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2017 August Newsletter

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August 2017

Dear Friends,

Dean Tony RoarkHaving survived eclipse mania and the related traffic issues, we once again return to terrestial matters.

Never fear! There’s plenty to be excited about here on campus and in the College of Arts and Sciences.  The remarkable breadth of expertise and disciplinary activity on COAS (including, nontrivially, astrophysics) truly puts the “universe” in “university.”

Please enjoy the featured stories in this month’s newsletter, and thank you for your interest in the College of Arts and Sciences.


Tony Roark

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Boise State University

Boise State Receives National Humanities Grant to Document, Celebrate Latino Culture

picture of World Languages professor Alicia GarzaBoise State University’s Casita Nepantla has received a $150,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to document the art and cultural expression of Latinos in rural and urban communities throughout Idaho.

The project, which is part of NEH’s Creating Humanities Communities, is one of only 245 humanities projects funded across the nation.

“I am pleased and feel honored that we have received this NEH grant. It will provide a great opportunity for this institution to demonstrate its commitment to the humanities and to engaging in cultural research about Latinos in Idaho,” said Alicia Garza, an associate professor of Spanish at Boise State and director of Casita Nepantla: A Latino Space at Boise State University.


Boise State Joins Federal Climate Science Center University Consortium

Boise State University is one of five new university partners in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Northwest Climate Science Center (CSC) university consortium. The University of Washington will host the consortium; other university partners include the University of Montana, Washington State University and Western Washington University.

center logoThese five universities were selected as the CSC host and consortium partners after an open competition and extensive review by scientific experts. They will work as part of the collaborative network that defines the Northwest CSC. This includes working closely with federal, state and tribal entities, including those responsible for managing and protecting the land, water and natural resources of the Northwest, to develop actionable climate science and decision support tools.

“Boise State has developed a reputation for excellence in understanding issues related to water, wildlife, and landscape ecology throughout the dry interior of the Pacific Northwest,” said Lejo Flores, an associate professor of geosciences and director of the Lab for Ecohydrology and Alternative Futuring. “In addition to being right out our back door and comprising large areas, these landscapes are particularly sensitive to variability and change in climate. Many of our researchers have well-established partnerships with federal researchers within the Department of Interior. This new consortium is an outstanding opportunity to highlight and extend those partnerships, as well as build new partnerships with other researchers within federal agencies and at consortium partner universities.”


Boise State Announces Formation of New School of the Arts

Arial image of campusBoise State University will be home to a new School of the Arts, President Bob Kustra announced on Aug. 16 during his annual campus-wide State of the University address to faculty and staff. The new School of the Arts, which debuts in fall 2017, encompasses the departments of music, art and the newly combined department of creative writing and theatre.

“I’m incredibly excited about the development of the School of the Arts because it will provide our students and faculty with new opportunities, visibility and connectivity,” said Tony Roark, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We already have some really innovative ideas for programming that draws on the talent and expertise of our faculty, and I know that other ideas will emerge as the school is more fully defined.  The campus community and our external partners will be pleased and impressed by where the School of the Arts takes Boise State over the next few years.”

The idea for a School of the Arts was first broached by a diverse group of arts faculty in 2016 in response to a rapidly changing culture for working artists in the Treasure Valley and beyond. The new school will strengthen arts education, thus better preparing students who aspire to be professional artists by allowing them to take transdisciplinary classes to fit their major’s core requirements. It also will act as a dedicated entity to support, facilitate, publicize and provide diverse arts opportunities for students and the greater Treasure Valley.

“Data shows that students’ chances of sustaining an artistic career are better if they can cross disciplines and economic sectors. We are giving our students opportunities to develop a broad set of artistic skills that can fuel creativity throughout their lives,” explained Leslie Durham, who will act as director of the new school, while continuing to serve as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


Ahsahta Press Publications Highlighted

picture of ahsahta press logoThree works published by Ahsahta Press, part of the MFA in creative writing program at Boise State, are garnering national and international attention.

In the New Yorker, Stephen Burt’s “Page-Turner” essay, “Literary Style and the Lessons of Memoir,” features a lengthy discussion of Jasmine Dreame Wagner’s On a Clear Day, which Ahsahta Press published in May. “It’s the kind of book,” Burt writes, “that tries to take the temperature of a generation (Wagner’s first book appeared in 2012) or at least of a generation’s narrow, gallery-going, artsy urban slice. In Wagner’s Brooklyn, ‘the cacophony of lo-fi indie rock reverb’ is also ‘the sound of gentrification,’ ‘the sound of if only,’ ‘the sound of why me.’”

“Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments,” Ahsahta’s collection of Beat poet Cowen’s remaining works (after her suicide, friends of her parents destroyed all her poetry they could find) is now going into a Turkish edition. Researched and collected by editor Tony Trigilio, the book has previously been released in German and Spanish editions.


Boise State Vulcanologist Studies Lava Lake in Central Africa

By: Samantha Wright, Boise State Public Radio

picture of volcanologist Jeffrey JohnsonJeffrey Johnson lives here in Idaho, which is surrounded on both east and west sides by volcanic activity.  Working in a geographic range between Mt. St. Helens and Yellowstone National Park, Johnson says it’s crucial to learn the language of volcanoes, to better understand when they’ll erupt. To that end, he’s been listening to lava in a volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With funding from the BBC, Johnson and his colleagues dropped inside the volcano’s crater to study a lake of lava bigger than Bronco Stadium.  Johnson “listens” to volcanoes with specilized monitors, to try to predict when they’ll change their activity, which can lead to an eruption.

