Student Health and Wellness

Securing Health Insurance Coverage

Graduate Students who hold an appointment as an assistant of 33.33% or more or who have a fellowship may be eligible for health insurance and other benefits beyond University Health Services. Students should contact the Department Administrator to select one of several health care plans within 30 days of one’s hire date.

Sick Leave

As employees of the university (TA, PA, or RA), Comm Arts graduate students are subject to the rules laid out in the Graduate Assistantship Polices and Procedures (GAPP) document These include a range of employee benefits, including paid sick leave.

All Graduate Assistants are entitled to use paid sick leave if they are unable to complete their regular duties for any of the reasons listed in GAPP (e.g. physical or mental illness, bodily injury, etc.). In circumstances when a graduate assistant needs to make formal use of their leave, it is the responsibility of the department to arrange coverage, not the student. If a student decides not to take official leave, it is the responsibility of the student to find coverage. Although each case of sick leave will be different in terms of length of leave, duties that need to be covered etc., and there is no single solution that will meet all cases, the following general procedures should be followed when an assistant is requesting sick leave:

  • Student notifies course instructor of the need (or potential need) to take sick leave.
  • Students who have questions about how/whether or not to take sick leave based on their particular situation should connect with the Comm Arts Department administrator and potentially the Human Resources Representative for Letters and Sciences to discuss the amount of sick leave available, and options regarding using their sick leave. Students taking official sick leave need to track their hours taken with a form from the Department Administrator.
  • The course instructor locates an alternate assistant to cover the duties.
    • For urgent or shorter absences, “colleague coverage” is recommended, since it is built into the workload agreements for all Comm Arts teaching assistants.
    • For longer absences or complicated scenarios that require more complex coverage, the course instructor should work with the DGS, graduate coordinator, department administrator and department chair, who, along with guidance from L&S HR, will help get approval for a plan based on the amount of sick leave the student needs, and the duties that need to be covered.
  • If the absence is covered by colleague coverage, no further action is required. If the absence requires a new or additional appointment, the department chair and administrator request the modification from L&S HR and L&S Teaching and Learning.
  • Sick leave is available as long as teaching assistants have remaining paid sick leave. Once a student on a 50% appointment has expended their 48-hour per semester/96-hour per academic year, other forms of coverage will need to be explored.

“Colleague coverage” refers to a 5-hour block that all Comm Arts Teaching Assistants built into their workload agreements. These are meant to cover brief, urgent absences that may arise in any given semester. While the majority of TAs in most semesters will not use this 5-hour block for coverage, it provides all students the flexibility they need to take sick leave. Other coverage options beyond colleague coverage include: temporary grader/reader positions, temporary TA appointments, semester-long replacements and more.

When looking to fill an absence in a class, course instructors will usually ask assistants who have current or previous knowledge of that class, though it is possible in emergency situations that students may be assigned to a course with which they are not familiar.

At the start of each semester, course instructors are highly encouraged to identify potential students that are willing/able to take on extra appointments in case of illness or other absences in their classes.

Graduate Assistants who cannot perform their duties for personal reasons (taking part in a campus visit for a job talk, visiting family, etc.) are not eligible for sick leave and are thus responsible for finding their own coverage.

University Health Services

Students who pay segregated fees are eligible for University Health Services. Because services are paid through tuition and fees, there is no charge to students for many basic services, including counseling sessions and outpatient care. Personal health and wellness services are also available in addition to medical services. UHS is located in the Student Services Tower at 333 East Campus Mall, 608-265-5000. For more info, visit the UHS web site at

Prescription medications, emergency room visits, and hospitalization are not included in UHS benefits. Therefore, supplemental insurance covering these drugs and services is recommended for all students and is required for international students. The UHS Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) is an excellent option for many students. Contact the SHIP office at 608-265-5600 for more information.

The Graduate School and the Dean of Students Office jointly support a staff position focused on graduate student needs. Elaine Goetz-Berman serves in this role, which includes support, advocacy, and resource referral for graduate students. Additionally, UHS also offers a series of graduate student specific workshops and services including group counseling opportunities such as the:

  • Graduate Students Support Group
  • Dissertators’ Support Group
  • Students of Color Process and Support Group
  • International Students Support Group

Other group counseling opportunities address LGBTQ support, grad student resilience, relationships, depression, anxiety, and other topics. Groups typically meet 1 to 2 hours weekly and may run from 4 to 12 weeks per semester.

Disability Information

Accessibility and disability inclusion are a shared responsibility between everyone at UW–Madison. Disability rights are civil rights. Everyone – from faculty and staff to managers and supervisors – must ensure no qualified disabled individual is denied the opportunity to access or benefit from the university’s programs, services, activities, workspaces, and digital tools. This collaborative university effort is in line with UW–Madison’s disability and accessibility obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability nondiscrimination laws.

For general information about accessibility resources visit Accessibility @ UW–Madison at

For faculty and staff engaging with students or program participants with disabilities, please see the information available at the McBurney Disability Resource Center ( Admitted students should first go through the steps to “Become a McBurney Client.” See:

Mental Health Resources

University Health Services is the primary mental health provider for students on campus. UHS Counseling and Consultation Services offers a wide range of services, including immediate crisis counseling, same day appointments, and ongoing treatment. For UHS appointments or referrals to off-campus providers, students may call 608-265-5600 or visit