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2018 June/July Newsletter

picture of header and students of COAS newsletter


June/July, 2018

Dear Friends,

picture of interm COAS Dean Leslie Durham

When I think of Boise State’s strengths, one of the first things that comes to mind is the community’s willingness to embrace change. This spirit of energetic optimism will serve us well as we encounter the challenges and opportunities of the leadership transitions that have flowed out of our change in presidential leadership.

And as you’ll read below, former COAS dean and Boise State provost, Dr. Martin Schimpf is now serving as interim president. Meanwhile I had the honor of assuming the role of interim dean when Dr. Tony Roark became interim provost on June 1. Later this summer Dr. Kathleen Keys will become interim director for School of the Arts.

You’ll find evidence of another Boise State strength in the stories below, and that’s something that doesn’t change: the innovative pursuit of excellence by students and faculty. I encourage you to read this month’s selection of stories about the places near and far where COAS students and faculty travel and make a difference; the variety and impact of faculty research; the striking images and stories they create in a variety of artistic media; and the impressive ways their talents are recognized and celebrated.

I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to serve this widely varied and deeply accomplished college, and I look forward to the work and changes ahead.


Leslie Durham

Interim Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Boise State University

Board Names Martin Schimpf Interim President at Boise State


The Idaho State Board of Education today appointed Martin Schimpf as interim president of Boise State University.

Schimpf joined the faculty at Boise State in 1990 and has served in various roles, most recently as provost and vice president of academic affairs, a position he has held since 2010. Prior to that, he was chair of the chemistry department, and associate dean and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We wanted an interim president who has the trust of the campus community and can maintain Boise State’s momentum,” said State Board President Linda Clark. “Dr. Schimpf fits that description perfectly. On behalf of the board, I thank him for delaying his planned return to faculty and assuming this vital role while we look for a new president for Boise State.”

Schimpf holds degrees in chemistry from the University of Washington and the University of Utah. He takes over as interim president of Boise State on July 1, replacing Bob Kustra who is retiring later this month after leading Boise State for 15 years..

READ THE FULL STORY HERE: Board Names Martin Schimpf Interim President…>

Fulbright Grant Program Recognizes Boise State COAS Graduates, Lecturer

picture of the Fulbright logo

Four Boise State graduates and a lecturer in the Department of English have been recognized by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Since the inception of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, 17 students/alumni applying through Boise State have received grants. Thirteen of those were awarded since 2013, when the Honors College began focusing its efforts and staff support on international and national fellowships advising.

“Our acceptance rate has been running at about 50 percent since 2014,” said Kate Huebschmann, academic and fellowships advisor in the Honors College. Huebschmann worked with students to prepare their applications. “It’s fun this year to have such a spread of grant recipients with different backgrounds, including health science and political science,” she said.


Geosciences Outreach Includes a Memorable Trip to a Marsing STEAM Fair

picture of geosciences STEAM team

A team of Boise State scientists, students and professionals from the community went on the road recently. Their destination: the Marsing Middle School STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) fair in Marsing, Idaho. This year, around 70 budding 8th grade scientists showed off their research projects. They lined the school gym with their displays, everything from data-heavy charts to petri dishes and scale models.

This was Boise State’s third year participating in the fair, said Pam Aishlin, a geologist and senior research associate in Boise State’s Department of Geosciences. Officially, Aishlin and the others from Boise State were acting as science fair judges. But their real purpose was outreach.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE: Geosciences Outreach…>

‘Better Call Saul’ Screenwriter Teaches Boise State Summer Class for Aspiring Television Writers

picture of spanish students

Eighteen lucky students are getting the chance of a lifetime this summer at Boise State — taking a free television writing class from the screenwriter of a hit series.

Boise State’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program welcomed Heather Marion to campus this week. Marion, screenwriter for the television series “Better Call Saul,” is teaching a three-week class on writing pilots for television.

The class of 18 students will spend 18 hours in class. That’s the equivalent, noted Marion on the first day of class, “of one and a half days in a real, live writer’s room.” Each student will write an original television drama pilot.


Boise State Study: Moths’ Long Wings Protect Them From Bats on the Hunt

pictore of biology professor Jesse Barber

Past research by Boise State University and University of Florida scientists has shown that some silk moths in the family Saturniidae have a built-in bat decoy: hindwings with long, elaborate “tails” that deflect sonar, creating a misleading target. As bats swoop in for the kill, they often strike these expendable tails and not the moth’s vital body core.

Now, a new study by the team, published in Science Advances and featured in National Geographic, illuminates the bat-driven evolution of these decoys across the silk moth family tree and tests four hindwing shapes in real-time dogfights between bats and moths. The verdict? The larger the hindwings and longer the tails, the better the moths’ chances of escaping bats on the hunt.

