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President’s Letter to Friends of Boise State

August 28, 2014

You have been with Boise State University through an incredible journey over the past several years, as we have boosted enrollment, transformed our graduate and research programs, and grown our yearly graduate numbers by more than 70 percent in 15 years.

And this incredible trajectory shows no signs of slacking. This summer a team of biomedical researchers secured the largest research award in Boise State’s history: a $10 million grant to pursue questions that could lead to better understanding of heart disease, strokes, ligament damage and more.

We have announced plans to create a School of Public Service to train future leaders and to find innovative solutions to challenges facing our communities, our landscape and our economies. With close coordination with Idaho’s top health care leaders in the private sector, we have reorganized our College of Health Sciences to better prepare health care workers for that fast-changing and in-demand industry.

This is an exciting time in higher education, but we have to work hard to stay relevant and ahead of the curve. Clearly, we need to test new approaches to learning and teaching, find new applications for our degree offerings and research, and foster a culture that will marshal our creativity and innovation.

That is why we are creating the College of Innovation and Design — a university-wide hub focused on transforming academic programming, learning, and research at Boise State University. Leveraging the speed, collaboration, and risk-taking of a start-up, the college will inspire and support faculty, students and community members from diverse disciplines to create new pathways of learning that anticipate the demands and opportunities of our ever-changing world and workplace. These teams will generate pioneering degrees, badges and certificates as well as design new and innovative approaches to research, community engagement efforts and other initiatives that transcend conventional university boundaries, structures or disciplines.

This college will encourage our faculty to push the boundaries of their teaching and research, it will better prepare students to succeed in the modern economy, and it will offer our industry, nonprofit and government partners an accessible and responsive way to solve immediate problems.

Early indications are that our incoming students in the Class of 2018 will be the best prepared, most diverse and best positioned to finish on time and on budget in Boise State history — though that’s a record being set every year lately. But here at Boise State, we know that our job is not done when we call each of their names at commencement.

The Great Recession affected many Americans, but reports show that recent college graduates are among the hardest hit. The New York Federal Reserve confirmed that today’s graduates are accepting jobs for which they are over-qualified — low-wage or part-time work. The challenge in today’s world is whether we’re providing all the tools necessary for the long-term success of our graduates. I am glad to report some exciting efforts in various corners of the campus.

Our freshman and transfer orientation sessions now include a segment on careers, helping students and parents understand what “hot jobs” are in demand and urging students to stay on track and seek help from Career Services early and often. Our Honors College uses some of the Valley’s most accomplished executives, such as Micron co-founder Ward Parkinson, who volunteers his time to do mock job interviews with Honors students.

Our Foundational Studies program creates experiences and builds skills for students from all disciplinary backgrounds and focuses on those soft skills that employers so often claim are lacking in college graduates today.

This fall, we will gather together faculty members and business leaders for Boise State’s first Treasure Valley Skills Summit — a way for industry leaders to share their workplace-readiness needs, and for Boise State to create ways to meet them.

But we can do more to assure that our students have a variety of opportunities to prepare for their entry into the workplace. Deans Kenneth Petersen of the College of Business and Economics, Tony Roark of the College of Arts and Sciences and Mark Wheeler of Extended Studies are working with Alumni Relations Director Estevan Andrade on a new effort called Bridge to Career. The idea is simple: create a certificate program that students can layer onto their degrees to demonstrate organizational and managerial skills that will improve their prospects as both job applicants and successful team members in the profit or not-for-profit sectors.

A similar and equally important track will offer our students in technical fields the opportunity to improve their soft skills — problem solving and teamwork, work ethic, writing, critical thinking — that employers value so highly.

It’s our intention to distinguish Boise State as a university that defines student success not only by graduation, but also by success in the gainful employment of our graduates as a result of their undergraduate preparation.

You play a key role in this — every time you donate to scholarships, volunteer at an event or just spread the word about the university that Boise State has become. We appreciate that support and know just what it means to every student and graduate we have.

I have attached a video of my fall address below, if you would like to learn about these and other exciting initiatives at Boise State University this year.

Thank you, and as always, Go Broncos!

