General Information for Teaching Assistants

I. Department Faculty and Staff

The Department of Mathematical Sciences is housed in DuSable Hall (DU) and Watson Hall (WH). A list of names, offices, and office telephone numbers for all faculty and graduate assistants will be distributed within approximately two weeks. Here are some of the people you may need to contact in the meantime.

Prof. Jeff Thunder (WH 320), the Department Chair

Prof. John Wolfskill (WH 320), the Assistant Chairman of the Department

Constance Spohn (Office Administrator) 753-6780

Carolyn Atkins (Graduate Director [Prof. Deng] Secretary) 753-0566

Prof. Sien Deng (WH 367) 753-6765; is the Director of Graduate Studies and person who last modified this document. He will be in continual interaction with you in terms of your graduate study and your assistantship responsibilities. Feel free to call upon him to discuss any aspect of your role as a graduate student and as a GTA. He is in a position to help you with many problems, but can only do that if he knows what the problems are.

Prof. Anders Linner (WH 326) directs the Applications Involvement Component of the Ph.D. program. All Ph.D. students should register for two hours of MATH 792 until they have completed their AIC requirement. Ph.D. students should contact Prof. Bellout at least one year before the desired time of their AIC placement.

Prof. Qingkai Kong (WH 338) is the Director of Undergraduate Studies. All courses in which you will be assisting fall under his jurisdiction.

Prof. Duchwan Ryu (DU 361E) is the director of the Division of Statistics within the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Renee Olsen (WH 352) is the Coordinator of Teacher Certification. Students seeking certification to teach mathematics in grades 6-12 should consult Ms. Olsen early on for advice on their program of study and their eventual placement as a student teacher.

II. Offices and Office Procedures

The main departmental office is Watson 320. The offices of the Department Chair, the Assistant Chair, and the office staff are located here. The main office is normally open from 8:00-4:30, Monday-Friday. The phone number for the main office is 753-0566.

Go to the main math office to:

  • pick up desk and office keys (from Carolyn),
  • pick up a grade book and the course textbook you will need for your GTA assignment,
  • leave something in a faculty member's mailbox (give to a secretary),
  • submit and collect duplication jobs (see below).

The graduate student mailboxes are located near the main office, adjacent to Watson 324. Check your mailbox frequently (once a day, if possible) for messages. This is especially important during the two weeks around the start of the semester, when changes to your TA assignment may be necessary on very short notice.

GTA Offices

Each graduate teaching assistant will have a desk in DuSable 374 (Phone 753-1723), DuSable 370 (Phone 753-1146), or DuSable 352 (Phone 753-6774). Obtain your desk assignment and keys from Julianne in Watson 320. Please inform Prof. Thunder if any complications arise in connection with your desk assignment.

It is essential that the GTA offices be locked when no TA is present. In the recent past we have had significant incidences of theft. Remember that the other TAs are counting on you to maintain the security of their possessions in the room.

Use your office to prepare your teaching materials and to study, but please do not schedule your office hours in a GTA office. Instead, use DuSable 326 (the MAC) to have scheduled meetings with your students.

Graduate Student Computing Lab, DuSable 344

This room contains computing resources for the use of the graduate students, including workstations, terminals, printers, and a PC. Your office key opens the door. The door to this room should remain closed and locked, even when someone is inside.

Departmental Reading Room, Watson 322A

The Reading Room contains recent issues of mathematical journals. It is intended as a resource for research by faculty and advanced graduate students. Hours: 8-4:30pm

The Mathematics Assistance Center (MAC), DuSable 326

The Mathematics Assistance Center (MAC) is staffed by TAs to provide assistance to students in our lower-level courses who need extra help. The MAC usually opens the second week of the semester and is staffed Monday-Friday, 9-4.


The university requires the direct deposit of paychecks; there is a form in your orientation folder. If there has been any break in employment, it is necessary to fill out a new form. You will be paid on the 15th and the last day of the month (unless such day falls on a weekend or holiday). You will receive your first paycheck at the end of August.


The department provides resources for duplication jobs that GTAs need in connection with their teaching responsibilities. For duplicating items for your personal use, including items relating to your role as a student, please purchase a copy card at Founder's library. This card can be used with most of the photocopying machines on campus.

There is a duplicating machine in the hallway near WH 320 (Math Office) that GTAs may use to duplicate quizzes and other small jobs. Please do not use this machine until you have received instructions on its proper use. Short training sessions will be held during orientation. If a problem arises while you are using the duplicating machine, immediately inform the math department office staff in WH 320.

You may also submit duplication jobs (quizzes and handouts) to the main office. Attach a blue duplication request form to your job and leave your duplication job in the box on the counter on the main math office. These jobs should be submitted at least two working days in advance of when they are needed. Pick up your duplication job at the main math office when it is ready. If you are teaching a class with full responsibility, you may submit exams for duplicating. Exams should be submitted four days in advance of when they are needed.

