Welcome Students 2018

Information Letter for New Graduate Students, Fall 2018

I am pleased to welcome you to graduate study in the Department of Mathematics at West Virginia University. I am the Department’s Graduate Director, and I am writing to provide you with some information on the upcoming fall semester and pre-semester activities. Please familiarize yourself with the information below, the Department’s Graduate Handbook, and the linked information. Classes begin on Wednesday, August 15. In the weeks preceding the start of classes, the Department and the University will be having some activities for new graduate students. There are different items to be aware of, depending on whether or not you are a graduate assistant, an international student, or an M.S./Ph.D. student. A table at the bottom summarizes the information.

Some essential activities, described in more detail below, are as follows: For all new graduate students, the Mathematics Department will have its orientation session on Monday morning, August 13. Graduate Teaching Assistants must attend a University workshop on Friday, August 10, from 7:30-2:30 PM, as well as complete an online tutorial. New M.S. students will take the Basic Exam on Monday, August 13, at 1:30 PM. This exam is used for course placement and program recommendations as explained further below. New international students attend the international student orientation on August 9 and check in with SEVIS on August 10. Information on this would have been sent with your I-20.

All graduate students should regularly check their Mix email which is the primary means of communication. It is accessible through the “portal” at You will first need to activate your Master ID, by going to Also, please make sure to register your Mix email with the department by filling out the computer account application at the link. You can fill this out and email it back to me using your Mix email. Your Department computer account will ensure you get emails addressed to graduate students and will also give you file storage on the Department’s server. The Department's computer administrator is Rick Holsberry, , in Room 311 Armstrong.

Departmental orientation session

The department orientation for all new graduate students will take place on Monday morning, August 13. Coffee and other refreshments will be available in the Math Dept Lounge in Room 310 Armstrong Hall from 9:30 AM to 10:00 AM. The program itself will begin at 10:00 AM across the hall in room 315 Armstrong Hall and last about one hour. Among the sessions/activities will be the following:
  •            Meeting Department administration and staff

  •            Overview of graduate program requirements and faculty research interests

  •            Discussion of course offerings

  •            Course registration and the STAR system

  •            Brief tour of building & facilities

Graduate Teaching Assistants

New Graduate Teaching Assistants are required to attend the University’s Graduate Teaching Assistant Workshop, from 7:30 AM -2:30 PM on Friday, August 10. It will be held in Room G20 Ming Hsieh Hall, up College Avenue from the Mountainlair. Attendance is mandatory and is recorded. Please also note that there is an online series of modules to complete as well. 

GTA’s will also be attending department sessions that will orient them to their particular assignments. Most of these meetings will not occur until classes begin. There are a variety of duties to which you may be assigned, such as assisting in a class by grading papers and maintaining grades, working with undergraduate students in the Institute for Mathematics Learning (IML) instructional computer labs, working as an assistant instructor in the calculus sequence, running your own calculus recitations, covering our self-paced developmental courses, and teaching your own course. Your assignment depends on Departmental needs and your own background and experience. More information about this will be available at orientation. Please note that all GTA's must register each semester for one credit hour of Math 590 Teaching Practicum.(If you do not have an assistantship but are interested in part-time work in the IML labs, see below.) You will be contacted by email regarding your assignment. GTA’s are supervised by Professor Jessica Deshler. Please be on the lookout for emails from Professor Deshler concerning GTA items.

Graduate Assistants will receive office space, as assigned by Department staff. Office space for students that are not graduate assistants is in short supply, and is mostly restricted to advanced Ph.D. students working on their thesis. Mailboxes are available for Graduate Assistants and otherwise are distributed as available and/or needed. Most communication is by e-mail, however, using your WVU MIX email address. Graduate Assistants and Ph.D. students may use Department copiers for work or research-related copying. If you are a Graduate Assistant, please see Kristine Bowsher in the main office to receive your office assignment and keys.

          New M.S. students

New M.S. students will take the Basic Exam in Advanced Calculus and Linear Algebra on Monday, August 13, from 1:30-3:30 in Room 315 Armstrong. There is also a take-home part, due back on Friday, August 17. The exam is designed to furnish us with an idea of your background in advanced calculus (introductory real analysis) and in linear algebra. Based on the results of the exam, we may require and/or advise you to include certain prerequisite courses as part of your program, such as Math 451 (undergraduate advanced calculus), or Math 343 (the undergraduate linear algebra course). Information on the basic exam and topics covered is available on the department web site.


