Skip to Main Content
Mobile Menu

2017 June/July Newsletter

picture of 4 Boise State students

June/July 2017

Dear friends,

picture of College of Arts and Sciences Dean Tony RoarkSummer heat doesn’t slow us down much in the College of Arts and Sciences.  Our students and faculty continue to discover, create, and collaborate, both locally and abroad – even in space!

I invite you to find a cool place to relax (with an iced tea, perhaps) and enjoy reading about some of the exciting things going on in COAS.  As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to learn more or to get involved.  I appreciate your interest and support.


Tony Roark

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Boise State University

Boise State Begins Fall Semester at 1 p.m. Aug. 21 to Experience Rare Total Eclipse

picture of the solar eclipse

Boise State University’s fall 2017 classes will begin at 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, so students and faculty can enjoy a rare opportunity: To see a near-complete solar eclipse from the heart of campus.

Though the “path of totality” is farther north in Idaho, the eclipse will be nearly complete in Boise. It will begin at 10:10 a.m., with the total eclipse starting about 11:25 a.m. and lasting about two minutes, according to Boise State’s physics department. The eclipse ends about 12:48 p.m.

The university will throw an Eclipse Watching Party on the quad that day, starting at 10 a.m. — faculty, staff, students and any families still in town from move-in weekend are encouraged to attend.


Bringing a 400-Year-Old Play to Boise

picture of professor Mac TestEdward “Mac” Test, an associate professor in the English Department, is packing his bags and headed east to spend his summer digging through archives in Madrid, Spain.

Test is translating a nearly 400-year-old play, “Comedia Famosa De La Monja Alférez,” into English for the very first time. The play is based on the true story of a Basque woman named Catalina de Erauso, who escaped a nunnery at 18, cut off her hair, dressed as a man, and jumped aboard a ship bound for the new world. She rose to the rank of “alférez” (lieutenant), while living “the fantastic life of a conquistador, gambler and swashbuckler.”

Test’s project already has garnered international attention and ultimately will lead to performances of the play for the first time in America. The Boise State Department of Theatre Arts, UCLA and McMaster University in Toronto all have expressed interest in producing the performance.


Grant Will Allow Geosciences Professor to Study Ice Melt Using Earthquake Technology

Picture of Dylan MikesellAssistant geosciences professor Dylan Mikesell has been awarded a two-year, $353,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to monitor Antarctic ice melt using seismic techniques normally employed for monitoring earthquakes.

Rising global sea-level poses a significant long-term risk for both human populations and our infrastructure and to mitigate the potential damage done by the changing level, scientists need to be able to accurately predict future sea level rise and fall. However, using current methods it is difficult to estimate the amount of ice that melts from polar ice sheets, especially from the West Antarctica ice sheet, and where that melt goes.


Jennifer Stevens is Newest Professor of the Practice at Boise State

picture of Professor of the Practice Jennifer Stevens

Jennifer Stevens is joining Boise State as a Professor of the Practice. Stevens is a historian and the principal and president of Stevens Historical Research Associates in Boise. She will partner with the College of Arts and Science’s Department of History and the new Urban Studies and Community Development Program in the School of Public Service.

History Department Chair Nick Miller said Stevens models both the spirit of entrepreneurship and the relevance of bringing historical expertise to public and policy matters.

“Jen Stevens is an engaged, interdisciplinary practitioner of history, and of urban studies and community development, who has conducted research, prepared testimony and investigated conflicts in nine western states and worked in dozens of public and private archives,” said Miller.” Her work highlights the ubiquity and necessity of history for making crucial policy decisions on contemporary matters in the urban, rural and regional landscape. She will be an excellent model for our students of ways of bridging the gap between college and career.“


Boise State Researchers Use NASA Grant to Study Bone Loss in Space

picture of biology professor Julie Oxford and student

Our slim body of knowledge of the universe is vastly overshadowed by what we do not know – whether there is sentient life on other planets, whether there are other planets that can sustain human life, even how long-term space travel physically affects human beings.

Boise State professors Gunes Uzer and Julia Oxford have been awarded a one-year, $37,000 grant from NASA to research that last question. Gunes, an assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, and biology professor Oxford are studying the impacts of bone loss in space – in other words, how living in a gravity-free environment affects astronaut health in terms of incidents of osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal diseases.




Foundation Awards Arts Grants to Boise State Faculty, Students, Alumni

picture of Alexa Rose Foundation logo

A number of Boise State faculty, students and alumni were chosen to receive 2017 grants from the Alexa Rose Foundation, which was established to honor the memory of local artist Alexa Rose Howell.

