Boise State: Fulfilling our Metropolitan Mission
State of the University Address
President Bob Kustra
Good morning. We open this morning’s activities with a performance from our Music Department. It’s my pleasure to introduce Brad Peters, Principal Trumpet for the Boise Philharmonic and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Music, and Pianist Chuck Smith, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Music and also an elementary music teacher for the Boise School District.
They will be performing A Child is Born by Thad Jones.
Thanks once again to Brad Peters and Chuck Smith.
Welcome to those of you joining us for the first time and to the veterans as well, ready to launch another successful year for Boise State. I hope your summer was refreshing and productive.
I also want to extend a warm welcome to members of the Boise State Foundation, Alumni Association and Bronco Athletic Association Boards, who work tirelessly for Boise State. Thank you for all you do.
New members of the Boise State family who assume positions on our faculty and staff also join us today. First of all, I am pleased to introduce our new Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Michael Laliberte, who comes to us from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where he served as Associate Vice President of Student Affairs.
What makes Boise State such an interesting place to live and learn is our challenging mix of students. While many of our students live off campus and commute, a growing number choose to live on campus and verify our plans for more campus housing and a vibrant campus life. We also serve students whose ages and experiences range more widely than you find on a non-metropolitan campus. These facts of campus life make Michael’ s job interesting, challenging and require a collaborative and supportive role for the rest of us who will work with Dr. Laliberte and his fine Student Affairs staff.
I would also at this time like to express my gratitude to Mark Wheeler for handling so capably the duties of Interim Vice President of Student Affairs. Mark will now assume responsibility as the new Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, in addition to serving as Dean of enrollment services.
Dr. Jim Munger, former Chair of the Department of Biology, is our new Associate Vice President for Academic Planning. Jim will be joined in the Provost’s office by a newcomer to the campus, Dr. Sharon McGuire, who comes to us from that state so often confused with Idaho, Iowa State University to be specific, where she served as Dean of Students and a member of the Sociology faculty. Dr. McGuire will assume the position of Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies in the Provost’s office.
We have impressive new academic leadership in our Colleges as well. One of our veteran faculty and administrators, Dr. Marty Schimpf, stepped into his new role as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Howard Smith, former Dean of the University of New Mexico Business School is now our Dean of the College of Business and Economics. And Marilyn Moody, who comes to us from the University of California, Santa Barbara, is our new Dean of Libraries.
These folks may question the word “new” in their introduction because they have hit the ground running and are already accomplishing a great deal.
Others who have joined us this year include James Maguire, our new Associate Vice President for Campus Planning and Facilities, who will have a major impact on the implementation of the campus master plan. James served in the President’s office of the University of California system where he was director of state capital program development. Our growing student-housing program received a shot in the arm with a new Housing Director, Jeff Hale, a veteran of more than 25 years in student affairs, who comes to us from Emory University’s Oxford College where he served as Director of Residential Education.
The appointments to the position of associate dean while key to our university, are, alas, too numerous to recount in detail this morning. We extend our congratulations nonetheless and have provided their names on the screens.
As most of us have learned, searches are time-consuming, especially for busy people juggling their own assignments. Thanks to members of the search committees who did such a great job recruiting and selecting these talented individuals. I should mention that we are about to begin again the search process for the important post of Vice-President for Research. In the meantime, we will always owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jack Pelton for his willingness to help carry this load in addition to his duties as Dean of the Graduate College.
Every spring we bid farewell and safe journey to our retiring faculty who begin a new phase of their lives. They will be sorely missed but in their places are new faculty members and staff whom we welcome today to our campus family. Would they please stand to be recognized and welcomed. Today’s Update, our staff and faculty newsletter, provides more information on our newest colleagues. Please join us tomorrow from 3-5pm here in the Jordan Ballroom for the New Faculty Reception and Resource Fair, where 25 campus departments will be showcasing their programs in booths set up around the room. The reception will be preceded by a campus trolley tour, beginning at 2:00 pm.
To our newest colleagues, let me assure you from personal experience that you will find Boise State a warm, caring and nurturing place to work. You will be impressed with the high personal regard colleagues across campus have for each other and how that makes it a pleasure to come to work every day.
