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October 2016 COAS Newsletter

College of Arts and Sciences Monthly Update text header

portrait of college deanDear Friends,

With so much media bandwidth being devoted to coverage of the election, it’s good for all of us to take a break now and then to connect with the people whose work doesn’t fit neatly into the 24 hour news cycle.

And so I offer this month’s newsletter to you as an antidote to the “election news blues.”

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


Tony Roark

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Boise State University

picture of art professor Stephanie Bacon

Art Professor’s Print Added to Two Shakespeare Collections

In preparation for the exhibition of Shakespeare’s First Folio at Boise State University, Stephanie Bacon, professor of graphic design and director of the Idaho Center for the Book, printed a limited edition broadside of one of her favorite Shakespeare sonnets, No. 60. The exhibition opened Aug. 20 and runs through Sept. 21.

A broadside is a sheet of paper printed on only one side, like a poster. Broadsides often are used as fine art, featuring a poem or other literature, and intended to be displayed.

Bacon’s intention was to use the prints, and the metal type from which they were printed, as part of the Historic Printing and Binding Resource Room at the university’s First Folio exhibition. However, a courier from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., saw the print and shared a photo with his colleagues. The result was an invitation for Bacon to contribute a copy of the print to the Folger’s archives.


Researchers Build Community Collaborations with $1 Million NSF Grant

The National Science Foundation has chosen Boise State University, in collaboration with the Boise Parks and Recreation Department and the Boise School District, to receive a more than $1 million grant to support a STEM + Computing Partnership project.

The STEM+C project will integrate computation and science and will offer hands-on activities to fourth, fifth and sixth graders at six community after-school program sites around Boise.

Photo of COED grant recipients

The three-year project will allow Boise State STEM faculty from the College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering and the university’s Division of Research to build and pilot a Community Center Afterschool Program (CCAP) model. The model will integrate computing education across K-12 STEM disciplines at three community centers and their three affiliated Kid City Programs serving high-need, Title I schools in Boise.


New Course Transcends Disciplinary Boundaries

picture of pyschology professor Eric LandramPsychology professor Eric Landrum leads a small group discussion in class.

High education has long been defined by disciplinary boundaries, those silos of expertise housed in colleges and departments across campus.

But the newest trend in education promises to shatter those boundaries. Transdisciplinary thinking and research call for cooperation between disciplines to solve complex, but how to achieve it.

ArtSci 397, Transdisciplinary Research Methods, is cross-listed in several departments. The 26 students enrolled in this initial course offering come from psychology, geology, math, anthropology, sociology, communications and history. Credit can be earned for either a finishing foundation course or an upper-division elective, depending on department guidelines.


Speech and Debate Team Opens Season with Big Win

picture of the 16-17 Talkin' Broncos speech and debate team
The Pi Kappa Delta National Champion Boise State Speech and Debate team kicked off its 2016-17 season with a strong performance at the Northwest Nazarene Season Opener Forensics Tournament in Nampa Sept. 23-24. Competing with five other schools from Idaho and Utah, the Talkin’ Broncos closed out (took first, second and third) six events, closed out (took first through fifth-place) open debate, and placed first in overall sweepstakes.

Aside from Boise State’s first-place team, participating teams in the pre-conference included College of Southern Idaho, College of Western Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University, College of Idaho, and Utah State University (Logan).

“This is our biggest, youngest team in my time as director,” said director of forensics Manda Hicks. “We have 15 first-year students on the team – so it’s exciting to think about how they will shape the team over the next few years, and vice versa. Their performance in Nampa just adds to that excitement.”


picture of biology professor Jen Forbey

Researcher Jen Forbey Investigates Sagebrush and Cancer

Jen Forbey, an associate professor of biological sciences, suspects that one of our most promising tools to fight cancer is also one of this area’s most common residents: sagebrush. Her hypothesis is that the evolutionary properties that make sagebrush inedible to most wildlife may make it an incredible new way to battle cancer’s resistance to common drugs.

“The basic idea is that plants like sagebrush evolve to try and keep animals from eating them, while at the same time some animals evolve to become resistant to those chemicals,” Forbey explained. “In other words, they’re specialists who are very resistant to certain chemicals.”

That evolutionary arms race is the same mechanism that makes cancer resistant to some drugs – like the common cancer-fighting drug Taxol – over time. But what if drugs like Taxol could get an evolutionary leg-up on cancer cells? Forbey believes this may be possible by combining these drugs with chemicals from sagebrush that make it repellent to most animals.

picture of katie gibbleGrad Student Studying Wildfire Decision Making

Between a warming climate and urban encroachment into wildland areas, the risk of serious wildfire is at an all-time high. Fires are more common and last longer than in days past, and post-fire erosion is threatening an increasing number of homeowners with flooding and debris flows.

