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State of the University 2011

Boise State University
State of the University Address, August 17, 2011
Robert Kustra, President

Welcome everyone! From Zipcars to ESPN GameDay…From opening our new SSPA-sponsored ‘Center on Main’ in downtown Boise to holding the largest commencement in school history this spring …from the Symphonic Winds giving its most prestigious performance at the national conference of college band directors to a postdoctoral researcher having a dinosaur named after her….. it was another remarkable year at Boise State University.

Boise State is not a place that rests on its laurels; it’s important, however, to recognize achievements of the past year, saluting individuals for their impressive accomplishments, in raising the standard of performance and bringing acclaim to the university.

Growth remains one of our defining characteristic of our university, though now as we grow, we can also see impressive growth in the academic capabilities of our students as our admission standards increase each year.  We also see welcome improvements in diversity and the number of international students.

Fall 2010 to Fall 2011, so far;
16% increase in admits with a 3.5 or higher GPA
9% increase in admits with top 10% ACT/SAT Math
15% increase in admits with top 10% ACT/SAT English
14% increase in the number of admitted students from underrepresented backgrounds
65% increase in admitted undergraduate international students


Enrollment continues as we speak, so I cannot yet speculate on our final headcount, but early indication is that our credit hours are up and that our numbers of undergraduate, degree seeking students will be at an all-time high. Interest in Boise State certainly has grown in the past few years. In 2009, about 3,300 students and family members took campus tours. So far in 2011, just two years later, we have hosted over 10,000, an increase of over 200%!

We are very proud also of the new faculty joining us.  They are listed on the slide. Would they please stand as we welcome them to Boise State!

I am pleased to announce the appointments of two Vice Presidents, following national searches this past spring.

Our own Marty Schimpf, a 21-year veteran of Boise State, has been appointed to the position of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Marty adds this title to a list that already includes serving as a professor, department chair, dean and interim provost, all here at Boise State.

Dr. Lisa Harris, our new Vice President for Student Affairs, has devoted her professional career to student life, with work at five comprehensive, research institutions and more than 30 years experience in student affairs. She joins Boise State from Mississippi State University in Starkville, where she served as the associate vice president for student affairs since 2004.

I want to express my thanks for the hard work and excellent results achieved by these two search committees.

Boise State is a large family of colleagues, neighbors and friends. This past year our campus community mourned the loss of faculty and staff members who had touched our lives in so many ways. Let us take a moment to remember the passing of some of those individuals.

In Memoriam

Charles Baker

Professor Emeritus in Biology – Boise State 1968-2000

Michael Blankenship

Professor, Criminal Justice / Dean, Social Sciences & Public Affairs — Boise State 2002-2011

David Crane

Librarian Emeritus — Boise State retired in 1990

Bene Donahoe

Staff Emeritus – Boise State 1973-1993

Pat Dorman

Professor Emeritus, Sociology / Department Chair – Boise State 1967-2001

Curtis Hayes

Professor and Chair, Elementary Education  – Boise State  1995-2000

Daniel Huff

Professor Emeritus, Social Work – Boise State 1970-2009

Dan Morris

Professor of Communications and Arbiter Advisor – Boise State 1986-2010

Don Oakes

Professor Emeritus in Music — Boise State 1966-96

These colleagues built a foundation for the future.  And that future includes a campus worthy of our metropolitan moniker. In just the past four years, the university opened or started construction on 11 new major building projects, encompassing more than 600,000 square feet – a 25 percent increase in classroom, laboratory, office and event space.

We’ve opened the five-story, 90,000-square-foot Environmental Research Building  with modern laboratories and study space that will allow us to address the pressing issues of the West, including the environment, transportation, water, land use and community planning.

We broke ground on the Lincoln Avenue student housing complex that will provide a campus home for 360 additional students and help meet the growing need for university housing. These four-story townhouse units will be offered to juniors and seniors when they become available in January 2012.

We’re making tremendous progress on the Micron Business and Economics Building which will serve as the western gateway to campus. The four-story, 119,000-square-foot, $37 million facility is scheduled to be completed one year from now, featuring geothermal energy for heating and cutting-edge technology in the classroom.