As I’m sure you’ve found, Boise and the Treasure Valley are a great place to live, frequently acclaimed in national magazines and journals for quality of life. Just last month, Boise was ranked 8th best city to live in the US by Money magazine. Every time our travels bring us back home through the Boise airport, Kathy and I celebrate our good fortune as Boise citizens and members of the Boise State family. And then, as we leave the restricted area of the airport and look up at that beautiful welcome sign that declares Boise to be the home of Boise State University, we burst with pride and thank Mayor Dave Bieter, who promised our student body leaders that signage during his campaign for Mayor.
Mayor Bieter joins us this morning and I would like to thank him for his support of Boise State and his leadership in creating a partnership between the city and the university. As one example, the Fettuccine Forum is a lively and informal monthly event that invites the public to interact with politicians, artists, historians, advocates and professionals who strive to make the Treasure Valley a better place to live. The Fettuccine Forum is cosponsored by the Center for Idaho History and Politics at Boise State and the Boise City Office of the Mayor.
We are also working with the City on an initiative to renovate the tennis courts at Julia Davis Park that, along with our own Appleton Tennis Complex, will position us to bid on regional and national tournaments. In another collaborative venture with the City and the Boise City Schools, our Athletic Director, Gene Bleymaier, has been working on an exchange of property involving East Junior High School that will allow us to build a multi-use sports complex for the Boise School District, our field and track program, and intramural sports.
Boise State’s Commitment to Our Unique Metropolitan Mission
Less than two months after I became president, I delivered my first address to you. In preparing my remarks for today, I reviewed my comments of three years ago just to make sure I wasn’t stepping on my own lines. Commenting on the rivalry among Idaho’s public universities, I cautioned that we not worry about who is in the rear view mirror, but define our own future as Idaho’s distinctive metropolitan research university with a mission tied directly to our service region.
Those words have even greater import today than they did in 2003.
Historically, of course, Boise State has always supplied the Treasure Valley with an educated workforce, fulfilling its role as the region’s metropolitan university. For the last 74 years, graduates – 1600 this last spring — walked across the stage to receive their degrees. 75% of them will stay in the Treasure Valley and areas nearby to contribute to our region’s communities and economy.
But today, Boise State’s contribution to its region reaches beyond it historical role of undergraduate education. As this region’s metropolitan university, we have the responsibility to supply the creative energy, discover tools, technology platforms and research methodologies that align to produce what one commentator has called the “creative class” of the 21st century.
You can find evidence of Boise State’s creative capital on the stage of the Shakespeare Festival where our faculty and students perform; at Micron where our engineering faculty team up with Micron’s engineers; in the foothills and high desert landscapes of southwestern Idaho where our biologists and their students are busy studying ways to save species and where our anthropologists seek a better understanding of those who came before us; at the Philharmonic where our music faculty grace the orchestra roster.
And why do Boise State’s faculty, staff and students figure so prominently in the life of this growing region? One simple reason, the same one that realtors use to justify the best asking price-location, location, location. Back to that airport sign, this region is home to Boise State University, it is where our main campus is located. From both an efficiency and effectiveness standpoint, it only makes sense for the home university — with its campus in the heart of the region –to play the lead role in the education of its students and the research that serves as the foundation for our economy and our communities.
And our contribution to the economy through research is significant and growing. Our FY06 research expenditures totaled $23.6 million, up 9.4% from last year. In addition to the role these research expenditures play addressing challenges we face in the region, they also fund the hiring of faculty, staff and students, providing job opportunities that would not exist were it not for our ambitious research agenda.
So today we rededicate ourselves to that most important component of our mission and that which makes us unique among our sister institutions: Our role as a metropolitan university. To borrow a line from the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, of which we are a member, “Our programs respond to regional needs while striving for national excellence.”
I should also add that the State Board has affirmed our place as Idaho’s metropolitan research university by its approval just last week of our strategic plan. That plan, on its first page, states our intention to be a metropolitan research university “where public engagement links the University’s academic mission with its community partners to address issues of mutual benefit.” As I mention the State Board, I would also like to thank Dwight Johnson, the Board’s Executive Director and also a Boise State alum, for his commitment and good work on behalf of Idaho higher education, and for being with us this morning.
