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Teaching Assistantships - current students only

Teaching Assistantships - current students only

Students who serve as Teaching Assistants (TAs) receive compensation in the following forms: credit or 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 or other departments at Cornell. 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.

SIPS TA applications are due by January 24, 2020. 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.

Table of Contents

Section I:  Application Timeline        

Process begins one year before assignments begin.
(e.g., start process September 2019 for the 2020-2021 academic year)  

September Contact teaching faculty to request updates on course information as well as TA responsibilities and expectations.
  Inform teaching faculty about possibility of using undergrad TAs.
  Clarify with teaching faculty how many grad TAs are requested if also using UG TAs
October PSCC uses rubric to rank courses to determine which courses need TAs and how many TAs those courses will need. (Courses incorporating undergrad TAs will be noted.)
November If needed, PSCC continues discussion from October meeting
  Ranking spreadsheet sent to section chairs
  Section chairs meet to review ranking spreadsheet to finalize allocation of TA lines to courses
  Ranking spreadsheet sent to PSCC members and DGS’s after finalized by section chairs
Early December CALS notifies SIPS regarding the number of TA lines for the next academic year
  Section chairs, PSCC members and DGS’s notified of number of TA lines for next academic year
  Section chairs notify all faculty who requested TAs on TA allocation decision for their course(s) for next academic year
Mid-December Call for TA applications sent to all graduate students with description of each course that includes TA responsibilities and expectations
Late January TA applications due approximately January 24
Early February Data from TA applications collated into spreadsheet by GFA’s
  Per section institutional model, courses are matched with graduate students who applied for TA position
  Section chairs and DGS’s notified of TA/course matches
Mid-February GFA’s and DGS’s meet to match courses without TAs and TAs not assigned to courses. If appropriate, individual faculty will be notified if concern anticipated by TA assignment
Late February Section chairs announce TA assignments. Students without assignments placed on waitlist and have option to apply for Biology TA position
Early March Deadline for students to decline TA offers
April 1 - May 15 Rebalancing to fill vacant TA positions for fall semester. (Waitlisted applicants given priority.)
May 28 Section chairs announce final TA assignments for next academic year
October 15 Rebalance TA assignments for spring semester


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. 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. You can check on the status of your application by contacting the GFC for your home Field. Only SIPS Graduate students in non-professional degree programs (i.e. MS and PhD) are eligible to apply. SIPS TA Application Form

B. Selection Process and Selection Criteria
All assignments for each Section will be approved by the DGS of your field. Your application will initially be reviewed by the DGS home Section/Field to be considered for TA assignments within your home Section. Following initial review by your DGS, 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 GFC 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/GFC 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 GFC immediately.  Your DGS/GFC, 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       

Can be found within the application                                                                            

Section IV:

SIPS TA Application Form

Section V:

CALS Guidelines for Teaching Assistantships (coming soon)

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 GFC’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 students 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 if I have already accepted a SIPS TA position?

Absolutely not, if you receive a fellowship and need to decline TA funding please let your GFC 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 student's 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.

Note:  If you are in need to two semesters of funding it is recommended that you discuss this your DGS/GFC

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 ( 1.3 Graduate Student Assistantships 2019.12.09.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 (coming soon).

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 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 GFC’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.