Academic Achievement Graduate Assistantships (AAGA)

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION AND PURPOSE

In its recently launched Strategic Plan, Illuminating the Path Forward, 2019-2024, (see https://grad.msu.edu/strategicplan), the Graduate School at Michigan State University identified “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity” as being among its core and overarching values.  Aligning with the Strategic Plan’s “Goal 2:  Diverse and Inclusive Communities,” the AAGA program seeks to “expand our campus and external partnerships to implement recruitment and retention practices” that serve diverse populations and help foster inclusive communities.  The Graduate School offers Academic Achievement Graduate Assistantships to help graduate programs recruit and then retain graduate students who have been accepted into a master’s or a doctoral degree program and whose enrollment will contribute to our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion while enhancing their program’s academic excellence and diversity. Because this is a recruitment assistantship, departments can decide to offer the AAGA recipient a  teaching or research assistantship with a reduced time commitment during his/her first Graduate School-funded year in the program.  The Graduate School recognizes the different opportunities and responsibilities of assistantships across graduate programs.  Units are encouraged to offer AAGAs to admitted applicants whom they expect to receive offers of financial assistance from other universities or who have externally funded fellowships.

Please note:  In accordance with state law, the selection process “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin”.

 

SELECTION PROCESS

The application forms (only complete applications will be considered) must be submitted by graduate program directors and nominating faculty to the graduate associate deans of their colleges who will then evaluate these applications before submitting them to the Graduate School.  The Graduate School will then notify the graduate program directors and college graduate associate deans of the decisions within two weeks of the receipt of the application package.  The target for the 2019-2020 academic year will be 75 approximately students. 

 

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

To be eligible for the AAGA, the nominee must:

  1. hold a bachelor’s degree at the time that the assistantship is awarded and demonstrate a record of excellent academic achievement
  2. be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the United States
  3. have an offer of admission into a graduate program and have the academic credentials normally required for a graduate assistantship in the discipline

A nominee can meet the additional criteria in multiple ways, hence we encourage a holistic review of the nominee to determine eligibility.  AAGA nominees should meet one, preferably more, of the following criteria:

  • ability to enhance the educational diversity of the student body of the program into which they are admitted
  • personal history and experience of overcoming obstacles (such as economic/financial hardships and social, and/or educational disadvantages)
  • come from an educational, cultural, or geographic background that is underrepresented in graduate study in the discipline
  • have demonstrated a commitment to diversity in the academic, professional, or civic realm through their work experience and volunteer efforts
  • are the first generation in their families to graduate from a 4‐year college or university
  • leadership potential for diverse communities, and demonstrated promotion of understanding among persons of different backgrounds and ideas
  • attendance at small liberal arts colleges, HBCUs, HSIs, or MSIs
  • participation in programs for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds like the Federal TRIO Programs (such as the Ronald E. McNair Post baccalaureate Achievement Program) and, in particular, the Summer Research Opportunities Program at MSU and throughout the Big Ten Academic Alliance 

 

FUNDING

Funds are provided directly to the colleges to offer these assistantships as part of the overall financial aid package needed to attract these students to MSU and as an overall part of the total graduate assistant budget available in the college for general support of all graduate students. The Graduate School provides the first year (two semesters) of funding for the AAGA recipient and the department/college is obligated to provide the remaining years of funding (in the form of a teaching assistantship or a research assistantship) as long as the student continues to maintain “good standing” in the program.  For a M.A. student in “good standing,” this would usually amount to one year of support beyond the AAGA and for a Ph.D. student in “good standing” this would usually amount to at least between three and four years of support beyond the AAGA-funded year.  

The academic unit will be responsible for initiating the appointment forms and obtaining I-9 documents. Ensure that the stipend amount chosen plus SI charges do not go over the amount approved by the Graduate School on the selection form. NOTE: any changes to a student’s assistantship (cancellation, deferral, etc.) must be communicated as soon as possible to the Graduate School.

Please note:  Please allow for an increase in SI charges when determining funding. An appropriate increased amount would be 5% more than the current year’s (2018-19) SI charges.

See Graduate Assistant Specific Identification (SI) Charge:

https://hr.msu.edu/employment/graduate-assistants/stipend-ranges.html

The 2018-19 GA SI charge for all graduate students except for the College of Engineering is

$6,449 per semester for Fall and Spring, $2,331 per semester for Summer. There is no health charge for summer semester. The health portion of the SI charge for all students  for Fall and Spring is $1,455,  with the remaining $4,994 covering the tuition for all students except College of Engineering students.  The tuition charge for Summer 2018 is $354.68 bi-weekly for all students.  Fringes for Health (object code 6516) and Tuition and Fees (object code 6230) will be charged with each bi-weekly payroll.

 

APPLICATION PROCEDURE

The AAGA application must include the following:

  • AAGA Application Form
  • an explicit statement indicating that the department/college will commit the funding (not AAGA funds) for the remaining years of a student’s degree program as long as  the student continues in “good standing” in the program
  • a letter of nomination (500 words minimum) from the graduate program director, or a faculty member who will advise or work closely with the student, that precisely explains how the nominee meets the criteria for the assistantship  
  • an explicit statement of commitment to mentoring and supporting the student that includes adjustments that might be made due to differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic and educational background, etc.
  • a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity statement (500 words minimum) that includes the following:  (1) a demographic description of the department’s graduate student body according to the categories identified by the MSU Office of Planning and Budgets (i.e, gender and racial/ethnic federal category), (2) a brief overview of the issues and/or challenges related to diversity and inclusion in the graduate program, (3) a discussion of recent efforts to diversify the graduate student population, and (4) any plans for future diversity and inclusion recruitment activities and initiatives

 

APPLICATION DEADLINE

The AAGA Application Forms are due to the Graduate School by February 15, 2019 for Fall 2019 admits.  We strongly recommend that applications be submitted as soon as possible so that these assistantships can be effectively used as recruitment tools.  If those who are offered AAGAs do not accept the offers before or after April 15, 2019, additional nominations will be solicited.     

For questions or additional information pertaining to the AAGA program, contact Pero G. Dagbovie at dagbovie@msu.edu or Aida Montalvo at montalai@grd.msu.edu).