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President’s Letter to Friends of Boise State

Celebrating Homecoming 2017

When our alumni and friends return to Boise State University this weekend for Homecoming, they’ll find a metropolitan research university of distinction that is more vibrant and dynamic than ever before.

The Quad will be alive with the more than 2,800 students living on campus — the most ever, thanks to the brand new 650-bed Honors College and Sawtooth Hall. Thousands more live in newly constructed private apartment complexes in the blocks surrounding campus.

We welcomed our largest first-year class in history for the second year in a row and the Honors College itself set an all-time high as well, with more than 900 students. A record 324 highest-level graduate students are working toward their doctoral degrees at Boise State — now the state’s largest graduate school.

Our official fall enrollment is 24,154 — the highest in university history — though we will serve more than 30,000 students in total this academic year. And that is after our ninth straight academic year of record-setting graduate numbers, in which 4,172 Broncos earned a degree or certificate.

Although we at Boise State are constantly looking ahead, Homecoming also gives us a chance to reflect on the milestones that mark how far we’ve come.

We have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of Boise State’s Alumni Association, which today serves nearly 100,000 alumni. This weekend we’re hosting reunions for the classes of ’67 and ’68 — they were the first Broncos to earn four-year degrees half a century ago. Check out the story linked below highlighting our 2017 Distinguished Alumni and Distinguished Alumni Service Award recipients. What a tremendous group of individuals that we are so proud to call Broncos!

Our College of Engineering is celebrating its 20th anniversary of being an essential partner to the high-tech industry that defines the economy of Boise today. To mark this milestone, we’re naming the engineering building for Boise State’s fifth president, Dr. Charles P. Ruch, who was instrumental in the establishment and growth of that program.

You can definitely feel the Bronco pride all over campus and indeed all around town — look for the Idaho Statehouse to light up in Bronco Blue and Orange Friday night! We hope you break out your Bronco gear and spend time with us on Saturday. The Homecoming parade and Bronco Bash at the Alumni and Friends Center will start at 2 p.m. The game against the Nevada Wolfpack kicks off at 5 p.m.

If you need one more reason to join us, please watch this new aerial footage of our beautiful campus decked out in fall’s finest colors.

As always, we could not do what we do without your continued support. Thanks for all that you do, and Go Broncos!

Bob Kustra

Boise State Recognized Nationally for Boosting Student Success

Boise State University has attracted national attention lately for being on the bleeding edge of innovation in our programming and best practices.

The Dean of our College of Innovation and Design, Gordon Jones, was invited to speak at the NY Times Conference on Higher Education. Gordon served on a panel alongside the president of Arizona State University, where Boise State and Arizona State were singled out for their innovative approaches to delivering programming and services. At one of the premier conferences on higher education innovation, I was interviewed by the conference host on how Boise State has managed to distinguish itself on the national stage of higher education. A recent report on innovation by America Succeeds, a national network of business leaders dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students, hailed the work and thinking of Gordon Jones in calling for new degrees, majors, minors, and certificates where faculty work across traditional academic disciplines to prepare people for the emerging needs of the workforce of tomorrow.

Finally, our reputation has even crossed the Atlantic — a London education consulting firm identified Boise State as one of 20 “rising stars” in the world poised to upend the global higher education establishment.

This recognition of our creativity in fashioning new and innovative educational opportunities for our students may seem to some like the Statue of Liberty play that ended the 2007 Fiesta Bowl — a one-off not likely to be repeated or sustained over time.

Well I am pleased to report that when it comes to the fundamental business of moving our students to graduation as effectively as possible, the national eye is on Boise State again.

Boise State is one of five universities in the country named as a finalist for an Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) award recognizing innovative approaches to improve student retention and graduation. The APLU is one of the most respected institutions in American higher education and we are proud to be shortlisted for this key award.