While all of these construction projects add to the changing face of our campus, so too does the updating and maintenance of the general landscaping. From the addition of new outside gathering space for students to the planting of new trees, shrubs and flowerbeds across campus, our facilities and landscaping crews have been working very hard and it shows. I want to take a moment to recognize all of their efforts and congratulate them on a job well done!

We also continue to achieve national recognition “beyond the blue.” The Talkin’ Broncos speech and debate team won the Pi Kappa Delta national title last April. We are a dynasty in the making as the No. 1 or No. 2 finishers at the last four national forensics tournaments.

As I speak, students from our College of Engineering are running time trials on the Salt Flats in Utah with an alternative fuel vehicle. Their goal is to break a landspeed record in a vehicle they designed and built – and one that runs on vegetable oil.

The Morrison Center for the Performing Arts was named a top theater venue for worldwide ticket sales by Pollstar, a concert reporting publication. The center was ranked 44th out of 100 for sales in the first six months of 2011. Under new Executive Director, James Patrick, the Center continues its legacy of bringing nationally acclaimed performances to Boise, while also providing an outstanding venue for our theatre and music students.

We have tightened our belt, yet maintained our commitment to serve our students as we respond to the needs of our state and community with new programming and services, including:

  • A new Masters in Community & Regional Planning, a degree program that the community actually lobbied for and the College of Social Sciences & Public Affairs is pleased to have fully underway this fall.
  • Through the implementation of new degree completion programs in our College of Health Sciences, we’ve increased the number of respiratory care and nursing graduates by more than 50% without new state funding.
  • Extended Studies is ensuring the west side of the valley access to coursework with a new location in Meridian. (Right off the Eagle exit across from the St. Luke’s Meridian Campus). Programs and courses in elementary education, communication, business management and criminal justice that were formerly offered in Nampa, along with graduate programs in bilingual/ESL education and literacy education, will be offered, with more programs planned for the future.
  • In our Division of Student Affairs, the Bookstore, which will expand to five locations across southwestern Idaho beginning this fall, returned $700,000 to the University to enhance our general scholarship fund. Our Childcare Center created more openings to ensure they can better meet both students and faculty/staff childcare needs. And, the Division of Student Affairs merged four campus units: Medical, Counseling, Wellness and Recreation into University Health and Recreation Services, which will provide an integrated model of health services for our students as well as our faculty and staff. A new Director was hired mid-year, please help me welcome Libby Greaney. Dr. Greaney brings to Boise State more than 24 years of experience in health, recreation, wellness and management, serving for the past 10 years as director of health services at Western Kentucky University.

And speaking of the health of our campus, we have continued to work with the state of Idaho on health insurance benefits. I am pleased to announce that the 90 day waiting period for new employee eligibility has been eliminated, and we are in negotiations to further improve the health benefits landscape, including reducing the flexible spending account waiting period and a return to a simple two-tiered system for health benefits.  You will also be happy to know that we are working on several salary proposals to address those of you who have dropped well below market rate and to address compression issues resulting from the freeze on salaries these last few years.

I am also happy to report on recognitions that honor and celebrate the work of our colleagues. This past year, we honored six of our faculty in the inaugural class of “Distinguished Professors.” Congratulations to Les Alm, public policy and administration; Matthew Kohn, geosciences; Gary Moncrief, political science; Julia Oxford, biological sciences; Alex Punnoose, physics; and Greg Raymond, political science. Although a new initiative, it is one of the highest honors that can be accorded to a faculty member at Boise State, recognizing achievement in teaching, research and service.

The Foundation Scholar Awards, a tradition for many years at Boise State, added to their list of honorees this past year. Congratulations to: Mark Cowan, Associate Professor of Accountancy; Jim Girvan, Professor of Community & Environmental Health and former Dean of Health Sciences; and, Martin Corless-Smith, Professor of English and MFA Program Director.

I also want to acknowledge Dr. Cindy Clark in our School of Nursing. Dr. Clark had a remarkable year – she was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Nursing, one of the most prestigious honors in the field of nursing, which represents the nation’s top nursing researchers, policymakers, scholars, executives, educators and practitioners. Congratulations Cindy, and thanks for all that you do to help advance your field and to enhance the reputation of Boise State University.

