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President’s Letter to Friends of Boise State

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

Higher Ed in Rural Idaho – A Boise State Priority

There was a time when living in a rural area meant you’d have to leave home to pursue a college education. Today, online access opens doors to thousands of Idahoans who live and work in Idaho’s treasured rural areas. How many times have we heard tales of young people leaving their rural communities to pursue education and never to return?

Thanks to Boise State’s growing online educational opportunities, we can make a very good case for strengthening and bolstering life in rural Idaho where students—young and old—can stay in place and still receive a high-quality college education.

Online options are becoming a large part of our current and future offerings to Idaho students at both graduate and undergraduate levels and, for some, these options are a lifeline to a much brighter future not only for themselves, but also for their communities.

For example, what do you do if your current job suddenly requires a college degree? This happened for thousands of nurses across the region when the Institute of Medicine set a goal to increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees to 80 percent by 2020. Demands of work and family left many facing impossible scheduling challenges, and those working in remote areas couldn’t travel the distance. Boise State took action, adding faculty and staff to support an increased enrollment of online students. By May of 2017, more than 1,000 registered nurses from all over the country will have completed their bachelor’s degree through Boise State’s RN-BS online program.

Some of the university’s online programs have been around for more than a decade, but recent initiatives place emphasis on developing more online programs. More than 29 degrees and certificates are fully online, and we’re working to add a dozen more over the next several years.

Programs extend access to Boise State degrees to all corners of Idaho, the US and beyond. This year we have online students enrolled from every US State (plus Washington DC and some US territories) as well as 44 other countries.

Serving rural areas can be especially challenging for universities because there is usually not enough demand to justify a wide selection of offerings or year-round programs. But online delivery allows us to aggregate students from all over Idaho, across the US and even the globe. So enrolling online students from Texas and Canada can actually help us serve parts of Idaho more cost-effectively. For example, our highly-ranked online Education Technology program is largely filled by out-of-state and international students but we offer scholarships for any Idahoan who pursues the master’s degree. Better, technology-enabled education in classrooms in Idaho is a direct outcome of this online program.

Another important community impact is related to the services provided by social workers. Higher cost of services associated with psychologists or psychiatrists means that clinical social workers may provide the majority of behavioral health services in the United States, especially in rural areas. Graduates of this program will be the key to connecting communities in need to these healthcare services and providers who are ready to help them.

Boise State’s online Master of Social Work program recently was ranked No. 18 in the nation for its affordability and quality education. Two recent additions to our online portfolio include a Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies and a Bachelor of Applied Science, both providing online options for adults who have some college credit, but never finished and now seek degree completion. A Master of Accountancy and Bachelor of Business Administration in Management will be added to our online degrees this fall.

There are 3,333 Boise State students enrolled exclusively online this academic year, many of whom may never come to campus. In general, these individuals are nontraditional-aged, working adults from Idaho and other parts of the US who are enrolled part-time. In getting to know our virtual campus community, our students tell us that they choose our online programs for conveniences related to location and schedule and because our programs are respected, accredited, and affordable.

Campus-based students may also elect to enroll in 426 course titles that are available online. This academic year 8,725 students are mixing one or more fully online courses into their schedules. These students tend to be more traditional-aged, Idaho residents and full-time. They tell us they appreciate the flexibility that adding 1-2 online courses per semester provides to their overall schedule, allowing them to better accommodate work and family commitments.

With traditional and non-traditional students availing themselves of our growing online offerings, Boise State has significantly improved our ability to meet students’ educational needs in our region and across the State. In 2012, the State Board of Education launched a goal to have 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25 to 34 earn a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. The Complete College Idaho initiative is significantly enabled by Boise State’s online offerings.

We must continue to make online access a priority for the future of our state and its citizens. From Boundary County to Bear Lake, and from Washington to Caribou, we are creating learning communities that connect place-bound students across the State to a university education at Boise State.

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

President Bob Kustra

Change Fast. A Boise State Story.

One of the most interesting aspects of my job is to create, manage and respond to change. And with so many new innovations and technologies coming at us all the time, we’re often challenged just to keep up.

For example, we’re always learning about amazing advances in medicine. My son-in-law works in the medical field and about five years ago, he was involved with a drug called Optivo, which was initially developed as a treatment for melanoma. Soon after it hit the market (after what must have been speedy trials) the drug was also found to be successful in treating several more forms of cancer.

