Curriculum & Alumni

As the hub for cultural policy studies and research at the University of Chicago, the Cultural Policy Center educates emerging policymakers, cultural practitioners, and scholars. Our interdisciplinary curriculum draws on public policy studies, the humanities, and the social sciences.

In addition to our course offerings, our weekly workshops provide a forum for graduate students to meet visiting scholars and practitioners and to present their own research, and our conferences and guest speakers provide a real-world view of the sector.

Concentrations in cultural policy studies

The Cultural Policy Center does not grant degrees or accept applications for admission. Rather, our courses provide the option of a cultural policy concentration within the University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Humanities ("MAPH"). Students in other master's programs such as the Master of Public Policy program at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies and the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences also can build courses of study in cultural policy within the guidelines of their specific programs, and through consultations with their advisors and with faculty affiliated with the Cultural Policy Center.

A concentration in cultural policy studies is of particular interest to:

  • Those seeking careers in public service agencies within the cultural sector, such as foundations or government agencies that support the arts
  • Current and emerging leaders of cultural organizations seeking greater understanding of policy issues that confront the sector
  • Students seeking to pursue doctoral work with a focus on the policy dimensions of cultural studies, cultural theory, or cultural history

Through a cultural policy concentration, students are introduced to the conceptual frameworks required for cultural policy research, as well as with data sources and other tools commonly used by researchers. They gain an understanding of the features of the cultural sector and the issues it faces, including the structure and dynamics of cultural organizations, funding processes, legal issues such as intellectual property rights and censorship, and changing audiences, among other issues.

The MAPH option requires an introductory course, a research project-based course, and at least two cultural policy-related electives, as well as the Foundations of Interpretive Theory course (the "Core" course) required of all MAPH students and a final thesis on a topic broadly related to cultural policy studies. View our list of course descriptions.

Recent MA thesis projects:


Jenny Farrell, "The Last One Hundred Thousand:  Using U.S. v. Portrait of Wally to Understand the Future of Holocaust Restitution" (MAPH)

Sanniah Jabeen, "Of Festivals and Capabilities: An Argument for Cultural Policy in Pakistan" (MAPH)

Kerri Malone, "Sifting Between New Visions for Arts and Culture in U.S. Cities:  A Comparative Examination of Cultural Plan Adopted in 2010-2014" (MAPH)

Robert Caleb Mooty, "Every Corner Has a Story:  The Guided Tour and the Production of Place in Pilsen" (MAPSS) 

Robyn Trem, "Distinctions in Place:  An Ethnographic Analysis of Three Arts Venues' Incorporation of Artwork by Mr. Imagination" (MAPSS) 


Michael K. O'Malley, "Tired of Pointing a Finger": How Artists Affect Equitable Urban Development" (MAPH)

Eileen Truong, "Men Who Knit: Exploring Gender and Community through Knitting" (MAPH)

Cecilia Yang, "Beijing 798 Arts District: A Policy Tool for the Chinese Government to Embrace and Neutralize Globalization" (MAPH)

Gwendolyn Rugg, "Heroes on Horses?  The Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Public Art" (MAPSS)


Patience Baach, "The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art:  Cultural Capital in the New South" (MAPSS)

Amanda Allen, "The Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: 19th-Century Institutions in a 21st-Century World" (MAPH)

Gregory Surh, "Consumption to Creation through Digitization: New Cultural Heritage and Digital Surrogates in the Smithsonian Institution" (MAPH)

Breahna Wilson, "Must-Have or Wish List: The Instrumental and Intrinsic Values of Art Education and its Ironic Relationship to Educational Policy" (MAPH)

Nicholas Wenpin Quah, "Funny by the Back Door: The Stand-Up Comedy Career in 'Off-Center' Chicago" (MAPSS)

Patience Baach, "The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: Cultural Capital in the New South" (MAPSS)

Grace Shyue-Miin Tung, "Thoughts in Things: Designing the Governing Myth of 9/11 through Permanent Memorials" (MAPSS)


Stefanie M. Etow, "Between Street and Skyline: Photographic Impressions of an L Train Transient" (MAPH)

Steven Rice, "Top Down, Ground Up: Development Ecology in Chicago" (MAPH)


Kathleen Grogan, "Curating for Ghosts: The Effects of Foundation and Corporate Philanthropy on the Arts" (MAPH)

Jane Hanna, "New Technologies, New Ways of Seeing: Smartphone Apps, Art Museums, and Spectatorship" (MAPH Thesis)

Christian Lopez, "The Right to Virtual Heritage" (MAPH)

Kathleen Connolley, "The Smart Choice: Exploring Student Motivation for Visiting the Smart Museum" (MAPSS)


Cheryl R. Hughes, "Study of Local Arts Agencies: A Case for Local Government Support of the Arts" (MAPSS)


Evan Alston, "Opening a Gate: Anthologizing Haitian Kreyol Poetry" (MAPH)

Ryan Rathmann, "Third Place Creation Through Historic Preservation -Antiquated Buildings, Antiquated Policies, and New Alternatives" (MAPH)

Abigail Sebaly, "Performance Curation: Notes Toward a Practice" (MAPH)