Higher Ed Coordinator and Consultant

Today’s post is by a grad student who strategically took on two roles within her university aside from her job as a teaching assistant, which had an unexpected consequence.

Name: Katy Peplin

Institution: University of Michigan

Department: Screen Arts and Cultures

1. What was your side job?

  • Program Coordinator, Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) series for the Center of Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) – I basically was a full team member with staff from CRLT, doing everything from making copies all the way up to designing and presenting seminar content. I ran two seminar sessions (2015 and 2016) and one conference (2016) under this title.

  • Graduate Teaching Consultant, also with CRLT – I observed graduate student instructors, worked one on one to improve their teaching, and facilitating workshops of my own design to graduate students.

2. How much did you earn?

$20/hr – my hours varied widely, averaging five to ten hours a week, and 30-40 hours a week for the 5 weeks the seminar ran (in May of each year.)

3. How did you balance your job with your graduate work?

My advisor was not supportive of my alt-ac career planning, so I did not fully disclose this work to her. Logistically, I worked with my department administrator (who handled our budget) in confidence, and she worked directly with CRLT (which was also a unit within the University) to make sure that I complied with hour restrictions for my funding as it changed from semester to semester. In terms of managing my time, I was also teaching a full load and working on my dissertation, so I scheduled on-campus meetings with CRLT around my teaching schedule, and generally tried to put out whatever fire was burning the brightest at any one moment.

4. Did your job complement your graduate work or advance your career?

It was definitely a strategic move to work at CRLT, as I knew early on that I wanted to be prepared for a wide range of post-PhD career moves. I figured that teaching-focused institutions would look kindly on the pedagogy aspects of the work, that non-profits would appreciate the administrative, budget and publicity parts of my portfolio, and that I would have extensive experience to prepare me for a variety of positions in other teaching centers. It did definitely detract from my graduate work, however – compared to some of my other peers, I published less and often missed out on things like scholarly talks because of my schedule.

5. How did you get started with your job?

I completed the Preparing Future Faculty seminar as a participant in 2014, and approached one of the facilitators for an informational interview about her role in the teaching center. When the program coordinator position came up, she emailed me to encourage an application, and to apply for the teaching consulting position the next year.

6. Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?

Looking back, I feel I might have focused too narrowly on the field of educational/professional development when pursuing work experiences during the PhD. When I graduated and entered the market, I was over-qualified for post-docs in professional development, but also was passed over for positions in teaching centers that ultimately went to people with post-docs. Because I was geographically tied to one location because of my partner’s career, there were only so many jobs in that field in our city (and even fewer tenure-track or adjuncting opportunities in my research area) and my resume was still decidedly “higher-ed.”

Katy Peplin completed her PhD in Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan in 2016 and is now a graduate student coach, specializing in wellness, mental health, and sustainable work/life balance during graduate school. See more at www.katypeplin.com, where she blogs regularly about all things grad student.

Want more ideas on how to generate a side income? Check out our seven-part video series!

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