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2016 November Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

The calendar year’s end brings the hustle of holidays. For most of us, it’s a welcome Image of Tony Roarkchance to reconnect with loved ones, whether near or far.

It’s also the end of fall semester at Boise State, and this adds a dimension of complexity for our students. Managing the demands of coursework and projects is intrinsically challenging; add to that the stress of travel planning and relationship management, and you’ve got the makings for a potent emotional brew.

Indeed, we all can feel the strain of social expectations and time pressure around this time of year. In my experience, one healthy way to respond is to take a step back and appreciate all of the good things that happen on a slower time scale and often outside of our ordinary field of view. Being reminded that there are hard-working, committed individuals who share our interests and values can provide an excellent tonic in times of hurried focus.

To that end, I’m delighted to share this month’s stories from the College of Arts and Sciences with you. May the waning weeks of 2016 treat you and yours well.


Tony Roark

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Boise State University


Michael Baltzell Recognized with Governor’s Award in the Arts

In a nondescript white building on the southwest edge of campus, picture of art professor Stephanie Baconassociate professor and set designer Michael Baltzell is busy creating monsters. A three-foot tall green water monster sits on a table in front of him with discreet black poles extending from his arms, legs and abdomen. The monster will soon be part of the ensemble cast of Boise Contemporary Theater’s relaunch of “A Nighttime Survival Guide,” in which two childhood pen pals – one living in Arco, Idaho, the other in rural Japan – collaborate on how to defeat their monsters. In a nod to traditional Japanese puppet theater, the menacing water monster Baltzell is creating will take three people to manipulate.

It is for a lifetime of theater projects like these – ambitious ideas that take healthy imagination and expert skill to execute – that Baltzell was recognized this month with a Governor’s Award in the Arts, for excellence in the arts.

“Mike Baltzell is a true Renaissance man,” said Richard Klautsch, chair of the theatre arts department. “He is an extraordinary artist: a carpenter, a fine arts painter, a composer and musician. He can engineer and build anything needed on the stage, from functional swimming pools to multi-leveled interiors to highly stylized abstract settings. He is a creator of compelling visual worlds. And perhaps most importantly, he would be the first to say that his work is only possible with the collaboration of his fellow creative team members and students. He is a gifted and inspiring teacher. No wonder his talents are so often sought out by such companies as Boise Contemporary Theater, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and the Great Lakes Theatre. He is an exemplary representative of the quality of our faculty at Boise State.”


John Bradford’s Excellent Adventure as SEG President

John Bradford meeting with Foreign dignitaries

Bradford logged about 180,000 frequent flier miles circumnavigating the globe as he visited 12 countries on five continents. He had a front-row seat to the impact of climate change and the oil price collapse on the global political landscape and energy economy.

In addition to CEOs of major oil companies, he interacted with mayors, princes, emirs, camels and kangaroos. He dined on a giant sand dune in the Rub’ al Khali desert, visited ancient Roman, Greek and Portuguese ruins and slept in the home of a king.


 Wilhelm’s Book ‘Reading Unbound’ Chosen for National Award

Book Cover for Reading Unbound“Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them” has been chosen by the National Council of Teachers of English as the winner of the 2016 David H. Russell Research Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. The award is one of NCTE’s highest honors for scholarly contributions to English education research.

“Reading Unbound” was written by Jeffrey Wilhelm, professor of English at Boise State University, and Michael Smith, professor of philosophy at Australian National University.

“This study makes the case that pleasure reading is a civil right, since it is the most explanatory factor in cognitive progress and social mobility over time,” Wilhelm said.


Upgrading an Element by Stretching It

Next to silicon, germanium (Ge) is the most widely used Paul Simmonds standing in front of lab equipment used to conduct his researchsemiconductor material in the world. But while it’s great at conducting electricity, its inefficiency at turning light into electricity (or electricity into light) restricts the other applications for which it can be used.

Paul Simmonds, an assistant professor with a dual appointment to the departments of physics, and materials science and engineering, wondered if there was a way to fine-tune germanium’s physical properties, and thus improve its optoelectronic characteristics (how well it interfaces between electronics and light).

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research also was intrigued and funded a proposal titled “Optoelectronic Properties of Strain-Engineered Germanium Dots” with a three-year, $622,000 grant. Simmonds is working on the project through a sub-award administered through the University of California, Merced, and the University of California, Los Angeles. Boise State’s share of the award is $206,000.


