Appointing a Graduate Assistant in a Non-Academic Unit

The University defines Graduate Assistants (GAs) as graduate students "who provide teaching or research support to the University that is a part of [their] academic program." While most GAs are appointed by their academic home department, there are some non-academic units that also hire GAs. The information below is intended to guide non-academic units through the GA recruitment and hiring process.

When a non-academic unit is hiring a GA, the hiring department should communicate with the academic home department before issuing the offer letter to the GA. It is required that the academic home department initiate payroll authorizations as evidence that the assistantship can be regarded as part of a GA’s academic program. The University’s definition of a GA is intended to align with federal Tax Code regulations that allow GAs to receive their tuition waivers tax-free. 

In addition to the information included below, more resources on graduate assistantship administration can be found on The Graduate School’s Information About Assistantships page. 

Would you like to receive important information regarding assistantship administration directly? If so, please sign up for our listserv, NONACADEMIC_GA_UNITS-L.


Job Posting and Hiring Timeline

Recommended timeline: 

  • Create job description (view template; examples may be found under the "Recommended Job Description Checklist" section). 
    • In April for a fall appointment. 
    • In August for a spring appointment. 
    • This time frame gives departments the best chance to recruit a strong applicant pool, conduct interviews, and meet relevant payroll processing deadlines. 
    • See "Recommended Job Description Checklist" for more information, job description templates, and examples.
  • Submit job description to be posted under The Graduate School’s Current Opportunities section by emailing Postings can also be submitted to the daily Grad Announcements emails (a grads-only version of the Daily Digest) through Soapbox
  • Verify eligibility for GA to be hired by reaching out to potential GA’s academic home department. 
    • What to say? “We are considering hiring X as a GA in our department for the fall/spring/academic year for X hours per week. Can you please confirm that they do not hold provisional status and are available to be hired? If so, can you please provide the name of the academic advisor, which is required for an offer letter for a GA appointed in a non-academic unit?” 
  • Create offer letter 
  • Issue offer letter to potential GA 
    • By June 1 for a fall appointment. 
    • By November 5 for a spring appointment. 
    • Article 5 of the Graduate Employee Union (GEU) contract outlines timelines for GA appointment notification. If you are certain that this position will exist for the upcoming semester, you should make every effort to make an offer by these dates. Once an offer is accepted, it must be honored. 
  • Submit signed offer letter, Supplemental Description of Duties form (if already created and signed), and KFS information to academic home department for payroll processing. Determine who will handle the GA’s I-9 if applicable. 

Relevant deadlines:

  • Payroll processing deadlines for GAs can be found on the Payroll website. GAs must typically be added to payroll no later than mid-July for a fall appointment and mid-December for a spring appointment to guarantee on-time payment. 
    • Retroactive appointments are typically prohibited. Retroactive or non-standard start dates must be reviewed by The Graduate School before an offer is made. 
  • Summer and intersession appointments are processed through PageUp on Special Payroll and follow SPAR deadlines. 

Flow Chart - Appointing a GA in a Non-Academic Unit

Recommended Job Description Checklist

Non-Academic Unit GA Job Description Template
Example GA Job Description #1
Example GA Job Description #2

Description should include:

  • Brief description of the non-academic unit
  • Campus location(s) of non-academic unit
  • GA job title (consider creating a job title that aligns with job titles in and beyond academia as students may use this assistantship to apply to a range of future jobs)
  • Position Summary (couple of sentences)
  • Duration of the position
  • Expectations for hours/week and mention of any flexibility in hours 
  • Identification of workplace location (WFH or in office, hybrid, etc. Please note: GAs must be in the U.S. in order to perform GA duties and a fully remote position will require advance approval from The Graduate School and Labor Relations.)
  • Name and title of individual providing supervision
  • Career Readiness Competencies Associated with this Graduate Assistantship – choose top three reflected in the position from this list: Career & Self-Development | Communication | Critical Thinking | Equity & Inclusion | Leadership |Professionalism | Teamwork | Technology
  • Responsibilities drafted in bullet point statements and beginning with action verbs that clearly identify tasks and projects. (Example: Create monthly panel events to engage graduate students in conversations with alumni about career diversity)
  • Minimum Qualifications and Skills drafted in bullet point statements and showing something about level of skill or knowledge desired. The word “Strong,” without further clarification, does not have a universal meaning. Example: “Strong communication skills” is vague.  Better Example: Strong written and verbal communication demonstrated by presentation and publication experience at the national or international level.
  • Preferred Qualifications and Skills 
  • Education and Prior Experience Requirements 
  • Clear application steps and application materials desired (you choose), identifying an email to whom application materials should be sent and a specific subject line if needed.

Common application materials include one or more of the following:

  • Cover letter Y/N, If Yes – any specific content desired in the cover letter? (Experience with a specific software, interest in the position, prior experience with collaboration, etc.)
  • CV or a resume (one or the other or either?)
  • References, how many, and what contact information 
  • Transcript(s)

Other application materials (writing sample, etc.)

