Department of Sociology

Graduate Student Program Handbook

Graduate Student Support

Assistantships and Fellowships

Each year the University prepares and distributes a bulletin, University at Albany Graduate Assistantships and Fellowships: Information for Students. This publication provides detailed information on the University's policies and procedures as they pertain to assistantships, fellowships, and tuition scholarships. The document is available from the Office of Human Resources and is sent to each assistant or fellow with a copy of the appointment form.

What follows are the policies and procedures specific to the Department of Sociology which fall within the guidelines set by the University.

Sources and Types

There are several types of state funded assistantships and fellowships available at the University: teaching assistantships, graduate assistantships, fellowships, and presidential fellowships. Research assistantships are available through grant-supported research projects. All teaching and graduate assistants funded on state lines at the University are represented for purposes of collective negotiations by the Graduate Student Employees Union/Communications Workers of America, Local 1188 (GSEU/CWA). All fellows and assistants/teaching, graduate, research/funded through the Research Foundation of New York or other agencies are not part of the GSEU/CWA bargaining unit. Assistantships and fellowships allocated to the Department of Sociology are awarded by the Graduate Committee. Presidential fellowships are awarded by the president of the university following a university-wide competition. Research assistantships are awarded by the principal investigator of a sponsored research project.

There are assistantships allocated to administrative offices on campus. These are awarded by the directors of the respective offices: e.g., Advisement Service Center, Office of the Registrar, Undergraduate Admissions, Institutional Research, etc. Calls for applications are generally held in the spring of each academic year. Departmental recommendations factor into a unit's decisions.

Selection and Renewal of Assistants/Fellows

Each year the Graduate Committee, based on the department's allocation, sets aside a certain number of assistantships/fellowships for incoming students. Awards to first year students are based on graduate application credentials.

A larger portion of the department's allocation is awarded to continuing students. The department aims to support students, once selected for an award, throughout the normal graduate career. MA students may be supported up to two years on state lines. Students completing a doctoral program may be supported for up to a total of four years in graduate status at the University. Support beyond the fourth year is normally through appointment as a part-time lecturer or as a research assistant on a grant.

Graduate assistantships may be terminated if the student is not making satisfactory progress in the program, or if assistantship performance is unsatisfactory. Individuals are informed in writing or in person if such action is taken by the Graduate Committee. In addition, assistants, as well as fellows and non-supported students, must demonstrate satisfactory academic progress. All students receive a written evaluation at the end of an academic year, along with a check list on which is indicated the program requirements the student should plan on completing the next academic year (see Appendix 12). The following are representative of criteria employed to determine who, among returning students, shall receive an award for the coming academic year:

  1. Progress toward completing required courses
  2. Number and duration of a grade of incomplete in courses
  3. Grade point average
  4. Number of credits taken per year
  5. Taking and passing required examinations on schedule
  6. Paper presentations, publications, and indications of academic progress
  7. Previous funding history.

Responsibilities and Duties

Graduate students who receive an assistantship award are assigned by the Graduate Committee to work with a faculty member. The expected work commitment varies according to the type of assistantship: full-time assistantship (20 hours per week), half-time assistantship (10 hours per week). Responsibilities vary, depending on the needs of the faculty member to whom a student is assigned. Generally, graduate assistants perform teaching, research, administrative and/or professional duties which are meant to contribute to the academic development of the student.

Assistants are expected to perform their duties following the academic calendar and are expected to assist during final examination periods. Assistants may be expected to provide service over the entire period of appointment including intercessions and recesses, provided the arrangement is understood by the student at the time of appointment.

Fellowships carry no work obligations. However, the responsibilities and duties associated with assistantships offer important graduate training, and the department will accommodate fellows who wish to work with a faculty member. During those semester(s) a fellow works on research with a faculty member, the student may register for three credits in an independent research course, with that faculty member as the instructor of record, and register for nine credits of regular course work. Fellows may register for as many independent research courses as they wish during the years they are holding a fellowship and wish to work with a faculty member, but only six credits of independent study courses (research or reading) will count toward the 60 credits required for the doctoral degree.

