Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Art, Art History, and Design
Home > Degrees & Programs > Graduate > Funding > Assistantships

An assistantship is a type of employment, it can be teaching or research based.  Assistantships provide students with health insurance and tuition waivers.


February 15th to be considered for Graduate Assistantships.  For prospective students there are no additional application requirements beyond the materials submitted when applying to the MFA program.  All students will be considered for Graduate Assistantship opportunities as well as other funding available for incoming graduates. 

NOTE:  To be considered for MSU Distinguished Fellowship or Dean’s Graduate Recruitment Fellowship deadline for receipt of materials is January 5th.


The Department of Art,  Art History, and Design offers half-time graduate assistantships that are normally awarded the spring semester, for the following academic year, but on occasion, appointments of one semester duration may be made.

Weekly obligations average twenty hours and vary depending on the nature of the service performed.  Most Graduate Assistants serve as the instructor of record in one of our Foundation Program courses.  These courses include:  Drawing I, Color & Design, Three-Dimensional Form, and Art & Design: Concepts and Practices.  Although rare, some graduates may be offered the opportunity to teach advanced courses. One graduate student during the Fall semester and one graduate during the Spring semester is awarded a Research Assistantship linked to the Department of Art, Art History, and Design on and off-campus galleries.

All assistantships provide tuition waivers of 9 credits per semester, waivers of registration fees, allow enrollment beyond 9 credits per semester at the in-state rate, and provide employee-related health plans and reduced rates for dependents.

Current information on other graduate assistantships based in the college and/or university, and open to Department of Art,  Art History, and Design graduate students, is available from the Graduate School website.


To hold an assistantship a student must be enrolled in a degree program in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, and be registered for 6 credits. An exception is made during summer session, when a 3 credit minimum enrollment is allowed. 

Graduate assistantships normally are awarded for one academic year. They are intended to assist the student in making normal progress towards the degree and to support departmental courses and services. Except for fellowship recipients no candidate may hold an assistantship in excess of 6 semesters exclusive of summer appointments. The applicant’s preparedness and abilities to perform the particular service related to the assistantship will also be considered in making any appointment.

Reappointment Application & Eligibility

All graduate assistants who have held an assistantship for one or more semesters are eligible to apply for reappointment.  Applications will not be accepted from students who have received graduate assistantships for six semesters (excluding summer appointments).

Applications for reappointment will include the following:

  • A current resume
  • Images of current work
  • A narrative statement up to two pages addressing relevant aspects of student’s goals should include reference to both artistic and teaching goals and performance
  • Evaluation by supervising faculty of student performance in prior appointments or assistantships
  • SIRS forms or other evaluation tools required by the university

To be eligible for reappointment, a student must:

  • Maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 3.25
  • Have no more than 8 credits of deferred coursework, excluding STA 898
  • Show satisfactory progress in the degree program (by annual review for returning)
  • Submit SIRS forms
  • Submit assistantship evaluations by supervising faculty

Selection Process

Faculty decisions will be based on material submitted by candidate or materials submitted in support of the candidate.  They will consider the applicant’s preparedness and abilities to perform the particular service related to the assistantship.  

Applications are ranked by the discipline faculty previous to meeting of full faculty.  The full faculty then reviews all applicants for assistantships at the same time. One representative from each area may speak on the applicant’s strengths.  Final decisions on assistantships are made by the entire Studio Art Faculty members.


Teaching assistants (TAs) for the Foundation Studio Art sequence (STA 110, 112, 113, 114) are required to prepare and teach classes throughout the term and to meet regularly with the supervising faculty member; in addition, the Teaching Assistant must hold office hours – 2 hours a week is recommended – and announce those hours the first week of class and post them in the department office. Teaching assistants will conduct regular critiques, assign grades to their students’ projects and to any quizzes, exams or short papers they deem appropriate to the class. The handbook entitled MSU TA, which will be distributed at the beginning of fall semester, contains informative teaching strategies and campus resources available to Teaching Assistants and Michigan State University students.

Teaching Assistants who meet with students will be given office space in the Kresge Art Center that contains a desk, computer, and phone. Access to all office supplies and office equipment will be provided as required by their responsibilities. All enrolled graduate students have a mailbox in room 113 Kresge Art Center.

Orientation sessions for the graduate assistant who is active in the classroom are held each fall, and the department office will inform you of many other support programs sponsored by the Graduate School.  In addition to the orientation sessions, graduate assistants are asked to participate in regular meetings with the Foundations Coordinator if they are teaching as part of their assignment. 


Research assistants (RAs) for the Department of Art, Art History, and Design Galleries are required to aid in exhibition planning, install, deinstall, promotion, documentation, and maintain open-hours for the MSU Union Art Gallery and (SCENE) Metrospace. Throughout the term the RA will be required to meet regularly with the supervising faculty member.

Research Assistants will work carefully with supervising faculty to complete weekly tasks for a total of 20 hours weekly. RAs will be asked to maintain a regular schedule requiring them to work both on and off-campus.


Wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment for teaching assistants are determined by the Graduate Employees Union collective bargaining unit.  

Assistantship levels and stipends are based on the graduate students’ degrees and experience.  A tuition waiver is granted for each semester that one is appointed as a graduate assistant. There is a 9 credit waiver for Fall or Spring semester, and a 5 credit waiver for the summer session.

An exemption from out-of-state residence tuition is granted for additional credits during the semester of appointment and for the summer session that precedes or follows an appointment for an entire academic year.

Graduate assistants are automatically enrolled in a health insurance plan with the premium paid by the university. Enrolled students may insure eligible spouse and/or dependent children residing with the insured. For information on Graduate Assistant health benefits see: http://www.hr.msu.edu/benefits/studenthealth/index.htm