Our research programs continue to gain strength in key areas. I am particularly impressed with our faculty’s successes in obtaining awards from the prestigious National Science Foundation. During the past fiscal year, Boise State set a new record for NSF funding at close to $10 million.  This is a nearly 50 percent increase in NSF award totals from the previous year, and evidence of the momentum, quality and relevance of our faculty research. Boise State also set a new record for awards from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, another highly respected institution. In fact, Boise State nearly doubled its NASA funding totals in FY 11 at $1.8 million.

Our talented researchers are developing new technologies and inventions that show promise for commercialization, and this past year we set a new record for patents awarded. The seven patents we received from the U.S. Patent Office in FY11 doubles the university’s patent portfolio (to 14) and could lead to advances ranging from faster and smaller computers and new types of sensors to more effective treatments for cancer. Because it can take years from the time an invention is disclosed until a final patent is issued, the seven patents awarded this fiscal year represent just a portion of our intellectual property activity. There are a number of other promising technologies in various stages of the patent process as well.

As a result of this flurry of innovative activity, and our increasing role as the economic engine of the Treasure Valley, we are renaming the Division of Research to the Division of Research and Economic Development, effective immediately. This office will be tasked with the advancement and coordination of economic development activities on campus to ensure they complement one another and present a united front to the local and regional community.  We are also renaming the Office of Technology Transfer to the Office of University and Industry Ventures to further affirm the role of that office in serving as the University’s point-of-contact for businesses and industries interested in working with the University. Thanks to Mark Rudin, Mary Givens and staff for their leadership in positioning Boise State’s role in our state and regional economy.

These advances are occurring against a backdrop of a new reality in research funding as Stimulus Package awards come to an end and federal earmarks are curtailed. Our university, along with many of our peer institutions across the nation, felt the impact of this changed landscape as our overall totals for research and sponsored program awards dipped from the previous year’s high mark. While this was anticipated in light of the changes in federal funding sources, it also provides us with a valuable opportunity to develop new strategies to demonstrate our research competitiveness. We’re already taking steps in that direction, having engaged a Washington, DC firm to ensure that our university has a presence in the nation’s capitol with the agencies that allocate research dollars.

We also are reevaluating how we track our research progress, and in the future you’ll be hearing more about research expenditures as well as research awards. This aligns us with the Carnegie classification system and with universities across the country, which use expenditures as a key metric to assess their research progress. Expenditures also provide a better measure of the pulse of research activity since they account for ongoing expenses such as instrumentation purchases and faculty salaries funded by awards. It’s encouraging to note that even in this belt-tightening climate, Boise State’s research expenditures actually increased by more than 12% in FY 11 over the previous fiscal year.

National Science Foundation awards, FY 11: $9,896,223
National Science Foundation awards, FY 10: $6,794,579
NASA awards, FY 11: $1,858,320
NASA awards, FY 10:  $948,379
Patents awarded FY 11: 7
Patents awarded FY 03 to FY 10: 7
Research Expenditures, FY 11: 35,048,296
Research Expenditures, FY10: 31,256,225

Our undergraduate and graduate students continue to reap many benefits from working alongside our faculty on research projects – and that includes earning salaries that offset the costs of their educations and living expenses. During FY 11,  nearly a quarter (22.5%) of all student salaries at Boise State were paid from federal and state research awards and from other sponsored projects– more than $2.5 million in total. These students earned more than a paycheck – they also gained invaluable hands-on experience conducting research with faculty that strengthened their overall education and gave them skills and contacts for future careers. The number of student researchers who receive salaries from sponsored projects also continues to increase, with 543 students receiving these salaries during the past fiscal year.

Our faculty in all academic disciplines will soon have a couple of powerful tools at their fingertips to support their scholarly pursuits and research — especially those collaborative endeavors that generate huge amounts of data. The Division of Research and Office of Information Technology have teamed up to offer up to 500 gigabytes of data storage on a virtual server to every faculty member. The best part is the price – for our faculty, this valuable data storage is free. In addition, Boise State is providing a high performance computing cluster or HPC for performing functions such as mass computations or 3-D modeling. The HPC will be housed at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls in a data center with temperature controls and other features required to keep it running smoothly. We extend a special thanks to our colleagues at INL for their support.

When it comes to keeping up with technology in general and using technology to improve teaching and learning, we continue to make strides across the campus.

