For our latest InternXperts, we completed interviews with two graduate teaching assistants at UIC. Miguel Andueza Purigmon is a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of Economics, and Jack Hafer is a Teaching Assistant as he pursues his Ph.D. in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science. Read more for their insight on the unique field of Teaching Assistantships.
To begin, what is your life motto?
Miguel: “Pass it forward.”
Jack: “Whatever you want to be, be a good one.”
What is your InterXpert advice for gaining a position similar to yours?
Miguel: “Teaching Assistantships are usually department-specific and tend to be tied to a Graduate Program. However, I would suggest getting involved on campus to develop and show evidence of leadership and mentorship experience.”
Jack: “If you want a job in academia or higher education, the basic prerequisite is to be admitted to a graduate program. To succeed in this, you need to have a passion for a particular academic subject, and you need to convince others that you would do well in a graduate program. You usually need an undergraduate degree related to the graduate degree you want to pursue. In many cases, you need to demonstrate that you are a good teacher as well (If your focus is teaching, then demonstrating good teaching ability is the most important thing). Graduate programs are extremely competitive, so you need to maintain a high GPA, impress any professors who you want to write your letters of recommendation, and do well on any standardized tests or entrance exams such as the GRE.”
What’s the InternX inside scoop on your major and job? What’s the best part?
Miguel: “Research. I enjoy learning and thinking critically about policy issues such as immigration and digging deep into the implications this has as in our society. [I also enjoy] learning something new every day. Whether it is from experienced faculty or my students, there is always something new to be learned.”
Jack: “The best part of being at UIC is being immersed in a community of people who are passionate about learning mathematics, and being in a space where I can devote my time to math. Every day is a new, challenging learning experience. I love being able to pursue my own research interests while learning about those of my colleagues.
A mathematician is someone who gets paid to solve puzzles.
As a teacher, I enjoy being someone who is not only able to communicate mathematical ideas but to share my passion for them. I enjoy helping people understand things and learn new things. I challenge myself to be “the math teacher I didn’t have,” meaning I try to explain ideas not necessarily in the same way I learned them, but in the way those ideas eventually made sense to me. I challenge my students to think about things and to solve problems at a level above whatever the course material is, and I enjoy seeing them succeed.”
Teaching assistantships are available for a range of degrees, whether you pursue the position as you work on your PhD or to gain a higher degree before entering the job field. To set yourself up to be a strong candidate for program acceptance, create connections with students in that specific position, such as Jack and Miguel. This will provide you with the greatest first-hand knowledge for strategic advice and insight.