Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Memory Day: Assistantships

In most cases, graduate school is far cheaper than your run-of-the-mill college experience because of that nifty little occupation known as the assistantship. A graduate assistant is defined as the person who will do everything the professor doesn't want to do for one percent of the till and a rebate on tuition fees. Because academics are far too busy to actually want to teach anything, there are a million billion available assistantships all over the globe, and anyone who says they can't find an opening at even one university probably put as much effort into their search as Jim Swearingen puts into writing his band arrangements.

I was employed by the great state of Florida (which is just like California, but with rednecks) for the two years of my Masters program, 2001 - 2003. (I also had a full ride to the University of Kentucky with teaching responsibilities, but then I would have been in Kentucky, and that's just not good for business). For all my sweat and toil, I earned about a hundred dollars a week after taxes and paid a tuition fee that was actually pretty close to the real value of the classes.

Going into my first year, I was told I'd be a research assistant (there are two types of assistant, and this is the antisocial kind), and that the opportunity would be exciting!. Florida State University had been given an exciting! $831,000 grant to create an exciting! state-of-the-art electroacoustic music studio from scratch, and had enticed the exciting! electroacoustic music guru, Dr. Mark Wingate, to helm it in an exciting! manner. I didn't give a rat's ass about electroacoustic music, but figured the gig would be more fun than writing citations for some professor's useless paper about how the font in Bach's original manuscripts looks kind of like Arial if you assign each note a letter value and squint.

Within two weeks of arrival, that grant had magically disappeared (and the Drama department suddenly had a massive two-ton pallet of high quality pot). Instead of managing the lab of excite!ment, I spent the month of September scrambling with Dr. Wingate to submit a NEW grant proposal in hopes of re-winning the grant the following year. My duties included scanning blueprints, photocopying leaflets, and coming up with as many pork-barrel riders as possible.

You see, arts budgets all over the country dried up after 9/11/2001, and rather than rounding up the useless tenured professors and stranding them in Saskatchewan, they simply cut into the programs. We reasoned that a pure electroacoustic studio was no longer a viable grant idea, so we came up with ways to tie it into other music disciplines -- I even wrote a proposal, Compositional Pedagogy through Technology to argue that such a lab would be a boon to composers all over the world (since most composers are a cancer, and curing cancer is cool).

After October, it was apparent that the grant wasn't going to happen, and Dr. Wingate was understandably distracted by the fact that he had accepted a job doing something that did not exist. He didn't have the energy to come up with anything for me to do, so I spent the remainder of that school year playing pool at Mike's apartment and pretending that I could write good string quartets. It's nice to be paid for doing absolutely nothing, but my PEPCO internships had already given me much experience in this arena.

Since Kathy hates long posts, Part II of II of this Memory Day will air next Wednesday. See BU become a teaching assistant!

Happy Birthday Emily and Christy!

Museum of a Thousand Cockroaches
Welcoming the queen with a gaffe
Cocaine pulled from shelves

tagged as memories, teaching | permalink | 4 comments


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