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President’s Letter to Friends of Boise State

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

Breaking ground and breaking records at Boise State

On May 2, we broke ground for the new Center for Fine Arts and in the same week, broke records for participation and attendance at our 100th graduation ceremony. That night, we held the 18th Auction Gala raising funds for scholarships that will put us over the top of our fundraising goal. The campaign continues through June and in July we will announce total dollars raised.

In the fall of 2019, we’ll open the doors to the new Center for Fine Arts, which will be a nationally recognized center for arts education and a landmark within the largest cultural thoroughfare in the state of Idaho. Our partners and donors joined in the breaking of ground at the future site of a center that will serve our students, faculty and staff, but it will also serve the entire community with the high-tech World Museum. This future space speaks of a proud commitment to the visual arts in higher learning, and is especially remarkable given how challenging it is to raise money for the arts and humanities.

The progress and promise of this center reflects the commitment of a community that truly values art and the role art plays in all of our lives. We are incredibly grateful to donors and our partners who have shared this vision and made it a reality. We will welcome everyone again when we celebrate the center’s opening.

Our 100th graduation ceremony was our first held on the famous blue turf. The last time we held graduation on a football field was in 1981, and—can you imagine—that turf was green! We moved the ceremony indoors when the Pavilion, now the Taco Bell Arena, was built. But we have seen such an increase in graduates and proud family members who want to attend that we moved to the much larger venue of Albertsons Stadium to allow all family members and friends of our graduates to attend.

For the first time, our student speaker—a tradition at commencement—was an international student. Océane Pelloille came to Boise State from her small hometown of Caen, France, with a four-year scholarship to play on the women’s golf team. Her family traveled all the way from France for Océane’s graduation, but they were not aware that she was selected to be the student speaker. What a pleasant surprise for her family to see her at the podium addressing her fellow graduates. Océane’s message to her fellow graduates and to everyone in the stadium was insightful and encouraging. You can see Océane’s speech and more about commencement here.

More than 1,750 students received their degrees at the ceremony this year. In total, 2,369 students received 2,682 degrees and certificates. A record 23 doctoral degrees were also awarded, bringing the total number of Boise State graduates to more than 4,000 this academic year. For those in attendance and for those of us on stage presiding over graduation, it was a memorable blue celebration I’m sure our graduates will not forget. They will always be able to say they were the first to graduate on the Blue!

It’s been quite a year—breaking ground, breaking records and celebrating scholarship and service. As always, thank you for all that you do for Boise State and its students.

Bob Kustra

“An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story”

Films can often be a source of profound inspiration. And if they’re particularly enlightening, we are forever changed by what we see. Film is a great medium for teaching, and we’re very fortunate at Boise State to have the opportunity to learn from a new film — An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story — produced by the dean of Boise State’s Honors College, Andrew Finstuen.

A historian as well as the film’s producer, Finstuen joined award-winning director Martin Doblmeier at special screenings where they discussed the film with audiences at venues around the country, including Harvard Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, Notre Dame, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Newseum in Washington D.C. Many Boise State students had their first introduction to Reinhold Niebuhr at a special screening on campus in March, but for anyone who missed it, the film is airing on public television this month. (Tune into Idaho Public Television at 10 p.m., April 21. Finstuen and the filmmaker Martin Doblmeier will be featured on Dialogue with Marcia Franklin at 7:30 p.m.)

Many may recognize Reinhold Niebuhr for the Serenity Prayer, one of the most quoted writings in American literature. He was also a man who inspired a nation at a time of enormous change — industrialization, race relations, World War II, nuclear power and Cold War. Niebuhr was a progressive social thinker who could speak from conscience with courage. He had a great understanding of human nature as a professor, pastor, writer and political activist.

For decades, Niebuhr was on the FBI watch list, but others were watching and listening too — from all sides. The film features his influence on Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer and includes diverse contemporary voices like New York Times columnist David Brooks and public intellectual Cornel West. People across political lines were drawn to Niebuhr’s integrity and humility for his realistic views. He said, “Man’s inclination to justice makes democracy possible. Man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” He was viewed as a man with hope for a better part of human nature and for the future. Dr. Finstuen noted that the divided political climate of recent decades underscores the need for voices of conscience such as the film highlights. He has written an opinion piece about the project and the trailer is online.

This is a film worth watching as it brings to light one of the most important thinkers of the past century, one of the giants of American thought whose ideas are very relevant today. And as the film may suggest — perhaps we should still be listening.

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

President Bob Kustra