“Once we knew that the tails of silk moths deflect echoes away from their body, we were interested in whether there were optimal anti-predator shapes,” said study co-author Akito Kawahara, associate curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at UF. “One of the first things we did was go into the collections and look at specimens. There was a ton of variation in hindwing length, shape, color and twisting. We wanted to analyze these characteristics in an evolutionary framework to see what was happening.”


Idaho Business Review Recognizes Boise State Faculty, Alumni, Staff and Friends

picture of Brittany Brand

The Idaho Business Review has announced its 2018 Accomplished Under 40 honorees. Ten of the 40 honorees have ties to Boise State.

The faculty honorees are Brittany Brand, associate professor of Geosciences, and Steven Feldstein, the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs.

The Idaho Business Review’s Accomplished Under 40 program honors 40 Idaho business and professional leaders who have achieved success before the age of 40


 Anthropology Professor Studies Cultural Heritage

Think about a landscape, a neighborhood, a building or even an object that defines and celebrates you. Your family, your community, your nation. Now picture it in danger. What can you do personally, and as a member of American society, to keep it safe to pass on to future generations?

This is the subject of a recently published volume, “Relevance and Application of Cultural Heritage in Contemporary Society,” by Routledge Press, co-edited by Pei-Lin Yu, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology.

Articles address the role of cultural heritage in tackling global challenges of armed conflict, refugees, climate change, tourism, poverty and more. The volume is the culminating achievement of a panel of internationally renowned experts from a 2016 workshop co-sponsored by the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada, and the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE: Anthropology Professor…>

New Commissions to Remember an Idaho Governor and More for Sculptor Benjamin Victor

picture of Ben Victor with Andrus statueAmong the notable spots on the Boise State campus is the Benjamin Victor Gallery and Studio located in Pioneer Hall on Bronco Lane. There, among the modern buildings, parking meters and playing fields, is an open public space where you will find examples of Victor’s work. He keeps the pieces in rotation. You never know what you’ll see — an elk craning its neck towards the Student Union Building, a biblical figure standing contrapposto, or a spectral horse.

Victor, Boise State’s artist in residence and a professor of the practice, is celebrating a few new successes while adding to his growing list of works on campus, in the city, and in communities beyond the Treasure Valley.



picture of professor Emily WakildEmily Wakild

Department of History

Emily Wakild recently gave two talks in her role as visiting professor at the Institute of History at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Wakild is a founding member of the Institute of History’s group for the study of the environment and society, which had an inaugural colloquium on June 6. There is a summary of the well-attended colloquium (in Spanish) here.

Wakild also gave A PRESENTATION on July 5 for teachers about environmental history based on her new book, written with Michelle K. Berry, “A PRIMER FOR TEACHING ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY” (Duke 2018). The talk provided strategies for course design and examples of how to integrate environmental history methods into any level of teaching.

picture of professor Greg HampikianGreg Hampikian

Department of Biological Sciences

DNA evidence from Greg Hampikian’s laboratory at Boise State recently helped overturn the 1995 Montana convictions of two men, Fred Lawrence and Paul Jenkins. They were serving life sentences for robbery, kidnapping and homicide in the 1994 death of Donna Meagher.

Hampikian, director of the IDAHO INNOCENCE PROJECT, had been working with the Montana Innocence Project on the case since 2014.

Testing of items from the crime scene, including rope with Meagher’s blood on it, linked another man, David Nelson, to the crime. Montana courts will decide whether to re-try Lawrence and Jenkins, or proceed with a case against Nelson.

Larry Mansch, legal director of the Montana Innocence Project said, “I particularly commend Dr. Greg Hampikian of the Idaho Innocence Project, who provided critical testimony and analysis regarding the DNA evidence.”

Read more about the case ONLINE.

picture of world language coordinator Fatima CornwallFatima Cornwell

Spanish Language Coordinator
Department of World Languages

Fatima Cornwall, Spanish language coordinator for the Department of World Languages, and Diana Arbiser, a Boise State alumna, recently presented a session, “Tips and Strategies for Successful Team Interpreting,” at the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators 39th annual conference in San Francisco, California.

Vanesa Bell and Heather Hagen, Idaho court certified interpreters, also attended the conference. They, along with Cornwall and Arbiser, attended sessions on ethics and vocabulary development (on forensic drug analysis, toxicology, immigration, and other subjects). They also had the opportunity to practice their consecutive and simultaneous interpretation skills. The group returns to Idaho with more than 45 hours of education combined to enhance their work in courtrooms.



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.