Being a graduate assistant in West Virginia University’s Undergraduate Advising Services Center has given Jan Miller the chance to get a head start on her counseling career – and of course, free tuition.
Miller, a counseling psychology doctoral student from Augusta, Ga., is one of WVU’s more than 1,700 graduate assistants. She is an advisor for the Teaching, Empowering, Advising and Mentoring program, advises approximately 70 undergraduate students and teaches several orientation courses.
Students like Miller do more than get a tuition waiver and stipend, which is usually between $10,000 and $22,000 a year, depending on department and graduate level – they help advance the University’s mission areas of research, teaching and service.
“The University would grind to a halt without graduate assistants,” said Jonathan Cumming, associate provost for graduate academic affairs.
An estimated 60 percent of graduate assistants at WVU teach entry-level courses, or in a few cases, upper-level offerings; the rest serve as research assistants or work in service-related areas such as advising.
“Having them in the labs and teaching courses frees up the faculty to focus more on research, scholarship and grant writing,” Cumming said. “And, it helps the University to serve many more students because the faculty can offer specialty upper division courses for their majors.”
Obtaining a graduate assistantship might sound ideal to the average student, but they are not easy to come by. The assistantships in most cases are very competitive and require students to fill out an application, complete essays, be interviewed and prove that they have the academic record and credentials needed.
For the most part, students are hired in the department area that fits with their major concentration. However, students who are hired in the advising center – which has approximately 30 graduate assistants – come from every discipline.
No matter where they are placed, students take away valuable skills that will help them in their desired career.
“My GA position has given me wonderful experience working with students in such areas as scheduling, major choice, career choice, retention and student success in college life. The camaraderie at the advising center and the leaders helped me appreciate the importance of work ethic and team work within a unit,” said Harrison Oonge, who is from Kenya and is a doctoral student in curriculum and instruction.
Oonge has held two graduate assistantships at WVU. He was a student advisor and currently serves as a graduate assistant in the Benedum Collaborative which is located in the College of Human Resources and Education, where he facilitates seminars, supports action research, co-teaches education courses and collaborates on research and program evaluation efforts.
The number of graduate assistants each year stays about the same. However, as enrollment increases and more research grants are established, more graduate assistants are added, Cumming said.
For more information on available graduate assistantships, students are urged to contact their individual schools and departments or visit the student jobs Web site at http://studentjobs.wvu.edu .
More information on graduate education is available online at http://graduateeducation.wvu.edu .
By Colleen DeHart
WVU News and Information Services
CONTACT: News and Information Services