Teaching Assistantships, research assistantships, and Fellowships


Financial support comes in the following forms.

  • Teaching Assistantship. The student receives a tuition waiver and a stipend in return for serving as an instructor in labs or discussions, or as a grader. TAs are supported by Departmental funds.
  • Research Assistantship. The student receives a tuition waiver and a stipend in return for working for a faculty member. The work may relate to the student's thesis, or may be on another subject. RAs are supported by research grants to faculty. Some RAs are supported through the State Geological Survey.
  • Full Fellowships. These are competitive awards based on ability to carry out research. The student receives a tuition waiver and a stipend, and is free to pursue his/her own research without TA duties. Fellowships are supported by departmental resources, including funds from the Graduate College and donations. For example, alumni from Texas and Louisiana have endowed a fellowship. In addition, students may apply for their own fellowship funds from the National Science Foundation or other agencies.
  • Partial Fellowships. These are also competitive awards based on ability to carry out research. The student receives an extra stipend, in addition to their normal TA stipend.

Some students from overseas or industry are supported by their home country or their company. Some students receive a tuition waiver since they are employed by the Illinois State Geological Survey while they pursue a degree. In general, the Department does not admit students who have no support, and does not provide "tuition-waiver only" support.

Most students are on 50% appointments, which means that they should expect to work about 20 hours per week on duties specifically required by their assistantship.

Decisions Concerning Support

The Admissions Committee, in conjuction with the Graduate Study Committee, coordinates departmental financial support. All requests for TA support from the Department are contingent upon satisfactory TA and academic performance. The Committee reviews the performance of all teaching assistants and fellowship recipients early in the spring semester of each year. Criteria that are used include: Evaluation by students (compiled from student evaluation forms filled out each semester under the Instructorand Course Evaluation System, ICES), written comments from course instructors, grade-point averages, and progress toward a degree. RAs must be offered by individual faculty, or agencies. The individual granting an RA has full control of whether or not an RA will be continued.

Academic Standards for Fellowship Students

Fellowship students must maintain a 3.5 (A/B) grade point average and make significant progress in their research to maintain their fellowships.

Duration of Financial Support.

(Effective Fall 2009 for TAs & Fellowships):
The following are the amount of time a typical student will be supported by the Department through teaching assistantships and/or fellowships (but excluding research assistantships and any support
during the summer):

Ph.D. student: Eight semesters.

Student seeking only M.Sc. degree: Four semesters.

A student admitted without financial aid must re-apply and compete for any financial support in later years.

Faculty Supervision of TA's and RA's

Students should check the Handbook for Graduate Students and Advisors for the latest policy set by the Graduate College. Generally speaking, the professor to whom the teaching or research assistant reports determines the responsibilities of the student. The professor is also the main source of information and feedback both to the student and to the Department about the student's performance. TA's assigned to classes where Ann Long is involved, especially Geology 100, should consider her their primary contact and supervisor. TA's can also obtain additional information about specific courses by consulting with senior TA's in the Department and with Marilyn Whalen about room assignments, exam schedules, etc.

TA Responsibilities

Lecture TA's

  • Attend lectures and assist the professor as required.
  • Attend a TA orientation by the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning  (CITL) at least once.
  • Hold office hours for at least 2 hours each week.
  • Grade homework assignments as requested by the professor.
  • Report grades to the professor, and keep your own grade book as well.
  • Proctor examinations and coordinate exam distribution and computer grading, if used.

Lab or Discussion-Section TA's

  • Supervise assigned labs. Provide an introductory lecture and answer students' questions. Help maintain smooth operation of the lab, and clean up after your section.
  • Prepare teaching materials (e.g., overheads, exercises, teaching collections, maps, and audio visual materials)
  • Attend a lab earlier in the week if necessary to to become familiar with the material.
  • Attend a TA orientation run by the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL) at least once.
  • Hold office hours for at least 2 hours each week.
  • Grade labs or exams as requested by the professor.
  • Report grades to the professor.
  • Attend weekly TA meetings.
  • Proctor examinations.
  • Help prepare exam questions.
  • All TAs must distribute their own ICES forms to their students (ask the professor for details).

TA Resources

The Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning offers many services for instructors, such as TA orientations and software.

Special Sources of Short-Term Financial Support

For those students who do not have other funding, limited funds are available from the University to partially defray costs to attend professional meetings. See the Chair of the Graduate Admissions Committee for details.

Departmental Awards and Prizes

Graduate students are eligible for a number of prizes administered by the Department or University. These include:

  • Outstanding TA award
  • Prokasy award for teaching
  • Luckman award for teaching
  • Best woman graduate student award
  • Leighton Award
  • Paleontology Award

Please contact the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC), if you spot any errors or inconsistencies in the policies.