FAQs for Teaching Assistants

“The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing. – Socrates

See also:  Quick Job Guide for TAs

Expand all

Appointment %

I received an offer for a position. What does the appointment % mean?

The % amount of a TA offer is very misleading. Does the amount stand for time, money, or tuition waiver? All TA positions are assigned as percentages (instead of full-time, half-time, or part-time). Listed below you will find the breakdown of the most common appointment. If you have further questions or fall into a different category than a 25% appointment, visit Graduate Assistant Tuition Benefits.

25% Appointment Means

  • 12 hours of work* per wk (~196 hours per semester) - details should be discussed with the course instructor
  • half-time employment for students
  • eligibility for health insurance
  • 1/2 tuition waiver up to 14 credits
  • 1/2 of semester monetary stipend  (for example, 196 hours @ $25.00/hr = $4900)

*Due to biweekly pay periods, weekly work hours are not equal to weekly paid hours.


What tuition benefits come with the appointment?

Please see the Office of Human Resources' Graduate Assistant Tuition Benefits page.


What is Canvas and how do I get access?

Canvas is a learning management system (LMS) that allow users to create and manage online learning materials and activities for their course. It is the job of the course instructor to determine users and request the course site from the University's Office of Information Technology (OIT). For more information, including user guides for both students and instructors, visit the Canvas website.


What are my commitments as a TA?

If you are a graduate student TA, it is our expectation that by accepting the offer, you are agreeing to the commitments listed on the Job Commitments page. Once the semester starts, the Department will also begin compiling your commitment history. This history will be manually applied toward any future TA applications you may submit to ME. Incomplete commitments factor in when equally qualified students are recommended for the same position.


How do I make copies or scan quizzes and exams?

Once your appointment is confirmed, all TAs are granted Ucard access to room ME 216, the "TA" copy room. The room has a Ricoh model MP 6002, which is a large capacity copier that only prints in black and white. Link to Ricoh instructions. There is also a scanner in ME 216 for making PDFS for gradescope. ME Student Services (located in ME 1120) can provide non-immediate copy and scanning jobs, including those in color. Requests for Student Services should be sent to z.umn.edu/copies4me.


Will I get a desk and/or office?

Mechanical Engineering is no longer assigning individual desks or offices to TAs. Any requests for a desk must be done by your advisor. Requests are done electronically via form.

Grad 5105 Enrollment

Must Assigned ME TAs with ELPs other than 1 enroll in Grad 5105?

Yes. By our departmental policy, assigned TAs with an ELP other than 1 are required to enroll in GRAD 5105. Enrollment should occur prior to the start of classes - even if the TA is waiting to take a scheduled SETTA. The class can be dropped once the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI) sends an email directly to the ME Department, DGS or TA Coordinator confirming the TA has achieved an ELP of 1.

Job Duties

What will my job duties be?

Each course will require responsibilities that will differ depending on the professor. Only they can answer when and how you will do things. Be sure to utilize the resources at the top of the TA Resources page to help determine and establish your responsibilities during your first day/week and beyond. 

Keys and Teaching Lab Access

I need keys to get into the Teaching Lab. How do I get them?

Which TAs need access will be determined by the instructor. Every instructor is different  - be sure to discuss during your initial meeting! If your course instructor determines you require access to a teaching lab, they must send a request to meaccess@umn.edu on the student's behalf. Requests sent by students will not be processed. 

Letters of Appointment

Will I get a printed official letter of appointment?

The first email you received detailing the TA position and asking you to accept is an offer letter. Even though not printed on letterhead, this electronic document is the official notice of appointment recognized by the ME Department. Sometimes, this document is also referred to as an appointment letter. Students do not receive a printed, formal letter since it is not necessary. However, if you must have something on official letterhead, please contact the ME payroll office or email  mepay@umn.edu and ask for a Verification of Appointment letter. Usually this is only needed if you plan on leaving the country.

Office Hours

How do I arrange for office hours?


If you are bored with Zoom, we encourage people to use our departmental Gather.Town site: z.umn.edu/me-gathers. There are currently seven work tables set up, each with interactive whiteboards and private conversation areas. Note that participants must use their @umn.edu address in order to access the site. Another app would be Congregate.Live.  If you find something that works better for you, go for it! 

Within the ME building:

ME 2121 is the only location in ME that we schedule for office hours. Per Departmental policy, ME conference rooms are NOT to be used for weekly office hours. There are 3 tables in ME 2121 (A, B, and C). Each table comes with 8 chairs and a whiteboard for use. 

  • Tables are scheduled on a first come, first served basis
  • If available, you can schedule multiple tables concurrently 

Request Office Hour Space in ME 2121

Outside the ME building

ASTRA should be used when space for large groups is needed on a weekly or monthly basis. 

  • Contact the Office of Classroom Management (ocmevent@umn.edu) should you have any questions about ASTRA.


How do I get paid?

University Employees get paid bi-weekly (see University payroll calendars).

In the ME Department, ME Payroll, mepay@umn.edu, located in ME 1100 ensures your information is entered into University system for payments. Delays only tend to occur if the student is a new University employee or if the semester / pay period already began. Employees will receive a general confirmation from ME Payroll with their pay rates. Note this notification is different from a letter of appointment, and a delay in receiving this confirmation DOES NOT INDICATE a delay in your payroll.  

Textbooks and Class Supplies

Do I need to buy my own textbook?

The ME department provides textbooks for instructors and TAs through the Student Services Office. Check with your instructor, then send an email verifying the textbook to meundergrad@umn.edu. If a copy is available and you're on campus, pick up can be arranged. If not, the Student Services Office can send it out, so be sure to include the mailing address in your email.

How do I get supplies for my course?

The Student Services Offer, ME 1120, carries general items available for both Instructors and TAs. These items are limited to markers, for recitation/office hours and red pens for grading. For any other items, it’s up to you to start the purchasing process. For specific questions, contact ME's Purchasing office or email mepurch@umn.edu.