Date of Award

January 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Myrna Olson


The use of undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs) has increased in recent years at a number of institutions, especially in active-learning and high-enrollment introductory courses. Currently, there is research demonstrating their benefit to students, and the short-term impacts of the experience on the UTAs. However, no study to date has investigated the long-term impacts of the UTA experience on the participants themselves, and a number of studies call for such an investigation. This dissertation sought to fill that gap in understanding by utilizing a Grounded Theory approach to investigate the perceptions of participants who had served as an UTA in the biology department at a large research institution in the upper Midwest. All participants worked as an UTA from two to ten years prior to the interview, and had since graduated and gone on to careers, graduate school, or professional programs. This research found strong consensus among participants that the UTA experience is overwhelmingly positive. Long-term personal benefits included improved self-confidence, a sense of personal reward, and a sense of community that resulted from working with faculty members. Professional benefits that persisted included a strong sense of professional development, beneficial experiences that transferred to life after undergraduate studies, the ability to explore potential careers, and the opportunity to experience more than just research. Additionally, participants reported that financial motivation was not a primary motivation. Furthermore, they provided evidence that concerns from the primary literature about overly burdensome responsibilities and conflicts of interest with other students were not a significant issue during their experiences.