In its third cycle of grants, the foundation expanded its scope to solicit applications from visual, performing and literary artists. The Foundation received 210 applications totaling $700,000 in requests. With a little over $100,000 to fund artists in 2017, the competition was significant.

In the end, 50 local artists representing multiple artistic mediums were awarded grants. Grants were awarded to emerging, mid-career and established artists throughout the community. Grant amounts varied from $500-$5,000 and will fund learning opportunities, equipment and supplies, production costs and paid time to create.


Boise State Student, Graduate Recognized by Fulbright Program

picture of 2017 Fulbright winner and alternate

A Boise State student and a recent graduate have been recognized by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Juliette Rubin has been awarded a research fellowship in Madagascar, and Cody Wetherelt is a Fulbright alternate for an English teaching assistant grant in Jordan.

Rubin, who will complete work on her master of science in biology later this summer, will study the effects of moonlight over rice fields in Madagascar on predator-prey interactions, particularly how the predator-prey dynamics of bats and moths are affected by increasing expanses of moonlit areas as a result of forest removal for agricultural land. Her research will primarily focus on Ranomafana National Park and the surrounding villages and agricultural fields, where she will collaborate with farmers and local and foreign researchers.

“I was excited and honored to be awarded the Fulbright to conduct research in Madagascar,” she said. “This fellowship will allow me to continue in the same vein of research as my master’s degree here at Boise State.


Geosciences Graduate Student Earns NASA Fellowship

picture of NASA Fellowship winner Nayani Ilangakoon

Assessing how changes in our climate are affecting ecosystems and hydrosystems is vitally important – unfortunately, in many ways, assessing these changes is much simpler in woody mountain ranges than it is in the semi-arid ecosystems that dominate much of the west.

The most common tools for conducting large-scale terrain studies are with remote sensing, such as lidar, however, these tools use large or leafy biomass (think: forests) to gauge vegetation and hydrologic changes on a grand scale.

But as geosciences doctoral student Nayani Ilangakoon explained, western ecosystems often contain short-height vegetation structures, like sagebrush, which are critical for balancing global carbon dioxide levels – but aren’t as easily captured by remote sensing and traditional discrete return lidar. Sagebrush also are particularly susceptible to human disturbances and land use, as well as natural disturbances like drought, fire and climate change – all of which impact the ecosystem structure and hence the hydrologic cycle at the local and regional level. Agriculture and municipalities are reliant on western watersheds to survive, so the impacts of future hydrologic changes could be significant.

“There is very limited research going on that tells us how vegetation type and structure influences hydrology in an ecosystem, but we do know disturbances change the hydrocycle and the ecosystem itself,” Ilangakoon said. “It also changes the soil carbon, habitat quality – really everything – so assessing vegetation is critical.”

There is a silver lining: Ilangakoon recently was selected as one of 69 graduate students (out of a pool of 385 nationally) to be awarded a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship for her proposal to analyze data collected in the Owyhee mountains and Colorado’s Grand Mesa using a full-wave form of lidar.


Janet Pina Eledezma Receives Inaugural Scott Willison Memorial Scholarship

Janet Pina Eledezma (left) with Willison’s wife, Jenny Willison.

Janet Pina Eledezma (left) with Willison’s wife, Jenny Willison.

Janet Pina Eledezma, a junior studying sociology at Boise State University, is the first to receive the Scott Willison Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship is directed at students who have overcome obstacles to attend Boise State. In addition to a monetary scholarship, Eledezma will be assigned a Boise State faculty mentor, to further honor Willison’s legacy of encouragement and support. The scholarship created in his name was made possible thanks to the generous donations of the campus community, raising more than $51,000 through PonyUp.

Eledezma was chosen for the scholarship based on an essay she submitted about how her life was changed forever after the passing of her younger brother.


Anthropology Department Hosts International Conference on Campus

picture of Anthropology chair John Ziker

The Department of Anthropology hosted the 29th annual meeting of the HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND EVOLUTION SOCIETY (HBES) at Boise State University May 31-June 3. The society is the premier international organization for the study of evolution and human behavior; its membership includes researchers from a range of disciplines in the social, behavioral and biological sciences.

More than 400 people attended the conference from 25 countries, including Japan, Australia, Croatia, Denmark, Brazil and Chile. There were approximately 200 oral presentations and 100 poster presentations covering a range of research areas including mating, morality, disgust, cultural evolution, primatology, ritual and altruism. Presenters came from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy and political science, providing an interdisciplinary perspective on these research topics.


