Each year, the department offers a number of graduate assistantships to new and continuing doctoral students. Assistantships pay a stipend (currently $18,000), cover the full cost of tuition, and provide health insurance as well. These assistantships are renewable for up to 5 years, provided students remain in good standing and fulfill the duties of the assistantship. Further support for doctoral study after 5 years is available in the form of university graduate assistantships and Schmitt Dissertation Fellowships.
Loyola's graduate assistantship program differs in significant ways from similar programs at many other universities, particularly in terms of the duties students perform as part of their assistantships. At many universities, graduate assistants are immediately required to teach one and sometimes two sections of composition, even though they may have no teaching experience or training. At the same time, they must pursue coursework and sometimes attend workshops to supplement their lack of teaching experience.
At Loyola, we believe that both graduate assistants and undergraduate students taking composition deserve better treatment. A PhD student with little or no experience who is awarded an assistantship at Loyola enters a four-year program that offers preparation for teaching, experience in teaching composition, and opportunities to teach literature and cooperate with faculty members on research projects. (For students entering with the MA degree, the assistantship is normally renewable for a total of three years.)
Our assistantship program diversifies the training offered to graduate students. It is designed to allow graduate assistants to concentrate on their coursework as they acquire training in several different kinds of scholarly and professional activities:
- First-year graduate assistants entering with the BA tutor two 3.5-hour sessions per week in the Writing Center in their first semester, and participate in a workshop on the teaching of writing. In their second semester, graduate assistants tutor one session per week in the Writing Center and take a course in teaching composition (English 402). Each assistant also works with a full-time faculty member in a mentorship program in which he or she attends the faculty member's composition class and gains experience in making presentations to the class, in grading and in holding conferences with individual students. Second-year graduate assistants, drawing on this preparation, teach a two-semester composition sequence (one course per semester).
- Third- , fourth-, and fifth-year graduate assistants have various options, but over the course of these two years normally work for two semesters as teaching assistants and for one semester as research assistants, and teach a literature course for one semester. As teaching assistants to faculty members offering lower division literature courses, they make presentations to the class, grade some papers and in some instances lead discussion sections. In this way, they gain experience teaching literature as well as composition. As research assistants, they work on a faculty member's project, usually in a field of particular interest to the student.
- In the second semester of the third year, each graduate assistant also tutors in the Writing Center for 3.5 hours per week. Third-year assistants may also be called upon a limited number of times to serve as substitute instructors. The normal sequence for these assignments, from which some variation is possible, would be:
- Third Year—Fall Semester: Teaching Assistant; Spring Semester: Teaching Assistant, and work in Writing Center
- Fourth Year—Fall Semester: Teach one literature course; Spring Semester: Research Assistant
- Fifth Year—Fall Semester: Teach one literature course; Spring Semester: Teach one literature course
- Other opportunities that often exist for advanced (third- or fourth-year) graduate assistants are to serve as director of the Writing Center or as site coordinator of the Literacy Center.
Because we believe that graduate assistants are students, not part-time instructors, we have structured our PhD course requirements so that students can put their coursework and their development as scholars first, completing all courses and the PhD exam, and drafting a dissertation proposal, in four years.