Teaching assistantships (TAs) are awarded by the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Western Michigan University in order to financially support graduate students and provide professional development in the form of teaching and research assistance. The TA consists of a tuition waiver and accompanying salary. TAs in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences are highly-competitive and awarded once per year. For more detailed information regarding salary and tuition remission, tax implications, privileges and benefits available to graduate appointees, please consult the WMU Graduate College Assistantship information webpage.
The term for TAs in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences is one academic year (fall semester and the following spring semester). TAs are not typically provided during the summer sessions. New to the university graduate students who are offered a TA are guaranteed appointments for two academic years (master's) or four academic years (doctoral) from the date of enrollment in the program, pending available funding, satisfactory performance in teaching, and satisfactory progress in their program of study. TAs beyond these time periods are neither promised nor guaranteed. While appointed, the student must enroll in at least six graduate credit hours (5000 level or above) per semester.
TAs are typically assigned to teach one or more laboratory sections of introductory through 5000-level courses. Additional work may be assigned as laboratory coordinator of a multi-section course, grader, or lecture assistant for large-enrollment lecture courses. Please see the Teaching Assistantship Course Information sheet for a current list of courses that employ TAs, qualifications, and typical duties for each course. New and returning students are welcome to express preference for specific work assignments on the TA application form, however, the final assignment is determined by the department.
To be eligible for a TA in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, a student must first be formally accepted to or currently enrolled and taking courses in either the PhD Geosciences or the MS Geosciences program for the term(s) that the award is given.
Criteria for initial award
Program of study: Teaching assistantships are preferentially awarded to students enrolled in the PhD Geosciences program. A limited number of TAs may be available to students enrolled in the MS Geosciences programs. Students enrolled in the MS Earth Science (non-thesis) program are not eligible for awards.
Grade point average: Teaching assistantships are preferentially awarded to graduate students with a GPA of 3.5 or above.
Prior teaching experience: Teaching assistantships are preferentially awarded to students with prior experience teaching, especially positions in upper-level undergraduate courses.
Criteria for continuation of award
Satisfactory progress in the program of study: TAs must receive a “satisfactory” evaluation in their audit letter for each semester of study that they hold the position. If a TA receives a “mostly satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” audit, they will have one semester to attend to any outstanding items noted in the audit letter. Receiving a less than “satisfactory” evaluation in the audit letter for two consecutive semesters will be grounds for revoking the TA. The graduate advisor, Dr. Peter Voice, is responsible for auditing the progress of all students at the end of each semester. Both the student and their advisor will receive a copy of the audit letter.
Satisfactory performance in teaching. TAs are expected to:
- Adhere to all University policies, regulations, directives, guidelines and student codes of conduct.
- Attend and participate in all course-related meetings, as required by the supervising course instructor and/or lab coordinator TA.
- Attend and assist with class sessions (beyond the assigned lab sections), as required by the supervising course instructor and/or lab coordinator TA.
- Communicate any absences to the supervising course instructor and/or lab coordinator TA. If a class must be missed, the TA will arrange a substitute and complete the "Absence from Class" form.
- Start and end all class sessions on time.
- Interact with students in a positive, ethical, attentive and professional manner.
- Grade student work consistently and fairly, and return all work in a timely fashion.
- Post weekly office hours in the course or laboratory syllabus, and be available to help students at the stated office hours.
- Conduct end-of-semester WMU course evaluations; performance will be noted and taken into consideration in future awards.
- Adhere to any performance requirements specified in the current TAU Agreement in addition to those specified above.
TAs are also expected to comply with any employment restrictions as noted in their appointment letter.
Each semester, TAs will receive an evaluation by their course supervisor or laboratory coordinator using the criteria stated above. The graduate advisor is responsible for obtaining the teaching evaluation forms from faculty, and for communicating the performance rating to each TA. TAs must receive a “satisfactory” or better teaching evaluation for each semester for which the student is a TA. They will have one semester to attend to any outstanding items as noted in the teaching evaluation letter. Receiving a less than “satisfactory” rating in the teaching evaluation letter for two consecutive semesters will be grounds for revoking the TA.
Apply for a teaching assistantship
Prospective students: Prospective graduate students must: 1) Be formally accepted into either the PhD or the MS Geosciences program, and 2) Submit the application form to Cristine Thomas. All prospective students who wish to be considered for a teaching assistantship are required to have their application complete at least four to six weeks ahead of the Feb 15 deadline in order to give the Graduate Admissions Committee sufficient time to evaluate each candidate’s qualifications and reach a decision. A complete application means that all required documents (transcripts, recommendations, etc.) have been received, processed and uploaded to your electronic application; this process can take several weeks. As such, prospective graduate students should begin the application process at least two to three months ahead of the Feb 15 deadline in order to ensure consideration. Students who do not complete their application in the specified time-frame will not be considered and must wait until the following year to apply again. Prospective MS Earth Science (non-thesis) students are not eligible for teaching assistantships.
Current students: Current graduate students in the PhD or MS Geosciences programs may apply for a teaching assistantship by completing the application and submitting it to Cristine Thomas no later than Feb 15 for the following fall semester. Current graduate students who have a TA and are eligible to continue their appointment into the coming year must also submit this form by Feb. 15. MS Earth Science (non-thesis) continuing students are not eligible for teaching assistantships.