Fellows and assistants may not hold more than one full assistantship or fellowship or part time lectureship or engage in outside employment during the term of their appointment. Exceptions based on educational, not financial, need may be made by the Academic Vice President. An assistant who wishes an exception to be made should ask the Assistant to Chair for the appropriate application. Requests must be submitted and approved prior to the date extra service is to begin.

Course Load, Tuition Scholarships and TAP

Students who are on full assistantship are expected to register for 9 credits each semester. Assistants on a full assistantship are eligible for a tuition scholarship of up to 9 credits per semester. University policy requires fellows to register for a minimum of 12 credits per semester and a minimum of 24 credits per academic year. Fellows are eligible for a tuition scholarship for up to 12 credits per semester.

The department makes every effort to award tuition scholarships to assistants and fellows commensurate with the registration requirements reviewed above. Continued progress in the program is the major considerations in the final tuition award level.

All assistants and fellows who are non-NYS residents and who have been at the University for a minimum of 12 months will have their tuition support provided for at the in-state tuition rate. Non-U.S. assistants/fellows who are not eligible for NYS residency will receive tuition support at the out-of-state rate. Graduate students who receive an assistantship or fellowship award are required to apply for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), whether eligible or not, during their second semester at the University. Any TAP awards are applied toward tuition before the University tuition scholarship is applied.

Other Sources of Support

Part-time Lectureships

The Department is usually allocated part-time lines to cover scheduled courses each semester. The department has used these lines to support fifth year graduate students and, when possible, students beyond the fifth year. Students with appropriate experience have been appointed to a lectureship prior to the fourth year of study. Part-time lecturer appointments are made within the context of undergraduate program needs and with consideration of the qualifications and eligibility of graduate students not otherwise supported. Lecturers fall under the UUP bargaining unit; therefore, part-time lecturers are eligible for a UUP tuition voucher for one course, regardless of the number of credits assigned to the course, during the semester(s) of appointment.

Continuation of support is dependent on the University budget and part-time resources.

Tuition Scholarships

Graduate students appointed to department-supported assistantships and fellowships have first priority for tuition scholarships. The Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences will consider applications for scholarships from students supported by research grants, as well students without any university funding, when tuition dollars are available. Academic performance and progress in the program are the main criteria applied.

Summer Sessions Appointments

In the fall of each year, the department invites faculty and graduate students to apply for teaching positions that will be available for the following summer. The number of positions that will be available for graduate students depends on the number of faculty who apply and the department’s summer stipend allocation. The main criterion for appointment of a graduate student is the successful completion of SOC 606 or its approved substitute. Once this criterion defines the pool of candidates, selection is based on the following factors:

  1. The number of years completed in the program
  2. The number of previous appointments to surnmer sessions
  3. The undergraduate courses to be offered.

Cutoffs for items one and two are a function of the makeup of the pool. The courses covered by regular faculty determine the third. Assistants, fellows, and non-supported students are equally eligible within this context. When making application graduate students are advised to follow instructions and provide all the requested information.


The Allen E. Liska Award for Dissertation Research

The Liska award commemorates the memory of Professor Liska who passed away in 1999, and is awarded each spring to support dissertation research for a Ph.D. student who has defended their dissertation proposal. The deadline for the submission of materials is announced during the spring semester. The winner is selected by the Graduate Committee and the award is presented at the Standing Lecture.

The Paul Meadows Award for Excellence in Teaching or Research

The Meadows awards are given annually to sociology MA and Ph.D. students for excellence in either teaching or research. The deadline for the submission of materials is announced in the spring semester. Decisions are made by the Graduate Committee, and the awards are presented at the Standing Lecture.

A student wishing to be considered should submit the appropriate material to the committee. In its evaluation of teaching, the committee will review course evaluations, recommendations, syllabi, and any other relevant material that is submitted. In evaluating research, the committee will review a single written submission. A master's thesis, a term paper, or a paper submitted to a meeting or journal qualify. The paper may be co-authored with another student, but not a faculty member. Completed dissertations are excluded. Usually, one award is given in each area; however, two awards may be given in the same area or no awards in either area.

