Teaching Assistantships - current students only

Students who serve as Teaching Assistants (TAs) receive compensation in the form of stipend, health insurance, and tuition. A number of Teaching Assistantships (TA-ships) are available to graduate students affiliated with SIPS. If you are a continuing graduate student (M.S., M.S./Ph.D., or Ph.D.) in SIPS and you are looking for teaching experience, or if you are looking for financial support,  you can apply to serve as a TA in one of the many courses taught by SIPS. You can also follow this link for more info describing the SIPS TA Application Procedure. For more information please also check out the Frequently Asked Questions about the SIPS TA Management Plan.

SIPS students are also eligible to serve as TAs in the Undergraduate Biology Program. Biology TAs assist in the instruction of Core Introductory Courses in Biology. Teaching in the biology program satisfies the teaching requirement for those fields having a teaching requirement.

TA Application Procedure

By completing this application, you will be considered for a Teaching Assistantship in one of the SIPS Sections. The courses are conducted in a variety of different formats and consequently each instructor may have different expectations of teaching assistants. All courses require their TAs to have a good command of spoken and written English, organizational skills, and social skills. Only members of SIPS Graduate Fields are eligible to apply and all applications must go through their home Section or Field.

SIPS TA applications are due by January 27, 2017. Review of applications and subsequent offers will begin immediately thereafter and continue until all positions are filled as indicated in the timeline provided. In general, TAships are awarded in the spring for the following academic year. In some special cases, however, TAships will be offered for one semester

Please review the CALS Guidelines for Teaching Assistantships. This document provides guidance on expectations for Graduate TA’s. It also includes the CALS Learning Contract for Graduate TA’s. you are encouraged to complete the Learning Contract with the Course Instructor prior to beginning your Teaching Assistantship. You can find additional information about the rights and responsibilities of Graduate Students by reviewing Cornell University Policy 1.3 “Graduate Student Assistantships” (link opens in a pdf). If you need additional information please contact the Graduate Field Assistant for your home Graduate Field in SIPS.

Table of Contents

Section I:  Application Timeline                                                                    

December 1 TA solicitation for the coming academic year is released
January 27 TA applications due
March 6 Initial TA appointments announced
Applicants not receiving appointments remain on waitlist
April 30 Last date to decline a TA appointment
April 1 – May 15 TA Rebalancing to fill vacant TA positions
Waitlisted applicants are given priority for open slots
May 28 TA appointments finalized for coming academic year

Section II: Application, Selection, and Notification Procedures    


A. Application
All students who are planning to TA or who would like to request TA support must submit an application by the stated application deadline. The application can be obtained from the Grad Field Assistant (GFA) in your Graduate Field. Even those students who have been promised a TA position in their appointment letter must submit a TA application in order to be assigned to a TA appointment in the coming academic year. Applications should be submitted as PDF forms to the GFA for your Graduate Field. You can check on the status of your application by contacting the GFA for your home Field. Only SIPS Graduate students in non-professional degree programs (i.e. MS and PhD) are eligible to apply.

B. Selection Process and Selection Criteria
All assignments for each Section will be approved by the DGS and/or Chair of that Section. Your application will initially be reviewed by the DGS and/or Chair of your home Section/Field to be considered for TA assignments within your home Section. Following initial review by your DGS/Chair, your application may also be considered by members of the SIPS Graduate Field Council to be considered for TA assignments in other SIPS sections. In some cases your application may also be reviewed by course instructors. Those applicants that do not receive an initial TA assignment will be waitlisted. Each year some number of TA appointments are declined by students, due to the adventitious availability of grant and fellowship funding. Students on the waitlist will be given first priority for TA positions that become available when a TA assignment has been declined. Once all TA positions are filled the remaining applicants are dismissed from the waitlist. A new application needs to be made for each new academic year in which TA support is requested.