Charting the Course: A Strategic Vision
And speaking of the strategic plan, on each chair in this room, there is a bookmark that says, “Charting the Course: A Strategic Vision for Boise State University.” It is a reminder of the four themes guiding our future: Academic Excellence, Public Engagement, Vibrant Culture and Exceptional Research.
Since January 2005, our Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Sona Andrews, has engaged the campus community in a planning process that will take us to our destination – a metropolitan research university of distinction. I thank her and all who worked so hard on this important revision of our strategic plan.
The entire strategic plan comes together as the “Charting the Course” map. It shows our destination; the goals we need to work on to get us there; and some milestones along the way to signal our progress. Within the next few weeks every employee on campus will receive a copy of this map and matrix. It’s important to keep in mind that the goals do not reflect everything Boise State will do, but rather signify the most critical areas to be addressed in order for us to achieve our vision.
Campus units have already started the important task of aligning their work in support of the strategic plan, and through the leadership of your vice presidents, deans, directors and department chairs, these alignment efforts will continue. The university will produce a report card on an annual basis to measure progress on the plan and ensure accountability.
Resources and Strategies to Accomplish our Goal
Expanded Degrees and Program Offerings
In serving the people of its region, a metropolitan university must respond with dispatch and focus on new and growing needs of its communities and its economy. In the past year, Dr. Andrews was the busiest provost in Idaho at our State Board meetings where she requested authorization for new degree programs at almost every meeting. Thanks to her leadership and the hard work of departments and colleges who worked on these proposals, we have an ambitious list of new degrees and certificates, as you can see on the screen, beginning this fall semester.
Ph.D. in geosciences, a broad-based program that builds on the University’s strengths in geology, hydrology, geochemistry and geophysics;
Idaho’s first and only Executive MBA program, developed in partnership with a consortium of local companies who will participate in the program and who assisted faculty in designing the curriculum;
A master of science in hydrology is a new degree, formerly part of the university’s existing M.S. program in geology, that specifically addresses water issues;
A master of education in educational leadership will graduate candidates who qualify for certification as school principals. This is important since by 2015, 70 percent of Idaho’s high school administrators are expected to retire.
Graduate certificates are now being offered in both supply chain management and community and regional planning while a graduate certificate in conflict management will be offered this spring through the Division of Extended Studies
And we still have programs on the planning boards that we will move forward when we can secure the funding to assure their success. Unfortunately, demand far exceeds available revenues.
The Comprehensive Campaign
To compensate for this funding shortfall, we will join the ranks of public universities who have augmented their funding by waging a comprehensive campaign to fulfill their mission and role. Years ago, a professional photographer who had been a classmate of Kathy’s gave us a photo with Chicago’s Michigan Avenue on the top half, and juxtaposed on the bottom half a photo of the Chicago Library’s old card catalog room. The effect was to make it appear that the card catalog, a symbol of the knowledge base, was supporting North Michigan Avenue. The caption read: “A culture and what it produces is made possible and is reflective of the knowledge that underlies it.”
Of course, today in this digital age we could replace the obviously outdated library catalog with a bank of computers that now direct us to the knowledge and information, as once did card catalogs. Aside from that update, there is still a message here for those of us responsible for building Idaho’s metropolitan university of tomorrow. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch if we were to take a photo of Boise downtown and transpose Boise State’s campus below it, acting as the foundation of the City. The caption could read: “A great city and what it produces is made possible and is reflective of the university that serves as its foundation.”
Our comprehensive campaign will acknowledge and emphasize the primary role our community will play in this upcoming campaign. A good many of our most significant donors are not alumni of Boise State or BJC, but rather individuals who recognize the critical importance of this university to this city and region. They fully understand how our futures are intertwined. Our upcoming comprehensive campaign will quite literally define, in ways that state government’s limited resources cannot, the future of this university. It will seek support for programs, financial aid for students and capital facilities as we make the case for why people in our region should care and why they should participate. And in saying this, I do not in any way diminish the importance alums will also play in this Campaign.
By the way, there is really nothing mysterious about the comprehensive campaign in the life of a university. It simply organizes, focuses and prioritizes the work of fundraising that goes on every day along the lines of the strategic priorities that we have identified.
