The University of Chicago

University of Chicago Writing Program

Jobs for Graduate Students

The job application deadline for the 2014-2015 academic year will be Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 1PM. You can download a copy of the application form and instructions here:

On the rest of this page, you can learn in more detail about the jobs we have available and how to apply for them. Because our courses are geared to writers in many different disciplines and professions, we seek to employ University of Chicago graduate students from as many fields as possible: humanities, social sciences, and the sciences. We make our hiring decisions without regard to religion, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, academic department, or any other factors irrelevant to your ability to teach writing.

Please note: We hire graduate students who are covered by the terms of GAI (the Graduate Aid Initiative) and those who are not covered by GAI. If you are covered by the terms of GAI, please check with your department to see if it has any employment policies specific to GAI students. Some departments have asked their students in GAI funding to follow departmental procedures for using GAI points and for accepting jobs outside their departments. Please check with your department to see if it has developed such a policy.

Optional informational meetings about our jobs: We're happy to speak with interested graduated students about the jobs we have available. There will be two optional informational meetings about our jobs in Winter, 2014:

  • Tuesday, January 28th at 4:30 PM in Stuart 330, OR
  • Wednesday, February 5th at 4:30 PM in Stuart 330.

Stuart 330, the Writing Program main office, is accessed through Harper Commons. Go to the third floor of Harper Memorial Library and enter from Harper Reading Room North. (View a map.) You do not have to attend a meeting to apply. The meetings are just opportunities for you to meet us and to ask questions. You can also stop by Stuart 330 any weekday (Monday-Thursday 9AM-4PM; Friday 9AM-2PM) with questions about the program, or you may email us at writing-program@uchicago.edu.

Contents for this page

Writing Interns in the Humanities Common Core

A writing intern is a graduate student who provides a writing instruction component in one of the year-long humanities common core courses that are mandatory for all University of Chicago first-year students. You can become an intern in one of two ways. First, after you apply to the Writing Program and are accepted, you may be placed directly into an "intern-track" position, in which case you train for a quarter in Spring or Summer 2014 and work during the 2014-2015 academic year. Second, you may be accepted as a Lector in the Little Red Schoolhouse (Advanced Academic and Professional Writing), in which case you'll train during fall quarter of 2014 work as a Lector in Winter and/or Spring of 2015, and then become eligible either to continue Lectoring at the graduate level or to accept a position as an Intern.

Interning: pragmatic matters

How long do interns work? We encourage interns to commit to working for three quarters of an academic year (Fall, Winter, and Spring). However, some two quarter positions are available for Fall/Winter and Winter/Spring. Furthermore, we can usually accommodate interns who need to take a quarter off for research or for a fellowship. Once you've been accepted into the program and taken our training course, your position will be renewable indefinitely if your job performance is satisfactory. We will keep in touch with you by email, allowing you to return in future quarters without formally reapplying to the program. You may take quarters off to do other things (teach in your department, accept a research fellowship, give birth, meditate on the nature of the universe, etc.) and return when you're ready.

Are only graduate students in the Humanities eligible? No! Graduate students from all the divisions and professional schools are eligible -- and eagerly sought -- for this position. Here's the reason why: writing interns are responsible for providing writing instruction to ALL University of Chicago first-years, whether those students will be majoring in the humanities, the social sciences, or the sciences. Our institutional base for teaching first-years is the humanities core, but our goal is to give all first-year students a foundation in techniques of clear writing that they can use in whatever fields they choose to pursue.

What exactly do interns do? Each intern is assigned to a Humanities Common Core class of no more than twenty students. The class is taught by a University of Chicago faculty member. The intern's responsibilities fall into four categories:

  • The intern divides the section into seminar groups of no more than seven students each. For each group, the intern leads a sequence of writing seminars that teach advanced academic writing, using as sample texts the papers that students have turned in for the Humanities core course. This writing seminar sequence (Humanities 19100) meets an average of three to four times a quarter, and is required for all undergraduate students. During Autumn quarter, each of the seminar groups meets for at least three sessions of one hour and twenty minutes each. After Autumn quarter, the intern may design a curriculum that combines seminars with one-on-one meetings.
  • The intern helps the faculty member in the Humanities core course mark and grade papers. The intern's paper comments are focused on advanced academic writing.
  • The intern attends the Humanities core course and does the class readings.
  • If both the intern and the faculty member agree, the intern may choose to teach two or three of the regular classes in the core course per quarter.

