Registrar Mary Cisar, associate deans add courses
Registration week at St. Olaf is always a breeding ground for stress, drama and even the occasional meltdown. This past registration term, however, caused even more of an outcry than usual.
Students of all class years struggled to find classes with space for them, and some are still without a scheduled interim course. Although registration for spring semester was less problematic, some departments did face difficulty in this regard as well.
Registrar Mary Cisar explained that this year’s registration difficulties were predominantly an issue of student demand being misaligned with course offerings, but that an increased overall demand for interim courses also played a part.
Students are only required to take an interim course during three of their four years at the college. Many choose to register all four years, though others opt to create an independent study, work at an internship or simply take interim off. Cisar studies these enrollment patterns when
determining course offerings for each term.
In order to determine the number of courses to be offered each interim, Cisar monitors the class and lab to make certain that there are enough spaces overall. In addition, she uses enrollment numbers from the previous five or six years to predict the number of students who will register for interim, and in which courses.
Next, Cisar scales that estimated percentage to fit the current number of students enrolled at the college to determine how many courses to offer during interim, adding about 10 percent more spaces to allow for fluctuation.
“This fall, prior to course choice submission, I checked the interim offerings against my data from previous years using that, and it appeared that we had enough spaces,” Cisar said, “though not quite the 10 percent flexibility factor.”
Cisar is eager to dispel rumors that the larger first-year class caused the abnormally difficult registration period. Because course offerings are always scaled to the size of the
student body, the aberrance was entirely unrelated. Rather, it became apparent shortly soon after registration began that a larger number of students than normal was registering for interim on campus. Then the problems began.
Because sophomores have the lowest priority for interim courses, many of them were frustrated with their most recent registration experience.
“This registration period was unpleasantly surprising for me,” said Katherine Griffis ’15. After failing to get into her first six choices, Griffis was not able to register through the regular process.
Fortunately, however, she was able to add a course later.
Abby Kocher ’15 has been less lucky.
“During registration, I listed 13 class options for interim and wasn’t able to get into a single one,” Kocher said. “I started with classes I really wanted to take, which devolved into classes that I kind of wanted to take, and eventually [I] just listed a couple classes that I didn’t think many people would choose. It didn’t work. I couldn’t get into anything.”
After registration closed, Kocher emailed several professors to be put on waiting lists for their courses, but has yet to hear from them about open spaces. Because she is currently in Chemistry 121, Kocher is guaranteed entry into a section of Chemistry 123 for interim.
“That’s what my current plan is, and I’m now registered for one of the sections, but it definitely wasn’t my first choice,” she said. “I just didn’t end up with any other options.”
After registration closed, Cisar sent an email to all students who were still unregistered, asking whether they needed a course or were planning for an alternative interim option. Then she targeted students still searching for a course.
“I have offered them first chance to enroll in the new courses and also gave them the list of other open courses, of which there are several,” Cisar said. Starting Nov. 6, Cisar began working with the associate deans and the various departments to add new courses for interim, allowing those still without a class to find one.
On the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 3, Cisar emailed the student body with four new course options: Music 132, Statistics 212, Religion 222 and Nursing 110D. Three of the four classes offer general education requirements. Cisar also noted that there are still classes with open spaces that did not fill completely during the normal registration period; these are still available for students to add as well.
As students finalize their interim plans with the help of these additional courses, Cisar offers some advice for future registration periods. In addition to starting the registration process early, monitoring their email daily and providing many alternate options, she said that it is important to think outside the box.
“I would urge students to look beyond certain very high-demand courses and see what else is being offered,” she said. “There are a lot of gems out there!”