TA selection is based on multiple criteria and the weighting placed on each criterion will vary from year to year and from Section to Section based on the needs of instruction and the need to support all of our continuing graduate students. The two main priorities for TA selection are to ensure that: all of our MS and PhD students receive tuition and stipend support while they remain in good standing, and that all of our courses are well staffed by qualified TA’s. The following are criteria that will be considered in selecting individuals for assignment to TA positions:

  • applicant skills, training, and prior teaching experience
  • instructional needs of the course and instructor needs for support
  • applicant funding plan for the coming academic year
  • the availability of alternate sources of funding for the applicant
  • explicit guarantees of support which must be honored
  • the number of previous TA appointments the applicant has received
  • whether the applicant needs to TA to meet a teaching requirement
  • approval of the faculty adviser

C. Notification Procedures
If your funding situation changes, and you no longer want to be considered for a TAship, then please let your GFA know immediately so that we can remove your application to make room for others. If a position is not available initially we will retain your application on the waitlist.  Quite often slots become available late in the spring and summer and we will continue to make offers until all positions are filled. 

Please note that only your DGS and/or Section Chair can approve an offer.  All conversations with course instructors or other members of the Cornell community are purely a preliminary review and those entities cannot make an offer. 

If you are offered a TAship, you must accept it or reject it by the specified deadline (see timeline above).  Once you have signed an appointment letter, you are bound to adhere to the contract.  If your situation changes, contact your GFA immediately.  Your department chair, DGS, and Advisor, will strive to find an alternative and release you from the contract.  However, the fulfillment of the contract is ultimately the student’s responsibility.

Section III:  SIPS Courses needing TA’s                                                                                   

Courses in Horticulture
Fall Semester:

  • PLHRT 1104/1105   Introduction to Wines and Vines
  • PLHRT 2010           The Art of Horticulture
  • PLHRT 2204           Principles and Practices of Growing Grapes and Making Wines
  • PLHRT 2205          Growing Grapes and Making Wines Laboratory
  • PLHRT 3000          Annual and Perennial Plant Identification and Use
  • PLHRT 3025          Hydroponic Food Crop Production and Management
  • PLHRT 3050          Arboriculture: Applied Tree Care
  • PLHRT 3500          Principles of Vegetable Production
  • PLHRT 3600          Climate Change and the Future of Food
  • PLHRT 3910          Woody Plant Identification and Use I
  • PLHRT 4000          Principles of Plant Propagation
  • PLHRT 4400          Restoration Ecology
  • PLHRT 4420          Berry Crops: Culture and Management
  • PLHRT 4730          Ecology of Agricultural Systems
  • PLHRT 4910          Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection Design, and Landscape Establishment
  • PLHRT 5204          Principles and Practices of Growing Grapes and Making Wines

Spring Semester:

  • PLHRT 1102          Hands-On Horticulture for Gardeners
  • PLHRT 1104/1105 Introduction to Wines and Vines
  • PLHRT 1115          The Nature of Plants
  • PLHRT 1250          Organic Vegetable Gardening
  • PLHRT 1450          The Art of Plant Anatomy
  • PLHRT 2020          Foods of the Future
  • PLHRT 2150          Coffee, Cloves, and Chocolate: Plant Explorers and Thieves
  • PLHRT 2350          Food, Fiber, and Fulfillment: Plants and Human Well-Being
  • PLHRT 3100          Production and Marketing of Greenhouse Crops
  • PLHRT 3440          Viticulture and Vineyard Management
  • PLHRT 3920          Woody Plant Identification and Use II
  • PLHRT 4250          Postharvest Biology of Horticultural Crops
  • PLHRT 4251          Postharvest Biology of Horticultural Crops Lab
  • PLHRT 4450          Ecological Orchard Management
  • PLHRT 4551          Principles of Nutrition and Nutrient Management in Crops and Landscape Plants
  • PLHRT 4850          Public Garden Management
  • PLHRT 4920          Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment
  • PLHRT 4931          Grassing the Urban Eden
  • PLHRT 6170          Advanced Analytical Methods for Plant Systems

