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2018 April Newsletter

picture of header and students of COAS newsletter

April, 2018

Dear Friends,

Tony Roark

April and May are months of beginnings and endings.  The natural world is waking from its winter slumber, stretching and opening itself to longer days.  The campus is blossoming, re-greening, and bursting with new life.  Simultaneously, though, classes are coming to a close, and many students are preparing to graduate.  I overhear students on the quad and in elevators excitedly discussing their plans after leaving the university.

The fact that over 2,000 of our students will be leaving campus with diplomas this spring brings both hope and melancholy.  The academic and cultural life of campus is sustained by these students, and they will genuinely be missed by our community.  However, I am inspired by their expertise, energy, and commitment to doing good in the world.

This cyclical, generative character of the work of a university is what drew me to it, and I am eternally grateful to have the opportunity to work with committed professionals and students in doing that work well.

Thank you for your interest in the College of Arts and Sciences.


Tony Roark

Dean, College of Arts and Science
Boise State University


picture of the 2018 Top Ten Scholar recepients

Ten outstanding Boise State University graduating seniors will be recognized for their exceptional academic success at the annual Top Ten Scholars reception at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 16, in the Stueckle Sky Center. The event is free but registration is required due to limited seating.

The scholars, joined by their families and professors, will gather for a reception that recognizes the students’ academic excellence and the influence specific faculty members have had on their success. It is a unique opportunity each year to bring together many of Boise State’s best and brightest students and teachers.

Presented by the Boise State Alumni Association, the awards ceremony features remarks from each student honoree as well as remarks from Kevin Satterlee, chief operating officer, vice president and special counsel, and Jim Kerns, vice president of the Boise State Alumni Association and Office of Alumni Relations.

Students are nominated by their academic deans and are subject to rigorous review by a selection committee. To qualify for consideration, a student must have a 3.8 or higher grade point average. Nominees are then reviewed based on academic breadth of coursework, research, creative works and publications, presentations at professional meetings or conferences, and extracurricular community and campus service.


Boise State Researchers Helping Idaho Potato Processors Stay Globally Competitive

Boise State’s second annual Research Month is April 2018. Research Month celebrates the diverse and fascinating array of research happening each day on campus. Read feature stories on Boise State’s research endeavors.

Picture of grad student Maranda Cantrell

“Acrylamide” is an unfamiliar word to most people but here’s one that attracts immediate attention: “cancer.” Recent research suggests a correlation between acrylamide – a chemical compound that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting and baking – and cancer risk. This news is especially economically concerning in a state like Idaho, which is the nation’s largest potato processor.

“Unfortunately, it’s not known at what level acrylamide is a problem, and products can contain anywhere from 200 to 12,000 parts per billion,” explained Boise State biomolecular sciences doctoral candidate Maranda Cantrell.

“In short, Idaho’s potato industry is at risk of market paranoia from acrylamide,” added Owen McDougal, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.


Emily Ruskovich Shortlisted for Dylan Thomas Prize

picture of Emily ruskovichEmily Ruskovich’s novel “Idaho” is a finalist for the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, an honor for authors under the age of 40 writing in English.

“Idaho” was Ruskovich’s debut novel. It received widespread critical acclaim, including being noted by The New York Times as one of the most anticipated books of 2017.

Ruskovich is an assistant professor of fiction in Boise State’s creative writing program. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and is the winner of a 2015 O. Henry Award. Her writing has appeared in several publications, including The Paris Review, Zoetrope, One Story, and The Virginia Quarterly Review.


Biology Graduate Student Wins Katherine S. McCarter Policy Award

picture of Chelsea marrimanBoise State University graduate student Chelsea Merriman recently was honored with the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award. Merriman, a graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences, is one of only 10 students nationally selected for the award, which provides graduate students with the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. this month for policy experience and training to communicate science to the public and to policy makers.

“​This is a highly competitive award given by the premier ecological society in the U.S.,” explained her advisor, associate professor of biology Jen Forbey​. “This award recognizes the long-term commitment Chelsea has made not only to contribute to managing wildlife and public and private lands in the western U.S. but also to make sure that her research is shared with the public.”

Merriman’s research focuses on the larger impacts of landscape and chemical diversity on the reproduction of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), as well as the impacts on sagebrush in the steppe.


COAS Dean’s Office Hires Programs and Projects Manager

picture of Makenzie Phillips

The Dean’s office of the College of Arts and Sciences has added Makenzie Phillips as the new programs and projects manager.

In addition to supporting college-level programs and strategic initiatives, Phillips will champion student programs and communication for the college.

