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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    New grad title targets outreach

    Amid concerns from graduate students that the number of teaching assistantships and research assistantships is set to decrease, the Graduate College has announced the creation of a new graduate hiring category, the graduate assistantship in outreach.

    Available immediately, the title will be reserved for graduate students whose work focuses on outreach and does not fall into the traditional categories of teaching or research.

    “”Graduate students assist in all aspects of the university’s mission, and outreach is a big part of what we do at this university,”” said Andrew Comrie, dean of the Graduate College. “”We don’t just transfer information to students, we also transfer information to the community at large and outreach is how we do that.””

    In a memo released on Wednesday to deans and department heads across campus, Comrie described the need to have appropriate titles for graduate students involved in a “”broad range of engagement activities including business, translational science, policy engagement, and public arts programs.””

    Alison Betts, chief of staff for the Graduate and Professional Student Council and English Ph.D candidate, said that the title could focus attention on outreach programs, help funnel funding to those programs, and more accurately reflect the work done by those students.

    “”Graduate students who are employed by the university can either be designated as teaching assistants or research assistants,”” Betts said. “”Teaching is fairly obvious, research is fairly obvious, but there’s a category of students who do things that fall outside of those two categories.””

    Outreach assistants would receive the same benefits as the other types of graduate employees, including tuition remission, health care, and a $14-15,000 stipend, Comrie said.

    Nevertheless, GPSC College of Humanities representative and

    Spanish doctoral student Lucy Blaney said that the move seemed “”extremely counterintuitive”” since outreach programs have been facing stiff cuts due to the recent budget crisis and many outreach programs currently operate on a volunteer basis.

    “”Why would they pay you if you’re already doing it for free?”” Blaney said.

    Comrie said the addition of the title would not cost anything because it is simply a category and not a specific program, although he added that having an outreach title would be likely to encourage the growth of outreach programs.

    “”It allows us to recognize what’s really going on, but more importantly it promotes (outreach) to equal status with research and teaching as something that is valuable for graduate students to do as an activity,”” Comrie said.

    Comrie said that only “”tens”” of students would likely apply for the title at first, but that more would apply once it became more popular. He added that to his knowledge, the classification would be the only one of its kind in the country.

    The title will replace the little-used “”other”” hiring category that has historically been comprised of graduate students who are employed in non-traditional capacities.

    “”We’re putting our stamp on the fact that we’re a big land-grant university,”” Comrie said. “”We’re supposed to be connected to the community and this is one way to label it as that and do kind of the right thing.””

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