Keep in mind that the office performs duplication jobs for the whole department, and that some times during the semester are particularly busy. It's therefore best to submit duplication jobs as early as you can, particularly during times that examinations are being given in several other undergraduate classes.

Tuition Waivers

Teaching assistants all receive tuition waivers for the academic terms of their appointments. In addition, students who serve as teaching assistants during a spring semester are entitled to a tuition waiver for the following summer term, even those who do not hold an assistantship during that summer.

Medical Insurance

This is very important. The University offers medical insurance to graduate students and their families in case they do not have other coverage. Please consult the Student Health Insurance office at 753-0122 for information about how to obtain this insurance.

Discounts on Book Purchases

The Student Center Bookstore offers a 10% discount on textbook purchases by graduate assistants. To take advantage of this opportunity, purchase your books at the service desk on the lower level of the bookstore. You will need to bring either your appointment letter as a graduate assistant or a Student Center charge card which indicates that you are a graduate student.

III.  Assistantships

Report dates

Unless specific arrangements have been made with the Director of Graduate Studies in advance and in writing, graduate teaching assistants are required to be present at 9:00 a.m. the morning of Fall TA orientation before fall semester classes start in August, and at 9:00 a.m. the Friday before spring semester classes start in January.

The work week

The Department of Mathematical Sciences expects that each graduate assistant will be available for 20 hours per week to fulfill their assignment. With the permission of the Department and the Graduate School, non-international graduate assistants may accept up to 6 hours of work each week with another office on campus.


Graduate Assistants may offer their services as tutors to other students. However, it is not acceptable to tutor for a fee in the same course that you are assisting or to collect a fee from anyone you help in the MAC.

Limitation of Time For Assistantships

Normally, the Department of Mathematical Sciences will not provide teaching assistantship support for doctoral students who have been enrolled in the department's graduate program for more than 7 years (starting with a bachelor's degree), or for more than 6 years (starting with a master's degree). The Department generally will provide up to two years of assistantship support for students pursuing a master's degree.

Graduate assistants who are simultaneously pursuing the M.S. degree in mathematics and certification to teach mathematics in grades 6-12 will be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for a fifth semester of assistantship support. This reflects the reality that the M.S. degree with certification usually requires three full years of study, with the final semester set aside primarily for student teaching (and not to be supported by an assistantship).

Teaching with Full Responsibility

Qualified TAs may be asked to teach their own section of a course with full responsibility. There are a limited number of full responsibility assignments available. There are usually fewer such assignments than there are qualified TAs to fill them. Consequently, teaching assignments will be rotated among qualified TAs enrolled in the Ph.D. program in an attempt to guarantee that those qualified to teach with full responsibility have the opportunity to do so for at least three and at most six semesters. Doctoral students who hold fellowships and wish to teach with full responsibility are included in this policy, provided that they are qualified and that the terms of their fellowship allow this.

Under this policy, many doctoral students completing their program in five years will fulfill their assistantship responsibilities in one of the following ways: (a) two years as a teaching assistant plus three years teaching with full responsibility; or (b) three years as a teaching assistant plus two years teaching with full responsibility. There will, of course, be individual exceptions to these guidelines.

Teaching Awards

The Department presents Certificates of Teaching Excellence to advanced doctoral students who have demonstrated sustained teaching excellence and a strong record of academic achievement in the graduate program. In order to be considered for this award, a student must have successfully completed the written Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and served as a graduate teaching assistant for at least four fall or spring semesters, including at least two semesters of teaching with full responsibility. The awards are conferred at the departmental commencement ceremony in the spring.

Academic Concerns

All GTAs must be full-time students (carrying nine hours of courses each semester) in good academic standing. A graduate student whose cumulative GPA in graduate courses falls below 3.00 will be placed on academic probation. At the end of each subsequent term of enrollment, the cumulative graduate GPA is re-computed and if it rises to 3.00 or above, then the probation is removed. This must be achieved by the time 9 additional hours of graduate courses have been taken or within three terms of enrollment, otherwise the student is subject to academic dismissal.

If a graduate assistant with a contract for an academic year is placed on academic probation after the fall semester, then they may appeal to retain their assistantship for the spring semester. However, no new contract for an assistantship will be initiated by the Graduate School until the probation has been removed. This provision is also subject to appeal, so you should consult with Prof. Deng as soon as possible if you are placed on academic probation.

Master's students may use the non-penalty repeat option to remove themselves from academic probation. Under this option, a course in which a master's student has received grade lower than B may be re-taken, and if a higher grade is received on the second try, then the cumulative GPA is re-computed using the higher grade. This option requires prior notification of the Graduate School (i.e., before the course is re-taken), so let Prof. Deng know before the beginning of the term if you wish to exercise this option. The non-penalty repeat option may be applied to at most six semester hours, that is, it can be applied to at most two three-hour courses. The non-penalty repeat option is not available to doctoral students.

Director of Graduate Studies: Prof. Sien Deng

Last modified: 7/05/2018 (sd)