I am pleased to report that we had our two best fundraising years ever with $13.9 million raised last year and $18.1 million the previous year. Noteworthy gifts last year include Micron Technology Foundation’s $5 million commitment to the electrical and computer engineering doctoral program; Duane and Lori Stueckle, who last year created a Dean’s Distinguished Professor award, and this year committed $1.5 million for an endowed chair in biology; BJC graduate Larry Arguinchona’s leadership gifts totaling almost $1 million to athletics and the business college; and the John Vallega Trust’s $900,000 gift for scholarship support, which brings their total giving to more than $1.7 million.
The largest Phonathon commitment ever came from Boise State alumnus Doyle Heaton, and, finally, the sale of the Langroise House enabled us to endow the Langroise Family Distinguished Student Endowed Scholarship Fund, allowing us to recruit National Merit Scholars to our campus.
To provide expertise and direction to our Comprehensive Campaign, the Boise State Foundation has finalized an agreement with Minneapolis-based campaign consultants Bentz, Whaley, Flessner. They bring particular expertise working with metropolitan research universities conducting their first campaigns so they are a great match for Boise State.
I know I’ve been promising a kick off to this campaign, so please bear with me. I assure you we are moving closer to that date and one of the reasons for my optimism is the leadership provided by Deb Reidel, the President of the Boise State Foundation and its members. Our Foundation members have given their time and expertise in preparing for the campaign and, most importantly, have helped fund the staffing plan that provides every college with a development officer. I would also like to acknowledge the able leadership of Rika Clement who has stepped in as Acting VP for University Advancement while Rick Frisch convalesces.
Sound Financial Management
If we are to be successful appealing to donors for funding, then it is imperative that we provide assurances as to the state of our finances and the quality of financial management at Boise State. Thanks to Vice President Stacy Pearson and her hard-working and talented staff, the report is excellent.
The University continues to manage its resources well. The enrollment growth at Boise State has far outpaced the funding growth and yet we manage to utilize our resources for strategic purposes. For example, the Interactive Learning Center is a building that is funded from revenues generated by enrollment growth and management of our financial reserves. We were able to purchase the University Inn and other properties, remodel research lab space and provide salary equity adjustments through the judicious use of our reserve funds.
As we look to the future and the need to create new academic programs, student initiatives and infrastructure, our strategic facilities fee which the State Board approved last year will generate revenue to match private donations, state, and federal funds, allowing us to build new and expanded facilities while maintaining debt capacity for future buildings.
In the past year, Boise State has reported healthy financial reserves, positive bond ratings (Moody’s A-1 and Standard and Poor’s A+) and a sound debt service to operating budget ratio. This positive position sets the stage for the upcoming bond issue to build a new parking deck, student union expansion, student health wellness and counseling center, and nursing facility, to accommodate our growth and build capacity. Finally, the State Board’s independent audit firm, Moss Adams, reported a perfect audit for Boise State’s financial condition and no audit exceptions. The State Board was duly impressed.
Assuring Student Success
As critically important as financial health might be, there is actually something more important. If our students do not succeed, nothing else we might have accomplished matters. In the coming years, you will see us roll out a number of strategies to assure that our students receive the support they need to succeed at Boise State. As a metropolitan university with a high percentage of commuting students, we are acutely aware of the challenges we face compared to universities in less urban environments. I encourage you to visit the website of the Freshman Success Task Force and review our strategies for the coming years.
Certainly, one such strategy is to increase residential opportunities for our students who choose to live on campus. There is solid evidence that students who live on campus close to fellow students, classes and learning resources experience higher rates of retention and improved graduation rates. For that reason, we were delighted to learn that our residence halls and apartments this year are at 100% capacity with some students on waiting lists for room assignments. We will make plans this year for additional student housing.
Last year, in order to attract more high ability students and thanks to the Langroise Family Scholarship, we welcomed our first cohort of National Merit Scholars. They hailed from Lewiston, Boise, Idaho Falls and Pocatello. This year, we welcome another cohort, this time more in keeping with our metropolitan mission since four out of five come from towns in the Treasure Valley: Caldwell, Meridian, and two from Eagle. Idaho has been losing its best and brightest to out-of-state schools for too long and I’m proud to say that we at Boise State are playing a role in keeping Idaho’s young scholars here in the state.