Courses in Plant Biology
Fall Semester:

  • PLBIO 2410           Introductory Plant Biodiversity and Evolution
  • PLBIO 2470           Plants and People
  • PLBIO 6410           Laboratory in Plant Molecular Biology

Spring Semester:

  • PLBIO 1120           Issues in Social Biology: from Diet to Diseases, DNA to Deforestation
  • PLBIO 2400           Green World/Blue Planet
  • PLBIO 2420           Plant Function and Growth Lectures
  • PLBIO 2421           Laboratory Investigations of Plant Function and Growth
  • PLBIO 2480           Vascular Plant Systematics
  • PLBIO 2490           Hollywood Biology: Science in Cinema
  • PLBIO 3420           Plant Physiology, Lectures
  • PLBIO 3421           Plant Physiology, Laboratory
  • PLBIO 3431           Laboratory in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants
  • PLBIO 4480           Plant Evolution and the Fossil Record
  • PLBIO 4841           Plant Form and Fucntion: Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Development

Courses in Plant Breeding
Fall Semester:

  • PLBRG 2010         Plants, Genes, and Global Food Production
  • PLBRG 4030         Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants

Spring Semester:

  • PLBRG 2250         Plant Genetics

Courses in Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology
Fall Semester:

  • PLPPM 3010          Biology and Management of Plant Diseases
  • PLPPM 3190          Mushrooms of Field and Forest

Spring Semester:

  • PLPPM 2013          Mushrooms, Molds and More

Courses in Soil and Crop Sciences
Fall Semester:            

  • PLSCS 1900           Sustainable Agriculture
  • PLSCS 2600           Soil Science
  • PLSCS 2110           Field Crop Systems
  • PLSCS 3150           Weed Biology and Management

Spring Semester:        

  • PLSCS 4440           Integrated Pest Management
  • PLSCS 4200          Geographic Information Systems
  • PLSCS 3650          Environmental Chemistry
  • PLSCS 4660          Soil Ecology
  • PLSCS 4720          Nutrient Management in Agroecosystems

Section IV:  SIPS Courses needing TA’s


Application Form  (opens in Word)

Section V:  SIPS Courses needing TA’s


CALS Guidelines for Teaching Assistantships (pdf)

FAQs for SIPS TA Management Plan
 

1. Who should consider making a TA application?

Only continuing graduate students should make a SIPS TA application. Students applying for graduate school should not apply for TA funding through this process. Any continuing graduate student who is unsure of their funding in the next academic year should make an application. You should discuss your funding plan with your major adviser at least once a year.

2. Why does SIPS need a TA management Plan?

Many graduate students have expressed confusion and frustration over the years with the manner in which TA assignments are made. Instructors are also frustrated when they don’t know until the last minute who is going to TA a course or when they get TA’s who are not well suited for the needs of course instruction.
General concerns regarding TA assignments revolve around issues of transparency, consistency, timing, and communication. The fact that practices change over time and from Section to Section only adds to the confusion. Now that the five Sections have come together in SIPS we (the Chairs, DGS’s, and GFA’s) have had more of a chance to discuss and recognize these issues and we’ve realized that if we work together we might be able to make this process work better for everyone.

3. What are the goals of the TA management Plan?

What the plan hopes to accomplish is to: i) increase consistency by getting all Fields to commit to the same process on the same timeline so that student know when decisions will be made, ii) increase transparency by putting these processes in writing and communicating them to students, iii) increase communication by creating a process that allows students to request TA assignments, iv) increase flexibility by allowing us to see how many students across SIPS need support and, if needed, to be able to make TA assignments across Sections so that all of our students and courses can receive the support they need.