The nomination recognizes work we began in 2005 to overhaul the entire student experience and to target key changes to bring the greatest gains. We focused on helping students excel in core math, writing and English because these were the courses they struggled with the most. We created a Learning Assistant Program that paired students in key subjects (boosting success of both the mentor and the mentee). We enhanced advising, expanded ways for students to engage on campus, and developed better warning systems to help students stay on track.

The result: full-time degree-seeking freshman retention has risen from 63 percent to 80 percent — helping hundreds more students meet their educational goals on time and on budget. Meanwhile, we have set a new mark for the number of Boise State graduates in each of the past nine years. That string of records happens to coincide with a pretty strong decade on the gridiron, with Boise State Broncos earning their way to two more Fiesta Bowl victories. In both cases, I would argue that our innovation and creativity were launched from a solid fundamental base.

To succeed, for our students and our community, we need to have both and I am proud to say that our efforts are making a difference as well as making a splash.

As always, we could not do what we do without your continued support. Thanks for all that you do, and Go Broncos!

Bob Kustra

Our Focus on Student Success After Graduation — Going Beyond the Major

I often get questions from parents and students about how our undergraduate curriculum prepares students for employment after graduation.

At Boise State, 4 out of 10 students are in pre-professional programs such as accounting, engineering and nursing that provide a high likelihood of a smooth transition from college to a profession. For the other 60 percent, most graduating with a degree in the arts, humanities or social sciences, the path is less direct.

A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania indicates that many jobs require a degree and a few years of experience. And there are plenty of jobs that require no degree and no experience. But there are frustratingly few jobs that require a college degree but allow for no experience. That means college grads have no choice but to take those jobs for which they are overqualified.

Let that sink in: If we are graduating our students with nothing but a traditional degree, they are leaving our campus without the prospects to use it. At Boise State, we are doing something about this. Every day we are working to preserve the arts and humanities that we know are crucial to society and our students’ long-term success — while sending them well-equipped to face the world beyond our campus.

One major step was the creation of the College of Innovation and Design and appointing to run it former corporate exec and start-up leader Gordon Jones, the founding director of the Harvard Innovation Lab. Jones and his team are charged with reinventing how Boise State prepares students for success beyond the diploma, reimagining how we can team up with community and industry leaders, and, in essence, creating a new vision for the higher education of the future.

The college has launched high-demand degrees far more quickly than traditional processes often allow, and developed research opportunities giving students the chance to tackle real-world challenges. Also new from the college: concierge-style academic programming for companies in our region and cooperative education opportunities that place students in workplaces around the city.

Perhaps most importantly, the college is leading the way in finding effective and attractive methods to augment our traditional majors. Unique collaborations with some of the nation’s premier private universities and innovators give Boise State students the chance to earn a certificate of readiness from the Harvard Business School (while amassing Boise State credit), or to master design thinking from the Stanford-launched creative agency IDEO.

Today, many of our colleges and departments are following suit. Bridge to Career courses in the College of Business and Economics deliver valuable business skills for the competencies employers are looking for. Students can earn a certificate in Design Ethnography that shows they have learned how to use the tools and skills of anthropologists to analyze corporate culture or boost marketing efforts. Our College of Arts and Science just launched a total alternative to traditional majors — working with students to complete three minors from across campus to design a custom major of their own making. New ideas are coming forward all the time.

Some would call what we are doing disruptive, but nearly all of these new ideas share one driving principle: higher education needs to deliver more than just a diploma. By daring to bend and break our own rules to deliver what students need, I believe Boise State is making a difference for our students and our state.

As always, we could not do what we do without your continued support. Thanks for all that you do, and Go Broncos!

Bob Kustra

Boise State Will Be a Leader in Preparing Students for Success Beyond the Major

Last week at Boise State University, we welcomed the freshman class of 2021 on the same day as the solar eclipse. We have a record 2,800 students living on campus this year, including the 650 students who will move into the brand new Honors College and Sawtooth Hall, a facility very fitting of our thriving honors program and the largest Honors enrollment in Boise State history — more than 900 students.