It may also be useful to know two things that are explicitly not part of the intern's job description. First, the intern is not responsible for doing all of the grading and paper commenting. This responsibility is shared by the intern and the faculty member (usually the intern comments on academic writing issues for half the papers in each set, but on occasion the faculty member may write an extended content-based comment on every paper, while the intern may write a comment on the paper's structure). Second, the intern is not responsible for taking over the class if the faculty member needs to leave the course for a significant period due to an extended illness or some other long-term commitment.

What is the weekly time commitment for an Intern? After a quarter of training (three hours a week), interns work fifteen hours a week. That's an average: in some weeks interns do nothing more than attend classes for three hours a week, but in weeks when papers are due in the Humanities core course, interns run writing seminars and grade papers, so the job requires more time.

What is the salary? In 2013-2014, the salary was $3000 per quarter. In addition, interns in the fifth year of Ph.D. study and beyond are eligible for tuition remission in many programs, though you must check with your division or school to see if this applies to you (the tuition remission is paid by the division or professional school, so they make the decision after we've told them who is working for us).

Interning: the nature of the common core

What kinds of courses are available in the Humanities Common Core? As of 2013-2014, every first-year University of Chicago undergraduate is required to take at least two quarters of a Humanities Common Core sequence; some majors require three quarters. First-years can choose from among seven different sequences when they register; once they have entered a sequence, they are very strongly discouraged by their advisors from switching to another. We also prefer that humanities interns stay in the same section of the same sequence throughout the year, so that each group of students has at least one person monitoring the development of their writing skills over an extended period.

The core sequences differ greatly in the kinds of material they cover and in the way they teach that material. The sequences in 2012-2014 were these:

  • Readings in World Literature
  • Philosophical Perspectives
  • Greek Thought and Literature
  • Human Being and Citizen
  • Reading Cultures
  • Media Aesthetics
  • Language and the Human

For more detailed information on each sequence, you may read the College Catalog's course descriptions of the core sequences.

How do we assign interns to sections? First, we ask newly hired interns to list their top three choices of core sequences. We then forward lists of interested interns to the core chairs to gather faculty preferences. Then, about a month before fall quarter begins, we assign interns to sections, trying to satisfy as many faculty preferences and intern preferences as is mathematically possible. All other things being equal, when more interns want a particular sequence than there are sections of that sequence, we give priority to interns who have acquired seniority in the program.

Lectors in Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

What is LRS? LRS is a quarter-long course in advanced academic and professional writing. We now offer versions of LRS for graduate students in the divisions, for MBA students in the Graduate School of Business, and for third and fourth-year undergraduates in the College. The course's approach to writing is "reader-based," which means that we teach our students how to anticipate readers' responses to their prose and how to tailor their prose to meet readers' expectations. What kind of readers? We're geared to helping writers reach the academic and professional readers that they'll be addressing in graduate school or in their professions after college. To do this, we teach principles of clear writing that build upon one another: we start with clear sentences, move on to paragraphs, and conclude at the level of the text as a whole.

What do lectors in LRS do? Lectors meet with approximately seven students once a week in an hour and a half long seminar. Students write short papers once a week, read each others papers, and discuss them in the seminar. Lectors read the student's papers, lead the seminar discussion, and write extensive critiques on the papers each week. Lectors also attend the weekly lecture that the students attend.

What is the time commitment for a Lector? After a quarter of training in the fall (3 hours a week), Lectors work for one or two quarters of the year: either in winter or spring (ten hours a week).

What is the salary? In 2011-2014, the salary was $2500 for Lectors teaching undergraduate sections; it was $3000 for returning Lectors teaching graduate sections. In addition, Lectors in the fifth year of Ph.D. study and beyond are eligible for tuition remission in many programs, though you must check with your division or school to see if this applies to you (the tuition remission is paid by the division or professional school, so they make the decision after we've told them who is working for us).

Undergraduate lectors earn less than Interns. What does that mean? It means that Lectors have about one-third of the students (seven as opposed to twenty or twenty-one) and somewhat shorter hours. It does NOT mean that we lack confidence in the people we hire as Lectors. Academic and Professional Writing is the Writing Program's flagship course. We hire instructors for it whom we think particularly well-suited to the teaching of writing, and whom we hope to attract to additional teaching opportunities after their quarter or two as undergraduate Lectors. Just to be clear (we are a writing program after all), "Lector" is not a euphemism for "consolation prize." If you are interested in teaching writing as a career, the Lector track offers a wider variety of long-term opportunities than the Intern track. Returning lectors who go on to teach at the graduate level are compensated for their accumulated expertise in the program by teaching the same small number of students -- seven -- for $3000.

