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Notebook: Dr. Marlene Tromp’s first State of the University address

Here is a digest of Dr. Marlene Tromp’s first State of the University address.

  • The event started off with several selections from campus musicians.
  • Tromp entered the room to a standing ovation and cheers.
  • She started by thanking her staff, and the staff of the university as a whole.
  • “Those of you who are in the Twitterverse, give me a quick wave,” Tromp said to a handfull of waves back. Tromp has set Twitter ablaze with tweets across the state in recent weeks.
  • To the gathered crowd: “You and the State Board of Education gave me the honor of leading this path-breaking university, and I thank you for that.”
  • Tromp talked about the current political climate, and the role universities can play:
    • “Universities must remain places where complex discussions can take place. “I believe Boise State can become a national leader in meaningful leadership in problem-solving across political divides in a time where it seems like we cannot talk to each other. This would be a profound service not to just this university and the City of Boise, but the State of Idaho and our region.”
  • Then, Tromp mentioned her recent summer of controversy, slyly:
    • “Sometimes this engagement will cause harm. I’ve had a taste of this in the short time I’ve been here. Maybe you’ve noticed. (Crowd laughs). But others have faced far worse.”
    • “If universities aren’t meant to be bringers of light, then who is?”
  • Tromp is writing a book about unsolved murder cases from the 1900s. She said she worked with a forensic team that solved a 150-year-old cold case.
  • “We can create a new model of what universities can be, by leading cutting-edge research for students at every level. I want us to be bold about the ways we deliver curriculum so it better meets the needs of our students.”
    • Tromp notes that college students of today grew up with a computer in their hand. She said education must advance to meet a changing student body.
  • Tromp cited a number of statistics about college, including lower “go on,” rates, conservative families saying college has a negative impact on the country, and an increasing number of young people saying college is a “risky proposition.”
    • “We can do far better at communicating what a degree to for our community and employers.”
    • “We can continue to drive down the costs for students. We can advocate for resources for them so they can do their best work. And I commit to you that I will.”
  • She said the school has used the success of Boise State on the field to help build success for students.
  • I am so excited and optimistic. Has that shown yet? (applause) I came here because I think Boise State University is one of the few places in the country that can do this path-breaking work.”
  • Tromp highlights the school’s elevation to an “R2” university – one for a “high degree of research activity.” The school had a 64% increase in research spending since 2014 – an initiative led by former university president Dr. Bob Kustra.
    • “Students get to be a part of what it means to solve the world’s problems. They are not just reading it in a textbook. They are finding it in the archives and the labs and in the field. It changes the world around us.”
    • She said research project spending hit an all-time high of $41 million in the last fiscal year – a 64% increase since 2014.
  • “What about the arts?” one audience member shouts out. Tromp paused for a moment. “The arts are critically important. That brand new building we built? That’s really exciting to me. That’s going to enhance our arts programs.”
Dr. Marlene Tromp
Dr. Marlene Tromp. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev
  • Tromp highlighted track star Allie Ostrander’s achievements and noted that she did it while landing on the honors list and attaining a 4.0 GPA.
  • “This is a moment to thank you all for the extraordinary welcome you’ve given me since I arrived here.”
  • “We are approaching our second century, Boise State will turn 100 in just 13 years. We live and work in one of the fastest cities and states in the country. In this rapidly changing world, we have already deployed that creative thinking to meet these needs.”
    • “Our challenge then is to not only think about what we need tomorrow but 20 and 50 years down the road. We need to keep up that Blue turf thinking that has made an impact from athletics to academics, to staff and students to programs and principles.”
    • Tromp noted the school has not had a comprehensive capital campaign since “Destination Distinction” nearly a decade ago.
  • “I am so honored to be standing before you today. It’s quite a wonder today. I am honored to be here to give my very best to you. I had little thought of leaving my previous post. I have a 91-year-old mother and 17-year-old son. I just moved them two years ago.” She then said “I couldn’t resist your magnetic pull.”
  • She said Boise State has three key ingredients:
    • We are trailblazers. We are thought leaders in our academic and professional fields. It won’t just be other metropolitan universities that look to us for inspiration, but universities all over the world.”
    • “We are committed to transformative teaching.” She mentioned the school’s rural students. “We have a special mission to strive to serve our rural students. We need to serve them well. There are so many rural students who are being underserved by traditional higher education today.
    • We are engaged. In this particular moment with crises erupting nationally and globally, our leadership role is critical. You have so many insights and so many important connections. You can see what is not being addressed in your fields and your communities.”

“I am confident that we can meet our challenges together,” Tromp said. “Go out there and do something remarkable. Boise State University, this is our charge. Thank you.”

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