Students in the MA, MFA, and PhD programs are eligible for graduate teaching assistantships or graduate research assistantships. Students must be enrolled full time in the graduate degree program to qualify for a GTA position. Most positions are offered to entering students.
Assistantships provide these benefits:
- tuition waiver
- waiver of the academic fee
- about 70% of the cost of health insurance
Students pay non-academic fees, which come to about $600 a semester, depending on some choices a student makes.
You can find information on fees and benefits at the Graduate School website: www.grads.vt.edu. If you follow the links under "financial information," you can get specific information on tuition and fees, health insurance, taxes, and more.
Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) receive a stipend for teaching undergraduate courses, and graduate research assistants (GRAs) receive a stipend for collecting and analyzing data for research projects. GTA/GRAs may sometimes be appointed as program assistants, to the Writing Center, or in technical support. In English, MFA stipends are supplemented because of a gift from Alfred E. Knobler.
A full-time GTA/GRA position requires 20 hours of work each week for the university. GTA/GRAs also must enroll for 12 hours of graduate credit each semester in which they hold a GTA or GRA position. Accepting Additional Employment Unless specified otherwise in the assistantship agreement contract, graduate students on full assistantships are not prohibited from seeking additional employment (restrictions may apply to international students). Students should consult with their academic advisor and/or assistantship supervisor as applicable regarding the fulfillment of their assistantship and graduate study responsibilities. Students must notify the Graduate School about any additional employment, including the period of employment, name and contact of employer, and job title or short description of duties.
At the bottom of page 2 of the online Graduate School application form, you will be asked "Do you wish to be considered for an assistantship or fellowship?" If you check yes, you will automatically be added to our list of candidates for assistantships in the program.
Teaching experience is not a prerequisite because we have programs in place to prepare and support you. However, if you have useful experience that will not be evident in your application, you may refer to that in the open-ended questions of the application or in your personal statement. Experience might include teaching, tutoring, work with English language learners, research, administration, or technical support.
The most important qualification for a GTA/GRA appointment is the promise of academic success. We expect that the students to whom we make offers have an excellent chance of doing well in pursuing their degrees. We are confident of our ability to develop your potential as a teacher; thus teaching experience is not a requirement.
Exceptional students who do not hold GTA appointments in their first year of graduate study may apply for appointments in their second year by sending an application letter and CV to the Director of Graduate Studies in English by February 1 of their first year of study. They may also include a letter of recommendation. The Graduate Committee will consult the professor of ENGL 5054 about applicants.
- Earn 18 hours of graduate credit in English
- Complete ENGL 5054 (Composition Pedagogy) and ENGL 5034 (Practicum) as part of those 18 hours
- Be recommended by the Director of Composition or the person who teaches ENGL 5054
Appointment in the second year is not automatic, but students who meet the goals are competitive for appointments. Some students fund their education in their first year of study and then earn a GTA position in the second year.
All contracts are issued for one year, but we expect to renew them, assuming satisfactory teaching and progress toward the degree, for these terms:
- MA: 2 years (1 year for students appointed in their second year of study)
- MFA: 3 years
- PhD: 4 years, with the prospect of a 5th year depending on progress toward the degree and the recommendation of the dissertation director
Annual reappointment through these terms depends on satisfactory progress toward meeting the degree requirements and satisfactory performance of teaching as determined by annual reviews of academic progress and teaching. The department seeks to create the conditions for academic and teaching success and will normally reappoint GTAs. It will always seek to identify at-risk students and intervene to offer remediation before it pursues extreme alternatives. See the GTA reappointment policy for more details.
Most GTAs teach first-year composition in the two-course sequence: ENGL 1105 and ENGL 1106.
In their third year of study, MFA students teach at least one section of creative writing: ENGL 2744.
PhD students who wish to prepare for teaching business or technical writing may teach ENGL 3764 (Technical Writing) or ENGL 3774 (Business Writing) with the approval of the Director of Professional Writing.
Some GTAs work in the Writing Center for part of their responsibilities. Some may serve as program assistants to the Director of Composition or provide department technical support.
GRAs are usually appointed through the Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society.
The department encourages teaching excellence through a series of opportunities for teaching development:
- fall orientation
- ENGL 5034 (Practicum) and with it a series of experiences to prepare students for teaching (observations, Writing Center assignments, practice grading)
- ENGL 5054 (Composition Pedagogy)
- GRAD 5114 (Contemporary Pedagogy)
- close working relationship with a teaching mentor
- workshops for professional development
- visiting speakers who are experts on writing pedagogy
- opportunities for learning technology, including Blackboard, Dreamweaver, Acrobat, Photoshop, Element K, and more.
Entering students in both the MA and MFA program spend the first semester completing some academic requirements and preparing to teach in the second semester. The teaching preparation includes working as a tutor in the Writing Center, participating in a teaching practicum (ENGL 5034), and completing GRAD 5114, Contemporary Pedagogy.
All GTAs are assigned to a small mentoring group led by an experienced and outstanding instructor. The groups usually include five GTAs, some of whom are in their first year and some of whom are in their second year.
Your mentor will work with you in developing your syllabus for the spring semester. Your mentor will continue to guide you in the spring when you begin to teach: visiting class, working with you on responding to student writing, helping you troubleshoot if there are class situations for which you are not prepared. Your mentor is a terrific guide and even safety net!
In the spring of the first year, GTAs teach one section of composition (ENGL 1106).
The appointment of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) serves multiple academic, programmatic, and teaching goals:
- support outstanding graduate students as they pursue their degrees
- develop teaching ability as an important part of graduate education
- enhance the quality of the graduate programs by encouraging excellent students to chose Virginia Tech and to succeed academically
- through mentoring and training, support the quality teaching of composition and creative writing
The department encourages academic progress through advisement and annual reviews.
In addition to its responsibility to graduate students in English, the department recognizes its responsibility to the undergraduate students in composition and creative writing and to client departments in the university. It seeks to offer consistent high quality in all of the sections of composition and creative writing taught by GTAs and others.
Although GTAs are beginning teachers, they are effective in teaching writing. Here is what some students say about their GTA instructors:
- "... is a great teacher. I like our class discussions. This was my favorite class this semester."
- "... is an amazing teacher with an incredible amount of support and appreciation for her students."
- "The course has greatly improved my writing skills and my confidence in writing. Writing comes a lot easier to me now."
- "I ended up learning things instead of just getting my English credit out of the way."
- "The difficult writing assignments expanded my thinking and taught me to use new writing skills taught in the course"
- "He really puts a lot of effort into us. You can tell he knows what he's doing and that he really enjoys his job."
- "My writing before and after has had a significant change. This class has been my best English class yet and made writing papers easier."