Additional teaching opportunities for Lectors. Once you've worked as a Lector at the undergraduate level, you become eligible for consideration as a Lector in the graduate versions of LRS; the salary (for a section of seven students) is $3000 for Graduate Lectors. Graduate Lectors teach M.A. and Ph.D. level students, as well as sections of physicians, public policy students, and University administrators. You may also work as a Humanities Intern without taking an additional training course. Lectors are eligible to teach in the summer versions of LRS, but these opportunities vary with enrollment each year.

Writing tutors in Harper Commons

Writing Tutors do not work in a course; instead, they hold office hours in the evening for Common Core students in Harper Reading Room North. Tutors sign up to work for four-hour shifts (for example: Sundays from 7PM to 10:50PM). Depending on their other commitments and on demand from students, tutors may work as little as one shift per week or as many as two or three.

All Core students are welcome to drop in and see the tutors; no appointment or advance sign-up is necessary. Although the tutors work with students on a drop-in basis, they can become very busy during certain weeks of the quarter, particularly mid-term and then again in weeks 10 and 11.

What exactly do Writing Tutors do? Writing Tutors teach writing on a one-on-one basis. They're not copyeditors or proofreaders; instead, they work with students on individual papers in order to help improve students' overall skills in academic argumentation and structure.

Some things Tutors can do:

  • Brainstorm on how to get started on a paper or how to best approach a paper assignment or prompt, particularly in terms of how to construct an argument.
  • Read a full or partial draft of a paper and comment on its overall argumentation. This kind of comment can include, but is not limited to, logical flow of argument, effective uses of quotes and other types of evidence, persuasive placement of points, etc.
  • Read a full or partial draft of a paper and comment on its organization, both globally and at the paragraph level.
  • Spot patterns of grammatical errors in a student's prose and teach the student how to identify and correct these patterns.
  • Make suggestions for how to revise a paper for greater coherence, clarity, and persuasiveness of argument.

Some things Tutors do not do:

  • Work on course readings or content. Tutors can discuss course texts or content insofar as this directly pertains to improving a paper, but more in-depth discussions on content should be perused with course instructors, TA's, or Writing Interns.
  • Copy-edit or 'correct' the paper. Tutors are there to teach students how to improve their writing, and not to 'fix' papers for students.
  • Correct grammar errors in a paper. Again, tutors can look for patterns and help teach students how to self-correct, but cannot go through and adjust the paper to be grammatically correct (i.e. switching tenses, subject-verb agreement, etc).
  • Read papers longer than 10 pages.
  • Work with individuals who are not enrolled in the College Core Courses (HUM, SOC, etc).

Training: Tutors take a full quarter of training in either Spring or Summer of 2014 (HUMA 50000).

Salary: Beginning Tutors earn thirteen dollars per hour; in the past, returning Tutors have received a modest salary increase each year that they return.

Additional teaching opportunities for Tutors:Tutors who have successfully completed their training may be eligible to work as a Writing Intern in the Humanities Common Core (see above for description).

The unified applications process for Lectors, Interns, and Tutors

Timetable: Up until February 19, 2014, you'll be able to download an application here; you may also pick up a printout of the application in the Writing Program office in Stuart 330 (enter through the North Reading Room of Harper Library).

Your application will consist of six materials. Below, you will find a description of these materials and the procedures for submitting them.

Materials you'll prepare in advance

  • A cover sheet with your name and uchicago email.
  • A personal statement. Please let us know about your teaching experience, editing experience, writing experience, approach to writing, and/or anything else you think relevant.
  • A 10-page sample of your own writing (if you have only longer articles, please cut them). To preserve the anonymity of your sample, please remove your name from it.
  • A letter of recommendation from someone familiar with your teaching or your potential as a teacher. We strongly encourage recommendation writers to send recommendations by email to writing-program@uchicago.edu

After you have turned in your other materials, materials you'll receive from the Writing Program Office

Once the above materials are in order, bring them to the Writing Program Office (Stuart 330, open Mon-Thurs 9AM-4PM, Friday 9AM-2PM). At our office, you will receive the following two materials that are required in order for your application to be considered complete:

  • A comment on a student paper. At our office, you will be given no more than an hour to write comments on a student paper. The paper is available in hard copy or electronic form, as you prefer. You must write this paper comment upon turning in your materials (if you don’t have the time to write the paper comment, please turn in your materials when you have a free hour).
  • A URL for an online applicant information form. This form will ask you for more detailed contact information and information about your department, division, and year in the University. This information is stored separately from the rest of your application to help ensure that we read your writing sample and student paper comment without knowing your department or year.

