The department tries to provide financial support for its fellows, research assistants, and teaching assistants until they qualify for the degrees they are seeking. This support depends upon satisfactory academic progress (including satisfactory grades and prompt completion of courses), upon good performance as an assistant, and upon ability to perform needed duties. Assistants and fellows must register at least for what the Graduate College regards as the minimum normal load. If students or advisors feel a reduced load is necessary, prior approval of the Director of Graduate Studies or the Head of the Department is required.


How Teaching Appointments are Typically Made: The criteria we use in making appointments to particular courses are: qualifications to teach the course (as assessed by the faculty course director), the department's teaching needs, number of years of remaining funding eligibility, and progress toward completion of the degree (i.e., completion of exams, programs of study, etc.). Although it is not always possible to honor student requests to teach a particular course, we do also consider how an appointment can assist a student to obtain teaching experiences helpful to his or her professional development.

In the spring of each year, students are asked to fill out a teaching preferences form indicating what courses they would like to teach during the following year. Students are also encouraged to contact the course director for the course or position (e.g., assistant course director, peer leader) in which they are interested in order to express their interest. We make every effort to notify students promptly regarding their future appointments, though at times late changes may be necessary.

Duties of a Teaching Assistant: The department values excellence, diversity, and collegiality in research, teaching, and service. As a result, all graduate student teachers are expected to uphold these departmental values. The duties of a teaching assistantship include: attending orientation, training, and staff meetings; following the syllabus that your course director has developed and/or approved; meeting with your class at every scheduled class period (in the event that you are unable to meet with your class, you should follow the course procedures for notifying your course director and finding an acceptable substitute); conducting your classroom in a professional manner (e.g., being on time, prepared, organized, and considerate of your students); grading and evaluating student work according to criteria established in the syllabus or otherwise communicated to students; holding office hours scheduled regularly for the convenience of students; following university guidelines for final examinations and reporting grades; reporting problems or issues in the classroom to the appropriate course staff member (i.e., the course director, assistant course director, or peer leader); submitting results of student evaluations (i.e., ICES questionnaires ) to the department head; and any other duties as assigned or required by a specific course assignment (e.g., peer leading in a multi-section course).

How Graduate Student Teaching is Evaluated: The department evaluates teaching performance in a number of ways. All teaching assistants are required to distribute evaluation forms to their students at the end of the semester. These forms, known as ICES (Instructor and Course Evaluation System), are processed by the Division of Measurement and Evaluation; the results are returned to the teaching assistant approximately 6 weeks after the semester ends. The department head receives ICES scores for all graduate teaching assistants; copies of these are also shared with the appropriate course director. You should expect that your course director will follow up with you about your scores, explain how to interpret the scores, identify issues or questions raised by the student feedback you received, and the like. You should also be proactive and bring any questions or concerns raised by the ICES results to the course director. Although the numbers will vary and must always be put into a broader context, generally the department prefers ICES scores to be over 4.0 (out of 5.0) on most measures.

ICES are only one of the ways that your teaching is evaluated, however. Some courses (especially the 100-level courses that use peer leaders) also use a system of classroom visits, where a supervisor or peer leader observes you in the classroom to give direct feedback on classroom performance. You should feel free at any time to request a classroom observation. Course directors and senior teaching assistants are also available to examine assignment sheets, exams, ideas for exercises, or anything else you might need in order to improve your teaching. Finally, your course director may recommend that you take advantage of resources outside of the department, such as those offered by the Center for Teaching Excellence. In short, the department looks at each instructor's performance as broadly as it can and does its best to tailor help and give feedback to each graduate teaching assistant's needs.

There are limits to the amount of support a student may receive from the department. A student seeking a master's degree can receive financial aid from the department for a maximum of two years of study. A student who received a master's degree elsewhere and is seeking a Ph.D. degree can receive financial aid from the department for a maximum of five years of study. A student who receives an M.A. degree from the department and continues in the Ph.D. program can receive financial aid from the department for a maximum of six years of study (total, for the M.A. and Ph.D. combined). For purposes of funding limits, years begin August 16 and end August 15 of the following year. Receiving funding during any part of a year is considered funding for that year. For example, an MA student who chooses to enroll in January of one year will complete the first year of funding on August 15 of that same year and begin the second year of funding the following year. 

The intention of the department's policy is to assure that students are supported for a period of time that is normally sufficient to complete their degrees, regardless of the source of that financial support. By way of illustration: Suppose that a student takes an assistantship in another campus unit, as sometimes happens when the student has an opportunity to gain useful experience in an allied field. The time in that job counts against the time limits described above. So, a master's candidate who holds an assistantship in the department for one year, and then takes an assistantship in Business and Technical Writing for another year, will be considered to have used up the two-year entitlement for master's students. Naturally, there is nothing to prevent a Communication graduate student from seeking employment elsewhere on campus after using up the departmental entitlement--although it is best if students complete their degrees within the allotted period of financial aid.

For Ph.D. students, receiving departmental aid for the last year of study (the fifth year for a student who received a master's degree elsewhere, the sixth year for a student who received a master's degree here) is contingent upon the student's having been admitted to Stage III of doctoral work (i.e., having passed the preliminary examination, that is, having the appropriate form filed with the Graduate College) no later than the last day of instruction in the spring semester preceding the last year of study.

These are maximum aid periods; students should not expect to receive aid beyond these limits, save in exceptional circumstances. These maximum limits do not guarantee aid for this duration nor for summer periods.

Financial aid from the department for the summer term is limited. Persons with nine-month teaching or research assistantships of from 25% to 67% time are automatically provided a summer tuition and fee waiver. Other summer aid cannot be guaranteed, although some assistantships and fellowships are awarded each summer. Decisions about summer financial aid are based on considerations of (1) the specific requirements of courses to be taught (e.g., experience with and knowledge of the subject matter), (2) seniority, and (3) progress in one's degree program.

The summer at the end of one's funding limit (e.g., the 5th summer for Ph.D. students who obtained their M.A. elsewhere, or the 2nd summer for students who completed an M.A. in the spring semester) is considered within the normal funding limit. However, students who graduate with an M.A. in the spring semester are not guaranteed summer aid. They may request to be considered for it according to the criteria outlined above. After the funding limit has been passed, however, students will move to the bottom of the priority list for summer funding. Although it may be possible to receive summer funding past the usual limits, it is likely that summer funding will not be available to people past the usual limits. 

Receiving funding from the department during the summer, regardless of source, comes with the expectation that students take at least one summer course during the 8-week session.