All students are encouraged to register for the fall semester during the summer. You can do this from home, or drop by to see me after you arrive in Morgantown. This is particularly important for GTA’s, as your assignment has to be chosen so as not to conflict with your class schedule. Registration is done over the internet through the “STAR” system, which you can access through the WVU portal at You should contact me first for recommendations, but if you register yourself, please email me your schedule. You will need to first activate your Master ID at as noted above. For direct access, you can also go to the address Click “Star Access”. You can find information about courses within STAR by following the link “Schedule of Courses”. Feel free to correspond with any of the professors by email during the summer for information about courses. Full time enrollment for graduate students is 9 credit hours (three courses) and is mandatory for Graduate Assistants and is usually a condition for international student visas. Some additional one-credit seminar-type enrollments are sometimes also required, notably Math 590 Teaching Practicum, which is required for teaching assistants, and one credit of Math 696 Graduate Seminar, required for Ph.D. students. While most students take three courses, it is possible to take four and there is no extra charges involved once you are a full time student. An email directory of faculty is available from the main department web page. I will be posting descriptions of our course offerings in the fall. Changes to your course schedule can be made after you arrive in Morgantown. Schedule changes can be made up until the end of the first week of classes, August 22, but it is very difficult to make any changes after that.


Graduate Assistants receive a full tuition waiver and other students may receive a partial tuition waiver; however student fees currently amounting to about $657/$957 per semester, and College tuition of $378/$675 per semester both based on residency, cannot be waived for anyone. The payment deadline is August 2nd, and a penalty of 2.25% will be assessed on August 2 on any outstanding balance. If you need more time to pay, there is a monthly payment plan that requires just a small fee to enroll and then there is no penalty assessed in that case. If you register after August 2, the penalty will not be assessed until September 2.

          Considerations for International students

For new international students, the University will have its International Student Orientation for graduate students on August 9. Please see the linked page for information on checking in with the Office of International Students and Scholars and other requirements.

            SPEAK Test

Any graduate teaching assistant (GTA) whose native language is not English and who has not taken the Test of Spoken English (TSE) with a score of 50 or higher is required to take the SPEAK Test at WVU, several days before classes begin The SPEAK Test is also recommended for any other international students who may teach or work with undergraduate students at some point, as a passing score is needed for those duties. GTA’s who do not pass the SPEAK test will be required to take English classes as recommended based on the results, and their GTA duties, as assigned by the Department, will not involve working directly with students. Information about this test will be available at the international student orientation. If you need to take the SPEAK test send me an email and I will register you for the exam, after which you will receive an email with your test time. If you are not a GTA and wish to take the SPEAK test, please notify me. The Fall SPEAK test will be held on the dates August 9-13. The exam involves a $35 fee, which the Department has arranged to pay on your behalf. The Coordinator of the SPEAK test is Karen Allen

          Employment processing

All students who are graduate assistants or are otherwise to be paid through the University as of August 10 should start employment processing at the Payroll Office well before that date in order to be paid starting August 10 (your first check will not be available until mid-September however); we recommend one week in advance, particularly for international students. International students will need to supply the documents necessary for certifying your eligibility for employment. Everyone also needs a social security card in order to be processed for employment. International students without a Social Security number must first get an Employment Letter from the Department – see Kristine Bowsher in the main office for this. You then email a scanned copy of the letter to International Students and Scholars Services. That office will certify the letter to take with you to the local Social Security office. The WVU Payroll Office is located in the One Waterfront Building. They also have processing at other locations at designated times.

          Health insurance

All students, including international students, are automatically enrolled in the student health insurance plan. Graduate Assistants (either teaching or research) are provided with this plan at no extra cost. If you are a half-time GTA, you will have half of the health insurance fee credited to your account. If you have your own comparable insurance and do not wish to be charged for the WVU student health insurance you MUST submit the insurance waiver form by the deadline of August 1, 2018. Please see the Student Health Insurance website at the link provided above.

          Employment for students who are not graduate assistants

The Department has a limited number of part-time positions in a number of capacities, including grading, and assisting students in our computer laboratories. The number, and nature, of such positions depends on needs, scheduling, and available funding, and is generally not determined until near the beginning of the semester, or shortly thereafter. If you are interested in being considered for such positions as may arise, send an email with your course schedule to Betsy Kuhn, the Lab Manager, at Identify yourself as a Mathematics graduate student. This is best done at the beginning of classes, as that is when the staffing will be done.

Here is a schedule listing various activities taking place the week before classes as discussed above. The list is not necessarily exhaustive.

Summary of Activities

 What    When    Where    Who
GTA Workshop
(with online component)
  Friday, August 10, 7:30AM-2:30PM   Ming-Hsieh G20   All new GTA’s
International Student Orientation   Thursday, August 9, 7:30AM-on   Mountainlair ballrooms   All International students
Employment processing   August 9th or sooner!   One Waterfront or Mountainlair   Graduate assistants
Departmental Orientation   Monday, August 13, 9:30-11 AM   315 Arm (Coffee in 310 Arm)   All new graduate students
SPEAK Test   August 9-13 (by appt)   134 Eiesland Hall   International GTA’s & others
Basic Exam   Monday, August 13, 1:30PM-3:30PM   315 Armstrong   New M.S. students

Back to top
Departmental Calendar

The following web sites can further provide information on WVU and the Math Department.

If you need further information, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, by e-mail or phone. I look forward to seeing you in the fall, if not sooner.

Harvey Diamond
Graduate Director