  • Application deadline and interview timeline
  • Compensation and Benefits Statement
    • Compensation & Benefits: Stipend consistent with UConn Graduate Employee Union (GEU) rates and successful candidate’s level of education. Stipend rates can be found here. See the GEU contract for other generous benefits provided, including paid time off, tuition remission, and subsidized health insurance through the Connecticut Partnership Plan.
  • EEO Statement - The University of Connecticut is an AA/EEO employer
  • Questions may be directed to: (specific person)

Considerations When Hiring

  • Is the graduate student eligible to hold an assistantship? 
    • Why does this matter? Departments should verify eligibility to be appointed as a GA before making an offer, formal or informal, to a graduate student. 
  • Is the academic plan an appropriate fit? 
    • Why does this matter? Part of the definition of an assistantship is that there is a connection to the student’s academic plan 
  • Will the GA be located in CT for the duration of their appointment? 
    • Why does this matter? GAs cannot work remotely from outside the U.S. and a fully remote, out-of-state position require advance approval from The Graduate School and Labor Relations.
  • Is the GA’s academic home department at UConn Health (UCH)? 
    • Why does this matter? Graduate students in a UCH-based academic program who will be funded by and working in a Storrs/regional-based department follow a separate procedure to be added to payroll. Please reach out to The Graduate School for assistance before making an offer. 
  • Is the student enrolled in an entrepreneurial program? 
    • Why does this matter? Entrepreneurial programs receive a portion of the revenue from the courses in which their students enroll and may expect the hiring department to reimburse them for lost revenue. Departments should communicate about this expectation before an informal or formal offer is made to the student. 
  • Is this an academic year (or academic semester) appointment or summer or intersession appointment? 
    • Why does this matter? The payroll processes for academic year appointments and summer appointments are different. If this is a new, incoming graduate student who you wish to start during the summer (prior to August 23), the payroll title will also be affected. If you are hiring a new GA to start during the summer or intersession term, please reach out to or with questions about how best to proceed. 
  • Is the graduate student already appointed as a GA (or an intern)? 
    • Why does this matter? Full-time for a GA is 20 hours per week. In order to work beyond 20 hours per week, supplemental employment approval is required. Please note, international GAs who are here on a F- or J-visa are legally prohibited from working over 20 hours per week during the academic semester. Graduate students who are performing an internship, including as Curricular Practical Training (CPT), require supplemental employment approval in order to hold both an internship and GA appointment concurrently. 

Hiring Unit and Academic Department Responsibilities

Additional information and links to relevant resources may be found in the "Job Posting and Hiring Timeline" section

Hiring Unit Responsibilities 

  • Review hiring timeline, relevant deadlines, and applicable policies regarding the hiring of graduate students
  • Create job description
  • Advertise position
  • Interview and identify job candidate
  • Communicate with academic home department to verify graduate student's eligibility to hold an assistantship, availability to be hired, and determine deadline to provide fully executed offer letter and KFS number to academic home department in order to ensure on-time payment for the GA. If applicable, implications of appointing a graduate student in an entrepreneurial program as a GA should be discussed at this point.
  • Create and issue GA offer letter. The graduate student's academic advisor must sign before the offer letter is issued.
  • Create and issue Supplemental Description of Duties form. Maintain original within hiring unit and provide a copy to the academic home department.
  • Provide fully executed GA offer letter, Supplemental Description of Duties, and KFS number to the academic home department. If applicable, determine which unit will handle Form I-9 completion.

Academic Home Department Responsibilities 

  • Verify potential GA's eligibility to hold an assistantship and availability to be hired
  • Communicate deadline for hiring unit to provide fully executed offer letter and KFS number to academic home department in order to ensure on-time payment for the GA
  • Provide name of student's academic advisor and provide guidance to academic advisor on why they are being asked to sign off on the offer.
    • Academic advisor is required on offer letters for GAs appointed in non-academic units to verify that there is a connection between to the work to be performed and the student's academic plan. This confirmation is necessary for the GA to receive the tax-free tuition waiver associated with an assistantship.
  • If applicable, communicate implications of appointing a graduate student in an entrepreneurial program as a GA
  • Input SmartHR transaction
  • If hiring unit has questions the academic home department is not able to assist with, refer the hiring unit to The Graduate School for assistance

Job Offer Etiquette

With graduate students likely comparing multiple offers for graduate assistant positions, it is recommended that after presenting your offer you provide a five-seven day response time.* You might also consider asking your candidate how soon they might be able to let you know their decision and negotiate a response time with them. Ultimately you want the candidate to accept your offer because they feel well-aligned with the position and with you as their supervisor. 

*If this is an incoming graduate student, please be aware that UConn supports the Council of Graduate Schools’ (CGS) “April 15 Resolution”, which means that an incoming graduate student who is being offered an assistantship has until April 15 to consider the offer. 

NOTE: Some applicants might be applying to non-academic unit graduate assistant positions and resigning from teaching positions in academic units. A resignation from an academic unit position might leave an academic department in desperate need of hiring a replacement. If you realize the individual you are hiring would be resigning from another position, consider encouraging them to let the academic department know with as much advance notice as possible so they can move ahead with their hiring needs. It is also important to try to follow the job posting and hiring timeline for this reason.