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2017 February Newsletter

College of Arts and Sciences Monthly Update


Dear Friends,

Dean, Tony RoarkThe Boise River defines the northern boundary of our main campus, and it is an incredible amenity to the citizens of Boise and the Treasure Valley. It is home to riparian wildlife, inspiration to artists, source of joy to anglers and floaters, life-waters to valley farmers, and so much more.

As I watch the flows increase in preparation for spring runoff, I am captivated by the thought that each molecule of water now passing by has circumnavigated the globe countless times through the water cycle. The ever-turning processes of collection; phase-change, chemical interaction, and dispersion is the engine for all life on Earth, and it pays no heed to conventional boundaries in space or time.

In its own way, the university is much like the river. The local activity is ceaseless, highly visible, and nourishing for the community. But the ebb and flow of intellectual and cultural pursuits extend far beyond the main channel, as bits of activity cycle out into, and are drawn in from, places we might call “remote”, but which are in fact deeply, though less visibly, connected.

I hope this month’s newsletter inspires you to explore hidden connections between wonderful things near and far.


Tony Roark
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Boise State University


Boise State Students Study Raptors in Kenya

Eagle catching a fishBoise State raptor biology professor Marc Bechard teamed with Munir Virani, director of Africa programs for the Peregrine Fund, to take 11 Boise State students to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Wildlife Reserve as part of a 3-credit course titled East African Raptors.

This is the fifth time Bechard has taught the class. “I feel that it is important for Boise State students to learn about global issues,” he said.

The course focuses on the ecology and movements of African raptors, including a vulture population that is one of the most threatened on the planet. Populations of the birds have declined as much as 75 percent over the last two decades due to poisoning by local farmers and poachers.


Idaho Triennial Art Exhibition Features Boise State Artists

Exhibit from Triennial Art ExhibitionOn Feb. 18, the Boise Art Museum will debut the Idaho Triennial, a longstanding tradition and competitive exhibition for artists living and working in Idaho. Of the 180 Idaho artists who applied, only 24 artists were selected to participate. Of those, 75 percent have ties to Boise State, and 17 artists are affiliated with the Department of Art.

Art faculty selected for the 2017 Idaho Triennial include: Jill AnnieMargaret, professor of printmaking; Caroline Earley, associate professor of ceramics; John Francis, associate professor of graphic design; Lily Martina Lee, assistant professor of sculpture; Brooke Burton, adjunct instructor and alumnus (MFA Visual Arts 2007); John McMahon, adjunct instructor and alumnus (MFA Visual Arts 2013); and Jessie Proska, former adjunct instructor. Artworks by Troy Passey, adjunct instructor in the English department (MA English 1997) and Pete Kutchins, Sign Shop supervisor (BFA Graphic Design 2007) also were selected.


Dedication Ceremony for New Public Art Sculpture Feb. 27

Transference, the new public sculpture located on the south side of the Environmental Research Building, is not just a pretty piece of art. The sculpture represents many things: a new push to engage students in public art, the underground geothermal link that connects campus to the City of Boise, and the successful collaboration between all three of those groups.

A dedication ceremony for the sculpture is slated for 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27. The public is invited to attend.

“This is the first public art collaboration between the City of Boise and Boise State,” explained art professor Richard Young, who helped spearhead the geothermal art project. “Public art has historically come onto campus via private donors, without a lot of faculty and student involvement. This is an important piece in that it is the first piece of art that came about through a partnership with the city, and had a lot of faculty and student collaboration.”


Talkin’ Broncos Seek Volunteers for National Tournament, Chalk Up More Wins

Boise State University will host the 50th Pi Kappa Delta Speech and Debate National Tournament and Convention on March 22-25. The Boise State Talkin’ Broncos are the 2015-2016 Pi Kappa Delta defending national champions and are thrilled to announce that this year’s tournament will be the largest in PKD’s one hundred year history. 72 schools from over 30 states will be in attendance for world class speech and debate competition. As such, the need for volunteers is high and member of the local and Boise State community are encouraged to volunteer by contacting Director of Forensics Manda Hicks at Volunteer opportunities range from guest judge to campus ambassador and require a minimal amount of time. Please join the Talkin’ Broncos in making this a special Boise State experience for our accomplished guests.

