The Ulrich Wicks Teaching Assistantship for M.A. Candidates

The English Department has initiated a third-year teaching assistantship for our most promising M.A. candidates. This assistantship provides a third year of funding for one of the most promising M.A. students. The Wicks Teaching Assistant continues to teach, to pursue scholarly, creative, and/or professional development activities, and to work under the direction of a faculty member to develop and teach a course in their area of specialization. At the end of this year, students receive an M.A. in English with a Graduate Certificate in Teaching in their field.

Background for the Wicks Teaching Assistantship

Our most serious and dedicated masters students often wish to pursue advanced graduate or professional work. But the nature of the second year of study offers them little time and space to plan and to prepare for the “next step.” Our second year requires students to take courses, prepare for and take comprehensive exams, complete and defend theses or creative projects, prepare for our spring Graduate Symposium, and teach.

In recent years, students have earned places in prestigious graduate programs and have successfully moved on to other professional careers, but even among these students, it has been felt that more time to prepare for this step would have been enormously beneficial.

When our best students do not find an advanced graduate program their first year trying, they often remain in the department for a year or more working as adjuncts while they reassemble their materials to make a second application. Or, some choose to apply during the year following graduation and continue to work as adjuncts.

These recent M.A. graduates make especially effective instructors and colleagues in our department:  they are up-to-date, savvy, especially well connected to our students, and more than anything, eager to use this opportunity for enhancing their teaching skills and repertoire in order to move on towards increased specialization and professionalization. Thus, this teaching assistantship/expanded M.A. is doubly beneficial:  in terms both practical and ethical, the Department and our students will find it advantageous.

Our M.A. students benefit from this assistantship in numerous ways:

  • More time to work on applying to prestigious graduate programs
  • Hone their teaching skills and increase the number and kind of courses they can teach
  • Work on publications, conference presentations, and other forms of professionalization

Finally, our undergraduate students also benefit tremendously:  because we  hold onto those M.A. students with whom we are already engaged in conversations pertaining to pedagogy, writing, advanced graduate work, and professionalization, this strengthens the quality of undergraduate education in our department.

Description of the Wicks Teaching Assistantship

The assistantship is a highly competitive, one-year appointment in literary/critical studies, creative writing, or composition, rhetoric, and technical writing, based on a group evaluation of prospective applicants.

To apply for the assistantship, students must demonstrate that they are making good progress towards completion of their degrees and will have completed all requirements for the M.A. in English by May or August prior to the Fall of their third year assistantship. Students will have to secure the commitment of a faculty sponsor who will serve as the student’s advocate, mentor, and project director. The application itself will argue for the student’s research or creative project, and include a description of specific goals and plans for the one-year appointment as well as samples of critical or creative work. The graduate studies committee will then review the applications and make a decision based on the overall quality of the application, the promise of the student, and the quality of the written work.

The assistantship is structured as an expanded M.A. in English and Teaching. The parameters are as follows:

Faculty Mentor(s): The faculty mentor or a team of two mentors must agree to the mentorship and will advise the student’s research and teaching.

Scholarly, Creative, or Professional Project: The applicants will propose  projects that fit with their academic studies and professional goals. A student pursuing admission to a Ph.D. program might prepare an article for submission to an academic journal; an applicant to an M.F.A. program might prepare a creative manuscript.

Teaching and Coursework: Teaching and coursework overlap for this assistantship, with the net effect of the teaching load becoming a 1:2 load.  This work includes the following components semester in the Fall semester:

  1. Wicks Teaching Assistants maintain their current teaching assignment of one ENG 101 section per semester.
  2. Wicks Assistants register for Independent Research Credits (3 credits) – These credits will be for the scholarly/creative/professional projects they pursue and are directed by the Faculty Mentors.
  3. Wicks Assistants register for Practicum in Teaching (3 credits) – These credits are for the preparation of one course in their areas of specialization. This preparation is monitored by the Faculty Mentors.  While Assistants plan the specialization courses to be taught in the Spring semester, the Assistants may want to visit courses in their field, shadow their mentors, teach individual sections of their mentors’ classes, or help grade sample assignments in their mentors’ classes.

This work will include the following components in the Spring semester:

  1. Wicks Teaching Assistants maintain their current teaching assignments of one ENG 101 section per semester.
  2. Wicks Assistants register for Independent Research Credits (1 credit). This credit is for the completion of the scholarly/ creative/professional projects they pursue and is directed by the Faculty Mentor(s).
  3. Wicks Assistants teach one course in their areas of specialization. This teaching is monitored by the Faculty Mentors through class visits and mentoring sessions.

Through mentorship and teaching, students are able to refine their teaching skills and approaches to teaching and to practice teaching in their areas of specialization—a rare opportunity for M.A. students. Students benefit from having time to hone their applications to advanced graduate programs, complete a critical or creative project for publication and/or presentation at a national conference, and cap the year with a keynote address at our department’s annual Graduate Symposium.