Graduate Assistants (GAs) are, first and foremost, graduate students pursuing an education. These students are afforded opportunities to work closely with faculty members and undergraduate students in teaching, research, or administrative roles throughout the university.
Graduate assistants benefit educationally and professionally. They may gain expertise in their field; enhance their research skills and develop pedagogical skills; acquire experience in leadership, interpersonal effectiveness, and performance evaluation; acquire academic administrative experience; and enjoy collegial collaborations with advisors that may result in joint publications and other professional activities. Skills learned in assistantships prepare students for careers in academic, corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations.
Assistantships also provide graduate students with the financial resources necessary to pursue graduate degrees. The financial support through stipends and tuition remission is part of the University’s commitment to the success of our graduate students. Graduate Assistantship recipients are also eligible to receive fellowships and scholarships.
The University is committed to ensuring that graduate assistant assignments help meet student funding goals, support student academic preparation, enhance student qualifications, and are consistent with the educational objectives of the student and program.
The title of Graduate Assistant (GA) is used in all university documents, but Graduate Assistants are identified as:
Qualified graduate students may move between these kinds of appointments during their graduate education. Descriptions of each type of Graduate Assistant is provided below.
Other opportunities for work study and student employment may be available in specific areas of the university. To inquire about those positions, students should contact the individual department or office. Athletic student employment is handled through the office of the Vice-President for Athletics. Those positions are not considered Graduate Assistantships.
Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)
Graduate students holding GTA appointments will generally not have a primary responsibility for a course, but may serve as discussion leaders in breakout sections, grade papers, or assist the primary instructor of a course in other ways. GTAs may also engage in a range of other instructional activities that are not tied to a specific course (e.g. proctoring for multiple courses, tutoring, advising).
On rare occasions when a student is enrolled with significant degrees, credentials or experience to meet accreditation standards for service as an instructor for an undergraduate course, a GTA may be assigned primary instructional duties for a course. Written permission must be secured by the school or department from the associate provost. The dean or department chair shall determine that the credentials of a student qualify the individual to undertake the work assignment. Typical responsibilities and duties for a GTA with a teaching assignment would include:
Within a school or department, the particular assignment depends on departmental needs and the experience and academic qualifications of the GTA. All GTAs serving in any capacity are under the direction and close supervision of a member of the faculty. Prior to the start of the assistantship, the supervising faculty member and the TA will meet to review and confirm expectations and responsibilities, including a written summary of required duties.
For GTAs, the 20-hour average should include the time spent in faculty lectures, class preparation, classroom or laboratory teaching, reading and commenting on student papers or examinations, office consultation, and other duties required to carry out the teaching role. The time that GTAs devote to their assignments varies. The proportion of hours spent in preparation, classroom or laboratory time, and grading, for example, differs from one discipline to another. In some disciplines, a new GTA may find that a task such as grading initially requires more time than the usual 20-hour weekly average allows. In determining the amount of time expected for a teaching assignment, consideration shall be given to such factors as type of instruction, number of students instructed, and other factors specific to the course or group of courses to which the instructional duty expectations apply.
GTAs may be required to come to campus prior to the actual beginning of classes to participate in orientation and class-preparation duties. GTAs usually complete their formal duties when examinations have been graded.
Graduate Research Assistant (GRA)
Graduate Research Assistants are graduate students conducting academically significant research under the direction of a faculty member. Students accepted into a graduate degree program may be appointed as a GRA, depending on credentials, such as (1) admission test scores, (2) grade point averages in previous course work or in the degree program, (3) previous experience, and (4) the nature of the work for which the research assistantship is funded.
The specific duties of a GRA vary according to the nature of the research project and the source of research funding. GRAs may occasionally be asked to conduct some work at home or to do their research at times when classes are not officially in session. The duties of GRAs are also performed under the close direction and supervision of a member of the faculty. Prior to the start of the assistantship, the supervising faculty member and the GRA will meet to review and confirm expectations including a summary of the nature of required duties.
For GRAs, the 20-hour average should include the time spent in the library and/or laboratory, and on all other research tasks providing assistance to the assigned project. Graduate students working on research projects funded by grants may also be working on material directly related to their theses or dissertations. It is not unusual in such cases for grant work and personal work to merge and for the work time to consume far more than the usual 20-hour weekly average. GRAs will follow the project director’s instructions regarding work when classes are not in session.
Graduate Administrative Assistant (GAA)
Graduate Administrative Assistants are graduate students who provide academic and program support. GAA responsibilities are administrative in nature and consist of duties not directly related to teaching or research. Any student accepted into a graduate degree program may be appointed as a GAA.
Academic and non-academic units may employ GAAs, to perform administrative support functions in an office setting or other operational duties and responsibilities. Prior to the start of the assistantship, the supervising dean, chair or administrator will meet with the GAA to review and confirm expectations, including a summary of the nature of required duties, work hours and any specialized training that may be required to fulfill the GAA responsibilities.