In recent competition, the Talkin’ Broncos took first place in individual events sweepstakes and second place in overall sweepstakes at the Webster University 19th annual Gorlok Gala Forensics Tournament on Jan 27-19 in St. Louis, Missouri. The team beat out 42 other schools from 22 states – including Cameron-Newman University, Texas Southern University and University of Alabama – to win the individual events sweepstakes and took first place overall in two different formats of debate. Boise State was also awarded the Gorlok Traveling Trophy for this year’s team with the most accumulated points over the history of the tournament.

“The Gorlok is a really big tournament”, said Manda Hicks, director of forensics. “Many of the speech events have a semi-final bracket that is very difficult to break out of, and I think we saw more Boise State people advance through semi-finals this year that we ever have before. That, plus our tournament wins in parliamentary debates and in public forum debate made this an incredibly special weekend.”

The team also took first place in Overall Sweepstakes at the 11th annual Earl Wells Memorial Speakeasy at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon on Feb. 18-19, beating out other noteworthy northwest schools including College of Western Idaho, University of Portland and Lewis and Clark College


‘Better Call Saul’ Writer to Speak at Boise State

Heather MarionThe Boise State University Arts and Humanities Institute presents “Writing for Television: An Evening with Heather Marion” at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, in the Student Union Lookout Room. Parking is available in the Lincoln Avenue Garage.

The free event is the first in the AHI’s Public Culture Initiative, which brings to campus young, emerging professionals in a creative field. Marion is a writer for the popular television series “Better Call Saul.”

Boise State theatre arts professor Leslie Durham will sit down with Marion to talk about her journey from assistant to the writer’s room of a hit series. An audience Q&A will follow. While on campus, Marion also will meet with interested writing and video students, and speak during the opening ceremony of the High School Theatre Festival hosted annually at Boise State.


Service Learning Class Partners to Conserve Wildlife Areas

Trail blockade barring entrance to conservation areaBoise State’s Service-Learning Program connects classrooms with the community through capacity-building partnerships in order to enhance student learning, address critical community issues, and encourage students to be active citizens in their local, national and global communities.

This spring, Environmental Studies 121 class fits the bill. Environmental Studies is a program under the College of Arts and Sciences and is an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree that provides students with a solid background in the natural, physical and social sciences, emphasizing communication, critical thinking, and problem solving. The class is an introduction to the interdisciplinary nature of environmental concepts and issues. It integrates scientific, socio-political, and humanistic approaches to the understanding of nature and of how humans interact with the rest of nature.

Students and faculty from Boise State partner with Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game, the MK Nature Center, and other environmentally concerned organizations to conserve wildlife areas near Boise that have been damaged by fire, overuse, and invasive species. Students perform tasks like trail preservation, fire cleanup, planting seeds, and removal of invasive plant species.

Environmental Studies classes provides its majors with an unparalleled level of flexibility to design an area/areas of emphasis that meet their own individual academic and career goals and interests.


Boise State Prof Helps Discover New Planetary System

A new planetary system discovered through the efforts of SuPerPiG (Short Period Planets Group) officially has been recognized by the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) at CalTech. IPAC extended the recognition on behalf of the NASA Exoplanet Archive.

SuPerPiG is a NASA-funded collaboration to find, confirm and study extrasolar or exosolar ultra-short-period planets orbiting very close to their host stars over extremely short time periods (less than one day). Already, many candidate planets have been found by the group using data from NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions.

“Over the last few decades, astronomers have found planets in almost every nook and cranny that they can inhabit,” said Brian Jackson, leader of the SuPerPiG consortium and an assistant professor in the Department of Physics. “These ultra-short-period planets are another example of the surprisingly wide variety of planets in our galaxy and may help us to understand the origins and early histories of planetary systems like our own.”


COAS Upcoming Events

Mahwish Chisty Februrary 22 at 6:00 pm at Boise State University, Jordan A Ballroom Featured Speaker Carolyn Miller  All the world's a stage, February 24 at 6:00 pm at Boise State University Berquist Lounge Julie Carr, February 24, 7:30 PM at Boise State University Berquist Lounge

Working Toward Better Snowfall Mapping in Forested Areas

HP MarshallBoise State snow scientist HP Marshall is in Colorado working on a NASA project testing new approaches to mapping snow water equivalent in forested areas. SnowEx aims to better measure how much water is stored in snow-covered regions, the distribution of snow-water equivalent (SWE), and the snow energy balance in various conditions.

