Boise State University President Dr. Marlene Tromp touted a long list of achievements and new initiatives for the school during Wednesday’s annual State of the University address.
“We faced challenges, much like other universities,” Tromp said after a year plus of disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. “But we faced challenges they didn’t. You helped our community continue to thrive. We built new ways of teaching, new ways of serving, and new ways of supporting our community.”
Tromp said it was her goal in the early days of the pandemic to “come out on the other side of challenges stronger than before.”
She said the school is excited to return to on-campus learning this school year.
“We are so excited to be in person again and give our students the experience that makes our community extraordinary,” she said.
The address to faculty and others took place at Albertsons Stadium, a place Tromp said is the loudest college football stadium in the country. She used the school’s trademarked blue turf as a model for what she calls “Blue Turf Thinking,”
“We are doing this work for our students, wherever they are. We are doing this work for the future. The work that you do will affect generations to come. Our impact as a university, our special location, our special character, and who we are as an institution will not just make an impact on Idaho. It will make an impact on the world. What you do for our students now will impact this state long after we are gone. you are part of something extraordinary.”
Public Health in time of COVID
Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boise State didn’t operate a public health department. Now it does, and the initiative staffed up to 65 people over the past year or so.
“We did over 30,000 tests this year,” Tromp said. “We had vaccination clinics, we had testing clinics. We served our police department, our fire department. We worked with folks across the city.”
She noted the school worked with Boise Police to help with COVID-related health challenges.
“When we got a call from our local police department, we went down at six in the morning to ensure our local police were healthy and safe,” she said to applause.
Rural outreach, school collaboration
Tromp echoed a theme she discussed with BoiseDev’s Gretchen Parsons in May, about a growing effort to involve Idaho’s rural students.
“We have a lot of rural young people who don’t want to leave home to get their education,” she said.
New scholarships designed for Idaho students total up to $1 million and provides new ways for Idahoans from smaller communities to attend the school, she said.
A new program, the Hometown Challenge, launched in Mtn. Home, McCall, and Payette this year.
“It invites people to go back to their hometowns and imagine how they can serve in their hometown community,” Tromp said. She said they saw “as high as” a 28% increase in enrollment from the pilot towns, while many parts of rural Idaho saw declines in college go-on rates.
Tromp said the presidents of Idaho’s eight public colleges and universities increased their collaboration work.
“Instead of seeing each other as pitched competitors, we are looking at ways we can cooperate,” she said.
Tromp said early in her tenure as president, she posted a photo to social media with University of Idaho President C. Scott Green.
“There was this explosion of outrage in the Twitterverse,” she said. “Like ‘how can you stand with the president of the University of Idaho?’” We are here to serve students of the State of Idaho, and we are going to serve our state.”
Cybersecurity ‘dome’, business programs
The University of Idaho has the Kibbie Dome. Now, Boise State has a dome to call its own — though, it’s not a physical one.
Tromp touted the new “Cyberdome” program aimed at cybersecurity. It’s part of the school’s new Institute for Pervasive Cybersecurity. Tromp said the program would help protect the school, nonprofits, and local businesses under the virtual dome from cybersecurity threats.
Earlier this summer, the school announced the program.
“People in rural and underserved population areas – and the rural towns, counties, education/health districts – are the primary clients for the Cyberdome,” IPC director Ed Vasko said. “It is these exact people and clients that we hope to help through our platform. Further, the Cyberdome is built to allow rural and underserved students to engage and collaborate with other students throughout the state. Students gain valuable cybersecurity knowledge to start their careers, their communities are protected against cybercriminals and other adversaries, and the state’s made more secure as a result.”
The school received a $700,000 grant to start the program and has the opportunity to grow the funding over three years for a total of $2.1 million.
Tromp said Boise State continues to focus on links to the business community, and helping prepare students for Idaho’s growing business and technology sectors.
“We are working with businesses across the state to ask them what they need to see in our students,” she said. “We’ve worked to help entrepreneurs find new ways to innovate.”
Tromp talked about the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge, programs at the Venture College, and other concepts across the university. She also said the school would launch a new business partnerships hub to further build links.
Other programs, notes
- Boise State will start the new Institute For Advancing American Values. Tromp and the school have seen fierce criticism on a number of fronts from conservatives and others – and saw a drop in funding from the Idaho legislature driven by criticisim of the school’s approach to diversity and curriculum around race.
“Haven’t we seen too little dialogue in the last few years, where people who disagree can’t talk to each other? We’re going to be a model for how people can do that,” she said. “As a country, we are so polarized that we have almost forgotten that it’s possible for us to find our shared humanity and solve our common problems together – and Boise State will be a national leader on this front.”
- Amy Vecchione and Brett Shelton were given President’s Community Service Award. Vecchione’s work on the Boise State Face Mask Project, which we profiled here last spring won praise, as did Shelton’s work to help K-12 educators shift to online learning during COVID-19.
- Tromp lauded Boise State’s student athletes for performance on the field – and in the classroom. The school said five programs are in the top ten percent of their respective sports across the nation, and said the school lead the Mtn. West Conference for academic excellence.
- She said the school crossed 100,000 living alumni for the first time.