We also created the Capital Scholars program two years ago to attract more of Idaho’s top students by inviting them to campus as juniors, introducing them to our academic and student programs, and awarding them a scholarship check if they come to Boise State. That first junior class we invited to campus two years ago starts college this fall and we are pleased to see that of the first group of 39 students, 18 have chosen to attend Boise State, another good example of our success at building a reputation of academic quality and halting the brain drain to other states.
Regardless of where our students fall on the test scores or their GPA, if they have successfully qualified for admission, we will stand behind them in every way possible, including adopting new learning paradigms and adapting to new technologies that will enable new learning strategies.
Boise State’s most notable advance in this area is our new Interactive Learning Center where we will have the opportunity to move our teaching and learning further into the digital era.
My most recent lesson regarding the challenges we face in changing our teaching and learning methods came a couple of weeks ago when my grandsons visited and one of them brought along his video game. During their time here, I watched Brendan, all of seven years old, play those games. (That is, when his parents allowed him access to it, a significant bone of contention in parent-child relationships I have come to learn.) What occurred to me is not the obvious fact that I could not keep up with his facile manipulation of the screen. I can barely keep up with my IPOD. No, what I concluded is that I couldn’t do what he was doing when I was his age.
With no way to prove my point without going back to the future, I was delighted to read a journal article written recently by two University of Nebraska faculty whose research identifies the “digital natives ” — that would be our students — whose brains have been hardwired through years of technology experiences; and “digital immigrants” — that would be those of us at least a generation removed from our students — who struggle to keep up with the latest advancements in technology. According to Professors Grandgenett and Topp, these digital natives are in the process of developing “hypertext minds” that work with information almost like any of us might scan or use a web page. The hypertext mind looks for connections and relevance to information and when they don’t find it, they move on. Obviously, this can often create the impression with faculty that students have “attention span” issues.
Needless to say, our job is to find new and innovative approaches to the learning needs of our students. The authors suggest that as the old misconceptions about human intelligence and brain development fall away, so too do the more passive learning environments that stifle dynamic and flexible learning. Among their recommendations to encourage institutional success in dealing with our digital natives are: awareness sessions with faculty and staff to help us understand the nature of the learner today, increased online course options, a pervasive and ubiquitous learning environment, and the “death of the university lecture,” to name just a few.
Fortunately, we are much closer to meeting these requirements thanks to the construction of the Interactive Learning Center due to open next June. The Center will showcase the ways in which a metropolitan university best responds to the changing needs of its students, including open learning environments that will accommodate self-directed learning and transform the teaching role from lecturer to facilitator.
The more the university can build flexibility into our students’ education and increase the productivity of the learning experience, the more we will realize our mission as a metropolitan university. The Center is truly a 21st century learning resource that awaits the creative and innovative strategies of our faculty to make it work for our “digital natives.”
The Interactive Learning Center most appropriately will also house the Center for Teaching and Learning. This new Center, being led by its first Director, Dr. Susan Shadle, who served on our Chemistry faculty for ten years, will be housed on the 7th floor of the Education Building until the new building is completed next year.
One of the Center for Teaching and Learning’s first sponsored programs will be a workshop for faculty on October 30th by Dr. Charles Bonwell, an expert on active learning environments. Dr. Bonwell will model ways for us to transform students into active learners in our classrooms and improve their cognitive and communications skills.
The Center will provide a number of services for faculty that facilitate our ability to create significant learning experiences for our students. Please plan to visit with Dr. Shadle and share your ideas about how the Center can best serve as a valuable resource for teaching and learning at Boise State.
In addition to the Interactive Learning Center, this summer we made an important acquisition as part of our long-range Campus Master Plan by purchasing University Inn, located at University Drive and Capitol Boulevard. We plan to make the intersection a scenic gateway onto our campus, highlighted by a state-of-the-art College of Business and Economics building.
We are currently raising funds for the five-story business and economics building that will span 100,000 square feet. Until construction begins – which will probably take two or three years – the short-term plan is to remodel parts of University Inn and use it for offices and possibly student housing. And for those of you who remember the important role that the Irongate played in the lives of our faculty and staff — no, it won’t survive beyond October — you sentimentalists better get over there and pay your respects, shall we say.