Johnson got back from a three-week field trip to the lava lake inside Nyiragongo.  He said it was a complicated journey.  It’s a mile-high climb to the 11,000 foot summit and it took 500 porter loads to get the gear they needed to the volcano.


Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research Flourishes at Boise State

picture of Undergraduate Research Conference presenteeBoise State University held the fourth annual Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research (ICUR) on July 26-27 that drew hundreds of students, faculty and members of the community. The conference showcases the leading edge of undergraduate research across the state in all disciplines.

This year’s conference experienced a 30 percent growth since 2016, with 273 undergraduates attending the conference and over 220 undergraduates presenting posters on their research. Boise State students had a strong showing at the conference, with 136 registering to attend and 93 presenting posters.

Undergraduate students from Idaho’s diverse colleges, and representing an array of backgrounds and disciplines, gathered to present the results of their original work in poster presentations to their peers, educators and the public. This high intensity, two-day event also focused on integrating educators to promote student learning at all levels of education.


Boise State Professors to be Honored By Mayor Dave Bieter

collage of COAS professors Jennifer Stevens, James Jirak and Sue Latta

Boise Mayor David Bieter recently announced the recipients of the 2017 Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & History, which included three Boise State professors.

Sue Latta, a mixed-media sculptor and adjunct art professor, will receive the “Excellence in the Arts” award; Boise State’s newest Professor of the Practice, historian Jennifer Stevens, will be honored with the “Excellence in History” award; and music professor James Jirak will receive the “Excellence in Education” award at a reception on Sept. 21.

Presented every two years, the awards celebrate people, organizations and businesses that have contributed to Boise’s cultural community.

To receive the award, recipients must have demonstrated distinguished service, creative accomplishment or other work to benefit the artistic, historic and broader cultural life of Boise.

For more information and to purchase tickets for the reception, visit AHMAYORSAWARDS.EVENTBRITE.COM

Looking to Travel? Check out Boise State Alumni Travel!

2017- 2018 trips include Canada and New England, Australia, Italian Riviera, Canadian Rockies and more. Broncos can travel together and receive discounts (along with a rich and memorable experience)!

Boise State alumni traveling together abroad is not only about discounts and convenience, though these are certainly added benefits to our members. It’s also an opportunity to take our unique stories into the world — and, to bring them back. An exciting exchange takes place when we experience new places, people and cultures together. We think differently when we’re in unfamiliar places. We get inspired, make new connections and grow new ideas.

The alumni association makes unforgettable journeys possible for Boise State Alumni Association members (and their friends and family). No matter where in the world our members go, our greatest journey is always the one we take together. Connect to the world and each other through our Alumni Travel Program.


Share your good news with thousands of other Broncos

picture of group of Boise State alumniNew job? Promotion? Publication? Awards? Share your latest accomplishments in FOCUS magazine. To share your news and updates email alumni relations at


picture of art professor Anika Smulovitz

Anika Smulovitz


Department of Art

Boise State art professor Anika Smulovitz has been awarded an Idaho Commission on the Arts Fellowship for 2018. She is one of five artists across the state to receive the $5,000 fellowship.

Her work can be viewed here: ARTS.IDAHO.GOV/ARTS/ANIKA-SMULOVITZ-2

The awards, given every three years, are selected via peer review and recognize outstanding artists and honor work deemed to exhibit the highest artistic merit. Applicants were reviewed anonymously in a highly competitive process by panelists from out of state and were judged solely on the basis of existing work and professional history.


picture of Geosciences professor Matt Kohn

Matt Kohn

Distinguished Professor

Department of Geosciences


Matt Kohn has been named a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the overarching professional society for all things related to Earth and space science. Kohn is one of 61 fellows named this year, less than 0.1 percent of the more than 60,000 members worldwide.

As the union states, “The AGU elect as fellows members whose visionary leadership and scientific excellence have fundamentally advanced research in their respective fields. AGU fellows are recognized for their scientific eminence in the Earth and space sciences. Their breadth of interests and the scope of their contributions are remarkable and often groundbreaking. They have expanded our understanding of the Earth and space sciences, from volcanic processes, solar cycles, and deep-sea microbiology to the variability of our climate and so much more.”

picture of English professor Tara Penry

Tara Penry


Department of English

Tara Penry served on the faculty of this year’s Idaho Humanities Council Summer Teacher Institute, held July 16-21 on the Boise State campus. The event brought together K-12 teachers, administrators and counselors from around the state. The theme for the institute was “Wallace Stegner and the Consciousness of Place.”

Penry lectured and led discussion on Stegner’s multi-genre memoir Wolf Willow, interviewed historian Richard Etulain about his field-defining conversations with Stegner in the ’80s and ’90s, and participated in daily scholar panels and other activities for the institute.

Earlier in the summer, Penry presented a paper at the American Literature Association conference in Boston. Her paper shared archival research on the context in which the popular California writer Bret Harte composed his classic post-Civil War short story, The Luck of Roaring Camp.



The College of Arts and Sciences enhances the scientific, ethical, and cultural foundation of our society through education, research, creative activity, and community engagement, thereby improving individual and collective quality of life.  Our faculty, staff, and students discover and share knowledge, understand and appreciate diversity, create and analyze art, and engage and enrich our local and global communities. The College of Arts and Sciences is made up of sixteen departments, five interdisciplinary programs and six research units.