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New teaching assistants can start strong with TA orientation

ASU Graduate College hosted its bi-annual TA Orientation on January 5, 2018 in the Tempe campus’ Memorial Union.  Required for all first-time TAs, the four-hour program is designed both to provide new TAs with the resources to confidently manage a teaching assignment and to empower them as resources to their own students.

“Many of our first-time TAs have never interacted with faculty and departments in quite the manner they do as TAs,” said Jennifer Rhodes, program manager for knowledge mobilization in the ASU Graduate College.

“The relationship with the department or faculty they are assigned to takes on a different dynamic,” Rhodes continued. “There’s potential for a lot of anxiety over balancing TA responsibilities with their own coursework and research.” 

TAs in attendance had the opportunity to ask questions and engage with faculty, including President’s Professor Max Underwood, professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and Dr. Susan Neuer, professor and Associate Director for Graduate Programs in the School of Life Sciences, during a panel discussion. Well-received by new TAs in attendance, the panel allowed faculty to share their perspectives and experiences, observations, and expectations of teaching assistants and the professional development offered by assistantships.

Meanwhile, current teaching assistants from an array of graduate programs, including Claire Crowther of the Graduate and Professional Students Association (GPSA), provided both levity and alleviated any concerns or anxiety of first-time TAs with their practical tips, insights, and best (and worst) TA experiences.

Just as important as providing new TAs with the tools for support in their own classrooms or assignments is providing them the knowledge to be advocates and resources for their own students within the institution.

To that end, TA Orientation features presentations from various non-academic units throughout the institution, including ASU Health Services, the ASU Police DepartmentStudent Rights and ResponsibilitiesStudent Advocacy and AssistanceASU Counseling Services, and the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

“It’s easy to forget that our TAs are not just students or instructors, but being in a student-facing role are often the first line of resources to their own students,” said Dr. Jennifer Cason, Director of Graduate Student Support Resources. “And since many of them are new to ASU themselves, they may not be aware of the university’s larger resource networks, both for themselves and their students.”

TA Orientation for the fall semester will take place on August 9, from 1 to 5 p.m., and August 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 2018. New TAs can register for either session here.

TA Orientation is a part of Graduate College’s larger TAD program. For more information visit Teaching and Research Assistant Resources webpage.