On Being a Graduate Assistant

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Last semester I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as adjunct faculty within our department and work with some great undergraduate students. This semester I am working as a graduate assistant in the print studio.

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I decided to talk about this position for a couple reasons. One, I want to point out that our studios are very fluid. Students move from the paper studio to the bindery to the computer lab to the print studio all the time. This applies to the work being produced and to the work positions being held. Two, I want to show the ready availability of work within the Book and Paper department. And three, I want to tell you how awesome it is to have a job at school – it is awesome.

My first semester I worked outside of school and, while it was manageable, it still felt like I was using time and energy that would have been better served in my school environment. Working within the department, you gain invaluable experience on the professional side of studio employment. As the Graduate Assistant in Print, I am responsible for maintaining the studio, working (heavily supervised) on the presses, cataloging a newly acquired collection of cuts, and most importantly, overseeing the open studio hours when undergraduate students can come and work.

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Just as when I was teaching, being in this position of responsibility requires quick thinking and learning. When an undergraduate student asks a question that I don’t immediately know the answer to, I have to dig deep down in my brain and figure it out (and quick!).

I feel like working these jobs is as educational as taking classes sometimes. They force you to go beyond your own technical needs and to consider questions and approaches you wouldn’t make independently.

Also, there’s a very real possibility that some of the jobs awaiting Book and Paper graduates will be as studio managers or studio technicians. This reality is another reason I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be so involved in the back-end operations of our studios.