Some innovations are literally life-saving. Others are more about lifestyle, impacting the way we live and work. Things like face recognition—a technology with many possible applications, is already being used at some grocery checkout lines. We’ll probably see it soon where we do our shopping. Another technology that measures the body heat of people inside grocery stores is helping to streamline the check out process.

The way people experience art is also quickly changing. When we open the doors to Boise State’s Center of Fine Arts and the World Museum, visitors of all ages will have the opportunity to interact with art, and see art from around the world in a completely new way. Virtual galleries and interactive tours are using increasingly innovative technology. Three years ago, the latest technology involved simulated floor-to-ceiling tours and touch screen navigation. Today, there’s even more interactivity enabled by gesture recognition—a technology that interprets human gestures via mathematical algorithms. Boise State is pursuing and developing our own cutting-edge technology that provides valuable new ways of learning.

Our business community is also adapting to innovation and technology, and tech companies are both driving and investing in change. Throughout our local and regional economy, businesses are looking to Boise State to lead research for new discoveries and to prepare the workforce of the future.

As the rate of change accelerates and continues to impact the way we live and work, Boise State must also change the ways in which we deliver higher education. Changes within our School of Public Service are an excellent example.

We’ve re-designed environmental, global and urban studies and community development to be cross-disciplinary programs to better prepare students for careers in pubic, private or non-profit sectors. We’ve aligned our centers and institutes with partners and programs, and created the Idaho Policy Institute to conduct impactful research programs across the state. We’ve become a valuable resource to local governments, state agencies and departments, and at the same time, created incredible hands-on experiences for students.

A new program developed in Boise State’s College of Innovation and Design creates opportunities for individuals who are already part of a workforce, but who can still benefit from continuing their education. A customized learning experience allows Boise State to mobilize parts of our university and deliver learning where it’s needed. A new program for Albertsons employees—Albertsons University—will be the first of its kind to be offered through Boise State.

To have a meaningful impact in the world, institutions that guide and direct our lives must keep pace with rapid change. Boise State University is always innovating and changing in order to serve our community and within it, the many adult learners and the citizens of our state.

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

President Bob Kustra


Partnerships with NASA Create Stellar Opportunities for Students

Every year, more and more students at Boise State have the opportunity to learn from someone who has literally been out of this world — NASA Commander Steve Swanson. Swanson is a Professor of the Practice at Boise State, teaching students to think like NASA scientists, no matter their chosen field.

Steve has amassed more than 195 days in space, two shuttle flights on the Russian Soyuz rocket, and five spacewalks. While he was miles from earth, he spoke to Boise State students from space, and during a live downlink, he demonstrated what it’s like to live and work in microgravity.

With a Ph.D. in Computer Science Engineering, Steve teaches robotics and engineering at Boise State to students interested in professions at NASA and within the aerospace industry. But he’s also working with students pursuing various other disciplines like education, physics, electrical and civic engineering, math and communications — through NASA’s Microgravity University, delivered through our College of Innovation and Design.

It’s the ninth consecutive year we’ve been accepted into this prestigious and competitive NASA program! Together, a team of “Space Broncos” directed by Swanson will build and test a tool or device that addresses one of several authentic, current space exploration challenges. The team also delivers educational and public outreach with K-12 students to inspire STEM learning in future generations.

Boise State’s connections to NASA were first brought to campus by Idaho’s famous Teacher in Space-astronaut Barbara Morgan, who visited the International Space Station in 2007 and helped develop Boise State’s science, technology, engineering and math programs as a Distinguished Educator in Residence for many years before retiring in 2016. Just this week, Morgan became the first to receive the Idaho Medal of Achievement before a joint session of the Idaho Legislature, an honor that recognizes individual Idahoans for their “exceptional, meritorious, and inspirational” service to the people of Idaho.

While undergraduate and graduate students continue to participate in collaborative research projects and scholarly programs, Swanson’s research drives better teaching of computational thinking through science and technology-driven, project-based learning.

Boise State graduates are working in the field for NASA and others, including Lockheed Martin in Houston, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and Boeing in Seattle. They are software designers, design engineers, project managers, and materials protection and performance engineers working on exciting projects like the recovery of astronauts from space and human exploration of Mars.

With all of the opportunities the university offers, there’s a growing number of alumni who are of the mindset that at Boise State, the sky is not the limit. It’s merely a beautiful place to start.

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

President Bob Kustra