University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota: Department of Mechanical Engineering


On this page you will find the answers to the top 10+ questions asked by Teaching Assistants every semester. Topics (in alphabetical order) include:

I received an offer for a position. What does the appointment % mean?
The % amount of a TA offer is very misleading. Does the amount stand for time, money, or tuition waiver? All TA positions are assigned as percentages (instead of full-time, half-time, or part-time). Listed below you will find the breakdown of the most common appointment. If you have further questions or fall into a different category than a 25% appointment, please visit Graduate Assistant Employment Services.

25% Appointment Means

What are my commitments as a TA?
It is our expectation that by accepting the offer, you are agreeing to the following commitments:

Once the semester starts, the Department will also begin compiling your commitment history. This history will be manually applied toward any future TA applications you may submit to ME. Incomplete commitments factor in when equally qualified students are recommended for the same position.

Must Assigned TAs in ME enroll in Grad 5105?
By our departmental policy, assigned TAs with an ELP other than 1 are required to enroll in GRAD 5105. Enrollment should occur prior to the start of classes - even if the TA is waiting to take a scheduled SETTA. The class can be dropped once the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI) sends an email directly to the Associate Dept. Head or TA Coordinator confirming the TA has achieved an ELP of 1.

What types of continuing education activities are open to me?
As a TA, you should be continuing to develop your skills as a teacher and as a facilitator of student learning. For links that can satisfy your education development obligation, look under the Professional Development Heading on the Resources for Current TAs page.

What will my job duties be?
Each course will require responsibilities that will differ depending on the professor. Only they can answer when and how you will do things. Be sure to contact your professors to determine your responsibilities for your official first day. For additional forms, strategies, guides and websites to help you get the job done, be sure to visit Resources for Current TAs.

What job benefits come with the appointment?
All benefit questions should be directed to Graduate Assistant Employment Services.

How do I get paid?
Once notified of your appointment, ME Payroll,, sends forms and information to the email address provided on your TA application. Watch your inbox for this email and be sure to reply in a timely matter. Remember, the University must first recognize your appointment in order to prevent any delay in your pay and benefits. This is especially important for first-time University employees.

How do I get a desk and office?
Mechanical Engineering is no longer assigning individual desks or offices to TAs.

What is Canvas and Moodle how do I get access?
Both Canvas and Moodle learning management systems (LMS) that allow users to create and manage online learning materials and activities for their course. Moodle is the old system, and the U of M system will be transitioning all course sites to Canvas by Fall 2019. Check with your instructor to see which system they have in use. It is the job of the course instructor to determine users and request the course site from the University's Office of Information Technology (OIT). For more information, including user guides for both students and instructors, visit the Moodle or the Canvas website.

How do I make copies?
Once your appointment is confirmed, all TAs are granted permissions for copying. The main copier for TA us in ME 116. There are other copiers, but their use should be limited as they are older models and not readily accessible without assistance.

  1. ME 116 - TA Copier - UCARD is needed for entry - Copier requires log-in and password
  2. ME 2101 - Faculty Copier - access to room depends on occupants - Copier requires log-in and password
  3. ME 316 - Backup Copier - access requires special door code - Copier requires log-in and password

Current instructions and passwords can be found under "About the Job" on the Resources for Current TAs page. If you are assigned a position AFTER the workshop and your access card doesn’t work, contact Jennifer Dahal She will confirm your appointment so you can get entered into the system.

How do I arrange for office hours?
Before you reserve space, you need to determine with the instructor how many people will attend the office hours weekly. Will the average be < 8 people or will there be > 8 people? Note that there is only ONE room for office hours in Mechanical Engineering: ME 2121 (new location beginning F15). Additionally, it is Departmental policy that ME conference rooms are NOT to be used for weekly office hours.

  1. Small Groups (less than 8 students) = schedule ME 2121
    • ME 2121 contains three tables eligible for office hours
    • Tables are scheduled on a first come, first served basis
    • To make requests, send an email to with the following information:
      1. Your name
      2. Your course number
      3. Instructor name
      4. Time(s) of day desired
      5. Days(s) of the week desired
  2. Large Groups = schedule using ASTRA
    • All TAs must use ASTRA Schedule to locate and request a room.
    • Please note that ASTRA is a newer scheduling tool for the University and as such, it is not very user-friendly.
    • We highly recommend you view the tutorials found on upper right under the UMN Astra Schedule Help Desk section of the Astra home page.
    • Contact (Office of Classroom Management) should you have any questions.

How do I get supplies for my course?

Some of the ME suites, such as 1100, 2101 and 3101, usually have general items available for both Instructors and TAs. These items are limited to markers, for recitation/office hours and red pens for grading. For any other items, it’s up to you to start the purchasing process. Current "How-to" instructions can be found here. For specific questions, contact ME's Purchasing office or email

*Due to biweekly pay periods, weekly work hours are not equal to weekly paid hours.