Working as a Writing Intern

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 and work during the following 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 and work as a Lector in Winter and/or Spring of the same academic year. As an experienced Lector, you'd then become eligible to continue Lectoring at the graduate level, or to return to Interning.

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 and single-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. The only caveat: if someone has not worked in Winter, it can be difficult or impossible to place them in Spring, when the College reduces the number of HUMA core sections by up to fifty percent.

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 and if completed student evaluations are also 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 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 seventeen to nineteen 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.

Interning: the nature of the common core

What kinds of courses are available in the Humanities Common Core? 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 as of this year are:

  • 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.