TCU trying to keep pace with popularity of graduate assistant programs

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    With the popularity of graduate programs at the university growing in recent years, funding for these programs can be scarce, said the associate provost of academic affairs.

    “The good part is, the graduate financial aid budget has increased steadily each year,” Dr. Bonnie Melhart, the associate provost of academic affairs and dean of university programs, said. “The bad part is that the needs for graduate financial aid have increased much faster.” 

    Melhart said the graduate programs have grown through a decentralized model for admissions, advising and the curriculum. She said the university has expanded its programs, including professional development, while embracing new technology, such as new online graduate applications and advanced data collection.

    Compared to schools like the University of North Texas or Southern Methodist University, which have a greater number of graduate students, TCU works to keep tuition aids and stipends at competitive levels so the best students will consider programs here, she said.

    “[Keeping aid competitive] will help prepare them for their careers beyond graduate school,” Melhart said. “Our faculty works closely with graduate students, something that is not always possible in large programs at other universities.” 

    What graduate assistants are saying

    Graduate assistants are choosing the university to pursue their graduate degrees due to its faculty and staff and the ability to work within the administration, Kaitlin Phillips, the graduate student senate president said.

    Phillips said the university was at the top of her list because she did her undergraduate degree at the university. She said university faculty and staff had a huge influence on her.

    “I had finally decided to attend TCU mainly because of the faculty in the communications department,” Phillips said. “We have a wonderful faculty who do a lot of research and it was one of the main reasons why I decided to stay at TCU and continue my graduate work here, as well as the opportunity to be a graduate teaching assistant in the communication studies program.” 

    Sarah McNeely, another graduate assistant, said she decided to come to TCU in 2008 to study Victorian literature and because of the English department.

    “It seems like TCU really attracts a really high quality or caliber of graduate students in all programs,” McNeely said. “This program offered a different opportunity to develop a skill set in administration that will hopefully make me more marketable when I go out on the job market.”

    Kaleigh Wyrick, a graduate assistant to Theresa Gaul, the director of women’s studies at the university, said she chose the university because of the ability to receive administrative and teaching experience.

    “Half of my assistantship goes to whatever Dr. Gaul wants me to do, like going around talking to classes about Women’s Studies, applying for the minor and doing the website and blog,” Wyrick said. “At the same time, I help TA with Dr. Bonnie Blackwell in the Introduction to Women’s Studies course."

    Wyrick also said how "delighted" she is to work with the English Department and how well the faculty works with the graduate students.

    “The faculty is genuinely interested in your success and what your research interests are and you as a person,” Wyrick said. “It’s all very personable and the other students that I hang out with or am studying with, we are all very close.”

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