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2018 November/December Newsletter




November/December, 2018

picture of interim COAS dean Leslie DurhamDear Friends,

Commencement is always a bright spot on the College’s calendar, but my favorite ceremonies are those featuring a COAS speaker.  I look forward to hearing the insights of Ashley Potzernitz this weekend, and I’m already inspired by some of the things she says in the story about her included in this issue of our newsletter.

One thing I especially like was her collegiate philosophy, “Don’t waste your time here.”  While that is true of Ashley’s rich experience at Boise State, it is also true of all the faculty and students you will read about below.  I am continually impressed by the ways my colleagues and our students invest their time and talent, making more than I had imagined possible of the resources available to them.

Time feels short at this busy time of year, but I hope you’ll take a moment to relax and feel reinvigorated by the stories below that make something clear: in the College of Arts and Sciences, we don’t waste a moment.

Happy Holidays!


Leslie Durham

Interim Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Boise State University

Ashely Potzernitz, Winter commencement speaker, Allison Corona photo.Winter Commencement Speaker Ashley Potzernitz is a COAS Double Major

Ashley Potzernitz’s family has lived in Jackson, Wyoming, for seven generations. She grew up “very lucky,” she said, with her extended family all around her. She rode horses, fished on her grandfather’s boat and studied hard in school.

The double-major in psychology and Spanish, with a minor in family studies and a 4.0 GPA, chose to come to Boise State “because it was far enough away from home to have my own experiences, but close enough to visit home if I needed to,” she said.

Potzernitz remembers the weeks before she left for school. She was struggling with thoughts of being alone in a strange city.

“My dad told me to not think of that as a negative thing, but as a potentially amazing experience. He told me to think of college as an investment in myself,” said Potzernitz.

Her father, John, is a manager for a construction company. He wakes up at 2 a.m. during the winter to do his second job, plowing snow. Hundred-hour work weeks are not uncommon.


Elena Gallina in front of BBoise State University Graduate Elena Gallina Named a Rhodes Scholar

Boise State University recent graduate Elena Gallina has been named a Rhodes Scholar.

The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Applicants come from more than 320 American colleges and universities. One of 32 people chosen for the award this year, Gallina joins students and recent graduates from universities including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, MIT and Johns Hopkins.

Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England and may allow funding in some instances for four years.

“I am thoroughly overwhelmed; I’m still in shock!” Gallina said. “It’s an incredible honor to be named a Rhodes Scholar and something I did not accomplish on my own. Boise State faculty, staff and students, particularly members of the Honors College, have put in hundreds of hours in helping me get here. I am grateful to all those who invested, not only in my professional and academic development, but in my overall growth as a human being.


picture of geosciences professor Matt KohnBoise State Geochemist Matt Kohn Receives Prestigious Medal

Matt Kohn, a university distinguished professor in the Department of Geosciences, is the 2019 recipient of the Dana Medal. This international award, given by the Mineralogical Society of America, recognizes an outstanding scientist each year for his or her original research in mineralogical sciences.

Kohn’s research, begun as a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, focuses on mountain range tectonics, or “what happens when plates collide,” he said, by studying the chemistry and ages of metamorphic minerals. His current work is in the western Italian Alps and along the Himalayan mountain range.

Kohn’s research has a second focus, using the geochemistry of fossils, snow and plants to understand climates and ecosystems. He is studying today’s water resources in Southern Idaho and ancient climates and ecosystems in different parts of the U.S. and South America.

“We are trying to understand how snow packs deliver water to soils and help plants take up that water from the soils,” said Kohn.


music students elementary schoolService-Learning Brings Music to Life for College, Elementary Students

In October, Lori Gray, an assistant professor and director of music education at Boise State University, and Amy Wickstrom, a graduate assistant in music education, involved their MUS 373 students in an innovative hands-on learning experiment: they planned, designed and taught a full-day music camp for students at William Howard Taft Elementary School, a Title 1 and community programs school in Boise.

Gray and Wickstrom wanted their students to experience different school communities and to reflect on how social issues may impact education for K-12 students and were able to do so with help from the Service-Learning Program.


student working on research in BMOLGrant Will Support Research to Curb Bone Loss in Astronauts

During space flight, astronauts experience microgravity and weightlessness. This causes a loss of bone mass over time, limiting the potential for spaceflights of long duration. Now thanks to a new one-year, $45,000 grant, Xinzhu (Shin) Pu, an assistant research professor and the director of the Mass Spectrometry Core Facility at Boise State’s Biomolecular Research Center, will collaborate with NASA to look for solutions to this problem.

The NASA-sponsored grant is managed by the University of Idaho and will support the research. It will take place at Boise State. Three undergraduate students – Elena Paz Muñoz, Omid Mohammad Mousa and Hunter Underwood – will work with Pu on the project.

Pu’s team will study autophagy, the process by which cells degrade and their components get recycled.


FY19 Talkin' Broncos group picture

Talkin’ Broncos, group photo, Allison Corona photo.

Talkin’ Broncos Continue Winning Streak at Historic Mahaffey Memorial Tournament

The Pi Kappa Delta National Championship Boise State Speech and Debate team continue their 2018-2019 conference season with their eighth consecutive win at the 88th annual Mahaffey Memorial Tournament in McMinville, Oregon, Nov. 15-18.

The Talkin’ Broncos won first place in Overall Sweepstakes. The tournament featured more than 40 schools including Carroll College, University of Oregon, Western Washington University, College of Idaho, Whitworth University, Lewis and Clark College, College of Western Idaho, College of Southern Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University, George Fox University and Willamette University.