Our library has increased, and continues to add, copies of e-books and mobile accessible information to their website. They have also facilitated the inclusion of our faculty members’ research and creative activities on ScholarWorks, which provides access to that information worldwide.

Thanks to the leadership of Max Davis-Johnson, the Office of Information Technology is leading several efforts to improve technology access and performance for our students and faculty and staff. The new walk-in support center in the Zone, located on the first floor of the ILC, will allow anyone instant access to IT professionals to help with issues on laptops, tablets, mobile devices, and software. They have also expanded their service hours across campus and standardized and consolidated student computer labs.

OIT is also leading the Roadmap project, which is intended to update the foundational technologies that we use every day to manage financial, human resources, research and student records.

A Technology in Teaching & Learning Task Force was created last year and they are working on a Campus Mobile Learning Initiative that has the potential to be transformative and position Boise State as a leader in the implementation and assessment of mobile learning environments in higher education.

Along with these changes, we are pleased to welcome Dale Pike as the new Director of Academic Technologies. Dale comes to us from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he served for the past 11 years, most recently as associate dean for instructional and information technology in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.  As technology increasingly permeates our lives and those of our students, we have important and exciting opportunities to  harness these tools in innovative ways to engage students and support their learning. Under Dale’s leadership, Academic Technologies will address the instructional design needs of our faculty – to help faculty choose and master pedagogical strategies to increase student learning – and to foster the exploration of emerging technologies and strategies for teaching and learning.

A new Ed.D. program in Educational Technology was approved by the Board last week. This program will build upon our already successful, professional online master’s program in this area and will add strength to a nationally recognized faculty. Whether it is improving the teaching of mathematics and reading in our K-12 schools or being on the cutting edge of technology developments to enhance the educational experience, the faculty in our College of Education are leaders in their fields. And speaking of our close connections to K-12 education, we will begin a new program at Winter Commencement to honor K-12 teachers who have made a difference in the lives of our students. In a partnership with donors Wendy and Alan Pesky, we will honor four distinguished K-12 teachers, nominated by our College of Education graduates, with the Pesky Award for Inspirational Teaching. I want to thank Alan and Wendy Pesky for developing this new honor, which will serve as a reminder of the significant role that teachers at all levels play in the lives of students.

Finally, Bronco Nation joins the Mountain West. Our official acceptance into the Mountain West Conference last month aligns us with universities known among the finest in the nation for academics and athletics. We have realized a long-held goal of joining a new conference and entered into an exciting era for Boise State and our region.

Comprehensive Campaign Completion

There have been numerous times in Boise State’s history when we’ve allowed ourselves to think beyond others’ estimates of who we are and what we can accomplish.  Consultants told us not to attempt a goal of more than $150 million for our first comprehensive campaign, so we set a goal of $175 million.

I am happy to report that last month we closed the Destination Distinction campaign for Boise State on schedule and during one of the worst economic times in America, with a total of $185,416,696.92!!

This says a lot about what it means to be Boise State University.  We have a pattern of exceeding people’s expectations whether on the playing fields, in our research labs or demonstrating our passion and commitment to the future.

That YOU, faculty and staff, during a time of cutbacks, contributed more than $2 million to this campaign proves that we are ALL committed and believe in what Boise State is and can be.  Thank you for your generosity and devotion to our mission and role.

I also want to acknowledge all of our friends and donors for their contributions – at all levels – for answering this call to action. The response from young alumni making their first gifts, to corporate partners like Micron Technology and the Micron Technology Foundation, to loyal and generous individuals like Linda Yanke, Allen & Billie Dee Noble, Larry & Marianne Williams, Jerry & Muriel Caven, Diane & Winston Moore, Larry & Karen Arguinchona, Jim Kissler, John Jackson and Bonnie McEuen, Duane & Lori Stueckle, Allen & Dixie Dykman, Susie & AJ Balukoff, and Kirk & Marsha Smith, to name just some – who have inspired this University and allowed us to continue to dream big – beyond people’s expectations.

I would like to particularly thank two of our distinguished alumni, Allen Dykman and Steve Appleton for serving as co-chairs on this historic campaign. Their support and leadership were key to our success.