New Geothermal Sculpture Installed on Campus


New Geothermal Sculpture being installed

Geothermal heat is as emblematic of Boise as the Foothills or the famous blue turf at Boise State. Now, the university has a sculpture on campus based on the famous hot water that’s heated houses and buildings in the area for well over a century. The Warm Springs geothermal district was the first to start pumping hot water for heat in Boise.

Boise artists Ken McCall and Leslie Dixon created the colorful metal and plexiglass sculpture, “Transference.” It was installed Nov. 4 near the back entrance to the Environmental Research Building on University Drive.

The title of the piece, say the artists, refers to the circular system that pipes hot water underground throughout the city, then returns it to its underground source. Dixon said the most compelling thing about designing “Transference” was exploring the interaction between a natural phenomenon and the community.

“We are perched on this ancient geothermal reserve that historically and currently has an impact on our lives. It is one of the more intriguing features that makes Boise unique,” Dixon said. “As artists we are always searching for an unexplored concept or subject to create something new, and so having the chance to make a sculpture to represent something that is relatively rare in the world is awesome.”


FEMA Grant Allows for Hazard Mapping Across Idaho

Boise State University recently received a $954,000 award picture of katie gibblefrom the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to collect high-quality elevation (lidar) data to assess natural hazards across more than 2,500 square miles in Idaho. Lidar is a technology that captures 3-D information about the land surface and can help map potential flooding, landslides or seismic hazards, and more.

This award presents a unique opportunity for collaboration between Boise State, FEMA, Idaho Office of Emergency Management (IOEM), Idaho Geological Survey (IGS), University of Idaho, Idaho State University and a number of communities across Idaho.

IGS research geologist Bill Phillips noted that the collaboration will leverage IGS expertise in natural hazards. “Lidar is an essential new tool for mapping landslides and faults, particularly in areas with heavy forest cover,” he said.


Student Union Gallery Presents Complex Ecosystems

The Student Union Building Fine Arts Gallery presents Complex picture of katie gibbleEcosystems now through Dec. 19, featuring the work of Theresa Burkes and Connie Wood. An opening reception featuring light refreshments will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, on the second floor of the Student Union. This event is free and open to the public.

In Complex Ecosystems, Idaho artists Burkes and Wood explore the Western landscape and its inhabitants using the ancient medium of encaustic wax. The juxtaposition of animal and pattern in Wood’s work subtly references human interaction with an increasingly fragile environment. Burkes’ pieces reflect on the mysteries of time and space within the natural world.

Wood earned her bachelor of fine arts from Boise State University. She is an educator in Twin Falls, where she received the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2006. Wood also received Best of Show in the Art and Soul of the Magic Valley in both 2013 and 2015.

Professor Connects Teaching and Community Through Service-Learning

Dr. Mary Pritchard, professor of Psychological Sciences has done picture of Mary Prtichardresearch that surrounds the psychology of eating, facilitates meaningful student learning and community engagement through her Service-Learning courses. This spring she will teach PSYC 438: Community Psychology. This class impacts the community, partnering with various organizations including Girls on the Run-Treasure Valley (GOTR).

GOTR-Treasure Valley works to build self-esteem in third to eighth grade girls through a 5k marathon and a ten week program on bullying and gossip, being a good role model, and fighting media influence. Pritchard connected her research, teaching, and service by facilitating a research project where her Community Psychology class helped to construct SoleMates, the adult fundraising program of GOTR-Treasure Valley that raises money for the girls’ scholarships.

Pritchard shared, “That program, when my students were running it, raised nearly $3,000. That’s 15 scholarships for girls who needed the program, but couldn’t afford it.” Dr. Pritchard’s students helped GOTR-Treasure Valley achieve their motto “We don’t turn a girl away for financial reasons,” through an enriching learning experience.

Currently, Pritchard serves as liaison for Alpha Sigma Alpha, a sorority at Boise State who has adopted GOTR-Treasure Valley as one of its philanthropies. In this way, she continues to facilitate a meaningful community engagement experience focused on health and self-esteem. “…The more we can get out there targeting kids when they’re in that critical age and developing their own sense of self, the better off all of us are going to be because healthy kids make healthy parents, and in turn they’re going to have healthy kids,” said Pritchard.