We have a lot to celebrate on campus. We topped $50 million in research grants and contracts, and raised more than $52 million for scholarships during our scholarship campaign — more than double our goal. For the ninth straight year we’ve had a record number of graduates.

We have plans for a new home for our School of Public Service, which will join the Micron Business and Economics Building and the Center for Fine Arts on the west entrance to campus, and we’ve launched the new School of the Arts designed to bridge disciplines and create new opportunities in fine arts, music, theater and creative writing.

Boise State is also becoming a national leader in preparing students for success beyond the major with new interdisciplinary programs that augment majors and more offerings that will serve students in their first job — programs like Harvard Business School’s HBX CORe, a certificate of readiness delivered by Harvard but earned through Boise State. Courses in basic business skills are open to all majors through the College of Business and Economics — more than 300 are enrolled this semester.

Boise State students can also earn a certificate in leadership from the College of Innovation and Design or launch their own business through our Venture College. We now offer a certificate in Design Ethnography, which takes the skills and techniques used by anthropologists and applies them to business and marketing plans in the corporate setting.

As I noted in my 15th State of the University Address this month, it is critical at this moment in history that we distinguish our campus as a place that embraces diversity and inclusion and that works hard to foster civility, civic engagement and open dialogue on important issues. One way we will do this is through an exciting program inspired and generously funded by Marilyn Shuler, the longtime human rights leader who died in February of this year.

The Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative launches this fall, offering human rights education and smart advocacy skills. It will eventually include an academic certificate in human rights issues and advocacy and offer events open to everyone. The first event is taking place this October and will feature two of the activists who battled North Idaho white supremacists for two decades. Stay tuned for more details.

I watched the eclipse from campus with thousands of students, faculty, staff and guests. Folks who have been here much longer than I have tell me it was the most people they’ve ever seen gathered on the Quad. It was an exhilarating start of the academic year — a year in which we will focus on boosting the success of our students beyond the major and long after they receive their diploma.

As always, thank you for all that you do for Boise State and its students.

Bob Kustra

Tackling the Future of Idaho’s Higher Education

Gov. Butch Otter created the Higher Education Task Force in February to improve higher education in Idaho, and it is being led by two hard-working Idahoans who care deeply about education in this state: longtime tech business leader Bob Lokken and former West Ada School District Superintendent and current State Board of Education member Linda Clark.

The group is studying how to encourage more Idaho high school graduates to earn a college degree or certificate, how to make sure higher education is affordable and accessible here, and how to improve the skills and competencies of our college graduates as they enter the workforce.

From my perspective, one of our top priorities must be to find a new way to support Idaho students from all economic backgrounds as they pursue their educational and career goals.

As the largest institution of higher education in the state, Boise State confers nearly half of all bachelor’s degrees awarded each year by Idaho public universities — and about three out of four of our graduates stay in Idaho to live, work and raise their families.

But since Boise State grew rapidly at a time when the state struggled to adequately fund and make equitable the higher education formula, these students get far less state support than their peers who choose other in-state institutions. That imbalance impedes our ability to respond to growth, implement new ideas and serve our local and regional economy.

As efficient and effective as Boise State has been, we continue to see the gap widening every year. And the truth is that Idaho students should all enjoy the same amount of support. A healthy and fair budget could support our students, as well as provide incentives for university leaders to make the best decisions they can for their students.

I expect that arriving at a new funding model will be a challenging endeavor for universities in Idaho. But more than 30 other states use at least some form of “outcomes-based” budgeting, which targets state dollars where they matter the most: in producing graduates to work in and lead the economy.

Whatever the final decision, it won’t be an overnight fix, but I am glad the state has taken the first steps toward finding the right solution for Idaho.

The task force is made up of my peers from Idaho’s institutions of higher education, members of the State Board of Education, government representatives, business leaders and educators. The task force will make recommendations in September. I invite you to stay informed and engaged along the way.

As always, thank you for all that you do for Boise State and its students.

Bob Kustra