Marshall is working with a team headed by Edward Kim, Charles Gatebe, Amy Misakonis and Kelly Elder on the largest snow remote sensing effort in 15 years. Eight Boise State faculty and students are involved. The effort is led by NASA Goddard.

Much of Earth’s snow cover is on forested land, challenging current remote sensing techniques, although newer techniques such as LiDAR and interferometric microwave radar show promise in these areas. Using these and other techniques, Marshall is helping to collect a unique dataset to help address scientific questions.


Family of Woman Film Fest Offers Two Campus Screenings

The Boise State schedule is as follows. Both screenings are at 6:30 p.m. in the Morrison Center Recital Hall and are free. Parking is available in the Brady Street Parking Garage.

Tuesday, Feb. 28

Poster - The Apology: Before it's too lateA special sneak preview of “The Apology,” with a discussion following the screening led by the filmmaker, Tiffany Hsiung. The film follows the personal journeys of three former “comfort women” from China, Korea and the Philippines, who were kidnapped by the Japanese Army during World War II and forced into sexual slavery.

Friday, March 3

Poster - Don't Tell Anyone: No le digas a nadie“No le Digas a Nadie” (“Don’t Tell Anyone”), with a discussion following the screening with filmmaker Mikaela Shwer and the subject of the documentary, Angy Rivera. An aspiring college student, Rivera was brought to the U.S. as a child by her undocumented mother. The film follows her struggles to go to college as she lives in the shadows of the undocumented with no access to financial aid.


Help boise state make the 2017 solar eclipse an eclipse to remember!

solar eclipseOn the morning of August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse will be visible across the continental United States. The Moon’s shadow will also pass through Idaho, and visitors from all around the world will flock to our state.

Boise State will partner with local libraries, astronomy clubs, and science museums to organize outreach events across Idaho. This statewide event is coordinated by Boise State Physics Professor Brian Jackson.

You can learn more and contribute to this effort at

COAS in Action

Julie HeathJulie Heath

Professor, Graduate Program Director, Department of Biological Sciences

Julie Heath was quoted in an article at about a new study showing that populations of red tailed hawks are wintering farther north than in the past. Decreases in Christmas Day counts at traditional winter nesting sites had led many to believe the population was declining. Heath, who was not involved in this particular study, noted that many North American raptor monitoring programs use counts as an indication of population size. She said that “this assumption may be at risk, as there is strong evidence that raptor migration strategies are changing in response to climate and land use change.” Read more about Professor Heath’s work.

Gautam Basu ThakurGautam Basu Thakur

Assistant Professor, Department of English

Gautam Basu Thakur was an invited speaker at Brown University’s colloquium on Constructions of the Noble Savage. Organized by the Renaissance and Early Modern Studies and the Cogut Center of Humanities, the colloquium sought “an open-ended exploration – from a cross-disciplinary and multicultural perspective – of ways in which constructions of the noble savage have been transformed or appropriated in an exemplary variety of discourses, fields and environments, ranging from classical literature and early modern political philosophy to Atlantic history, Latin American fiction, cinema, anthropology and postcolonial theory.” Read more about Professor Thakur.

Bruce BallengerBruce Ballenger

Professor, Department of English

Two personal essays by Bruce Ballenger appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the literary journal Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. The essays were titled “Return to the Typewriter” and “The Gestalt or Revision.”

In addition, last month Pearson published the ninth edition of Ballenger’s text, “The Curious Researcher.” The book is used in writing classes at universities and colleges across the nation.

Upcoming Events

  • Jan.9-Feb.19: Art Exhibit, “National Mythstory’
  • Jan. 26-March 28: “Crafting Resistance” Exhibition
  • Feb. 24: Politics and Policy Lecture Series, Jill Gill
  • Feb. 25: Hispanic Film Festival- “Pequeñas mentiras piadosas” (The Travel Agent)
  • Mar. 2: Writing for Television with Heather Marion
  • Mar. 3: Family of Women Film Screening, ‘No le Digas a Nadie’
  • Mar 10: Julian Sands – A Celebration of Harold Pinter
  • Mar. 11: The Boise Chamber Music Series Presents 12th Annual Young Artist String Quartet Competition
  • Mar. 14: Spring Choral Concert

About the College of Arts and Sciences

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.