Arriving in Amherst

General Questions

The Graduate Program Committee is charged with overseeing graduate students progress towards their degrees and dealing with any difficulties that may affect their degree program. If you have any questions regarding your degree program or College rules and regulations, you should contact Leeanne Leclerc, the Graduate Program Manager, at 413-545-3640. You can also send her email at leclerc@cs.umass.edu or come to the Computer Science Main Office. If she is unable to resolve your problem, she can put you in contact with one of the Committee members.

Registration

The University offers course registration through the PeopleSoft Student Information System, SPIRE. You will receive access information with your Id # and password from the OIT (Office of Information Technologies) and the Graduate Student Services Center. In the meantime, there is a wealth of information at OIT's SPIRE Support web page. Please note that, although the already enrolled students have registered before you, our College tries to keep sufficient course space open for new students, so you should have little trouble getting into the appropriate courses.

MS Grad Student Funding Information

Students in terminal master's programs in the College of Information and Computer Sciences are ineligible for assistantships in the college or elsewhere on campus. Exceptions can be granted only if supported by the Chair of the Faculty and approved by the Dean of the College, in extraordinary circumstances needed to meet instructional or research needs. MS students are eligible for other types of employment on campus.

PhD-track Grad Student Funding Information

If your offer letter included a funding guarantee, this funding will most likely come in the form of an assistantship. Your offer did not specify whether your appointment would be as a Teaching Assistant (TA) or as a Research Assistant (RA).

Teaching Assistants are hired at the beginning of every semester. The Associate Chair of Academics and the Graduate Program Director will make appointments. Students promised support that are not hired as RA's will be supported as TA's.

The selection of RA's is contingent on the availability of faculty/project funding. Those faculty who have open research projects review the admission materials of all the newly admitted students and will contact the students that they are interested in hiring.

You are highly encouraged to become an RA beginning in your first semester in our College. It allows you to more quickly identify your research interests, and it gives you an early start on learning to do research and publishing. If you have questions about this, please do not hesitate to discuss this with your faculty contact or the Graduate Admissions Chair.

To give you time to receive and consider all offers, new students are not allowed to commit to an RAship before June 15th. There may be more than one faculty member interested in hiring you, and the choice of which RAship (if any) to accept is up to you. Obviously, you may have strong preferences before June 15th or may be anticipating at most one offer, but to avoid confusion, all decisions are postponed until then.

You have been assigned a "faculty contact", who should be kept aware of all discussions you have regarding assistantships. In many cases, your faculty contact will be someone interested in serving as your advisor and hiring you as an RA, but there is no formal commitment implied. To avoid confusion from parallel discussions, we ask that you either use your faculty contact to express interest in a particular research project, or that you keep that faculty member in the loop in such discussions. In particular, if you hear from a different faculty member, please be sure the contact knows what you've been told.

In summary:

  • From now until June 15th, faculty and students exchange interest in RAships but students may not make a formal commitment.
  • Starting June 15th, students may commit to an RAship offer, though exploratory conversations are still acceptable.
  • If you have any questions about the funding process please contact Leeanne (leclerc@cs.umass.edu)

Payroll Information

The University payroll system issues paychecks on a bi-weekly basis. PLEASE NOTE: Your first paycheck may be delayed, as the paperwork travels through the University system. We will attempt to get your appointments processed early enough to avoid such delays, but problems at the beginning of the semester are almost unavoidable. If you are an RA, and you have questions regarding your assistantship, please contact the staff person who works for the faculty paying your assistantship. If you are a TA, and have questions, see Leeanne.

PhD-track Summer Support

Some of you may have been offered 12 months assistantship support. If you are appointed as a TA and have not moved into an RA position by mid-May, then you can expect a computer science assistantship or an equivalent position during the summer. The College of Information and Computer Sciences does not offer many courses during the summer; so few TA positions exist during that time. Most of the summer support opportunities are therefore associated with RA positions. As always, the choice of people to fill these RA slots is entirely left up to the faculty members heading the various research projects. In all such cases, continuation of support into the next semester is contingent upon satisfactory academic progress and satisfactory performance of previous assistantship duties.