Duties of a Graduate Assistant

School is expensive.  We’re all looking for scholarships, right?  Well – Fisher MAcc has plenty to offer, especially if you look in the right places. For those of you who have applied and will be applying, you’ll be glad to know (if you didn’t already) that Fisher automatically considers you for merit-based financial aid.  Some financial aid is offered in the form of Graduate Assistantships (GAs), and are awarded to candidates based on the strength of their overall application credentials, relative to the rest of the admitted student pool (e.g. GMAT, grades, references, etc.).  They provide a waiver for a certain percentage of your tuition and fees, as well as a monthly stipend.  In exchange, you maintain solid academic standing and work for Fisher.  This post is dedicated to one job you might hold if you receive a GA position – assisting with Ohio State’s undergraduate Intro to Accounting course.

Helping with Accounting 211 or 212, the two introductory accounting courses required for all business majors, comes in one of two forms -(1)  Serving as a lab instructor and (2) Serving as a case writer.  I’ve had the pleasure of doing both, so I thought I’d give you some insight on what each entails.  This way, if you are a GA working with 211 or 212 you can make an informed decision about what you’d prefer to do.

1.  Your life as a Lab Instructor

Working as a lab instructor puts you in the classroom with 40 undergraduate students.  You’re in charge here, and will interact with your students twice a week.  You’ll have two classes, each of which will meet once a week – currently it’s one on Tuesday and one on Thursday, unless you’re a 212 instructor (you have two different classes on Friday).  I’m not sure if this will change under semesters though.

You won’t actually be teaching the course, but you will review major concepts that they’ve already covered in lecture.  So what’s your role?  You teach the labs.  Students work on four phases of an accounting case that helps them learn the basics of accounting – what a payable is and how it works, how loan payments and interest are treated, how cash flows relate to the income statement and balance sheet, etc etc etc.  As a lab instructor, you introduce the students to the cases and then help them when they get stuck.

You’ll also be responsible for grading the cases when they’re submitted, but you’re given a very thorough grading rubric to follow.  It takes a little getting used to at first, but once you get the hang of it it’s not bad at all.

Teaching students can be really fun.  Sure, at times you’ll get frustrated but you know that you’re never alone.  The professors in charge of the course are behind you 100% and make sure that if you’ve got more help and resources than you’d ever need.  It’s a good experience – especially if you ever want to teach full time.

2.  Your Life as a Case Writer

As a case writer, you’ll actually be writing the cases that are used in the 211 and 212 courses.  There are fewer writers than there are instructors, but that doesn’t mean you should assume you won’t be a writer if that’s what you’re interested in!  Case writing gives you a little bit more flexibility than working as a lab instructor, but it comes with entirely different demands and expectations.

You’re expected to put at least 10 hours in each week – this is easy if you’re not suffering from writer’s block.  There are a few cases that need revised and updated, but your primary responsibility will be creating entirely new cases.  You can make these up from your imagination, or meet with local businesses to create a case based on their experiences.  This can be a lot of fun, but again, can add a whole new element of stress.  If you work with a local business, there will certainly be facts and figures they are not comfortable releasing, and you will need continuous communication to ensure that they are comfortable with your writing.

There’s always the chance that you may be asked to help grade assignments as a case writer, too.  You attend the weekly meetings that the Lab Instructors go to so you’re in the loop for what’s going on in the classes – this is necessary in case you have to grade, but also so you can see what students are having trouble with in the course.  What better way to make sure that your cases are written clearly and appropriately than to listen in on direct feedback?

Case writing can be very rewarding.  Your cases will likely not be used until after you graduate, but you will be acknowledged on the case itself each time it is used.  How cool is that??  Case writing can be frustrating, as you may run into writer’s block or have to wait for professors/your contact/etc to find time to edit and approve what you’ve written.  But, in the end it was a job I really enjoyed!

Over the next few weeks and posts I’ll detail some of the other GA responsibilities you may have.  Check back regularly to see what else being a GA at Fisher has to offer!