Associate Dean Dr. Leslie Durham says, “I’m very glad that Makenzie has joined the COAS team and she is already having a significant impact.  She’s got great ideas and a wealth of professional experience. I am certain she’s going to be a tremendous asset as we work to sustain strong programs and nurture innovative new projects.”

Phillips is also excited to delve into her new role saying, “I enjoy looking at existing processes and figuring out ways to make them even more efficient. It’s like a puzzle where the missing piece makes someone’s job easier, and I love being involved in that.”

After receiving her undergraduate degree in Communication and Public Relations with a minor in Sociology from University of Arizona, she earned a masters degree at San Diego State University with major emphasis in Nonverbal Communication and minor in Interpersonal Communication. After college, the Boise native returned to Idaho.

She currently works as an adjunct professor for the Department of Communication and was a research associate at the Center for Health Policy. Phillips is delighted to have a new role on campus. “I’ve always really loved the energy that seems to be present on a university campus, and I am so excited to be working with such a diverse group of departments,” she shared.

In her free time, Phillips is training her 4 month old blue Boston Terrier named Scrabble.

This new position gives Phillips an opportunity to expand her ties to Boise State.

Boise State Foundation to Honor COAS Faculty Members with Annual Awards

picture of faculty awards symbolThe Boise State University Foundation will honor Boise State faculty members Shelton Woods, Mark Schmitz, and Henry Charlier with the University Foundation Scholar Awards for 2018 at its annual board meeting on April 25. These prestigious awards honor Boise State faculty who have demonstrated ongoing commitment, expertise and accomplishments in teaching, research and creative activity, or professionally related service.

The recipients will receive a $3,000 honorarium from the foundation and their names will be added to a display showing all recipients of the Foundation Scholar Awards since 1992 on the first floor of the Student Union Building near the main staircase.

“The Boise State University Foundation is pleased to have an opportunity to recognize the Foundation Scholar Award recipients and the contributions made by faculty members at Boise State,” said Paul Powell, foundation executive director. “It is our faculty who create a rich learning environment for our students, advance the boundaries of knowledge and serve their professions. Our ability to shine as a university in all of these areas is what makes Boise State a great place for students to learn and for our faculty and staff to work.”


Ahsahta Author Wins Prestigious Whiting Award

picture of author Anne Boyer

Anne Boyer, author of “Garments Against Women,” published by Boise State University’s Ahsahta Press, has received a $50,000 Whiting Award, presented by the Whiting Foundation to emerging writers.

Boyer’s work, read the press release announcing the winners, “unsettles all the familiar shapes of memoir and poetry to build a new city, one where worn ideas of labor and creativity are a monument toppled in the square.”

The Whiting Foundation awarded 10 awards in 2018. The foundation honored winners at a ceremony in New York City with a keynote by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

Talkin’ Broncos Finish Season with Third Place Overall at National Tournament

picture of the 16-17 Talkin' Broncos speech and debate team

The Boise State University Talkin’ Broncos finished their season with third-place Overall Sweepstakes at the 20th annual International Public Debate Association national tournament hosted by Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, March 24-27. Thirty-eight schools from across the nation competed, including Louisiana State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Union College, University of Arkansas, and Utah State University.

IPDA nationals feature both team and individual debate. The Talkin’ Broncos advanced four teams and 10 single debaters to elimination rounds.

Amy Arellano, assistant director of forensics, explained, “The entire team has been preparing for this tournament for the last month; their focus and hard work paid off as the Talkin’ Broncos had the highest conversion rate of any other team to elimination rounds. This allowed the team to have more representatives within elimination rounds than any other school.”


Multidisciplinary Studies Student Create County-wide STEAM Event

picture of steam acronymMultidisciplinary Studies student, Heather Lee, incorporated her passion for young children into a service learning project where she worked with multiple community partners in Canyon County to create a STEAM event in Nampa. All Multidisciplinary Studies students complete a minimum of 15 hours of service learning as part of the capstone course, MDS 495.

Lee shared, “Ever since I became an MDS major and discovered that there would be a service learning project in the capstone course, I knew that I wanted to create a Canyon County community STEAM event geared toward young children and their families.”

“Holding such an event for Canyon County is meaningful to me both as a resident of this region, and as an educator that desires to support the underserved populations within Canyon County that would otherwise have little to no access to meaningful learning opportunities in these disciplines,” said Lee. ” Last semester, I contacted the Nampa Public Library about my project idea, and they were on board immediately. I then got in touch with Idaho STEM Action Center to secure sponsorship for the proposed event. This project meets my MDS goals of honing my communication skills and ability to collaborate with multiple community partners to achieve a significant outcome.”

