Funding Grad School by Teaching

Carrie Rheingans

Professional/terminal (non-PhD) graduate school is not cheap – but it can be free in exchange for your hard work. The University of Michigan is a large institution with more undergraduates enrolled in courses than can possibly be taught by professors, so graduate students are employed to teach many introductory level courses’ discussion and lab sections. This semester, I will be teaching a 300-level genetics lab course in the department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Graduate students who teach at U-M are called Graduate Student Instructors (GSI). There are also positions available as Graduate Student Staff Assistants (who do administrative work for various schools or departments) and Graduate Student Research Assistants (who do research with professors). Both of those positions come with a tuition waiver, monthly stipend, and health insurance, just like the GSI positions do.

You can find positions for fall 2010 at the U-M Human Resources Graduate Student Appointments page. There’s a way to get a daily digest of postings as they happen. Many of the fall 2010 positions will have applications due in February and March. Most departments have PhD students who’ve been promised funding as part of their program – each department’s own PhD students usually have priority over any Public Health students who might apply to teach. There are a limited number of GSI positions in the School of Public Health, but they are usually filled by PhD students in the various departments of SPH. To apply, you need to apply to each individual department, and they all have different procedures. Some won’t take a first-year graduate student, some will. Obviously, a background in that field and teaching experience make applicants more competitive!

If you’ve never taught, you can still be hired for a GSI position. That was my case. I had taken this course as an undergrad here (back when I still wanted to be a genetic engineer!), which helps. The University of Michigan offers a lot of training, as does each department, so you shouldn’t be completely unprepared for the first day of class. I’ve had 17 hours of training already – and my first day of teaching isn’t until Monday! U-M also has a Center for Research on Learning and Teaching that does just that – researches learning and teaching – and they provide wonderful information for incoming GSIs, as well as professors, lecturers, and more.

I am very excited to finally start my teaching on Monday, but of course a little nervous too. As a woman teaching a science class, I’ve been told in various trainings that I might find some students challenging me more than my fellow male GSIs. I’m not as worried about that as I am about students breaking expensive lab equipment! My other worry is time management, since I’m teaching, doing my social work field placement, planning for going abroad for four months this summer, and… oh, yeah – being a full-time graduate student! I’ll be sure to post more about this fun balancing act as the semester progresses 🙂

4 thoughts on “Funding Grad School by Teaching

  1. Pingback: Teaching is Fun! « SPH Life – Student Blog

  2. Pingback: Grading is NOT Fun « SPH Life – Student Blog

  3. Pingback: My Last First Day of School « SPH Life – Student Blog

  4. Hi Carrie! Thanks so much for sharing this. Can you tell me what your time committment was like? How much time did GSI take up and what was it like balancing it with your coursework and personal life?

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