Steadily across the country Autumn is rolling in, and many of us are getting in gear to return to our term-time lives. If you’re involved in organising a MAP Chapter at your university – or even if you’re not – we have some suggestions for activities you might want to get involved in. Let us know if you have any suggestions to add!
1. Have a presence in inductions
When my first Autumn term came as the organiser of a MAP chapter I asked my department whether I could have a place at the undergraduate and the masters induction sessions to talk about MAP. The department were happy to have me there, and I was glad to do it!
As it happens, the gender balance of the staff present at the induction that year was terrible – even by philosophy’s standards, and the standards of our department. So I was really glad that after the lecturers introduced themselves I was able to just talk a little about the fact the university had an active MAP chapter, the projects we ran both nationally and at the university level, and what our aims were. It was brief, and I mostly stuck to two things: 1) how we might be able to help if the students needed it, and 2) how the students might be able to help us if they wanted to get involved.
I didn’t expect much from the brief talk, I was happy just to have a presence there on the day. So I was surprised when it had a bigger affect than I’d anticipated. Several students went to speak to me afterwards about their experiences in philosophy, and about the environment and the discipline in general. They’d noticed the gender imbalance and the lack of diversity in some aspects of the curriculum, and they said it was reassuring even to hear that there were people in the department who were working to make things better. It was a surprisingly rewarding experience!
2. Arrange a meeting with your university’s philosophy society
Most universities tend to have a student-led society, and even though they can be really varied from year to year – a bit like the MAP chapters themselves – they can be a good way to reach out and forge links with the undergraduate community. When I founded a chapter I didn’t really have any contact with the undergraduates beyond the fact that I taught some of them, so I knew it was something important to work on.
At a meeting you can find out what their ambitions are for the year, and see if there’s anything that the MAP representatives can support. You might suggest film screenings, for example, which explore diverse philosophical topics. Some societies even host academic philosophy talks aimed specifically at undergraduates. Here, again, you can offer advice on interesting and diverse topics and speakers.
3. Advertise the MAP Mentoring Scheme
Departments often have spaces with posters and philosophy-related adverts, papers, things of interest. Often placed helpfully in a corridor where students tend to lurk, perhaps before meeting up with a lecturer or waiting outside their office. It might be worth asking around to see if anyone’s willing to put up a copy of the MAP UK Mentoring Scheme poster! They’re colourful, they’re helpful, they’re important. What more can you want?
4. Organise a coffee afternoon
A coffee afternoon is a great option for a relatively low-pressure and low-budget event to kickstart your term. It can serve multiple purposes: not only can it provide a break during the day and a way for newer research students and staff to meet each other, but it can provide a good forum to discuss what sort of problems people are facing, and what sorts of activities people would like to get involved with in the future.
The coffee afternoons can also be tailored to your own department and needs. You might want to include staff, you might not. You might even have a certain theme – some departments have had success in hosting a coffee afternoon centred around mental health, for example.
If and when you and your chapter organise any events that you’d like to advertise outside of your own department, make sure to drop us an email so that we can advertise them on our Upcoming Events post.
Lizzy Ventham is a MAP UK Co-director and a Teaching Fellow at Trinity College Dublin. Follow her on Twitter here.