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What it’s like to be a Graduate Academic Assistant at NUA

At NUA, we offer graduates from certain courses, who are progressing to MA study, the chance to gain valuable paid work experience in the Higher Education sector as a Graduate Academic Assistant. MA Textile Design student Megan Stavaru talks us through her experience of the role.

MA Textile Design student Megan Stavaru stands in the weaving room, in front of shelving storing multiple colours of thread and yarn

How did you get the role?

I had heard about the opportunity to become a Graduate Academic Assistant through my tutors and immediately took an interest. I was then advised to go for it and apply by the previous assistant.

I wrote my application form and went through the interview process which was a challenging but exciting experience. I showed professionalism and enthusiasm for my subject whilst answering the interview questions whilst providing honest answers.

As well as this I spoke about my personal experiences and discussed the importance of design thinking and passing on knowledge to students. 

What attracted you to it?

A big part of my research and subject revolves around passing on skills, techniques and knowledge to a new generation.

For this reason, teaching has always been something I have been keen to explore. As I come towards the end of my master’s degree I have been thinking about various future career paths.

Getting this hands on experience to be within a teaching environment has allowed me to discover if this is something I want take further.

Being involved with the first year BA (Hons) Textile Design students also intrigued me as I found it exciting to see their ideas evolve into beautiful, sustainable textiles each week.

“Something I enjoy the most about the role is helping the students realise their potential. This can at times be challenging but I can relate to how they feel”

Megan Stavaru, MA Textile Design

A close up shot of woven threads, some thick, some thin, all in natural brown colours. Created by MA Textile Design student Megan Stavaru, who works for NUA as a Graduate Academic Assistant

What are the main responsibilities of your role?

I have been involved in tutoring the students by providing them with advice and guidance within their work. Supporting academic staff in challenging their design thinking, whilst assisting them with suggestions on developing their practice is one of my responsibilities which I find particularly stimulating.

I enjoy finding new ways to inspire those students in need of support through discussion and collating visuals / found materials to improve their current creative body of work and research.

I am also involved in shadowing lecturers, sharing my portfolio and presenting my current practice to students.

Designing and organising workshops has been another exciting responsibility. I have previously shown the students the importance of creating colour proportions inspired by their primary research and translating them into yarn wrappings which were then taken into a woven context. 

A close up of woven fabric topped with brown/red clay-like crumbles. Created by MA Textile Design student Megan Stavaru who works for NUA as a Graduate Academic Assistant

What do you enjoy most about the role? Has anything surprised you?

Something I enjoy the most about the role is helping the students realise their potential. This can at times be challenging but I can relate to how they feel as I cast my mind back to being in my first year of university.

Physically seeing how students had took our tutorials on board by producing new works in response to what we had discussed surprised me at first and made me feel I had accomplished something and inspired the students.

This has pushed my confidence when talking to the students individually and I continue to enjoy seeing the growth in their determination and body of work.

What would your advice be to anyone considering the role?

If you’re considering this role my advice would be to always have a friendly approachable attitude so that the students gain trust in talking to you about their work.

Check in on the students weekly and have quick catch ups with them about their week – this allows you to see how they are and gives you the opportunity to support them in the best way possible.

Advise the students as best you can and challenge their thinking without giving them all the ideas! Push yourself to run workshops and gain confidence in doing so. Always take notes when shadowing lecturers and document your experience.

You can explore more of Megan’s textiles work on her website.

Discover MA Textile Design