The two weeks of shopping period, which generally benefit students by allowing them to explore courses before finalizing their schedules, make life much more difficult for one particular part of Yale’s campus — graduate students who must secure teaching fellow positions in order to fund themselves for the semester.
Because undergraduate enrollment is in flux during shopping period, some graduate students do not know if they can receive a teaching position until the enrollment is finalized two weeks into the semester. The current system of assigning teaching fellow positions in mid-September gives rise to long bouts of uncertainty, said Brian Dunican GRD ’15, last year’s Graduate Student Assembly chair.
“Some don’t find out about appointments until after shopping period concludes in September,” Dunican said. “But most people [want to] renew a lease a month or so before, so often we see this tied to a housing concern.”
To mitigate these concerns, the GSA has worked with administrators to launch the Graduate Student Teaching Opportunities website this fall — a site that provides live information about teaching fellow opportunities from various academic departments, allowing graduate students to apply for positions outside of their home departments.
The site will disseminate information about hard-to-fill and last-minute opportunities broadly and quickly, alerting graduate students as soon as a position becomes available, said GSA chair Joori Park GRD ’17.
“There are currently only limited opportunities listed, as only a few departments are participating in this trial rollout, but we anticipate all departments taking advantage of the site in the future academic terms,” Park said in an email to graduate students.
The creation of the site is also part of the GSA’s efforts to create a single platform to assign teaching fellow positions across departments, Park said.
Lynn Cooley, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, called the project “very active.”
“I would say its still in the early stages,” she said. “It’s a little early to know how it’s going, but no one has been calling on the phone screaming.”
Dean Plummer, a senior business analyst for the University, assisted Cooley and other deans in creating the site. He said he aimed to find a software application that could be quickly and inexpensively modified to support the needs of graduate students and academic departments.
Approximately 20 applications have been received through the site for 10 to 15 postings so far, said Judith Hackman, associate dean of Yale College and director of the teaching fellow program.
“It was kind of a last-minute thing,” she said. “I think it will rev up next semester.”
Administrators intend to survey departments and students who have used the site this fall to see which elements they found useful and which aspects can be improved for the spring term, Plummer said.
In addition to creating easier access to teaching positions, the GSA plans to advocate for guaranteed funding for graduate students through their sixth year or a guarantee of funding before the start of term, Dunican said. The late assignment of teaching fellow position currently poses a special issue for graduate students pursuing more than five years of study as funding is not guaranteed to students by Yale after their fifth year.
“In reality, when we look at the numbers, most people get teaching positions,” Dunican said. “What’s causing a major stress is that some don’t find out until after shopping period.”
The home page of the new site features a dashboard that provides the status of applications submitted, as well as opportunity alerts and a search menu with categorized opportunities.