The university is also in the planning phase of the expansion and renovation of the Student Union Building and the construction – contingent on raising an additional $5 million — of a new building that will house the student health, wellness and counseling center as well as our nursing program. A parking structure to accommodate the increased activity on the eastern end of the campus will also be constructed near the Student Union and Student Recreation Center.
For the past three years, Boise State requested $15 million from the state to help fund the Center for Environmental Science and Economic Development, an important research and academic facility. We will continue to seek state funding to match federal appropriations and revenue from strategic facility fees.
We are moving forward on the Stadium Suites for Bronco Stadium. Our football program has become one of our signature programs that dramatically increased our name recognition. This investment, which will be made by fans and supporters of Bronco football, will bring huge public relations and marketing returns for all of the university.
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Coach Peterson on his football players achieving the highest grades in the Western Athletic Conference last year. Also, the WAC every year awards the Commissioner’s Cup to the university that performs best in each of the Conference ‘s 18 men’s’ and women’s’ championships. Congratulations to Gene Bleymaier for his leadership of the program and to the coaches and student-athletes for this important distinction. Indeed we are truly fortunate to have an athletic program with the highest ideals, ethics and standards. That is increasingly rare in today’s world.
It was also a good year for Boise State in the legislature last year, compared especially to those lean and mean years a few years ago. We were able to make progress on two fronts that have been challenges for us in recent years and for that we can thank the legislature, and especially the members of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee.
As you may remember from my email updates at the end of the spring legislative session, the long-standing issue of funding inequity has been addressed by the state legislature with satisfactory results. Several years ago the State Board of Education initiated a study of equity funding among Idaho’s institutions of higher education. The results of that study showed Boise State and Idaho State were funded inequitably compared to their sister institutions during those critical years when the two institutions’ enrollments were increasing annually and the state was unable to fund the enrollment workload adjustment, the funding we receive from the state for each student we enroll.
I won’t delve into the complexities of the study, but it supported the claim that Boise State and Idaho State were entitled to funds lost in those years. We advocated for this funding to the State Board of Education and the Legislature in recent years, but only received the first installment of equity funding, a sum of $110,100. This year as the state’s general fund bounced back from recent dismal performance, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, State Board of Education, and the presidents of the institutions agreed the time was right for a solution.
Accordingly, the fiscal year ’07 appropriation included $3.8 million to settle the funding equity issue once and for all. Of that total, Boise State will receive nearly $2.2 million and Idaho State will receive $1.6 million. This offer by JFAC represents a settlement of 50 cents on the dollar. This funding will be built into our budget base, thus the increase will be an ongoing part of our budget each year.
The second front on which we were successful was the FY07 budget. After several challenging years, this year the Legislature was able to provide much improved funding for higher education, providing a 6.5 percent increase over last year’s appropriation. The other significant highlight, of course, was the permanent 3 percent salary increase for state employees that began in January.
One significant issue that still must be addressed is capital construction of higher education facilities. To date, Idaho has not assumed significant responsibility for university facilities, as have other states.
When the 2007 legislative session commences in January, we will have five basic priorities as an institution:
Need based scholarships and loans;
Faculty recruitment and retention;
Permanent building fund for new campus construction;
Occupancy costs for academic spaces in buildings not funded by the state;
Delegated authority for new construction and alterations and repairs projects. We believe Boise State can save time and money by working independently of the state’s Division of Public Works.
We will, of course, also be watching with interest and encouraging action on the community college issue.
Speaking of which, I wish I had more to report. Despite the overwhelming support of our civic, business and education partners in the Treasure Valley and the recognition of the need for a community college in the most populous region of the state, the issue is stalled over funding and governance. It is a complex patchwork of funding and governance in Idaho, resulting in strong regional differences as to the solution. Earlier this summer, I testified before the joint Legislative Interim Committee on Community Colleges, which was created at the end of last session when the legislature adjourned without a solution. The committee is expected to present a proposal to the Legislature when it convenes in January.
I remain hopeful that we can be part of a statewide community college solution or that a local solution to funding and governance will be sought. An independent community college makes sense for Boise State, allowing us to concentrate on our metropolitan research mission. It makes even more sense for southwestern Idaho. By separating community college offerings and services from the university, thereby increasing access and affordability, this state’s most productive regional economy has the potential to improve and expand workforce preparation, which will create more jobs, increase the earning power of our citizens and bolster economic development in the region.