Since campaigns tend to focus on numbers, how about these numbers:

Over 23,000 donors contributed
Over 1,400 faculty/staff contributed
373 New scholarships created
9 New Faculty endowments


Business & Economics



Health Sciences

Social Sciences & Public Affairs

Albertsons Library



All Other Units


Jody DeMeyer Endowed Chair for Nursing

Winston Moore Family Endowed Chair for the Director of the Idaho Bird Observatory

Duane and Lori Stueckle Endowed Chair in Biology

Kirk and Marsha Smith Professorship in the College of Business

Ada Burke Endowed Fellowship in the College of Business

Florence M. Miles Nursing Faculty Endowment

Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation Nursing Faculty Doctoral Fund

Saint Alphonsus Nursing Faculty Doctoral Fund

Nursing Research Endowment

Micron Business and Economics Building

Yanke Family Research Park

Stueckle Sky Center

New Alumni Center

Bronco Stadium Expansion

Norco Building

Arguinchona Basketball Complex

Dona Larsen Park

True to the American spirit of corporations investing in education in their communities, Micron Technology is Boise State’s largest benefactor and we could not have achieved our goal without them.

The two largest single gifts made in our 80 year history and to this campaign, came from Micron: $12.5 million to the Micron Business and Economics Building and $13 million committed to the College of Engineering for the development of a Ph.D. program in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

It is not possible to cover all of the areas impacted by this campaign in the time allowed but this video highlights some of the People, Places, and Programs affected by its success. Please watch the screen.


The completion of the Destination Distinction Campaign for Boise State propels our university to new heights, bringing unparalleled opportunities for our students, improving the quality of life for Idahoans with our services, and solving problems here and around the globe with our research. Additionally, the success of this first campaign provides a solid foundation for our next big fundraising effort.

There is no better evidence of our momentum than the news I share with you for the first time today. Boise State researchers have received the university’s first grant from the prestigious W.M. Keck Foundation, thanks to Will Hughes and an interdisciplinary team of professors in chemistry, biology and engineering, including Bernard Yurke, Cheryl Jorcyk, Jeunghoon Lee and Elton Graugnard.

The $1 million charitable grant will support development of an inexpensive and portable system that could fundamentally change early-stage disease diagnosis and treatment on a global scale. It has the potential to become the gold standard of diagnosing diseases, especially where medical equipment and resources are scarce. It is this type of innovative thinking that is becoming a hallmark of Boise State.

Let’s turn our attention to the video screen to learn more…


The awarding of a Keck grant, I think, marks a turning point in our future direction. It acknowledges once again that we have faculty who are recognized leaders in their respective research fields. It acknowledges the cutting-edge focus of our efforts and the innovative spirit and collaboration taking place in engineering and sciences on our campus. And I think it triggers the need to look internally and use this opportunity to help us define what will be the hallmarks of the Boise State of tomorrow.

Program Prioritization

It is not just this incredible success our science and engineering faculty are having that causes us to examine who we are and where our investments of scarce resources will go in future years–especially when it comes to graduate programming and research.

Our State Board, which during my time at Boise State has been entirely supportive of our metropolitan research mission, held a retreat in the spring and asked questions of all three of Idaho’s research universities—can we afford three research universities?  Their purpose–I am sure–was not to eliminate a university, but to encourage us to examine how much of our mission can be devoted to research, discovery and invention and how much of our mission must remain focused on the undergraduate experience with particular emphasis on graduating more students than we have in the last few years.

Our Board sees what you see, declining state appropriations, and therefore they become concerned that perhaps for a state with only 1.5 million people, we may be taking on more than our financial wherewithal warrants at this time.

As we engage in this discussion with the Board, I do believe there is a strong argument to make about this powerful and potential regional tech economy we serve that must be sustained by a metropolitan university that is not only preparing the workforce for those tech jobs, but also exploring and discovering in ways that will enhance the ability of this high tech economy to grow and prosper.

Clearly, we must move forward in a very focused direction, re-examining assumptions we made about ourselves as late as 2005 when the last strategic plan, Charting the Course, was announced.  At that time, the words “metropolitan” and “research” had broad connotations.   For example, that was before the creation of the College of Western Idaho, when Boise State was the only public institution serving the region and we were naturally more expansive in our definition of our metropolitan role than now when we have a partner who can pick up some of the services we offer as a metropolitan university.

