grant crunch and grad. students

Dianna L. Bourke dlb17 at EMAIL.PSU.EDU
Mon Sep 9 11:34:36 EST 1996


I wouldn't say you are "spoiled" just lucky in a way that you could
concentrate on your research. However, I do understand that your lack of
teaching experience as a result of your department's philosophy is a
problem now. Don't get me started on this philosophy!!!

With regards to whether teaching a lot is normal, yes it is. My experience
was during the years 1980-1986. I considered myself a happy medium in our
department, I taught one semester a year pretty intensely, then was free to
concentrate on research the rest of the year. Our teaching responsibilities
were for 4 months, but we were paid for 9 months + benefits. Typically our
professors paid us during the summer from their grants. If we wanted to
teach at other times or externally, it was OK, but not during the day. I
did teach one short session for a Neuroscience course just so I could say I
had. Most of these teaching assignments were as TAs in a Med school Anatomy
or Histology labs, but we were actually so short of teachers for gross
Anatomy, that every grad student was required to teach at least one lecture
during the semester. Some of us did two or more lectures. Also, I was hired
as an instructor in Anatomy after receiving my Ph.D. and had both lecture
and lab responsibilities.

Despite our teaching responsibilities, most students were able to finish by
about 6 years. Some took longer (tenured grad students, we called them) but
that was ususally because of the professor, not the program. However, days
were typically 10 hours long.

>I am curious to ask whether others out there involved in grad. school
>programs are being hit with problems in terms of funding altering grad.
>student positions.  Our dept. has historically been extremely well funded
>to the point that every student - until recently - was funded by the PI
>throughout his/her training.  Teaching was required only the first year
>and was a part of the training/funding apparatus.
>Only in the last year and a half have a couple PIs lost significant grants
>and several students have been creatively funded through a combination of
>slush funds, teaching, and alternate pay methods (for example, my
>partner's boss lost money and so he (my partner) was paid to create a
>homepage for the dept. for one quarter;  he has also taught several
>classes well beyond the first year "requirements").
>My partner has several brothers who went through U WI/Madison and had to
>teach virtually their whole careers to make ends meet, often because of
>funding problems.  To our "spoiled" eyes, this seemed outrageous.  Most of
>John's brothers took 8-9 years to finish, having to teach so often.  Our
>average is about 6 years.
>So - are we here at the UW unique/have we been unique among grad.
>programs.  Is this phenomenon something a lot of other programs have
>already gone through or is it something that is evolving rapidly right
>now.  Any thoughts about the ramifications?
>As a grad. student who "wants" to teach small college level, I am
>personally envious of all the training that John has gotten - where I
>can't even get a teaching position because my resume is poorly supported
>on teaching (despite *a lot* of guest lectureships).  There have been
>interesting ideas about doing "teaching" track PhDs vs research track to
>solve this evolving dichotomy in PhD job market placement (to meet the
>community college and small college market).  Anyone out there got any
>ideas, thoughts, or experience with this kind of alternate training?
>Thanks,  Sarah
>Sarah Boomer                            email:  sarai at
>Dept. of Microbiology                   work phone:  543-3376
>Box 357242                              work FAX:  543-3376
>University of Washington
>Seattle, WA  98195
>personal homepage:

Dianna L. Bourke
Penn State Hazleton

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