4. How does the plan work?

Basically, the plan only has two components. First, we will implement a timeline to be used by all Sections when making TA assignments. The timeline is structured to give students maximum flexibility to accept other sources of support (e.g. NSF Fellowships) and to apply for BIO TA positions, while still allowing us to make assignments in a timely fashion. Second, we propose to implement an application form which will allow students to communicate their interest in obtaining a TA assignment. The application form will also help us to match students to classes. TA assignments will be made first and foremost within Sections, but any students not assigned to a TA line within their Section will go on a waitlist. Any SIPS section that has an open TA line will look to the waitlist first, increasing the chances that we will be able to support all of our students and increasing the likelihood that we will find the most qualified TA’s for our classes. Students will always retain the right to refuse any assignment.

5. Does the plan change our commitment to fully funding all of our graduate students?

No, we remain committed to working with our faculty to ensure that we fully fund all graduate students in good standing.

6. Does the TA management plan take power away from students?

No. In the past the DGS/Chair would make TA assignments based on their knowledge of student needs. Students are now empowered to ‘opt in’ to the process. If you want to TA, or need funding, or need teaching experience you are encouraged to make an application.

7. If I make an application am I obligated to TA?

No, students have a period of time to decide once an offer has been made.

8. Will I need to turn down a fellowship offer is I have already accepted a SIPS TA position?

Absolutely not, if you receive a fellowship and need to decline TA funding please let your DGS/GFA know as soon as possible. No student will be expected to decline a TA position because they received fellowship funding. However, it will typically be to the students advantage to defer the start of their fellowship until after they TA.

9. Does the plan accommodate students needing to TA for teaching experience?

Yes,  students who need a TA assignment to gain teaching experience should apply for a TA position.

10. Does my TA application prevent me from making a Biology TA application?

No, the timing of the selection process will allow you to apply for both SIPS and Bio TA positions if needed.

11. Will the plan result in Grads TA’ing without compensation?

Absolutely not. According to Cornell policy all students who TA should receive pay and/or course credit. Please see policy 1.3 (https://www.dfa.cornell.edu/sites/default/files/policy/vol1_3.pdf) for more information.

12. What are the expectations for a TA?

Each course has different instructional needs and so the expectations and time commitments vary across the ~50 courses that SIPS staffs with TA’s. Once you receive an offer to TA you should contact the course instructor directly to learn more about course teaching expectations. You can find more info on the general guidelines for TAs in CALS here: (https://cals.cornell.edu/sites/cals.cornell.edu/files/shared/documents/academics/Guidelines-Learning-Contract-for-Graduate-TAs.pdf).

13. Will I get to choose the course I TA?

No. SIPS has more than 50 courses and we expect an equal number of applications each year. Our number one goal is to staff our courses with the most qualified TA’s possible. Our second goal is to ensure that all students who need funding are supported. It may be that to achieve these two goals you may not receive you first choice in terms of a TA assignment. But we will do our best to assign you to a course that is aligned with your career goals and qualifications.

14. Does the plan change the number of TA lines each Field receives?

No, the plan does not address TA allocation between fields.

15. Does the plan take TA lines away and TA decisions away from my Field?

No, each DGS/Chair will continue to make TA assignments for their field, but the application process will make it easier for each Section to provide opportunities for students from other Sections and it will allow Courses to receive the best TA’s from across all of SIPS and not just any one section.

16. How was the TA Management Plan Developed? 

The SIPS Executive Committee worked with the Graduate Fields to come up with a plan to improve our procedures for making TA assignments. The SIPS Director asked the Chair of the SIPS Council of Graduate Fields to work with the Council to develop a plan. After discussion with SIPS DGS’s and GFA’s the Council Chair recommended a plan to the SIPS Executive Committee. After EC approval the draft plan was communicated to Graduate Students through their GSA Leaders, and communicated to Faculty through their Section Chairs. The plan was revised based on feedback from Faculty and Students. The final plan was accepted by the SIPS EC on 11/30/16.