Head of the class

Former Chico State student Robert Strazzarino is changing people’s schedules

Photo By Mark Lore

Robert Strazzarino enters the bedroom of a typical college apartment complex off Nord Avenue. The walls are noticeably bare, save for a couple of grease boards with numbers and notes scrawled on them in different colors of ink. Four flat-screen computer monitors sit on top of a couple desks.

“This is it,” Strazzarino says.

It may not look like much, but what happens inside the small bedroom-turned-office has made the lives of thousands of college students a whole lot easier.

Strazzarino, a 22-year-old Chico State alumnus, is the brains behind the College Scheduler, software that generates every possible class schedule based on students’ personal criteria. It’s catching on and seems on the verge of becoming the norm at universities across the country.

For those who know what it’s like to have to figure out schedules by hand, the program is a beautiful thing. All College Scheduler users have to do is select the classes they need with all the sections that are offered, and in seconds the software spits out every possible schedule. Students can work around their breaks, jobs and athletic practices. Soon, they will be able to fine-tune their schedules even more by “locking down” only the classes they want.

“I was frustrated when I was a freshman and sophomore,” recalled Strazzarino, who graduated with a degree in computer science last May. “By my junior year I was using my own software, and it was sweet.”

The CN&R reported on the modest venture back in October 2004, when Strazzarino and his friends were using it to make their own class schedules. In true DIY style, the buzz of the “Wildcat Scheduler” grew through fliers and word of mouth, and soon more than 1,000 students were ditching the time-consuming pen-and-paper method in favor of a few simple mouse clicks.

Strazzarino initially offered the service for free, making a small profit from advertising. The number of users steadily grew to about 8,000 before he pitched it to Chico State, which became Strazzarino’s first paying client in October 2005. Now he says approximately 14,000 students have used the service, and he’s counted as many as 1,200 students logged on in a day.

Strazzarino put his local success in a pitch to Cal State Sacramento, which jumped on board in June 2006 (around 9,000 students there have used the College Scheduler). He says he’s in the contract phase with six schools across the country, in states such as Texas, New York and Hawaii.

As the business has grown, Strazzarino has brought in another software developer, whose two-bedroom apartment houses the aforementioned office, and a salesperson who works from Redding. Strazzarino puts in long hours, typically getting up around 5:30 a.m. and working throughout the day on updating the software, which, he says, doesn’t cost universities any extra since they’re paying for a service.

It’s simple: Strazzarino provides the software, and all universities have to do is sign on. Not just students find the service valuable—Strazzarino says advisers are also using it on a regular basis.

Along with the half-dozen schools who’ve expressed interest, Strazzarino has demonstrated the College Scheduler for another dozen schools over the Internet from his tiny Chico office.

“It’s a very cheap way to get exposure all over the country,” Strazzarino said. “It’s working well for us.”

Strazzarino is confident that in the next six months, the Scheduler will become indispensable to universities all over. “Once we get a nice portfolio of people using it,” he said, “we’re going to start cruising.”