College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean reflects on campus-wide involvement, student support


Courtesy of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Beate Schmittmann is the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State. Schmittmann has been in the position of dean since April 2, 2012.

Lydia Samuelson

Beate Schmittmann stepped up to the role of dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2012 to take on the responsibilities of the college.

As dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Schmittmann is responsible for the college’s personnel, budget and assuring courses and programs are delivered at a high quality level. She also travels, talking to donors and alumni about the importance of student scholarships and providing faculty support.

According to Schmittmann, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences contains 18 departments and the Greenlee School, making it one of the largest colleges on campus. In addition to being the administrative home to the three ROTC programs, Schmittmann said the college also has around 20 cross-disciplinary studies, such as African American studies, international studies and more.

There are also many activities run through the college that students can engage in. These activities include areas such as theatre and music, with prime examples being music ensembles and the ISU Marching Band.

“We probably have a wider range of programs than the other colleges on campus,” Schmittmann said. “We literally engage every Iowa State student […] we teach mathematics and physics and chemistry and English […] to everyone. All the other colleges, all the other majors rely on [College of Liberal Arts and Sciences] to provide some of those foundational courses for their majors.”

The college is constantly changing and improving their program to better suit their students. One recent improvement is the new learning communities for open option students.

“That’s a large group of students, about 600 students, who we really didn’t have learning community options for them in the past,” Schmittmann said. “Over the past two to three years we’ve really built up learning community options for students in open option.”

Open option students — those coming in to Iowa State without a declared major — have access to advisers, career assessments and skill tests, according to Schmittmann. With all of this available aid, Schmittmann said most students find a major within their first year.

For students not involved in open option, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has new opportunities on the horizon.

“I have a team that’s hard at work developing an entrepreneurship program for [College of Liberal Arts and Sciences],” Schmittmann said. “President [Wendy] Wintersteen has made it one of her priorities to really make Iowa State University stand out for innovation and entrepreneurship. All the colleges are developing programs that are uniquely tailored for their students but with a lot of partnering and collaboration. We are working on an entrepreneurial program which gives students in [College of Liberal Arts and Sciences] [a chance] to explore entrepreneurial ideas and innovations.”

The entrepreneurial program could be implemented as early as the fall 2020 semester.

The college also recently invested more into Iowa State’s Career Services in Carver Hall with interview rooms students can reserve to have interviews or calls in a professional setting.

According to Schmittmann, the college is doing its best to boost students into their future careers by also offering LAS 203X: Professional Career Preparation. It is a half semester class to teach students how to present themselves professionally and successfully in the world beyond college.

“I want this college to be a place where people like to work and study,” Schmittmann said. “One of the things that gives me personally a lot of satisfaction is when I create spaces, environments, […] where people feel comfortable, where people want to work, work hard and really make a contribution. So if I can create that for people that means a lot to me.”

Before coming to Iowa State, Schmittmann served as the department chair of physics at Virginia Tech, where she said she came to realize why she enjoys being a dean.

“[I] enjoyed the opportunity to have a broader impact on programs,” Schmittmann said. “Not just my own students and my own classes, but have the ability to make a difference for a whole department and for faculty, for students.”