Everything We Never Told You About Internal Funding

May 3, 2021

Hello Graduate Students,


The GradFunding Newsletter focuses on external funding; we do not generally cover funding that is internal to the university. Because internal funding is the domain of academic units, we refer students to their departments for information. However, due to numerous inquiries, we decided to summarize information about university resources that you may want to understand and investigate. Our focus is on graduate assistantships/associateships outside of academic departments. At the end of this article, we list the links for scholarship information for each college as well as other resources for search for internal funding.


General information about graduate assistantships/associateships (GA)


Graduate assistantships/associateships (GA) positions are the most common internal funding mechanism and are not restricted by citizenship. Responsibilities and pay can vary according to the university center or academic unit, but the positions all provide base benefits such as tuition remission and health insurance. There are three general categories of GA positions:


  1. Teaching – involved in teaching responsibilities
  2. Research – responsible for part of a research project
  3. Other – may work in the community, do administrative work, or have other duties 


Once a doctoral student has an advanced degree or has reached candidacy in their program, they may move from the Assistantship to Associate title. More detailed information about graduate assistantship/associateship information may be found on the Graduate College website.


Assistantships and hourly wage positions beyond your academic department


Most graduate students find GA positions within their academic unit, but other units on campus routinely hire students from various academic programs. Here are a few examples:

  • The Graduate and Professional Student Council hires graduate students for positions such as Event Coordinator, Elections Director, Grants Director, and Funding Administrators. These are offered as GA positions in Spring for the subsequent academic year.
  • The Graduate College hires GAs to provide administrative support in units like the Graduate Center, Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement, and Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
  • THINK TANK hires Graduate Tutors at $15 per hour as a part-time option in a several fields. They are also hiring a Graduate Assistant in Tutoring Services and in STEM Tutoring.
  • SALT Center employs Graduate Tutors and occasionally a Graduate Assistant Tutor Coordinator.
  • LGBTQ Affairs and the Women & Gender Resource Center hire rotating GAs in outreach and administrative roles on an annual basis.
  • The Dean of Students Office regularly conducts GA searches for a variety of roles, including university marketing, student governance, fraternity and sorority coordination, and student accountability.


Other units on campus also hire graduate students. The question is, how does one find these positions?


How to search for GA positions


GA positions outside of one’s own academic department are not always easy to find. Sometimes they are announced on Handshake. Sometimes they are sent out on listservs or publicized through word of mouth. If there is a unit on campus that interests you, reach out to them to explain your interest and ask to be notified if a position is open.


Four GAs with appointments outside their academic departments describe their experience below. All four found their positions in different ways. One person found the job through volunteering. Another saw the position in an email from their graduate student coordinator. One student conducted research into departments that had recurrent openings. And another person’s advisor suggested she apply for the position.


Alternatives to GA positions


  • Employment - Beyond assistantships, graduate students can also apply for employment on campus. International students need to be aware of restrictions around employment. Although being an employee of the university is a bigger and longer-term commitment than an assistantship, the benefits can make the commitment worthwhile. Off campus employment can also be a good option.


  • Hourly positions – Graduate assistant or associates can work hourly positions for supplemental compensation. If a student is not a GA, they can take a student worker position. These positions do not have benefits like healthcare or tuition remission. If a position requires previous training or work experience, it should be listed as a GA position and not a student worker position.


  • Federal Work Study – domestic graduate students are also eligible for federal work study. The benefits are not particularly generous, but they can help. If you are interested in federal work study, be sure to indicate this on your FAFSA.


Beyond the financial benefit


The benefit of GA positions can go far beyond the financial assistance. The range of experiences that GAs have on the UArizona campus is expansive. Here are four examples of students who have received internal funding and also had enriching professional development experiences.


Charisse Iglesias

Charisse S. Iglesias is working on her PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English. After volunteering to teach with Wildcat Writers, a Writing Program subsidiary, Charisse was invited to serve on their advisory board before becoming a co-assistant director of the program. She now works on a wide range of tasks, managing the internship program; facilitating monthly advisory and executive board meetings; designing and delivering professional development workshops; collecting, analyzing, and presenting survey data; managing the annual budget; and allocating funds for teacher partnerships. She claims that working with Wildcat Writers has been one of the most enjoyable parts of her PhD experience. She has been able to put pedagogical theories into practice outside the university classroom and learn more about the Tucson community.


A'Lantra Wright

A’Lantra Wright is a master’s student in Public Policy and Management and a GA for African American Student Affairs (AASA). Before beginning her program, she was told most first year grad students do not have a TA/GA positions. She decided to do her own research and sent out emails to multiple departments asking if they were planning to hire a graduate student for the upcoming school year. AASA initially did not have any positions, but one became available a month after her inquiry. Through her position with AASA, she has been able to facilitate a support system that helps students achieve academic excellence and enrich the African American cultural experience at the University of Arizona.


Harley-Quinn Alonzo

Harley-Quinn Alonzo is a master’s student in Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences who holds a GA position in Asian Pacific American Student Affairs (APASA).  For Harley-Quinn, her work with APASA has helped her understand current issues that University of Arizona students, and marginalized communities at large, are facing. In her position, she brings awareness to current issues and provide resources to students. The position has helped her grow in her capacity to hold space for others as well as develop skills that allow her to partake in sustainable advocacy practices. She says, “my favorite part is being able to work directly with students and support them in achieving their personal, academic, and career goals. It’s a great honor to be a part of their journeys as they navigate their experience at the University of Arizona.”


Elizabeth Labiner

Elizabeth Labiner, a PhD student in the Department of English, is a GA in the Graduate Center. Working in an interdepartmental position has helped her gain additional networking skills and practice very different writing skills than needed for academic writing and teaching. “In the Grad Center,” she explains, “I've learned an enormous amount about the university enterprise beyond the classroom, including the sometimes harsh realities of what it takes to keep a university and its programming running. It's given me a much broader view of academia, its successes and failures, and helped me to recognize the many people who are devoted to student success outside of the classroom.” Working outside her department has given her an opportunity to develop, apply, and refine her professional knowledge. She expects her experience will be beneficial as she goes on the job market.


The world of internal funding is almost as complex as the world of external funding. Here are a few tips for navigating the information:

  • Ask your advisors and other graduate students for information about internal funding.
  • Stay informed about big grants awarded within your department or within units that interest you (GA positions are often funded through grants).
  • File your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for need-based grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs.
  • Meet new people on campus.
  • Read your email.


See the lists below for further information.


Internal Scholarship Resources by College


Other Resources to Find Internal Funding


Again, your academic unit is the best resource for graduate assistantships and other sources of funding such as tuition waivers and fellowship funds. Please contact your graduate coordinator for further information. Academic unit contact information may be found at https://grad.arizona.edu/catalog/  


Best of luck!


Shelley and Alex


GradFunding Newsletter is a service of the University of Arizona Graduate College, Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement. To subscribe to the newsletter, send an email to list@list.arizona.edu (link sends e-mail) with "subscribe (or unsubscribe) gradfunding FirstName LastName" in the subject line. You may send opportunities for posting or questions to address to the newsletter editor, Shelley Hawthorne Smith (shellh@arizona.edu)