Because of this, municipalities and government agencies are focusing more than ever on wildfire mitigation and prevention, and scientists are providing an ever-increasing supply of data on the subject. New research from geosciences graduate student Katie Gibble will shed light on how that data is being used, and how scientists can provide even more relevant information.

Gibble, whose also is a Public Policy Research Center graduate assistant, recently was awarded nearly $25,000 from the Joint Fire Science Program, pending final approval, to interview wildfire decision makers at all levels. Her goal is to provide necessary information to help these stakeholders interact and better understand how current science-based information is being used in setting policy. Gibble notes this could even lead to new fire policy.


picture of katie gibble

Chemists Ken Cornell and Don Warner Research Cancer Drug Options

Since the late 1960s, one of the most successful cancer-fighting drugs on the market has been doxorubicin, commonly known as “dox,” an anti-cancer agent widely used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, soft-tissue sarcomas and some types of breast cancers, among others. But dox has one rather ominous downside: It has a limited lifetime dose before the drug itself does more harm than good.

“The trouble is, the more dox you give someone, the more their chances of developing cardiotoxicity, which basically means they’re at risk of developing untreatable cardiovascular failure,” explained Ken Cornell, an associate professor of chemistry who is himself a cancer survivor. “This is especially dangerous in cases where cancer reoccurs.”

For the past three years, Cornell has teamed up with fellow chemistry associate professor Don Warner and Gem Pharmaceuticals to develop a dox analogue that doesn’t provoke cardiotoxicity.

Grant Supports Study of How Life Formed on Earth

picture of professor Mike Callahan and studentsAs a new college freshman, Mike Callahan wasn’t sure what he ultimately wanted to do. But an opportunity to participate in undergraduate research led to a job in pharmaceuticals and acceptance to graduate school.

Now this assistant professor of chemistry is paying it forward, providing positions for two undergraduate students through a grant from the Idaho Space Grant Consortium.

Of the five ISGC awards this year, three went to Boise State programs. In addition to Callahan, awardees are Steve Swanson, Boise State University Undergraduate Microgravity Research Team, and Brian Jackson, “Dust Devil Survey Using an Instrumented UAV.” Callahan’s project is titled “Investigating Formamide Chemistry under Plausible Prebiotic Conditions.


Commemorate the Life of Art Professor Janice Lee Neri on Nov. 5

picture of professor Janet NeriJanice Lee Neri, 46, died on Oct. 14 after a six-year battle with cancer. She passed away at her home in Boise with her husband, Ted, by her side.

Neri joined the art department faculty at Boise State in 2004 after serving for two years as a research associate at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, while completing her doctoral degree. She earned tenure in 2009 and was promoted to full professor at Boise State in 2013.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5, at Summers Funeral Home, 1205 W. Bannock St. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Idaho Food BanK.


Boise State University Fine Arts Building. A state-of-the-art facility for fine arts that complements and deepens Boise State's involvement in the city and region's celebrated arts and culture community. Click here to learn more.


Christopher HillChristopher Hill portrait

Professor of Anthropology and Geosciences

Christopher Hill has been selected to serve as a member of the U.S. National Committee for the International Union for Quaternary Research (USNC/INQUA), which represents the United States through the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The U.S. National Committee operates under the Board on International Scientific Organizations of the National Academies.


Julie Lanepicture of Arthur Scarritt

Assistant Professor
Department of Communication

Julie Lane was recently voted “Best Local Teacher” in the Boise Weekly’s annual Best of Boise campaign.

“There are so many wonderful instructors across campus and in the communication department, so I was touched that someone thought enough of my work to nominate and vote for me,” said Lane.

Lane said she was drawn to study and teach communications – and mass communications in particular- because she saw firsthand while working in Washington, D.C., how influential mass media in our political culture.


Jesse Barberpicture of Kristin Snopkowski

Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences

A short film created by HHMI (Howard Huges Medical Institute) Interactive and featuring biologist Jesse Barber’s research on bath-moth interactions was named the winner of the short film category of the Science and Media Awards

Shot at Gorongosa National Park, the film follows Barber as he works to discover how moths use ultrasound to thwart bat attacks.

Watch the 10-minute film by clicking here>


  • Sept. 12-Oct. 28: BOSCO’s Opening Doors: A Glimpse into the Artist’s Mind III
  • Oct. 30: Boise State Symphony Orchestra Halloween “Spook-tacular” Concert
  • Nov. 3: Law School Fair
  • Nov. 15: Grad Fair for Graduates
  • Nov. 29: Graduate String Quartet

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, six interdisciplinary programs and six research units.