TA Application Process


Teaching assistantships and associateships are not scholarships; rather the graduate student is employed for up to 20 hours per week to assist an instructor in teaching introductory level anthropology courses to undergraduate students. The faculty choose those graduate students who have demonstrated a strong capability to teach well. Teaching assistantships and associateships, of course, provide a graduate student with invaluable professional experience. Students who demonstrate exceptional teaching skill may be appointed as teaching associates who teach their own independent courses under the mentorship of a faculty member. In addition to an annual stipend paid weekly, teaching assistants and associates receive a waiver of tuition.

Students should gain some teaching experience even before applying for assistantships -- for example, by presenting oral class reports, by offering a lecture in one of the introductory courses, or by volunteering to organize a discussion section. In such cases, the student should arrange for the course instructor to evaluate such contributions and to place a written copy of this evaluation in the student's file.

Students desiring graduate teaching assistantships or associateships must apply each academic year whether or not they have held such positions previously. Renewal is in no case considered automatic. As a rule, assistantships and associateships are granted for an academic year, but under special circumstances may be granted for a single semester. The deadline for filing applications is announced by the department chair in the MegaMemo. Application forms are available from the graduate secretary.

Preference is given to students who have been in the program for at least one semester or who have not held assistantships or associateships for an extended period of time. Various factors determine the number of semesters for which assistantships or associateships may be renewed, among them the number of qualified applicants and the number of positions available to the department; the maximum number for several years now has been six semesters. The main consideration in the granting of graduate teaching assistantships and associateships is the quality of undergraduate instruction. Selections are therefore made by the department's Executive Committee on the basis of its estimation of the teaching potential of each applicant. Only written evaluations and other information in the students' files are used in evaluating applicants. Financial need plays no part in the awarding of teaching assistantships and associateships.

All graduate students in good academic standing in the department are eligible to apply for these positions. The department deems it unwise for graduate assistants and associates to elect more than nine credits per semester while holding a full appointment. Further, those on a full appointment are required to be enrolled on a full-time basis (see Chapter V, paragraph E).

Application Process

Early in the Spring semester of each year, the department chair issues a call in the MegaMemo for applications for TA positions for the ensuing academic year. The due date for these applications is on or about March 1. Only currently enrolled graduate students are eligible to apply at this point. The graduate assistant has application forms and accepts completed applications. Once the departments Executive Committee has assigned each applicant to a tier (see section 4 below) and rank ordered applicants within each tier, the resulting list forms the basis for assigning individuals to courses, in rank order, for the ensuing Fall and Spring semesters. Additions to the top of this list may occur in two ways: (1) the department meeting may designate one or more positions as recruitment TAs; (2) the department may have an obligation to guarantee a TA position to someone given a fellowship the previous year. There also may be additions to the bottom of the list, when the chair issues a call for more applications subsequent to the initial call. Such a subsequent call will be issued to currently enrolled and to newly admitted students. These additions to the bottom of the list will be rank ordered by the Executive Committee, if they arrive during the academic year, or by the chair, if they arrive during June, July, or August. The rank ordering shall follow the standards spelled out in sections 3 and 4 below. Late applications, as they arrive, are added to the bottom of the list. This rank-ordered list is not re-ordered with the addition of new applicants. The list is replaced by the new list developed in the ensuing Spring semester.

The student submits a cover letter, a completed application form, teaching inventory, and a current CV. The purpose of the cover letter is to provide information not included elsewhere in the application materials. The letter may contain such items as supplemental areas of study (language, background research, complementary courses outside the department), and fieldwork or other issues that may have affected the rate of progress through the program. The applicant should make sure that her or his file is in order. Complete files should minimally contain: course/teaching evaluations for courses applicants have taught or assisted in teaching at UMass or elsewhere; current transcript; letters of evaluation of teaching experience and/or of core program courses (as relevant); and copies of publications and other relevant papers.

Assessment of Applications

The department's Executive Committee is responsible for reviewing all application packets and applicants' files and for developing a rank ordering of all applicants, following the guidelines set forth below in sections 3 and 4. The Chair informs each applicant of: 1) her/his point score broken down by category, and 2) rank out of total number of applicants.