Music Department Choirs Touring Europe This Summer

Help send the Boise State Choirs to Europepicture of professor Mike Callahan and students

This summer students from the Boise State Choral Music program will be traveling to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany where they will perform for hundreds of people in many of Europe’s most recognized cultural venues.

Not only will they have the opportunity to be ambassadors for Boise State, but they will be sharing their art and connecting with people across borders and languages. You can support them through their PonyUp crowdfunding campaign.

Campus Community Mourns Passing of Cynthia Bradbury

Cynthia Bradbury, an anthropology adjunct instructor who had beenphoto of Cynthia Bradbury with the department since 2011, passed away on Saturday, Oct. 22, following a battle with cancer.

Learning and teaching science was Bradbury’s lifelong passion. Over the past several years, she focused that passion on the conservation of wild primates. She led a service learning lab at Zoo Boise that developed puzzles and other items for enriching the lives of the primate species there. Students greatly enjoyed Cynthia’s service learning classes and this work helped create connections between Boise State and the zoo.

“She really cared about being an effective teacher, sharing and connecting with others and making the world a better place,” said Kara Brascia, director of the Service-Learning Program. “She invested her time and her heart in Zoo Boise, and through her anthropology service-learning class she awakened in students an awareness of important societal issues, and also an interest in field research. Cynthia generously shared her enthusiasm and teaching insights with others, including with emerging instructors. She will be remembered and missed by many of us.”

COAS In Action

Michael MarkleyImage of Michael Markley

Assistant Professor
Department of English

This November the Idaho Nonprofit Center celebrates its members as part of Nonprofit Awareness month.

Professor of English Michael Markley partners with the Idaho Nonprofit Center to administer meaningful student learning and community engagement through his Service-Learning course, ENGL 408: Writing for Nonprofits and Social Media. In this class, students develop a social media strategy as well as case statements, brochures, best-practice documents, campaign plans and content for the Idaho Nonprofit Center and a few of its members, including Big Tree Arts, Idaho FFA Foundation, Metro Meals on Wheels, and Snake River Animal Shelter. Adapting class requirements to meet the needs of each organization, Markley’s students support the Idaho Nonprofit Center in celebrating its members while gaining an understanding of how their technical communication skills can benefit the community.

picture of Arthur Scarritt

Karen Pinto

Assistant Professor
Department of History

Karen Pinto’s book, “Medieval Islamic Maps: An Exploration,” was published by the University of Chicago Press. The book brings together the first in-depth exploration of medieval Islamic cartography from the mid-tenth to the nineteenth century.

In exploring the visual record of Islamic history, Pinto focuses on the distinct tradition of maps known collectively as the Book of Roads and Kingdoms, traces their inception and evolution and analyzes them to reveal the identities of their creators, painters and patrons, as well as the vivid realities of the social and physical world they depicted. In doing so, she helps reveal how medieval Muslims perceived themselves and their world.

picture of Kristin Snopkowski

Charles Honts

Department of Psychological Sciences

Professor Charles Honts has been selected to be a TEDxBoise speaker April 8, 2017, at JUMP! Honts will be giving a talk on lying and technological advances in lie detection. As Honts states, “Despite what most people believe, and what some TED speakers have said, science clearly shows that people are poor at interpersonal lie detection achieving accuracy rates of about 54 percent. Training in reading body language, facial expressions, etc., provides no benefit … However, new interpersonal approaches based on modern theories of cognitive load are offering real progress toward solving this important everyday problem.”

In addition, in October Honts gave three invited addresses at the Latin American Polygraph Association (Asociación Latinoamericana de Poligrafistas) in Bogotá, Colombia, and on Nov. 7 he gave an invited address at a joint meeting of the Idaho Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in Boise, titled “Psychopaths Among Us, Criminals, Winners, or Sometimes Both?”

Upcoming Events

  • Nov. 7 – Dec. 19: Fine Arts Gallery Presents ‘Complex Ecosystems’
  • Nov. 11 – Dec 5: Patrick Kikut’s ‘Square States and Moonscapes” Exhibition’
  • Nov. 11 – Dec. 5: Fall 2016 BFA Exhibition
  • Dec. 9: Boise State Department of Music Family Holiday Concert
  • Dec.17: Winter Commencement

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.