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Our teaching assistant program is one of the most progressive and thorough in the nation, consisting of a two-week orientation prior to the fall term, bearing three hour’s credit for which tuition and fees are waived.
The orientation is supplemented with a seminar in the teaching of first-year composition in the first term of the program. In addition, each teaching assistant meets on a regular basis with the supervisor, who acts as mentor to guide and direct while ensuring that each assistant has maximum responsibility for teaching and evaluating their students’ work. This exceptionally supportive environment provides teaching assistants with the knowledge and confidence to become effective instructors of first-year composition. Graduates of our program who have gone on to PhD programs or fellowships invariably report that our TA program is superior to the one they are then encountering.
Graduate students addressing their choice of Southeast overwhelmingly identify the faculty as a primary draw. They comment as follows: “The faculty at SEMO is its greatest asset. They take an interest in the students and help them reach personal goals, even to mentoring them in professional activities.”
Others note the opportunities for experiential activities: “Working with students in the Writing Center, the Faulkner Center, Teaching Assistantships, and the University Press, the Small Press Publishing Program, the Journey literary magazine, the Big Muddy, the Helix, and various open reading programs are all outstanding and useful opportunities that only add to the rich experience of attending graduate school at SEMO.”
Some find the size of the programs to be a strong draw: “The courses and class sizes in the English program off a supportive learning atmosphere that is conducive to furthering independent and collaborative thinking skills.”
The teaching assistant training program is a major factor in attracting applicants: “The English graduate assistant program is a fantastic reason to pursue graduate studies at Southeast. For me, the program provides means to fulfill both my educational and professional goals, allowing me to gain content knowledge and teaching experience to take into the secondary school classroom upon completion of the program.”
And graduate students find “the community feeling” among graduate students to be a significant factor in the appeal of the program. One graduate remembers, “At SEMO, we graduate students went out of our way to help each other when needed.”
Within the last twenty years, many graduates from our MA programs have applied and been accepted into Ph.D. programs, often with assistantships. Those schools include Purdue University, Texas Christian University, University of Missouri, Oklahoma State University, University of Southern Mississippi, Arizona State University, Louisiana State University, Ball State University, University of Illinois – Champaign-Urbana, Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, State University of New York – Binghamton, St. Louis University.
Teaching assistants have the opportunity to tutor in the Writing Lab, which averages 7300 tutorials each year, both face-to-face and online. Students receive assistance as walk-ins or in weekly conferences with the same tutor for an extended period. The clientele is diverse. Approximately half of all walk-in students seek assistance with writing in courses other than English composition, and approximately half are upperclassmen, with juniors and seniors well represented. International students represent approximately 31% of the face-to-face clientele. Thus, while tutoring in the Writing Lab, TAs will apply relevant principles they have learned in the seminars to a wide range of writing situations.
In addition to being valuable job experience, tutoring in the Writing Lab provides the TAs with greater insight into the students’ perspective than may be gained by conferring with students in their own courses. Training sessions conducted by the coordinator of the Writing Lab focus on topics of practical interest to tutors, for example, conferencing technique, writing across the disciplines, ways of addressing concerns about correctness, and the special needs of international students and students with learning disabilities.
Teaching assistants concentrating in English Studies have the opportunity of serving as a research assistant for at least one semester (and often two) in the Faulkner Center. The Center was established to serve the Louis Brodsky, Jr., Faulkner Collection, one of the three major collections of Faulkner materials in the world. RAs have “hands-on” experience with the original materials, first editions, and correspondence received and created by Faulkner. Recently, RAs participated in creation of the Faulkner Encyclopedia. Thus, our RAs have a rare opportunity to work with a major collection of a world-class member of belles-lettres. They also have an active role in the planning and organization of the bi-annual Faulkner Conference.
Teaching assistants who are concentrating in Professional Writing have the opportunity of serving as a research assistant for at least one semester (and often more) in the Southeast Missouri State University Press. The prerequisite is either prior coursework or experience in literary publishing or an internship in the press prior to the assistantship. The RA has the opportunity to work with our award-winning literary journal Big Muddy, with writing professional book reviews for publication, and with production and marketing of full-length book manuscripts. Recent awards and honors include longlist placement for the Pen/Binghamton Prize, Finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, an Indie Foreward Gold Medal, The Kniffen Book Award, The James Jones First Novel Award, The Langum Award for Historical Fiction, The Governor’s Book Award, The “United We Read” Book Selection, The Creative Spirit Awards Platinum Award, an IndieFab National Book of the Year finalist, St. Louis Poetry Center’s Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize, Stars and Flags Book Award, and One Story Literary Debutante for a First Novel.
TESOL Teaching Assistants will teach two consecutive 8-week courses in the IEP program. Possible courses they may teach include Reading, Writing, Grammar, and Speaking and Listening. Course assignments are determined by enrollment needs.
Besides being professionally active themselves (see the Graduate Faculty Roster) our Graduate Faculty define themselves as mentors to the graduate students, introducing them into the professional field through the classroom experience and beyond. The result is an impressive list of professional presentations at state and national conferences, articles in journals, and creative writings.
Within the last few years our graduate students and teaching assistants have given presentations at the annual conferences of Conference on College Composition and Communication, National Council of Teachers of English Convention, The Association of Teacher Educators, The Annual Southeast Region Association of Teacher Educators, South Central Renaissance Conference, Annual TESOL Conference, NJCEA Conference, 20th Century Literature and Culture Conference, SEMO Research Conference, Annual Southern Writing Conference, the Popular Culture Association Conference, and Radical Writes.
Publications have appeared in Journey Literary Magazine, Literati, Midwest Book Review, Raintaxi Review of Book,; Helix, The Subterranean Quarterly, The Julie Mango, Thought Catalog, and Margaret Atwood Studies, Crazy Horse, eleven eleven, Foliate Oak, Atlas and Alice, Edify Fiction, Gone Lawn, Potomac Review, Opossum, Crack the Spine, Trailer Park Quarterly, Piker Press, Apt, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, Moon City Review, Honey and Lime Lit.
Other publication activity includes editorial work on Journey, Literati, Beyond the Blank Page and Dr. Staff.
Through this record of achievement, our teaching assistants have been quite successful in their pursuits beyond the master's program at Southeast Missouri State University, whether seeking assistantships for doctoral studies, seeking admission into law school, working in the publishing or marketing field, or attaining a teaching position at the college or secondary level. As a former assistant commented in the postscript of the TA training manual, “The assistantship was the heart of my graduate learning.”
We hope that you will consider our program as you explore your graduate school opportunities. We will be happy to respond to any of your questions.
Dr. Philip MacKenzie
Supervisor of English TAs