In the current strategic plan, as we identify ourselves as an aspiring research university,  our 2005 thinking was expansive, back when the state was actually participating in salary adjustments, before the Great Recession changed everything.  In those days and with that plan, we did not make the tough choices required in today’s economy about where we would place our emphasis when it came time, for example, to how we apportion reduced teaching loads that allow for the time to pursue research objectives.  Nor did we ever attempt to align those decisions with the obligation we have to serve the needs of our regional economy first and foremost, as a public university with a public purpose to provide a skilled and educated workforce.

At that time, there was no State Board directive—as there is now–holding the presidents personally responsible for the Board’s newest goal—in keeping with a national goal—of assuring that by the year 2020, 60% of our citizens ages 25-34 will have a degree or certificate.   The Board has given us the specific number of graduates we must graduate from Boise State in order to meet the goal and they are on the screen before you.


  • GOAL: 60% of Idahoans (ages 25-34) will have a college degree or certificate by 2020
  • Projected bachelor’s degrees per year to meet the State Board of Education’s goal:


2012 – 2,270
2013 – 2,413
2014 – 2,557
2015 – 2,700
2016 – 2,843
2017 – 2,986
2018 – 3,130
2019 – 3,273
2020 – 3,416


We have work to do. We have work to do related to retention, and we are making progress. We have work to do on graduation rates, where we have made slight progress, but not enough. We have our work cut out for us as more and more students come to us comfortable with the idea of taking five to seven years to graduate. Tuition is more expensive now than it was when you and I were going to college and we do have many that drop out to earn money and then drop back in, but this doesn’t absolve us from creating a re-energized culture of students who will finish in a timely fashion. We implemented a finish-in-four program that hasn’t yet been very successful in attracting student interest. Yet pressure is mounting from the state and national interests to produce more graduates. As the United States slips further and further down the list in comparison to other countries in terms of educating our citizenry, public higher education has a responsibility to do better and we need to jump in.

Nor did we place enough emphasis in our current strategic plan on expanding our interdisciplinary efforts by breaking down the silos between the liberal arts, humanities and social sciences and science, engineering and business that often exist in today’s higher education setting.

On this last note, Marty Schimpf and I have spent quite a bit of time comparing notes on our own interests and experiences in interdisciplinary education and I know we will be spending more time examining how we can offer incentives for more interdisciplinary work here at Boise State.

But first, we must engage our faculty and staff in the larger task of re-thinking our strategic plan, first by devising a process for a new strategic planning process.  (This task has already begun as I will explain momentarily.)  And then rolling up our sleeves to write a strategic plan, which will include identifying our strengths and core values, and reevaluating everything we do from that perspective—looking also to the cost and demand of our programs—and prioritizing appropriately.

The results of a campus survey issued this past spring has been used to create a draft of our core values, which is currently being refined and discussed among campus partners. It will be used to articulate a vision for the future of Boise State that will help us focus our efforts over the next five years, taking us to new levels of excellence and positioning us for continued long-term success.

The process of building goals and objectives upon those pillars will take place this fall and involve several teams of faculty, staff, and community members. In the spring, we will begin the work of designing an implementation plan and a set of performance measures to assess our progress. Integral to this process will be those chosen for the second year of our Presidential Leadership Academy.  This year, the President’s Leadership Academy will re-convene with new participants who will participate in the development of the plan.

Returning to the subject of interdisciplinary education, the twentieth century was rich in the discovery of knowledge about the natural world with scientists working in such disciplines as biology, chemistry, and physics. But the real world does not recognize this artificial partitioning of human knowledge, and more advanced levels of human discovery will require teams of scientists who are increasingly trained through Ph.D. programs that cross disciplinary boundaries. This new generation of scientists will not only have depth of knowledge across disciplines but also the communication skills required for a team environment. Here-in lies another strength of Boise State, but one that we need to continue to build upon as we plan for the future. On the screen are some examples of long-standing interdisciplinary studies programs.


