Class act


Katie Baumgarn has the responsibility of scheduling all the classroom spaces on Iowa State’s campus. (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

The university’s fall enrollment is the largest in school history. In the last decade, overall enrollment has grown 40 percent. The impact of this growth has been felt from residence halls to dining centers, but nowhere is the pressure to accommodate the growing student body more intense than the competition for general university classroom space.

Katie White Baumgarn (L)(’83 home ec ed, MS ’95 curriculum & inst) is Iowa State’s coordinator of instructional facilities. Baumgarn has been scheduling rooms on campus for 23 years. She and her two-person staff scheduled 12,784 instructional meeting hours this fall in classrooms as large as 431 seats (in Hoover Hall) and as small as 12 seats (in Sweeney). Most of the work is done through a computer program, but there are still classes each semester that have to be scheduled by hand.

Q: How has the increase in student enrollment affected your job?
A: Before the semester begins, we look at high-demand freshman-level courses – like chemistry, biology, English, physics, and math – and project what space we’ll need. If we’re short a certain number of seats, we look at increasing class sizes or adding sections. We have to ask ourselves how we can help a class that’s always been offered Monday/Wednesday/Friday at 10 a.m. and the class limit is 70 – but now it needs to be 100.

There’s a lot of negotiating and partnering that we need to do with folks to figure out what we can do to make sure we have enough seats. We need to realize we’re here for the students. We need to do what we can to help them be successful and to complete their education here at Iowa State. It’s a four-year goal, and that’s what we should all be striving for.

Back in the day, classes were typically held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. What does the schedule look like now?
Prime time really used to be anything taught between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Now we’ve expanded that to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – that’s when faculty want to teach; that’s when students want to take classes. But because of the enrollment, we have a lot more classes at 8 a.m., and we’re seeing more classes that have to go to that 3:10 and 4:10 time. There are also more night labs. There’s actually been a big push by biology to offer labs from 7:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night.

We also schedule exams, review sessions, tutoring, and supplemental instruction in classrooms at night. Are we getting to the point where we can’t take on any more students? We can. We just all need to be creative in how we move forward in offering courses.

What would people be surprised to learn about your job?
Besides scheduling classes I’m also responsible for the renovation of the general university classrooms, and I’m part of the design team for new classroom spaces and auditoriums. One exciting challenge we have is team-based learning courses. That’s where the instructor has the students break into teams of four to seven students. For example, Troxel Hall was designed with swivel seating, so if an instructor wants to do team-based learning, they can.

I think people would also be surprised to learn that general university classrooms only take up 4 percent of the total space on campus. (Departmental teaching labs take up another 9 percent of the total space.) It’s a lot to squish in to such a small percentage of space.

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