Boise State Remembers Acclaimed Writer Denis Johnson

Writer Denis JohnsonDenis Johnson, an acclaimed fiction writer who lived part of each year in Northern Idaho and recently spent time on the Boise State University campus as a Distinguished Writer in Residence, has died at age 67.

The Associated Press reported it had confirmed the news with Johnson’s publisher, but had no additional details.

“Denis was gentle and kind and humble in person, and courageous and fierce and brave on the page,” said Mitch Wieland, director of Boise State’s MFA in Creative Writing program. “There was no one like him.”

Boise State creative writing professor Brady Udall once described Johnson as “a wonderful teacher and an even better human.”



Carol Martin

Former Department of English Chair

picture of former English Department chair Carol MartinCarol Ann Martin, born in Niagara Falls on Oct. 26, 1941, passed away at her Boise home on June 14.

Martin moved to Boise in 1972 to teach at what was then the Boise State College English Department. She was beloved by students during her four decades of teaching. She was a dedicated and demanding teacher; selected by several top 10 scholars as the professor who influenced them most. Martin earned a post as the first female department chair in 1983, became vice president of academic affairs in 1994 and then left administration to work for the Oxford University Press.


John Phillips

Former Dean of Students and Psychology Chair

picture of John Phillips, former Dean of StudentsJohn Lawrence Phillips, former Dean of Students at Boise State, passed away on June 16 at the age of 93.

Phillips began his Boise State career in 1955. After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Utah, he was appointed director of testing and counseling, and chairman of the (two-person) Department of Psychology of what was then Boise Junior College. Three years later he was appointed dean of students, and two years after that he became chairman of the Division of Social Sciences. Through all of this he continued to teach psychology courses and many former students have remarked over the years about how memorable his classes were, and his impact on both their personal and educational development.


Margaret Peek

Former Department of English Professor

picture of former COAS associate dean Margaret PeekMargaret Peek, a former associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, passed away peacefully at her home on March 20.

Born in a log cabin on the banks of the Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, Alberta, Peek joined the Boise State family as a professor in the Department of English. Her love of literature was apparent from her youngest days and was encouraged by her family. Later in life, she went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English literature and a Ph.D in renaissance literature.


Boise State Professor Presents at Portugal Conference

picture of psychology professor Pennie SeibertPsychology professor Pennie Seibert is in Lisbon, Portugal, presenting research at the 28th annual meeting of The European Society of Paediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care. The title of Seibert’s research project is “A Choice Point Decision Model to Guide Discourse for Optimum Pediatric/Neonatal Intensive Care.” Coauthors include Boise State students Emily Carroll and Colleen Calzacorta and Saint Alphonsus neurosurgeon, Christian G Zimmerman.

Through their research, Seibert’s team found that although parents or legal guardians want to participate in medical decision-making processes, they do not want to be the ultimate decision makers. They consistently express concerns about having a lack of medical expertise; yet they simultaneously report receiving inadequate information. This disconnect is further exacerbated in emotionally laden situations, and when taking individuals’ religious beliefs into consideration.



Shawna Hanel

University Shop Assistant 

Department of Art

Portrait of artist educator, Shawna Hanel

Shawna Hanel’s work, Vanished Vespidae No. 4, has been selected by Susan Thompson, assistant curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, for inclusion in the 28th annual International Juried Exhibition at Viridian Artists Gallery in New York City in June.

In the series, Hanel explores the ephemeral wasp nest. Captivated by abstracted arrays of interlaced cycles of life and death, Hanel collects and photographs the fluttering fragments and crushed combs of deserted nests, illuminating the porous boundaries between the living, the dead and the vanished.

To view more of Shawna Hanel’s work visit SHAWNAHANEL.COM

David Wilkins and  Jen Pierce

Associate Professors

Department of Geosciences

picture of geosciences professors David Wilkins and Hen Pierce


Geosciences faculty Jen Pierce and David Wilkins, along with John Shuler, Megan Maksimowitz, Bill Freutel and Kensie Stallings – who are all geosciences graduate students, undergraduate students and alumni – recently taught more than 100 Middleton 6th graders about climate change using a game called “greenhouse gas tag.”

You can catch footage of their tutelage by clicking here.




Amber Hoye and  Kelly Arispe

Department of World Languages

picture of World Language professors Amber Hoye and Kelly Arispe

Amber Hoye and Kelly Arispe are in Salamanca, Spain, to teach a two-week professional development course to Spanish language teachers (K-12 and higher ed) from all over the United States. Their course centers on the integration of contemporary foreign language teaching methodologies, instructional technologies and the strategic incorporation of authentic artifacts to augment language learning.




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