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GSIs juggle teaching
Women engineers find
daily challenges, rewards
By Rachel Edelnm
Daily Staff Reporter
As both students and teachers, gradu-
ate student instructors spend their years
at the Univei ty living a double life.
Living in both sides of the academic
world, GSIs face the difficulty of bal-
ancing teaching and studying, along
with surviving financially.
"For those of us who are not inde-
pendently wealthy, deciding to go to
graduate school and work as a teaching
assistant is like taking a vow of pover-
ty," said former history and women's
studies GSI Teresa Sanislo.
Sanislo said it's particularly true
when a student advances in the graduate
program, and expenses include applica-
tion fees from fellowships, travel
expenses and business attire.
The amount of work that GSIs do
depends on their level of appointment.
The typical appointment level is 40 per-
cent, which averages to about 15-20
hours a week.
GSIs, who work at least 25 percent of
typical appointments receive a tuition
waiver, as well as healthcare benefits.
The average salary for GSIs is about
$900 a week.
Since summer funding isn't guaran-
teed, GSIs must depend on other
sources, such as fellowships and
research positions, to survive the three
"The average GSI has to take out
loans, get a sec-
ond job, or rely on "I h v A
parental help. We /
don't make the of My ph
cost of living,"
said sociology -
GSI Eric Fink,'School O
who is also a vol-
unteer at the
Graduate Employees Organization,
which is a union for GSIs.
Many GSIs said they feel constantly
weighed down by the time constraints
of teaching and studying.
"I have to live by my planner, said
Meri Muirhead, a GSI in the School of
Education. "I check it three or four
times a day, and block in times to
Of the approximately 10,000 grad-
uate and professional students at the
University, about 1,500 are GSIs at
any given time. Many more teach
classes at some point in their gradu-
"Teaching is a never-ending, full-
time job," Sanislo said. "I find it really
difficult to put my own work before
Students expressed mixed opinions
about the role of GSIs in the classroom,
and the type of education that they pro-
"I've never had a bad experience,"
said LSA junior Elizabeth Somsel.
"For the most part, they seem very
well informed. It's set up so that they
can be more accessible than the pro-
Other students believe that some
GSIs are too inexperienced or too
focused on their own work to properly
teach classes or sections.
"GSIs tend to be working on their
own thesis, and have their own point of
view," said Music senior Helena
Birecki. "They tend to not want to allow
i ve out depends on the
GSI," said LSA
S u c i n e I I a
Aeri Muirhead "Some try har<
Education GSI and are terrific
Those that tr)
hard really help us to learn the mate
Teaching an undergraduate class o,
section also can serve as preparation fo
future academic careers. GSIs learn
how to structure a syllabus, give lec.
tures, lead discussion sections and jug.
gle the demands of teaching and their
work, Sanislo said.
"Teaching should be a part of the
graduate school experience. To become
a professor without stepping into a
classroom is very difficult," said
Classical Art and Archaeology GSI
Teaching as a graduate student often
allows for interaction with faculty
members without the pressure of hav-
ing their work evaluated, said English
GSI Susanna Ryan.
"Teaching strengthens your relation-
ship with the professor," Ryan said. "It
changes the power dynamics of the rela-
By Susan T. Port
Daily Staff Reporter
Technical corporations across the
country are filled with engineering
alumni from the University. And an.
increasing number of those engineers
University Alumnae Sue Hartfield-
Wunsch said studying engineering in
the undergraduate and graduate level
has taught her a valuable lesson that
hard work pays off.
Wunsch, who is now a material sci-
ence engineer for General Motors
Corp., graduated from Carnegie Mellon
and went on to receive her masters from
MIT and her Ph.D from the University.
She said she found the University to be
friendlier and more relaxed then the
other schools she attended.
"I think in general, engineers tend to
be diligent and persistent and grind
through all the problems to find a solu-
tion," Wunsch said. "I think paying
attention to details is a typical trait for
Wunsch said she was bought up in a
family of engineers and was "brain-
washed" never to consider pursuing
"I just never thought of going
through anything else," Wunsch
Wunsch said she got used to being
one of the only women in her classes.
"I spent all my adult years in a male
dominated field," Wunsch said. "We all
suffered through- thermodynamics
Student groups such as the Society of
Women Engineers are designed to pro-
vide peer support for women in science
and engineering. SWE also introduces
University students to companies and
helps them to network and find oppor-
tunities for summer internships and
SWE Vice President Jennifer
Braganza said belonging to the
group has given her an edge in her
"We help influence girls," Braganza
said. "We help girls say 'yes you are a
woman yes you have the intelligence to
become an engineer."'
But Wunsch said that during her
years of study she found no reason to
"To be honest they turned me off,"
Wunsch said. "Seemed like just a group
of women who would complain how
hard engineering was. It was not very
productive to sit around and complain
or at least that's how it was-in the early
Braganza said any woman who is an
engineering major is missing out by not
participating in SWE. She said the
group's value comes not just from sup-
port, but from increased access to
"I don't believe there is a single
woman who can say they do not need
more interaction with companies,"
Braganza said. "We even have men
involved, not necessarily because
they support SWE, but because it
gives them the chance to get to know
SWE Industrial Director Amanda
Matejak said while she was involved in
a summer internship, she didn't feel she
was treated differently because she is a
"I think there is a high demand for
women engineers," Engineering junior
Matejak said. "I'm very comfortable (at
Wunsch said in her professional
experiences she has been treated like
one of the boys.
Engineering sophomore Brock
Wyma said he has noticed that as he
takes more upper level engineering
courses, fewer women are in his class-
es. Wyma said women help balance
"I think there is a
high demand for
--- Amanda Matejak
industrial Director, Society of
his classes with their ideas and opin-
"I feel if I keep going up I'm going
to see less and less women in my
classes," Wyma said. "At this point,
women give a very unique edge to
engineering. If you had just 95 per-
cent guys it would be extremely one-
Wunsch said she watched her fellow
female classmates drop classes left and
right, but mostly in the first year.
Wunsch said engineering is a highly
"I would say to students just hang in
there, it's a tough field," Wunsch said.
"If you persevere, you find good work
as long as you find it interesting."
Engineering sophomore Rob Wilbert
said he does not view the abilities of his
female engineering peers differently
than the males.
"I look at everyone equally" Wilbert
said. "You belong here if you want to
become an engineer and do the work.
Engineering classes are pretty much
objective. There is no favoritism given
Carolyn Dodge, an Engineering junior and SWE mer
junior Amanda Matejak how to use Uni-Graphics to
by helping o
Steven Salchack, a GEO member and English GSI, sells T-shirts and other GEO
items during a GEO meeting on Oct. 15.
QUALITY DRY CLEANING
& SHIRT SERVICE
(Across from Nickels Arcade)
GSIs are trained according to each
department's standards. Although some
GSIs have received no formal training,
most departments require graduate stu-
dents to attend a seminar or workshop
on teaching issues and educational
methods, which is run by experienced
The Center for Research on
Learning and Teaching offers addi-
tional workshops for GSIs on topics
ranging from speaking skills to mul-
ticultural issues. About 147 GSIs
have participated in CRLT training
However, many GSIs believe that
experience in the classroom offers the
"Almost everything that I have
learned as a teacher, I have learned
on my own or through my interac-
tion with other teachers," Sanislo
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