Tom Trusky Papers, a Vast and Diverse Research Collection, to Open in April

picture of retired English professor Tom TruskyOutsider artist James Castle is getting a lot of love in April as the city prepares to open the James Castle House after a three-year renovation, and Boise State opens an exhibition of Castle’s books. But April is also a month to remember the late Boise State English professor Tom Trusky — most appropriate since Trusky was a preeminent Castle scholar and among Castle’s early, most perceptive fans. Trusky, who died in 2009, helped popularize Castle’s work in Idaho and beyond, and wrote a biography of the artist.

The current Boise State exhibition, James Castle: Eighteen Artist Books (through May 20 at Albertsons Library), features works donated by Trusky to the university.

Beginning Monday, April 9, the Tom Trusky Papers — research and personal papers that filled more than 210 boxes — will be open to the public in the Special Collections and Archives at Albertsons Library. Organizing the collection has been an ongoing project for more than two years, said Gwyn Hervochon, assistant professor and librarian/archivist.


First Friday Astronomy Lecture and Stargazing

picture of Dr. Abigail ShefferJoin the Boise State Physics Department on Friday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Science and Education Building, room 112, to hear Dr. Abigail Sheffer, a Senior Program Officer of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, speak about how science can be used to inform policy in today’s complex and often contradictory environment.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide expert advice on some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world. This work helps shape sound policies, inform public opinion, and advance the pursuit of science, engineering, and medicine.

Dr. Sheffer is a senior program officer for the Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In fall 2009, Dr. Sheffer served as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow for the National Academies and then joined the SSB. Since coming to the Academies, she has been the staff officer and study director on a variety of activities spanning a range of space science disciplines and policy topics, including solar and space physics, Earth imaging, small spacecraft developments, education, and planetary science. Dr. Sheffer earned her Ph.D. in planetary science from the University of Arizona and A.B. in geosciences from Princeton University.

At 8:30 p.m. after the presentation, weather permitting, we will stargaze on the rooftop of the Science and Education Building at the newly refurbished Boise State Observatory — guests are warned the observatory is not handicap-accessible, so telescopes will also be set out on the plaza in front of the building.

The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; attendees are encouraged to arrive early.
Map of the Science and Education Building (SCNC)



picture of professor and students in BelizeBelize, Central America is known for its melting pot culture, English-speaking locals, and spectacular biodiversity from ridge to reef.  In addition to what the beautiful country has to naturally offer, engage in international service throughout the week of your trip, forming close relationships with local students and teachers in a rural primary school supporting English language development. Hike to the top of ancient Maya ruins, explore the world-class Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, and swim alongside sea turtles and manatees as we sail on the second largest barrier reef in the world.  This unique travel opportunity will intimately connect you with this country’s people while immersing you in inspiring history, beauty, and culture.




picture of professor Karen UehlingKaren Uehling

Department of English

Karen Uehling presented the keynote address at the Conference on Basic Writing annual meeting on March 14 in Kansas City, Missouri. The meeting took place in conjunction with the 2018 Conference on College Composition and Communication Annual Convention.

Uehling’s address was titled “Faculty Development and Graduate Education for Basic Writing Instructors: Our Professional Identity.” Uehling described her innovative graduate course on the teaching of beginning college writing which is offered primarily online with four in-person Saturday workshops. In addition, she focused on related faculty development efforts for in-service and early career college writing teachers, and the challenges of faculty development when much of the teaching force is contingent faculty, arguing that finding and enacting a professional identity is crucial for building a professional workforce.


picture of professors Sean Benner and Jen SchneiderShawn Benner and Jen Schneider

Departments of Geosciences and Public Policy

An interdisciplinary team of faculty and graduate students led by professors Jen Schneider and Shawn Benner, and postdoctoral researcher Jillian Moroney, will launch the website TREASURE VALLEY WATER ATLAS at the Idaho’s Water conference on Tuesday, April 17, hosted by the Andrus Center for Public Policy.

The website is designed to serve as a resource for Treasure Valley decision makers, educators and water users. The site features six narratives, including an examination of the source of Treasure Valley water, a discussion of how water is delivered and used, a primer on water law, a case study on water refill and an exploration of the potential future of water in the Treasure Valley.


picture of world language coordinator Fatima CornwallFatima Cornwell

Spanish Language Coordinator
Department of World Languages

In March, Fátima Cornwall joined 12 fellow Spanish court-certified interpreters from across the United States, and attended the Winter Retreat for Spanish Court and Medical Interpreters in Antigua, Guatemala.

The subject matter was DNA analysis. Interpreters spent five days developing their English/Spanish glossary and honing their simultaneous, consecutive and sight-translation skills. The retreat included a guest lecture by Diego Archila from the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology Department, as well as a guided tour of the university’s microbiology lab.




The College of Arts and Sciences enhances the cultural, ethical, artistic, and scientific foundations 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.