What if you're away in Winter 2014? Remote applications

If you can only apply remotely because you are out of state, please email us at writing-program@uchicago.edu for information on remote applications. Remote applicants will email their cover sheet, writing sample, and personal statement to us; we'll then email you with the student critique and the URL to the applicant information survey.

Application deadline and interview schedule

The 2014 deadline for these parts of the application is Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 1PM. All applications must be turned in to the Writing Program Office in Stuart 330. There, your application will be assigned a number, and will be identified to the readers only by that number: the writing sample and paper comment will be thus be rated without any knowledge of who you are. Each application will be read by two people within the Writing Program.

By the end of ninth week of Winter Quarter we will send out notices to candidates to tell them whether or not we will be requesting an interview. Interviews will be held from the middle of Ninth Week through the middle of Tenth Week. We will notify candidates of our decisions around the beginning of Finals Week.

What we look for in our applicants

In general: We're not interested in technical knowledge about language or composition. It's no great advantage to have taken any of our courses. We're more interested in how you approach the task of teaching writing. And that is all we can say in advance.

With regard to the paper comment: We'll ask you to pretend you're writing to the author of the paper, NOT to us. We're interested in the way that you engage and deal with the writer, and the way you use the paper comment as an opportunity to teach the writer something about writing.

With regard to the writing sample: We'd like to see a ten-page (double spaced) sample of expository prose directed toward an academic or professional audience. If your available writing samples are longer than this, please select a section that includes the introduction. About that ten-page limit: we really mean it. If Marcel Proust descends from heaven to teach academic and professional writing, we shall build him a cork-lined office and permit him to submit a longer sample -- perhaps eleven pages. For all other applicants, however, we'll read the first ten pages of whatever you submit.

With regard to the letter of recommendation: It's less important to get a letter from someone who can speak to the quality of your scholarly work than it is to get a letter evaluating the way you interact in a classroom. If you have no previous teaching experience, ask someone who has seen you participate in a class, seminar, or workshop. The letter does not have to be from a member of the University of Chicago faculty, so if you have teaching experience at another institution, a letter from a faculty member there may be best.

What happens after you're admitted? Training courses and on-the-job training

Confirmation: We ask you to e-mail us to confirm that you can accept the appointment. You may defer your training if you receive a grant or a fellowship.

Training: If you are accepted as an Intern, you'll take a training course in Spring or Summer, 2014 (Humanities 50000). If you are accepted as a Lector, you'll take a training course in Autumn, 2014 (English 50300).

In the Spring (or Summer) 2014 training course for interns, you'll meet to discuss the writing needs of University of Chicago first-years and to develop pedagogical strategies for meeting those needs. We'll discuss how to to design a sequence of seminars that will permit everyone in a diverse group of students to get the kind of writing skills they'll need in their core courses and beyond.† We'll also discuss grading and paper commenting, and practice these skills on real student papers from the humanities common core sequences.

In the Autumn 2014 training course for Lectors, you'll hear the lectures your undergraduate students will hear. You'll discuss the principles set forth in the lectures and the pedagogical issues involved in teaching a reader-based approach to writing. You'll also attend seminars (schedule to be decided at the first meeting) in which you learn a pedagogy we ask you to employ: it's developmental and reader-based. We'll ask you to prepare critiques of sample student papers, and we'll discuss these. Our goal is to allow you to become comfortable with what you are asked to teach, and to make sure that the seminars will work for the students.

On-the-job training: Whether you are an Intern or a Lector, you will not be abandoned to work alone in the writing seminars you teach. The first time you teach, you'll work closely with a senior Writing Program staff member, who will review your critiques, sit in on some of your seminars, and talk about issues you face in seminar -- everything from seminar dynamics to how to efficiently prepare critiques. The senior staff member will also help you assemble the materials for your teaching portfolio (see below).

Teaching portfolios: your not-so-secret weapon in the academic job hunt

Everyone who teaches in the Writing Program puts together a teaching portfolio to help prepare for the academic job market. Working with a standard set of Writing Program materials, you'll prepare a statement of goals for some of your seminars, and write up an evaluation of the seminar afterwards. You'll also collect and put on file a sequence of paper comments to show prospective employers how you work with students. Because we'll be working with you so closely, we'll be able to write letters for your teaching portfolio that give a more detailed and informative description of your teaching skills than you can obtain for almost any other source.