Assignment to Courses

The GPD assigns those on the ranked list to specific courses primarily on the basis of the best match between the needs for instruction and the candidates' qualifications. In making assignments, the GPD considers applicants' preferences and tries to assign individuals so that cumulatively over the duration of their graduate student teaching careers here, they teach across the anthropology curriculum. Those applicants not appointed to teaching positions remain as alternates to be appointed in rank order as positions may become available throughout the academic year.

Applicant Tiers

As the first step in the ranking process, applicants are separated into the following tiers, then ranked within each tier according to standards of teaching and academic excellence, outlined in the criteria listed below in section 4.

*Note: For students in tier 5 beacuse of incompete grades, if the student is able to complete course work for an incomplete grade, and if the professor responsible submits a grade change form, the student should inform the Department chair and will be moved to tier 4, assumin not more than one other incomplete grade still remain. None of the above shall allow prior TA offers to be rescinded.

Applicants must submit all application materials to the graduate assistant on or before the deadline, normally a Friday. The graduate assistant will promptly inform the applicant whether the application is complete, and if not, exactly what materials remain to be filed. In such instances, the applicant will be expected to file the missing materials promptly. Applications that remain incomplete by noon on the date when they are reviewed (normally the following Wednesday) shall be considered formally late

  • First tier: applicants who at the time of the effective date of their appointment would begin their first through fourth semester of being a teaching assistant funded out of the Departments allotment of TA resources and/or from RAP resources. Incoming graduate students will be ranked by the Executive Committee and place at the bottom of Tier 1 for TA ranking purposes. Incoming graduate students will be ranked by the Executive Committee and placed at the bottom of Tier 2 for TA ranking purposes
  • Second tier: applicants who at the time of the effective date of their appointment would begin their fifth or sixth semester of being a teaching assistant funded out of the Department's allotment of TA-resources and/or from RAP resources. .
  • Third tier: applicants who at the time of their application meet these conditions:
    1. 1. would begin their seventh or more semester of being a teaching assistant funded out of the Department's TA resources and/or RAP resources.
  • Fourth tier: applicants who...
    1. have submitted a late application, or
    2. at the time of their application are on provisional status.
  • Fifth tier: Ineligible for appointment. This includes applicants...
    1. who are on probation in the department.
    2. who have more than one incomplete grade*.
    3. whose teaching evaluations manifest a pattern of strongly negative response and /or failure to perform duties at the minimum standard acceptable to the department and the University.

Upon request, the Executive Committee provides students placed in this tier with reasons for this assignment.

Ranking Criteria

Applicants within each category are ranked according to the Executive Committee's assessment of their teaching ability and of the quality of their academic record, on the basis of information in the applicants' files. Teaching ability and academic excellence are given equal weight. Each of the criteria is assessed in detail according to the following system: In addition to submitting an application form, applicants must make sure their files are complete and up-to-date. The following items constitute the basis on which applicants are evaluated:

Academic quality is rated in two categories ( i.e., course work and academic awards; research and scholarship;) and teaching ability is rated in two categories (i.e. teaching experience; teaching quality). For each applicant, each of these categories is scored on a scale of zero to five points, with the exception of teaching quality category, which is scored on a scale of zero to ten points. Thus the maximum possible point score is 20 points. Details of the categories are:

Academic quality

  • Category 1: a combination of grades (with GPA relevant only for Anthropology courses), evaluations of course work, and academic awards received during graduate study; Maximum of five points.
  • Category 2: a combination of publications, technical reports, papers presented at conferences, grant proposals and grants awarded and, where appropriately documented, professional service. These forms of research and scholarship are weighted by type and by years of graduate study. Maximum of five points.

Teaching quality

  • Category 1: a combination of type and degree of evaluated teaching experience, within and outside of the department. Maximum of five points.
  • Category 2: quality of teaching as indicated by classroom/student evaluations and letters of evaluation. Maximum of five points. SRTI evaluation forms should be used for all teaching TAs as these provide the most objective and efficient way for the Executive Committee to evaluate teaching quality.

Finally, the academic and teaching subtotals are added for a maximum possible of 20 points. The applicant with the most points is then ranked first, the applicant with the second largest number of points, second, etc.