2014 State of the University Address

May 29, 2014

Boise State has made history, again.

More than 1,600 students participated in the university’s 94th Commencement — a record for Boise State.  In total, 2,307 students were eligible this semester to receive 2,479 degrees and certificates. Of those, 529 were eligible for honors.

Sixteen doctoral students were hooded — the most ever. They earned degrees in curriculum and instruction, electrical and computer engineering, geophysics, geosciences, and materials science and engineering.

We expect that when the numbers are final, we could see more than 3,800 total graduates this year — another record, and proof that Boise State is leading the way to the state’s lofty goal of ensuring that 60 percent of Idahoans between the ages of 25 and 34 have a degree or certificate by 2020. We now confer well more than 40 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded by Idaho’s public universities.

At this year’s commencement, we were humbled to honor Marilyn Shuler with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. The longtime director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission earned her master of public administration degree at Boise State in 1978. She co-founded, built and promoted the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, is a founding member of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, supported the development of the Idaho Black History Museum, and has played a key role in countless other organizations over the years.

She has devoted her life to helping others, and she urged the Class of 2014 to make the same commitment.

“Congratulations to all of you,” Shuler said. “You are among the 7 percent of the world’s population with a college degree. You can make the world a better place.”

It’s a call that all of us should heed. In fact, the support from you, our alumni and friends, has never been so important here at Boise State.

The need is mandated, thanks to changes in state support for higher education in Idaho and around the country; ever-increasing costs for compliance, health care and other external mandates; and our desire at Boise State to continue to excel in quality, affordability and access for students in Idaho and beyond.

Our 2014 graduates have seen a great deal of change at their alma mater. Boise State has dramatically increased graduate study, research opportunities and campus life — all while keeping tuition among the lowest among public universities in the Western states. Those changes — and the benefits they will provide to all future Broncos — would not have been possible without the support you commit so freely. Thank you for all your help in producing these excellent graduates, and the many who will follow in their footsteps.

February 5, 2014

Idaho lawmakers received troubling news this year: Idaho now ranks dead last among states in annual wages, per-capita income and wage increases since 2007. It was a reality check following the recession’s devastating effects on states like Idaho, where traditional careers haven’t always been tied to education attainment and opportunities awaited those willing to work hard, even when they didn’t have any postsecondary education.

What accounts for Idaho’s poor showing? Lawmakers learned that half of all Idahoans earn less than $11.15 an hour. Less than one in four Idahoans over age 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher — 39th among the states. We’re ranked 42nd for master’s degree attainment. This is not unrelated to our economic woes. Studies show that over a lifetime, college graduates earn $1.1 million more, on average, than high school graduates.

But Idaho has the higher educational infrastructure that can propel us into the next economy. We may be closer to a solution than we realize.

The state Department of Labor’s “Hot Jobs” list shows 20 abundant and fast-growing careers that pay far more than Idaho’s average wage. Half of these hot jobs are in health care. Five are in high tech. New opportunities at Boise State mean more Idahoans are graduating each year with the skills these hot jobs require. In the past five years, we have increased our nursing bachelor’s and master’s degree graduates by more than 300 percent. We’ve doubled our graduates in biology, chemistry and pre-medical studies. We have boosted our mechanical engineering graduates by 50 percent. A new partnership with eight local software companies will soon double computer science graduates.

We know that more and more jobs of the future will require some form of postsecondary education, and that is why the State Board of Education has challenged its public universities and colleges with an ambitious goal: ensure that 60 percent of Idahoans between the ages of 25 and 34 have a degree or certificate by 2020. In response, we have transformed our campus life and undergraduate experience, despite lean state budgets. It is paying off: Boise State awarded more than 40 percent of the bachelor’s degrees conferred by public universities in Idaho last year, while keeping tuition the fourth-most affordable among 15 Western states.

If Idaho’s workforce is to improve its standing in wages and income, the state must keep a postsecondary education accessible to all who want to make the sacrifice and commitment to achieve their goals. Your support of Boise State — and the leadership you offer in your communities and across our state — are what’s making these next steps possible. Thank you, as always, for all that you do.