Interdisciplinary degree programs and certificates:

  • BA/BS and MA/MS Interdisciplinary Studies
  • BA Environmental Studies
  • BA Multi-Ethnic Studies
  • BS Geoarcheology
  • Bachelor of General Studies
  • Bachelor of Applied Science
  • MS Hydrologic Sciences
  • MS/ME/PhD (pending) Materials Science and Engineering
  • PhD Biomolecular Studies (pending)
  • Graduate Certificate in Addiction Studies
  • Graduate Certificate in Gerontological Studies
  • Graduate Certificate in Family Studies


  • Gerontology
  • Chinese Studies
  • Japanese Studies
  • Canadian Studies
  • Latin American Studies
  • Basque Studies
  • Multi-Ethnic Studies
  • Mexican-American Studies



Perhaps the greatest example of cross-disciplinary collaboration at Boise State involves what is sure to be one of the most far-reaching and fundamental academic changes we’ve seen for some time: the reinvention of our general education curriculum as the Foundational Studies Program.

This program, which will be taken by all Boise State graduates, includes the tried-and-true disciplinary objectives that properly belong to a comprehensive undergraduate education.  But students’ Foundational Studies at Boise State will also include teamwork and innovation, complex problem solving, ethics, diversity and internationalization – traits and habits of mind highly sought after in today’s job market, and ones critical for sustaining a healthy democracy.

I know that many of you in both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs have been working over the summer to develop these new courses and to design the assessment plan.  The work you’ve been doing is among the most important that can be done at a university, because the core curriculum touches every student who passes through our doors.

I can’t pass up the opportunity to introduce Dr. Vicki Stieha, our new Director of the Foundational Studies Program.  Vicki comes to us from Northern Kentucky University with extensive experience in general education reform and first-year programs.  Join me in welcoming Vicki to Boise State and in thanking all of those who have worked tirelessly over the past three years to bring us this far.

But there is more that we can do. In the next few months, we hope to receive approval from the State Board of Education to offer two new interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs. Both programs will involve teams of faculty from departments across the Boise State campus who are working together with students to discover new knowledge.

  • The Ph.D. in Biomolecular Sciences will train scientists in the application of chemistry and physics to the study of biological processes, in order to understand the organizational structures and communication mechanisms responsible for life, disease, and inevitably, death.
  • The Ph.D. in Materials Science will train scientists in the application of chemistry and physics to the engineering of new man-made materials that are lighter and stronger, or that can be manipulated in useful ways, such as a new material invented by Boise State Professor Peter Mullner that changes shape in a magnetic field.

As we continue to refine our students’ academic experiences, remember that a great way to pilot new interdisciplinary courses is the Intersession. Intersession can be a time to experiment with new topics, new formats and new ways of engaging our students. We are actively seeking ideas for 3-week classes that are interdisciplinary, that are team-taught, and that are unique to the 3-week term. Faculty with such ideas should consult with their department chair to discuss scheduling these courses.

Finally, there is one area that will most certainly increase in priority. Programs within the science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as “STEM” disciplines, are critical to the future of Boise State University and the role we play in our community and region, because they will directly contribute to the high-tech economy of the Treasure Valley.

This fall, we begin a new Masters in STEM education: a collaborative degree program between the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Education, as well as an upcoming effort we are calling I-DO Teach, which will re-engineer the way we prepare students for certification to teach math and science in middle and high schools.

Our focus on the national priority of STEM education, the advantage we have in strong programming in science and engineering and the responsibility we have to serve the tech economy of our region should not in any way be interpreted as sending other programs to second-class citizenry.

To the contrary, the increased emphasis on technology in all fields of human endeavor, whether in health care, education, business or other fields, places even greater emphasis on humankind’s ability to define and protect what it means to be human, to explore the role that technology plays in our lives while assuring that it does not dominate or control all we do or who we are.

In that regard, our commitment to the arts and humanities, to the social sciences, to business education, to the health sciences, and to the education of our next generation of teachers must be strengthened and integrated into all we teach and all our students learn.  We will become a national beacon of progress and discovery for our research and graduate work in the sciences and engineering, but that beacon will shine brightly in other disciplines and colleges as well.

And that will lead Boise State University to the day when the quality of our undergraduate education is recognized across the nation as the finest public higher education has to offer students who choose to study and learn with us.

You have accomplished much along our journey to distinction, including the mark of distinction in so much of what you do, but it is a journey and not a destination reached.  Let us continue that journey today with a resolve to achieve excellence in all we do.  I wish you the very best in this new year of learning and discovery.

Thanks for all you do for Boise State.