For GAAs, the 20-hour weekly average should include all time spent on assigned duties, including mandatory training sessions. GAAs are expected to work no more than the 20-hour average work week. If greater amounts of time are periodically required, written notice should be provided to the GAA that includes a statement of expected duties, approximate dates when extra hours might be necessary, and maximum work hours allowed.
If the GAA is required to work more than 20 hours in a given week, the time in excess of 20 hours should be deducted from another week’s allotment. Just as the unit may require the GAA to work more than 20 hours in a given week to meet peak work periods, the GAA may request that he or she be allowed to reduce time in a given week to finish a paper or study for an exam and make up the hours later. Such arrangements are allowed and encouraged and should be made between the student and the student’s direct supervisor.
GAAs follow the staff holiday and vacation schedule. Consequently, if the campus is closed for any reason for regular staff, GAAs who normally would work those days will receive the appropriate compensation and will not be required to make up the hours missed.
Graduate Assistants at Gardner-Webb University are under the direct supervision of the school, department or program that offers the appointment. The supervising school/department/division determines the GA’s assignment, supervises their work, and makes reappointment recommendations. Supervising deans/chairs/administrators are responsible for ensuring that all Graduate Assistants remain within their approved weekly work hours and do not exceed an average of 20 hours per week. The school/department/division is the primary source of information for the details of the work assignments for the assistantship.
Within the school/department/division, the GA’s work assignment is determined by the dean/chair/administrator in collaboration with faculty or staff members assigned to supervise GA’s on a daily basis in a particular course, laboratory session, research project or administrative role. Graduate Administrative Assistants are ultimately under the supervision of the dean, chair or administrative head of the academic or non-academic units in which they work.
Departments are to provide work assignments that GAs receiving full stipends can satisfactorily complete in no more than a 20-hour average work week, and are to ensure that GAs spend no more than 20 hours per week on average throughout the term of appointment on work unrelated to their teaching, research or administrative duties. The actual number of hours required to complete assignments in any given week may vary as long as the maximum 20 hours average per week is not exceeded in the semester/term.
Workload expectations of the department, and of the student’s advisor/supervisor, should be explicit and clear. The appointment may be full-time (20 hours per week) or in approved exceptions, half-time (10 hours per week) based on student or university needs.
A Graduate Assistant is on an academic appointment not involving academic tenure. In order to be eligible for an assistantship, a student must be enrolled as a full-time graduate student. The appointment for an assistant will be up to a maximum of 20 work hours per week. GAs holding regular 20-hour appointments are considered full-time students by the University if they are registered for at least one course in a semester or term.
If approved as an exception by the Associate Provost for Professional and Graduate Studies, GAs may hold half-time (10 hour) assistantships and receive prorated tuition remission and stipend.
Audited courses are not included in the hours required to be considered full-time students and cannot be used in calculating eligibility status. Individual departments or graduate programs may have higher registration requirements for their GAs.
A Graduate Assistant must be a fully admitted and registered, on-campus graduate student in good standing enrolled in a graduate degree program at Gardner-Webb University and must be making satisfactory progress toward the degree. Appointments are normally given to those students who have shown superior aptitude in their field of study and who appear likely to render a high quality of service to the university by their teaching, teaching assistance, research activities or their administrative work in a unit. Students admitted provisionally may be eligible for graduate assistantships after their first full semester is successfully completed.
Non-Degree Seeking Students are not eligible to hold Graduate Assistantships.
Graduate Assistants may not hold any other employment position provided through the University (i.e. Residential Directors, internships and/or hourly employment) which would result in employment exceeding 29 hours per week. Outside employment must not interfere with performance of duties of the graduate assistant and may be a factor in continuing appointment decisions
Graduate assistants are expected to be committed to the Christian principles and values on which the university is based.
Termination of Loss of Support
A Graduate Assistant’s appointment may be terminated before the expiration of its designated term for loss of funding, for cause, for academic delinquency, by written notice, and by voluntary mutual agreement.
Conduct and Professional Behavior
A Graduate Assistant’s teaching, research, and administrative activities are subject to the ethical precepts and codes of the academic profession, and to the policies and regulations of the university regarding employees. Violation of any of these regulations constitutes a basis for disciplinary action in accordance with procedures set forth in the University’s policies for employees.
In interactions with students, faculty, and all other members of the university community, GAs are expected to conduct themselves with the same sensitivity and thoughtfulness that they expect to receive from others. The University human resource policies affirm the commitment to a policy of eliminating discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, personal appearance, age, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, or on the basis of the exercise of rights secured by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Graduate assistants are expected to abide by University human resources policies for staff and faculty regarding appropriate interactions with students and staff.
These expectations apply equally to GAs and to supervisors of GAs.
Selection and Notification Process