Go Broncos!

– Bob Kustra

November 25, 2013

Today’s university students have lived through the worst recession since the Great Depression.

These digital natives are at once more connected and isolated than any before them. They have experienced significant changes in testing and teaching in their 12 years of primary and secondary school and they’re told that the jobs they’ll be competing for when they graduate may not even exist when they choose their major.

Here at Boise State, we think it is incumbent on the university to adapt to these changing needs and offer far more than a traditional college may have in the past. We need to be innovative in the classroom, incorporating technology, service learning and other ways to boost outcomes. We need to create a welcoming, safe and encouraging campus home. And we need to continue to offer experiences that students can find nowhere else.

This is why we’ve reached out to Boise’s vibrant and growing software industry to join us in a public/private partnership to double the graduates from our coveted computer science program while giving students unprecedented on-the-job experience and creating a reliable and talented pool of future workers and leaders. That is also why we are piloting a Venture College, which will give our most entrepreneurial students a chance to learn from more than 200 of the state’s top business and community leaders. And it’s a major reason I’m proud to tell you about our newest addition to the Boise State family: The co-CEO of the worldwide organic food company Whole Foods.

Walter Robb is our first “Professor of the Practice” — a new program launched to identify talented and accomplished business, scientific and artistic leaders, and invite them to Boise State bring world-class experience and excitement to our students. Each recipient will provide unique opportunities for Boise State students to expand their learning and their horizons. Each will find their own unique ways to interact with students. Robb is already making an impact — he impressed students and faculty at the College of Business and Economics with his enthusiasm and willingness to engage in a recent visit.

We’ll have more to announce soon, and I am excited about the opportunities that await our students.

As always, thanks for everything you do for Boise State University and our more than 22,000 students. Happy Thanksgiving and Go Broncos!


Bob Kustra



Here are a few recent or upcoming items of interest from Boise State University:

Boise State’s freshman class is more diverse, better prepared, more focused on earning a degree, and more likely to stay in school and graduate in a timely manner than ever before, new student demographics and statistics show. Almost 90 percent of these freshmen are coming straight from high school. Nearly 95 percent of them are full-time, degree-seeking students. Meanwhile, retention rates for freshmen the past two years are at an all-time high, and graduation rates of recent cohorts have jumped by as much as 28 percent. The make-up of this new class indicates that Boise State will continue to lead the state towards its goal of awarding diplomas to 60 percent of all Idahoans ages 25 to 34 by 2020. The overall number of enrolled students dipped by less than 3 percent, to 22,003 from last year’s 22,678, but the composition of the student body shows the success of Boise State’s transformation into a metropolitan research university of distinction.

Boise State began offering classes for three new doctorate-level programs this fall. The new Ph.D. in nursing prepares current nurses to assume leadership responsibilities in education and the clinical work force. It is taught fully online and it is self-supporting, which means it is financed by tuition and doesn’t receive state funds. The new Ed.S. (educational specialist) degree in educational leadership is designed to help meet the increasing need for educational leaders at the district level, especially superintendents. It, too, is self-supporting. The university’s new Ph.D. in public policy fosters the next generation of public affairs leaders and furthers Boise State’s mission as the state-mandated leader in public affairs research and education. Focuses on ensuring that Boise State continues to serve as a top resource for those at all levels of government and nonprofits, as well as for citizens who seek improved public policy development and implementation.

Six outstanding Boise State alumni were honored during Homecoming week (Oct. 13-19) for their exemplary professional and personal contributions that result in national or international visibility both for themselves and for Boise State. Each were recognized Oct. 18 during the sixth annual Presidential Alumni Recognition Gala during half time of the Homecoming football game victory against Nevada on Oct. 19. Distinguished Alumni Award winners were: Jennifer Ralston Blair, ’77, a retired advertising agency owner; Tom Carlile, ’73, CEO of Boise Cascade Company; Boo Heffner, ’86, President and CEO of Falck USA; Marti Wiser, ’99, ’00, social worker and executive director of Special Needs Adoption and Permanency Services, Inc. (SNAPS). Distinguished Alumni Service Award winners – recognized for their extraordinary dedication and commitment to volunteer service to the university and the Alumni Association, were: Matthew Broomhead, ’95, HSQE Manager, Kirby Offshore Marine (Puget Sound Alumni Association Chapter President) and Travis Burgess, ’98, Partner, Eide Bailly (Past Alumni Association Board President, Current Treasurer For The Past Alumni Leaders Chapter).

