Testimonials to celebrate contributions and experiences of graduate and teaching assistants

Working as a graduate assistant has provided invaluable experience toward her career aspirations in law, says Mary Girges.

Mary Girges

Mary Girges.

“It has given me good leadership skills, as well as extending my ability to work with others; I understand how to build rapport, how to listen and how to get people to open up,” says the master’s student in sociology. “Interpersonal communication is going to be important in my career, and being a GA has given me the opportunity to gain experience and confidence in this skill set, strengthening my qualification and the value I can offer to future employers.”

Her testimonial to the value of graduate student experience will be on display in the CAW Student Centre during GA/TA Celebration Day, Thursday, November 29.

A project of the GATA Network, the event is aimed at current graduate and teaching assistants, students interested in becoming one, faculty members, or—say organizers—anyone interested in learning about the role of these members of the academy.

“There will be handouts, handbooks, samples and templates on some of the issues that most concern GAs and TAs, like grading, lesson planning, leading discussions, and more,” says Candace Nast, the network’s digital outreach coordinator. “You can get information about how to improve the skills you need as GAs and TAs, and we’ll be there to answer any questions you may have.”

Betsy Keating, coordinator of the GATA Network, says she hopes the event will raise awareness among undergraduate students.

“We hear anecdotally that many undergraduates do not know whether it's okay to ask a TA or GA a question,” Keating says. “We want to let undergraduates see that the GAs and TAs are friendly and happy to help them.”

Cath Fraser, visiting fellow in the Centre for Teaching and Learning, says the Canadian model is well beyond what she has seen in her native New Zealand.

“Our education system doesn’t have nearly as fully developed a use of GAs and TAs,” she says. “Looking from the outside, I would say your system offers phenomenal benefits to the students.”

She notes that different programs and individual faculty members offer a variety of responsibilities to assistants, and hopes the celebration day will spark some cross-fertilization.

“We want to spread those successes,” Fraser says. “Professors will see dimensions they can integrate into their own courses.”

The event will run 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature a poster display of testimonials from GAs and TAs. DailyNews will publish excerpts from some of these posters in the coming week.

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