As Boise State graduates turn their tassels and become alumni, they will face a world in which they’ll need to think critically, write and speak well, reason with others, and explore a range of viewpoints and cultures. To best prepare students, a team of student researchers are helping to ensure that Foundational Studies, the university’s core curriculum, draws from a number of academic disciplines to equip graduates with a well-rounded education.
Cerena Lee (Se Jin), Daniel Hopkins, and Evangelina Rodriguez

“Make a living, make a life. That’s what the program aims to do,” said John Bieter, acting director of Foundational Studies. To build the best student experience, Bieter went straight to the source, bringing in three undergraduate student researchers from different majors — Daniel Hopkins, a junior studying history and secondary education, Evangelina Rodriguez, a senior studying political science, and Cerena Lee (Se Jin), a senior studying psychology. To design the future, the researchers started by looking at Boise State’s past.

“It was really interesting to see how the requirements have evolved over time,” said Hopkins. “You could tell how major events in history impacted the requirements,” pointing specifically to events such as the housing bubble burst in 2008 and the Vietnam War. The research team has been diligently digging through course catalogs and other historic documentation from as early as 1937, just five years after Boise Junior College was founded.

“I want to see students take control of their general education, and not think of it as a requirement but think of it as a way to expand their horizons and try new things.” – Daniel Hopkins

While general education classes have been part of Boise State’s curriculum since 1932, over the last few years Bieter, along with interim vice provost for undergraduate studies Andrew Finstuen and a host of others, have worked to bring the program into a period of renaissance, with a focus on student success.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to expand retention rates,” said Rodriguez. “The general education classes are what freshmen typically come across first so if we can boost morale with mentorships or by giving them a taste of different disciplines to see what they like, these general education classes are a good way to get freshmen excited about being at Boise State.”

The students’ goal is to make the Foundational Studies program effective, connected and widely understood by students. Since January 2017 they’ve been investigating strategies like experiential learning, e-portfolios, general education mapping and mentor programs.

“General education gives you the skills to be a global citizen,” said Lee. “These courses teach you what it means to be an adult and understand what’s happening in the world around you.”

Lee’s sentiment mirrored what Boise State President Bob Kustra said in his 2017 State of the University address.

Evangelina Rodriguez, Cerena Lee (Se Jin), John Bieter, and Daniel Hopkins researching old course catalogs from the Special Collections

“Know, do and become. Know the world and the context around you. Do the things that will help you succeed, like communicate, work in teams, solve problems, and become the person you wish to be by understanding your ideals, and your purpose in life and here at Boise State University.” – Boise State President Bob Kustra

Beginning fall semester 2018, Foundational Studies will be rebranded as University Foundations and new students will follow a cutting-edge general education program.

Hopkins said he’s excited to leave his mark on his university. “I like that I’m able to improve the school and have a lasting legacy; I can look back and say ‘I did this, I helped these students.’”

Bieter is excited to roll out the changes. “We’ll be collaborating with the Center for Teaching and Learning, Student Affairs, the Career Center, the Advising and Academic Support Center and many other campus departments to provide the best educational experience that we can for our students,” he said.