“This was a phenomenal showing from Boise State,” said Manda Hicks, director of forensics. “The tournament usually awards the sweepstakes trophy Sunday during debate finals, but this year the Talkin’ Broncos were so dominant in individual events that tabulation staff calculated that no other team would be able to catch up. They awarded the tournament trophy to Boise State before debate even began. On top of that, Boise State competitors brought home the two most coveted individual awards in the Northwest Forensics Conference: The Mahaffey Cup won by Ximena Bustillo and the Singletary Award won by Tate Volbrecht. It was just a beautiful tournament for Boise State.”


picture of art professor Anika SmulovitzArt Professor Anika Smulovitz Has Two New Exhibition Open

Two current exhibitions feature the work of Anika Smulovitz, a professor in the Department of Art have opened in New York and Massachusetts.

A Hanukkah menorah Smulovitz created in 2009 made of hand-carved walnut, cast glass and sterling silver, which is part of the permanent collection of The Jewish Museum in New York City, is on display as part of the museum’s exhibition, Accumulations: Hanukkah Lamps.

Among the ritual objects associated with Jewish holidays, the Hanukah menorah, or Hanukiah, is among the most recognizable to those outside of Judaism, said Smulovitz.

Hanukah, also known as The Festival of Lights, commemorates the victory of the Jews over the Syrian Greeks in 164 B.C.E. According to the story, Jews found only enough ritual oil in the desecrated temple to light the temple menorah (a seven-branch candelabra) for one day.


picture of anthropology symposium attendeesBoise State’s Anthropology Department Host Major Conference

The Department of Anthropology hosted the 5th annual Northwest Evolution, Ecology and Human Behavior symposium (NWEEHB) at Boise State University Oct. 19-21. This regional conference included more than 80 participants from over 10 universities including Washington State, University of Utah, Arizona State, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Oklahoma State and University of Montana, among others.

This year’s conference began with a Friday night poster session during which 14 undergraduate and graduate students presented on their research projects, with topics ranging from the archaeological interpretation of lithic artifacts to explore the transmission of culture in British Columbia, to exponential random graph modeling of Alaskan food sharing networks, to the role of social networks in health outcomes in Haiti.

Top researchers from around the country came to give plenary presentations, including Mark Flinn (Baylor University), Robin Bernstein (University of Colorado, Boulder), Mary Towner (Oklahoma State University), Alyssa Crittenden (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) and Brian Codding (University of Utah).


World Language Project Wins Global Award

Fatima Cornwall,  Department of World Languages, and her students Diana Hernandez-Rivera, Devin Hoobler, Claudia Galaviz, Christine Mendoza, Mariana Sabatasse, Mackenzie Moss, Austin Robishaw, Matthew Stocking, Regina Tom and Roxana Winston are the recipients of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) 2018 Global Engagement Award for their volunteer work with Project LAURA. Project LAURA (Latin American Unaccompanied minor and Refugee Assistance) is a local non-profit legal service provider for qualifying cases in the Boise, Idaho, Immigration Deportation Courtroom. It exists to provide legal services to unrepresented Latin American men, women and children in Boise’s non-detained immigration court removal docket who are seeking refugee status.

Since spring of 2017, these students have partnered with Concordia Law School students and local attorneys to provide free Spanish translation and interpretation services and legal aid to more than fifty Project LAURA clients. The law and language students worked collaboratively to prepare files to be submitted to court, interviewing clients and drafting/translating paperwork.


picture of physics professor Paul Simmonds receiving his awardAssistant Professor of Physics Paul Simmonds Wins Influential Conference Award

Paul Simmonds won the Young Investigator Award at the 34th North American Molecular Beam Epitaxy (NAMBE) conference, recently held in Banff, Canada. NAMBE is an influential annual meeting for scientists and engineers whose research relies on the growth of materials using the molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) technique.

The NAMBE Young Investigator Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the science and technology of MBE, or science and technology enabled by MBE, by the age of 40, and show promise of future leadership in the field. The award consists of a plaque and a check for $1,000.

Simmonds’ award citation was “for development of growth techniques for non-(001) surfaces and novel self-assembled nanostructures.” He pioneered an approach that allows researchers to grow technologically important nanostructures, called quantum dots, with unique properties derived from their unusual crystal orientation and tensile strain. This new family of nanostructures opens the door to a range of opportunities for research areas as diverse as quantum computing, spintronics and infrared optoelectronics.



Associate Professor
Department of English

Ralph Clare, Associate Professor of English, edited and wrote the introduction to The Cambridge Companion to David Foster Wallace, which was published by Cambridge University Press.

This collection of essays on the work one of the most influential and important of contemporary American authors offers historical and cultural contexts for understanding Wallace’s significance and explores key themes and concerns in his work, including aesthetics, politics, religion and spirituality, race, and posthumanism.

picture of professor Emily WakildEmily Wakild

Department of History

Emily Wakild’s new book, “A Primer for Teaching Environmental History,” was featured as the key reading for the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine interest group inEnvironmental and Earth Sciences.

On Nov. 7, Wakild and her co-author Michelle Berry attended the discussion of their book via the internet while folks gathered in Philadelphia, Austin, Indiana, Mississippi, Argentina and elsewhere to participate in the discussion. This was the largest and most geographical diverse meeting of the working group and also the first time they had discussed a reading about teaching.

picture of cellist and music teacher Brian HodgesBrian Hodges

Associate Professor of Cello
Department of Music

Brian Hodges recently made a trip up to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he performed a recital, taught a master class, taught a music appreciation class and worked with Fairbanks Youth Symphony cellists.

In the recital, he collaborated with University of Fairbanks pianist Lorna Eder on music by Beethoven and George Rochberg, as well as performed the Philip Glass piece, “Songs and Poems for Solo Cello,” and a cello duo titled “Black” by Marc Mellits with faculty cellist, Ryan Fitzpatrick.



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.