New “Teaching Assistant of the Month” award to recognize TAs on campus

Christina Breitbeil

A new “TA of the Month” award, created by the Graduate School Assembly and the Student Senate, will recognize its inaugural recipient this month, according to representatives of GSA.  

The award was designed to recognize outstanding graduate students, whether teaching assistants or academic instructors, for their teaching on campus. Undergraduates can nominate their TAs for the award, and graduate students can recognize their peers with a nomination, according to Deepjyoti Deka, Academic Affairs Director for GSA. A selection committee comprised of both graduate and undergraduate students will then evaluate nominated TAs to decide the winner of the award every month. 

Previously, the only established award for TAs was the annual “William S. Livingston Outstanding Graduate Student Academic Employee Award,”  which is given by the Graduate School to distinguished TAs, assistant instructors and graduate research assistants. John Dalton, assistant dean of graduate studies, has coordinated with the GSA to allow winners of “TA of the Month” to be nominated into competition for the annual Livingston award.

Dalton said the partnership of the programs would allow for TAs to be selected with input from other students, as opposed to having to be nominated by a supervisor, which is required for the Livingston Award. 

“We also hope to see more graduate and undergraduate participation in the nomination and selection process for this award given their experience in interacting with the TAs and AIs,” Deka said. 

Roxana Capper, a former TA, said she had been concerned about the sufficiency of just an annual award.

“I think an award every month would be a welcome improvement,” Capper said. “Communication about the program was also poor. I worked for at least one lecturer who didn’t even know that the [Livingston Award] existed, so fat chance of even getting nominated.”

Winners of the award will be encouraged to share their successful teaching practices with fellow TAs and graduate students, so as to build a better foundation for instruction on campus as a whole, Deka said.

“The TA/AI of the Month program is an excellent way to promote good teaching practices and reward students for their dedication to teaching undergraduate courses,” said Columbia Mishra, president of GSA and one of the chief coordinators of the program. “This initiative marks the collaboration between the graduate and undergraduate students in promoting good teaching, which is so important to the university.”

GSA and Student Senate are accepting nominations for this month from the McCombs School of Business, the School of Information, the School of Nursing and the Cockrell School of Engineering until Wednesday, Oct. 23.