May 24, 2013

Graduation is often celebrated as the culmination of an academic career – but a Commencement ceremony, in definition and reality, is a new beginning. On May 18, more than 2,200 Broncos celebrated an inspiring start to their new life as alumni of Boise State University at our 92nd Commencement ceremony.

These latest graduates bring Boise State’s total number of graduates for the year to more than 3,700 – our university accounts for more than 40 percent of all public university bachelor’s degrees in Idaho each year.

Each of these Broncos has a unique life path that led them to this wonderful individual milestone. And collectively, they represent an extraordinary accomplishment for our society, which will be replenished with their new ideas and energy. They are prepared to excel as thoughtful, informed and productive citizens. They are innovative problem solvers with the skills to be lifelong learners – traits that will serve them well no matter where their life path takes them from here.

Their success as students has been our main focus during their time at Boise State – adding to and passing on the world’s knowledge is our reason for being. Now, as they take those lessons into the world, their success as Boise State alumni will be the greatest measure of our success as a university. With each personal triumph, they add to the currency of their Boise State degree and Boise State’s place as an institution of higher learning.

As alumni – there are nearly 75,000 living Boise State graduates – the new graduates will be Boise State’s most passionate fans, most constructive critics and greatest ambassadors. They will be this university’s most faithful and generous donors. And their contagious excitement will kindle the esprit de corps that unites the university’s entire community of friends, neighbors and partners – Bronco Nation.

I hope you will join me in congratulating all of our newest graduates on the beginning of a new and exciting phase of their lives.

As usual, thank you for all that you do for Boise State University. Go Broncos!

Bob Kustra


Here are a few recent or upcoming items of interest from Boise State University:

“Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, has been chosen as Boise State’s 2013-2014 Campus Read book selection. Incoming first-year students will receive the book during their orientation this summer and it will be discussed in University Foundations courses beginning in the fall. Print and digital copies also are available at Albertsons Library and the Boise Public Library, and the book is for sale at the Boise State Bookstore for a 20 percent discount.

Mark Schmitz, a professor of geosciences, contributed to a study recently published online by the prestigious journal Nature. He was listed as a co-author on the study as part of an interdisciplinary team of paleobiologists and geologists that pushed the age of divergence of apes and Old World monkeys further back in time, to at least 25.2 million years ago. The Boise State University Isotope Geology Laboratory was enlisted into this interdisciplinary study to determine the precise age of the studied primate fossils, by dating volcanic ash beds above and below the fossil occurrence. These measurements can be made in only a handful of laboratories around the world, and the dates obtained by Schmitz also bear on the larger problem of reconciling different estimates for the evolution of primate lineages from fossils and molecular clocks.

A new Boise State education specialist degree program will help meet the increasing need for educational leaders at the district level, especially superintendents. Boise State’s Board of Trustees, the Idaho State Board of Education, recently approved the graduate degree program in educational leadership, with a superintendent endorsement. The program will be offered through the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Foundational Studies in the College of Education starting in fall 2013. The educational specialist degree is a step beyond the master’s degree program. The new program will be self-supported, meaning it will be financed by tuition and will not require state funds.

Boise State recently was awarded a $1 million endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation to provide about 25 scholarships annually for students who are re-entering college. Previously, the Osher Foundation has provided annual funding for the scholarships through a $50,000 grant, with all of the funding being distributed as scholarships each year. With this gift, the Boise State University Foundation will invest the money though its endowment and provide scholarships with the annual interest earnings, preserving the gift as principal in perpetuity. The gift is the most recent recognition of Boise State’s partnership with the Osher Foundation, which previously provided a $1 million endowment for the operation of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Boise State, the only Osher Institute in Idaho. The recent gift also addresses a key strategic focus for Boise State – support for scholarships.