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“What I am Working on Today” Blog

What I Am Working On Today: Enrollment Surge Creates New Problems

September 22, 2014

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Below is the illustration and story points of one of the Greenlee School’s most recent accomplishments—one, by the way, that can change what we do and how we do it.

Story at a glance:

• Total Greenlee enrollment approaches 840, a 20 % increase.
• School now largest program in College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
• Greenlee minority enrollment rises to 16% of total, a 2% increase over 2013.
• Journalism enrollment soars to 376.
• School bucks national downward trend for journalism majors, a recent study shows.
• New Public Relations major adds 190 new students.
• Advertising and journalism enrollment unaffected by PR enrollment.
• Greenlee enrollment based in part on near 100% placement.
• Alumni and benefactor scholarships play role in recruitment.
• College support and Greenlee faculty-staff efforts credited for success.

The good news is that the Greenlee School shattered last year’s record enrollment of 662 students with a 20% spike to 793, making the program one of the top 10 largest units at Iowa State University. We have 729 primary majors and 64 secondary, or double, majors. Total enrollment by major included Advertising at 227 students; Journalism, 376; and Public Relations, 190. When graduate students are added to undergraduate enrollment, the School’s total exceeds 840 students.

While record enrollment, especially in journalism, is seen as an achievement, it also presents problems with scheduling skills classes, which we limit to 20 seats in our computer labs. Last year we had 5 sections of our basic reporting course. Now we must expand that to 9 or, possibly, 12. (We also garnered dozens of new students from other journalism programs and community colleges who may be more advanced in their degree programs, thereby necessitating more skills classes.)

Some members of our Curriculum Committee want to change our basic reporting class from lab-based to lecture- and lab-based, dedicating one hour per week to lecture with break-outs to labs. This opens up as many as four lab slots in the schedule. It also will prevent evening labs or even labs on Saturday. However, with such a change questions arise. Who will be lead instructor? Will lab instructors have the final say about a grade, or will they merely send the lab grades to the lead instructor?

Questions like this are put to the administrator in her or his office. That’s what I am working on today.

Tomorrow is a faculty meeting, and this issue is on the agenda. We have some who favor the change and some who do not. When a representative of each side comes to me with concerns, my job is not to take sides but to listen to arguments and help the faculty member hone them so they can be presented with the most impact. I did that today for both sides of the issue.

In many ways, a good administrator seeks balance in her or his responses just as a good journalist seeks both sides of a story for balance. Fact is, I personally prefer one of the reporting class proposals. But I can’t tell you which one. And I can’t tell the professors, either, because they will make the determination in a faculty meeting.

That’s why it is called a “faculty” meeting and not a “director” meeting. We at the Greenlee School direct by suggestion, not executive action.


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