Graduate Student Travel Policy

To encourage graduate student participation in professional meetings, the department provides funds to support graduate student travel. The criteria listed below are used to allocate the funds. Generally, the student travel award is not sufficient to cover the entire cost of attending a conference and is intended to supplement the total cost of the student’s travel. The Graduate Chair accepts applications for travel funds each year: at the end of the spring semester for ASA, and early fall for spring and other meetings. An application consists of a letter stating the name, dates and location of the meeting with documentation of confirmed participation attached. Technical details (receipts and other documentation needed) will be provided by Cathy Rose after the student is notified of the award. Reimbursement is made after the student attends the meeting. The amount of money available for student travel each year is contingent upon the department’s budget allocation.

Award Criteria

  1. Students may only receive support once each year.
  2. The year is July 1st to June 30th
  3. Students must be on the program: presenting a paper, round table or poster. Papers may be co-authored but the student must actually be the presenter. Other forms of participation are occasionally supported, but mere attendance (though arguably beneficial to students) does not warrant support.
  4. Higher level meetings receive funding first. Though it has not happened, this means that all the money could be spent supporting travel to the ASA and there would be no student travel money for the rest of the year. (Students should be aware that this is basically the situation with faculty travel money.) Priority level of meetings is:
    • Level 1: ASA
    • Level 2: National Specialty Meetings (e.g. ASC, PAA) and ESS
    • Level 3: Other regional sociology meetings, sub-regional sociology meetings and sub-national specialty meetings.
  5. Location of meetings is also considered. For example, if the ASA is in NYC but all the National Specialty meetings are on the West Coast, then Level 2 recipients may receive as much or more money than Level l recipients.
  6. Students of any year are eligible to apply for travel funds and in most years, all requests are honored.

GSO Grants

The Graduate Student Organization, not to be confused with GSEU, offers grants of up to $500 for funding research projects (research grants), travel, and other costs associated with conference/exhibition/participation (travel grants). Research grants may be used for travel to research facilities, purchase of equipment and supplies, remuneration of human subjects, costs associated with specialized training, and other research related expenses. Travel grants may be used to cover travel expenses and room and meals, and are available only to individuals presenting papers, posters, literary work, or art work or to individuals serving as a chair, panelist etc, for a symposium.

Separate funding pools for UA-GSO research and travel grants are set up for each of the three funding periods: fall, October/January 31; spring, February 1-May 31; and summer, June 1-September 30. Full-time students registered at the University who have paid the mandatory graduate student activity fee for the current semester are eligible to apply. Part-time students registered at the University at Albany who have voluntarily paid the graduate student activity fee for the current semester are eligible to apply. Full or part-time students who pay the graduate student activity fee during the spring or subsequent fall semester are eligible to apply during the summer. Complete information and application forms are available from the GSO office located in Campus Center 165B.

University at Albany Benevolent Association Research Grants

The University Benevolent Association offers grants of up to $500 to assist advanced degree candidates pursuing research projects integral to the dissertation or master's thesis or for other projects related to more preliminary stages of advanced graduate research. However, preference is given to applications that seek funding to complete the final stages of dissertation research or its equivalent; secondary preference is given to masters thesis/project research or to preliminary project research at the doctoral level. Competitions are held each fall and spring semester: the spring competition is intended to support research activity for the following summer and fall, and the fall competition is in support of research activity in the coming spring semester.

The Benevolent Association Research Grant can be used to support the direct costs of research, including travel to libraries, archives, laboratories and other research facilities and resources, costs of information access, remuneration of human subjects, purchase of supplies or rental of equipment, and other research- related expenses. Expenses associated with having manuscripts typed, bound and/or photocopied, and travel to present results of research at scholarly meetings will not be supported. Applications for reimbursement of previously incurred expenses will not be accepted. The call for applications and their review are conducted by the Graduate Committee. The Committee evaluates each proposal and forwards its recommendation, including a brief statement and a rank order for each proposal, to the University's Research Incentives Committee. The basic criterion employed by this campus-wide committee in the selection of final award recipients is the quality and feasibility of the proposed research project. Beyond that, the committee relies in its decision-making on departmental rankings, which are to be based on the published criteria.