Definitions and classifications
- A graduate appointee is a student enrolled in a program leading to a graduate degree or to a graduate certificate who receives a University-administered stipend which is not less than one-half of the prevailing full amount set by the University for that particular type of appointment.
- To be eligible for a graduate appointment, a student must be regularly admitted, in good academic standing, and enrolled in a program leading to a graduate degree or graduate certificate. In most cases graduate appointees are required to be enrolled as full-time students. A student admitted to a graduate degree program or concurrently to a graduate degree program and a graduate certificate program is eligible for an appointment in any unit in the University. A student admitted only to a graduate certificate program is eligible for an appointment only within the academic unit offering the graduate certificate.
- Although graduate appointments differ in many important ways, each can be classified as either an assistantship or a fellowship. Assistants provide service to the University which is part of the learning experience in their disciplines. As apprentices they perform part of the functions of their academic units. In contrast, Fellows have no formal service obligation to the University, although they are expected to participate in the normal activities of their academic units which is considered training for participants within the program.
- More than one fractional appointment may be held simultaneously. However, in no case shall one person hold more than the equivalent of one full appointment or receive more than 9 credit hours per semester.
- A master’s level student may receive funding for up to two years. At the academic dean’s discretion, a third year of funding may be offered.
- A doctoral level student may receive funding for up to five years (although departments may set further restrictions and offer support for less than five years).
- Appointing units will monitor the progress of appointees toward obtaining a degree. Progress shall be expeditious. Appointees should not seek additional work that will interfere with their ability to complete the responsibilities of their graduate appointment. Please see WMU student work policy regarding additional work on campus.
Types of appointments
- Assistantship: Assistantships are awarded to graduate students with the expectation of appropriate professional service. Graduate assistants are apprentices in the profession, and while the service aspect is emphasized in the definition in order to make a distinction, Graduate Assistants, first and foremost, are students and valued members of the community of scholars. They are chosen for their scholarship and manifest interest in the discipline as well as their ability to perform the needed service. The service of a Graduate Teaching Assistant (T.A.) consists primarily of activities directly related to teaching, while the service of a Graduate Research Discovery Assistant (R.D.) consists primarily of research activity under the supervision of a faculty member or administrator. The service of a Graduate Research Application Assistant (R.A.) includes all other professional work in the unit accepted as appropriate and germane to the student’s educational goal.
- Fellowship: Fellowships are awarded to students who have distinguished themselves by outstanding academic achievement or special abilities. Fellowships are provided by the University or by another donor with the approval of the University. The fellowship grant (stipend) is a gift to help the fellow achieve an educational goal. Most fellowships also carry a tuition award. The service required of graduate assistants may vary among departments, each of which determines its own range of appropriate possibilities subject to administrative review. Whatever kind of service is expected, however, a full assistantship in any department consists of twenty hours of service per week or its equivalent. Details of service will be outlined in each fellows letter of award. Equivalency is calculated on the basis of the value assigned by a department to the performance of each particular service.
Salary and stipend
- The amount of a fellowship grant (stipend) is set by the donor with the concurrence of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
- The minimum salary for full-time Assistants in each type of appointment is established by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and published annually by the Graduate College.
- Fractional awards are made for fractional appointments.
- Assistantship and fellowship awards have tax implications. Detailed records of educational expenses and check stubs from any payment received from the University should be kept for tax purposes.
- Affirmative action: The University’s Affirmative Action Policy shall apply to graduate appointments.
- Professional ethics: Graduate appointees shall adhere to the same standards of professional ethics as regular faculty. (See “Statement on Professional Ethics” in current Agreement between WMU and the AAUP).
Notification of status
- At the time of their appointment, graduate appointees shall be informed in writing of the specific conditions of the appointment. They shall be informed that the offer of an appointment is contingent upon acceptance into a graduate degree program at the University, and continuance of the appointment depends, in part, on satisfactory progress in that program and satisfactory performance of assigned duties. The letter shall also state the amount of the award, whether a tuition award is involved, the probable assigned activities, the length of the appointment, conditions of service, and, if appropriate, the criteria for renewal. Any other conditions relevant to an individual appointment shall be contained in the letter of appointment.
- Each appointee shall be provided with information prepared by the Graduate College concerning current University-wide procedures, practices, privileges, and responsibilities that relate to graduate appointees. Each department is responsible for providing any supplemental information on these matters that is necessary and specific to that department.
- Assigned activities of graduate appointees shall be relevant professional experiences.
- Graduate appointees can expect professional guidance and timely evaluation in the performance of their duties.
- A graduate appointment or fellowship, whether full or partial, requires a minimum enrollment of six credits per semester or three credits per session.
- Some circumstances may allow for decreased enrollment; these include students enrolled in dissertation or thesis hours or capstone courses, or those who have only one course remaining in a degree program. In all cases of under-enrollment, departments will advise appointees of the procedures in the Graduate College for reviewing and approving enrollments that are below the minimum requirement.
- It should be noted that students registered for five or more credits a semester (four or more credits a session) are assessed, as part of the enrollment fee, prepaid student health center and recreational center fees that allow access to health center services and recreational center facilities. Students enrolled for four or fewer credits a semester (three or fewer credits a session) are assessed a lesser enrollment fee which allows for only limited services at the health center and provides ten visits to the recreation center.
- Tuition awards: Graduate appointees may, at the discretion of the University, be granted partial or full tuition award. Any such tuition award will be identified in the appointment letter. Tuition awards are awarded only during the semester(s) or sessions(s) a graduate appointment is held. Students who are granted such partial or full tuition awards and subsequently withdraw from a class or from classes after the refund period will be required to repay the portion of the tuition award that was granted as a benefit of the appointment. Any portion of a tuition award that has not been used by the end of drops and adds will be forfeited by the student for that term. Teaching Assistant that are TAU unit members and are on an appointment and do not use the full amount of their allotted Teaching Assistant credits of tuition remission during either of Fall/Spring semesters may defer the unused credits to Summer I and /or Summer II session subsequent to the Fall/Spring semester in which credits were granted. For more information go to Application for Delayed Tuition Remission.
- Library: Graduate appointees will be accorded the same privileges and responsibilities as faculty members in the use of library facilities. These are specified in the faculty handbook (Western Michigan University Policy Handbook).
- Parking: Graduate appointees are exempt from paying the motor vehicle registration fee, but are required to register their motor vehicles. Parking Services has moved to a virtual permit system. A “virtual permit” is a non-tangible internet based permit where parking rights are assigned to the license plate of a registered vehicle. The purchase of a permit can be done at any time with a smart device or computer by clicking the “Get a Permit” button located on the parking home page.
- Campus bookstore: Graduate appointees will be accorded discount privileges on purchases at the Western Michigan University Bookstore in the same manner and degree as faculty and staff members. Discount will be given for current semester or session only; the appointee will be required to present their student identification card and current letter of appointment.
- University facilities: Graduate appointees will be accorded the use of University facilities (e.g., student offices, research facilities, etc.) authorized by the director of the facilities on the same basis that they are authorized for part-time faculty.