Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Kevin Brock


The instructors of undergraduate writing courses are very often graduate students who exist in a space between student and teacher, subsequently shouldering a dual burden of responsibility. This is particularly the case in freshman writing and composition classes. Graduate students that hold assistantships and work in writing programs have a number of concerns related to their academic labor, specifically the benefits and compensation they receive in exchange for their work. To further illustrate these issues, this project offers the results of an IRB-approved study that highlights the tight connection between graduate student assistants’ working conditions, the financial and material benefits they receive as graduate student assistants, and the effects of capitalism on the structures and practices of higher education. Three key areas of discussion emerge: that graduate student assistants are not fairly compensated for the labor they do, the material benefits offered to graduate student assistants leads to levels of dissatisfaction with the grad school experience, and departments offer few resources for managing the emotional labor inherent to the roles graduate student assistants hold. The results speak to wider issues of academic labor in higher education, highlighting their relevance as a microcosm of ongoing national trends, and proposing solutions for addressing and mitigating these trends.


© 2023, Lily Victoria Howard-Hill