On hiring our education graduate students.

comic-1q0zhwr (From PhdComics.com)

So here’s something I learnt going through this process: graduate students are treated very differently in different Departments and Faculties. In a way, I was already aware of this, but it was still interesting to see first-hand the specific mechanics around this difference (at UBC anyway).

Here, I was use to the requirements around hiring Science graduate students, which generally revolve around a guaranteed salary of somewhere in the neighbourhood of $18,000 per year. This assumed that the student would working full time on his/her thesis. This isn’t great amount of cash, but when you include tuition waivers and opportunities to augment your take home pay with TAing or fellowships, it generally works out to something that is approaching a livable wage – albeit barely (this is Vancouver after all).

In the Faculty of Education, requirements for graduate work seemed to operate a little differently, in that this guarantee of a base salary doesn’t really exist. Indeed, many students would work on their theses part time without a real wage, often supplementing their livelihoods with a part-time job on the side. As a result of this set-up, we were essentially able to hire Faculty of Education graduate students as “contract” researchers, where hours would be placed administratively under an “hourly wage GRA” (or Graduate Research Assistant) status.

Given our desire to do some preliminary work, this nuance actually worked to our favour, in that we could explore part time help to get things underway. Under this rubric, we set out to find two graduate students who could work for a total of 100 hours each (at $25 per hour). As detailed in an earlier post, this equates to 5 hours per week over a 20 week period (roughly mid Feb to end of June).

And so, to start recruiting students, we liaised with the Faculty of Education, who kindly distributed our job ad (pdf copy) through the ranks (thanks Christine!).

Then, we waited…

Pretty quickly, we receive a LOT of applications, most of which were remarkably strong.  Based on our interviews, I really got the sense that the research project was thought to be pretty interesting, and of course, I can imagine that for the prospective researchers, it’s always great to try and get employment that would extend and hone your research chops further.

In any event, we ended up offering the positions to two graduate students (Tathali and Janice), who were not only very strong candidates but also nicely represented a dichotomy in their own research interests. Specifically, Tathali was quite embedded in science education research (particularly with an environmental focus), and Janice was exploring the interplay of theatre and pedagogy. Essentially, we thought having these two students with different perspectives might prove useful down the road, especially given the interdisciplinary nature of the program. As well, we had one other notably strong science education candidate (Latika), who due to certain restrictions (based mostly on her fellowship status) was ineligible for hiring under the number of hours we were hoping for. Latika, however, was so interested in the project that she offered to volunteer her time to be involved.

I should point out that I’m actually one of those folks who always tries to make sure students are properly compensated for their time, so whilst we went ahead and brought Latika aboard, we didn’t do so until  we made sure that at least some type of partial stipend was available.

In any event, there you have it. I’m going to get Tathali, Janice and Latika to introduce themselves in the coming days, so you’ll all get a chance to say hello.  Hopefully, they’ll share a little of their background and why they were interested in getting involved with the project.

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