURPS–it’s good to know that there’s gaming to be found in Chicago.

  2. Hey Daniel,
    My review of the I-House is quite mixed. I can say I don’t regret living here, but on the other hand I’m moving once I get the chance. It has it’s pros and cons, and whether you should live here really depends on your tolerance of certain things. Overall I’d say unless you’re really adverse to living by yourself in an apartment, you may want to avoid the I-House. The social community in the I House is was really makes it great. On the other hand, it’s just as expensive as an apartment, and you’re basically living in a dorm. So you’re in a very small, single sized dorm room, with communal bathroom and a communal kitchen down stairs. I can say that if you never liked dorm living, you will hate it here. If you liked dorm living like I did, you’ll probably enjoy it. But at this point I’m ready to have my own apartment (to be fair though, I can’t really comment on the quality of the apartments in Hyde Park). I plan on doing a much more thorough review in the future. And if you have any more specific questions, feel free to ask 🙂

    • Hi Andrew,
      I don’t have a full review, but if I did the summary would be as follows: Great environment to meet lots of interesting people, but the facilities are not ideal, and it’s overpriced. If you don’t mind living in a glorified dorm, go with the I-House, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

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