I would especially like to thank Dr. Stan Olson, Superintendent of the Boise City Schools and Dr. Linda Clark, Superintendent of the Meridian Schools for their strong support of the community college initiative. Both have offered their extensive classroom venues for community college classes in the Valley and both have advocated publicly for a programmatic and funding solution to the community college issue.
Our new First-Year Student Reading Program is designed to reinforce academic values, engage students in discussions on pertinent issues, and build campus community. First-year students are expected to read the selected book over the summer and be prepared to discuss it when they arrive on campus for the fall semester.
This year’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure The World by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Tracy Kidder, was sent to nearly 2,000 of our new students. The book will be used in University 101 courses, it will be discussed in residence hall seminars, and the book’s themes will be explored in a film series. A website has been created which you can access through the student affairs website. You are encouraged to read the book as well and participate in campus discussions and activities.
You may remember my report on the Freshman Success Task Force that recommended this program as a way to send a strong message to our students even before class starts about the importance we attach to reading assignments and class discussion. It also functions as a social icebreaker for new students meeting each other in a campus setting for the first time.
I read the book this summer and consider it one of my best reads this year. This book can find a place in almost any classroom on campus. It explores issues of public health, liberation theology, developmental economics, social justice, identity politics, anthropology, international finance, and the role of public charity and philanthropy in Third World countries.
To the extent that we are committed to the internationalization of our campus, and I believe we are, this is Internationalization 101. It underscores the importance of looking beyond our nation’s borders and taking responsibility for our brethren in need in the most remote parts of the world. This book shakes up our take on globalization and forces us to confront Dr. Farmer’s simple rule of international politics, “the only real nation is humanity.”
Dr. Paul Farmer’s life is a reminder of the potential we have to shape the lives and careers of our students and thereby change the world around us. It was his experience as a college student at Duke that would change his life forever. According to Tracy Kidder, he studied mostly science in his first two years, but then focused on medical anthropology and public health. He studied in France in an exchange program and read widely in history, political science and sociology. Through his interest in Latin America’s turbulent 80’s, he became an advocate for the poor and powerless worldwide. During these years he came to his most profound belief: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
Wouldn’t it be interesting to meet just one of those faculty members who touched Paul Farmer’s life and changed it forever? Well, I guess it would, but then I work with people like that every day. We can never forget in our daily contacts with our students that we are reaching into a future we cannot see, but on which we can have considerable impact.
We don’t know today which students will make the kind of impact that Paul Farmer has on our world but they are right here in our midst. It could be one of the 1,660 Boise State students who spent a total of 36,000 hours last year serving the community through the Service Learning Program. Or one of 2,300 students who engaged in public service through our Volunteer Service Board. But there is no sure way to know. They may not come from our academic honor rolls, from the ranks of our student government leaders. They may be students struggling to declare a major and identify a career choice.
But that’s the beauty and challenge of our work. They are in every one of our colleges and every one of our departments.
My remarks this morning have plenty of challenges embedded within. But if I had to make a call on our most important challenge it is this: Not enough of Idaho’s high school students are enrolling in some form of postsecondary education and of those who do enroll, too many drop out. It will take the work of our entire faculty and staff in creating and sustaining an environment that dramatically improves our students’ success.
And just as Paul Farmer refuses to believe that some lives matter less than others, we cannot discount one’s chances for greatness or success. Not the students who are thinking about dropping out after their first year. Not the young mothers and fathers who struggle to support their families and pursue their education. Not older students returning after years away from the classroom.
Let’s recommit ourselves to our students, to the people of the region and state we serve as Idaho’s distinctive metropolitan research university. And as always, thank you for all you do for Boise State and don’t forget lunch in the Arena from 11:30-1:30 pm. This year we are featuring a performance with the Fool Squad, Tom Willmorth and Joe Golden, also known for their Green Show at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
As you exit the ballroom this morning, I encourage you to visit the Student Union Art Gallery. The artworks of Boise State’ s newest art faculty, professors Jill Fitterer and Dan Scott, are on display for your enjoyment.
Have a great year!