GSI Application FAQs

Who is Eligible to Apply for GSI Positions?

A joint committee from SNRE, LSA and the University that set up PitE determined that any University of Michigan graduate student could be eligible for PitE GSI positions because thye recognized the interdisciplinary nature of the program and the range of environmental activities among students and faculty across campus.

The founding documents, approved by SNRE faculty state the following:
“D. Desired Mix
We are reluctant to specify a particular mix. Rather, we should encourage students from throughout the University to apply to be GSIs in the program. To do otherwise seems incompatible with a program that counts interdisciplinarity as a central goal. Encouraging GSIs from all over the University will increase the interdisciplinary exposure of students in the program while providing outreach benefits. We assume that the training and experience of graduate students in SNRE and in key science and social science departments will give them a competitive advantage.”

Are SNRE Graduate Students Given Priority for PitE GSI Positions?

Given the University-wide eligibility of graduate students for PitE GSI positions, no preference is given to SNRE graduates. Nevertheless, historically SNRE graduate students have successfully earned the majority of PitE GSI positions.

Other units give preference to their own grad students, why shouldn’t PitE?

As an interdisciplinary program PitE draws upon the expertise of instructors – faculty, lecturers and GSIs – from across the University. This is no one unit on campus that houses the common core of knowledge necessary to cover the spectrum of PitE courses. Many other units are disciplinary, and their students have met specified admission requirements covering basic knowledge in that disciplinary field. These units also ensure that their student pools have the essential basic background required to teach in the unit’s disciplinary classes.

The appropriateness and legality of this PitE policy were independently evaluated by UM Human Resources.

How many students apply for PitE positions?

The number of applicants for each position varies from fewer than five for specialized courses to more than 100 for introductory courses. In 2011, 140 candidates submitted 280 applications for 18 open Fall 2011 term positions.

Are current students given preference for GSI positions?

No. Every applicant is considered on the basis of his or her merits. Most students meet the minimum and desired requirements for a course. Major factors affecting rankings of applicants therefore tend to relate to experience relative to the nature and content of a course.

Are PhD students given preference for PitE GSI positions?

No. Every applicant is considered on the basis of his or her merits. The mix of teaching experiences in colleges and other settings, at Michigan or elsewhere, courses taken, scholarship, work and volunteering experiences, all related to course content, as well as the quality of written material (e.g. cover letter) are all highly variable among MS and PhD students.

Are incoming students eligible for GSI positions?

Yes. PitE seeks to ensure that there is a sustaining pool of qualified and experienced GSIs. As such, some current students and incoming students with less teaching experienced and with otherwise very good credentials may be selected to help build and sustain a GSI stream.

The appropriateness and legality of this PitE policy were independently evaluated by UM Human Resources.

Do faculty instructors choose their GSIs?

No. GSI selection is the responsibility of the Associate Director. S/he receives advisory input from faculty instructors and a GSI Selection Committee comprised of two faculty members, the Associate Director and PitE’s Department Administrator.

PitE’s process is designed to create a “level playing field” for all applicants. The procedure was proposed in response to allegations of favoritism in GSI selection. It was created with the input of SNRE faculty and the advice of the University’s Academic Human Resources staff.

Why are some GSIs the advisees of the instructor teaching a course?

More advanced courses tend to be more closely aligned to an instructor’s area of research. The instructor’s students are also most likely to overlap substantially with their advisors research interests, and hence are likely to be the most qualified to GSI these courses.

Some less advanced courses also bring a lot of research into them, using conceptual models; pedagogical approaches etc. that are not common in courses even in the same disciplines elsewhere. In these circumstances, GSIs are also more likely to be the advisees of the instructor of such a course.

Otherwise, a student will be a GSI for their faculty mentor when the Selection Committee considers that student best for the course.

How are multiple GSI offers to the same individual prioritized ?

When an applicant is selected for more than one course, the preferences of an applicant are considered, and the student is offered their available top choice. Since PitE is often not aware of other GSA offers an applicant has received, our offers do not take this factor into consideration. PitE recognizes that good students may have multiple offers, and the student should be the one to choose amongst such offers.

What is the 10-term limit for GSIs?

LSA limits graduate students to a maximum of 10 terms (semesters) of support of general fund support, primarily GSIs. From the LSA webpage cited below: “A term of support is treated as one full term toward the 10 if a) it is provided during the academic year, and b) the total LSA general fund support comes to a .25 fraction or greater. As a matter of practice, the College does not count GSI positions in Term III.

The 10-term limit applies to a student’s graduate career at Michigan, so that GSI support while a Master’s Student counts towards the limit if a student stays on for a PhD.