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GSI, GSRA, and GSSA opportunities

Graduate assistantships are opportunities for students to be involved in teaching, research or strategic initiatives on campus. Typically, assistantships are very competitive opportunities that carry a strong financial aid package that may include tuition, stipend and health benefits. At UMSI, the most common types of assistantships are teaching assistantships and research assistantships. 

Get tips from UMSI alumni and learn more about each type of assistantship below!

Some UMSI students with relevant backgrounds have obtained Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) positions teaching undergraduates in other departments (such as psychology, communications, English, chemistry, etc.). In general, GSI positions are highly competitive and tend to value teaching experience. There are also opportunities for grader positions that support instructors in some departments. See posted positions.

GSI advice from student GSI alumni

"Start as early as you can, even before you're accepted to UMSI. Visit Academic Human Resources to read about GSI stuff in general. Visit departments' homepages to see recent or future GSI postings. Contact the GSI selection administrator and drop off or email a resume to them. This gets you on their radar; you exist.

Apply for anything that seems like you could teach it. Some GSIs run a class alone, others are teaching as part of a team. GSI jobs are not all created equal.

Email the professors with a cover letter (in the body of email) and an attached resume. Each letter should be focused on the specific class and why you are the right person to teach it. Most professors do not respond, but making this contact can be crucial to landing a GSI spot. Paying a visit during the prof's office hours can also help by putting a face and personality to a name on a resume." 

 Mark Thompson-Kolar

"Look at U-M's Academic Human Resources site for the various departments and their posting patterns. Most departments will list openings and applications on this site as well as due dates and if the application needs to be submitted in-person or submitted through email.

You can ignore that part where it states how often they make appointments outside of the department. Apply to any and every department that you think you have even the tiniest bit of qualifications for, even if it's just a class or two in undergrad. If you have teaching experience in any capacity (workshops, private tutoring, anything) make sure to emphasize that.

Appointments are made even into the first few weeks of classes, so don’t give up too early. Keep applying to the positions that haven't been filled. Departments that have a track record of hiring lots of GSIs from outside of their department are communications and psychology. Start with those two first and work your way into the other schools in LS&A.

It takes a lot of luck and a lot of applications in order to get just one GSI job, but after you get it the first time, it's much easier to keep the appointment or get hired in another department in subsequent terms."

— Steven Grady

"I started looking for a GSI even before my first semester began at UMSI and I tried a few places — museum studies, Chinese, undergrad SI courses ... anything I could relate to my background.

Sometimes I never heard back, and sometimes the professor told me that they really liked me but had to move on with someone else who had more teaching experience. In my third semester at UMSI, I got an offer from the Department of Asian Language and Culture and have continued to be their GSI in my fourth (last) semester. I really enjoy it but it’s a great amount of work — I would suggest only taking two or three courses while doing a GSI.

Keep trying and never give up. This is not just an opportunity to get funding but also to practice how to quickly understand what your potential employer needs and market yourself. It is very competitive no matter where you apply, but if you really want to get it, spend some time thinking about why you are a good fit and how you can convince the professor (your future employer).

Teaching experience is important, but for language courses they also hire people without much teaching experience. The Department of Asian Language and Culture (ALC) offers a course called ALC445-Chinese Language Pedagogy. Whoever takes this course might have a better chance of getting a GSI with ALC."

— Shi Chen

UMSI students may be hired for a Graduate Student Research Assistantship (GSRA), which is a competitive position awarded by individual faculty who have funded research projects. Strategies for increasing your competitiveness for GSRA positions include taking courses taught by faculty whose research interests you, discussing mutual interests during office hours or offering to work as an hourly research assistant. GSRA positions cover tuition and offer students a substantial stipend and health insurance. Learn more about UMSI's extensive research endeavors.

GSRA advice from student GSRA alumni

"I would suggest to students that they highlight any past experience working on a research team (even from undergraduate education) that they may have. Having a few references from inside an academic environment is very advantageous as well when seeking a GSRA. Be sure to illustrate that you are both comfortable working as part of a team but are proactive and can be counted on to perform independent research/analyses."

— Andrea Parker

"When it came time to find a GSRA position, I realized that UMSI seemed to have only a few openings at a time or that they were not publicized very much. Being proactive is the best advice I can give. Demonstrate both your interest and skill and develop relationships with your professors so that you can be considered a candidate as early as possible."

— Ryan Burton

GSSA positions are typically housed in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs at the University of Michigan. They require high interpersonal communication and research skills as well as experience designing and planning workshops and interactive programs for students, staff and faculty. Successful applicants will have a vested and demonstrated interest in DEI and would have taken advantage of facilitation and student life training opportunities on campus. These positions are limited, so it's important to submit your application early. Additionally, the specific responsibilities of GSSAs vary across schools, so it's important to pay attention to the specific tasks listed in the job description.