Graduate assistantships to debut at DSU

Graphic by Valerie De La O.

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The Graduate Council has written a new policy to include a graduate assistantship program within the college of humanities and social sciences at Dixie State University.

Michigan State University describes a graduate assistantship as financial support for graduate students that provides a stipend and compensation for work as research or teaching assistants.

Provost Michael Lacourse, vice president of academic affairs, said the English department is the first at DSU to show an interest in having graduate assistants since the school added master’s degree programs. He said the new policy to have a graduate assistantship program in the English department is currently in the approval process and by fall 2019 the program will begin.

“Now [that] the school has introduced a couple masters programs, we felt it was time,” Interim Chair Mike Peterson said. “With a master’s program comes the graduate assistantship. It’s just a natural fit with the English department.”

Peterson said most university English departments across the country include graduate assistantships. He also said the assistantships are a way to help graduate students cut the cost of tuition, gain teaching experience and make themselves more marketable when they begin looking for jobs.

“[The English department’s] master’s degree will be in technical writing and digital rhetoric,” Lacourse said. “For a small number of students in that program that are qualified and have an interest, then we will provide that opportunity for them.”

A graduate assistantship in an English department is generally a teaching position, associate professor Cheri Crenshaw said. There are different types of graduate assistantships depending on the department offering the opportunity, she said.

Kent State University’s website said the duties of a graduate teaching assistant can include teaching lecture courses, discussions and grading homework and exams.

“Graduate assistantships can be teaching assistantships, they could be research assistantships, they could be service assistantships,” Lacourse said. “There’s different ways that you could do this. It’s not just one size fits all.”

Graduates in the program will take a teaching course to prepare them instead of being expected to teach without knowing what to do, Lacourse said.

Students interested in doing a graduate assistantship will need to apply in addition to their application for graduate studies, Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw said, “When you apply for a master’s degree [on the application] there will be a sentence: ‘are you interested in applying for a graduate assistantship?’ click yes, and then you fill out any additional information.”

Peterson, Lacourse and Crenshaw all served in a graduate assistantship program while earning their master’s degrees and all said an assistantship is an excellent way for graduate students to get hands-on training. They said it gives students the experience they will need when they are hired for a job teaching at a college or any other field where a master’s is expected.

“In our industry, graduate assistants are the teachers of record, so when a student takes a course and they have a graduate assistant as the teacher, they’re the professor,” Peterson said.