Spring semester 2018 at Boise State University culminates with two commencement ceremonies May 5 to accommodate a growing number of graduates. The university has graduated a record-setting number of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in each of the past nine years. The spring ceremonies are expected to bring the total number of Boise State graduates to around 4,400 for this academic year, which would be another record. Here are some highlights from the semester.

Boise State University and its alumni drove nearly $1.9 billion in economic Impact in Idaho in 2015

According to a report commissioned by the university and conducted by Tripp Umbach, a national economic analysis group, Boise State’s direct and indirect activity generated $667.2 million in the state for that chosen year, mostly in the Boise metropolitan area. The study found the university also is a major employment driver, generating 6,987 jobs — whether that’s through direct employment with the university or through other industries including real estate, rental activity, hotels and motels, food services, hospitals and more that benefit from the university’s activities.

The report also emphasizes the role of Boise State alumni in the university’s ongoing support of the state. Boise State has helped build the state’s workforce over time, as close to 68 percent of Boise State graduates stay in Idaho and contribute to the state’s economy. Bronco alumni living in Idaho in 2015 contributed approximately $1.2 billion to the state’s economy that year alone.

The report also noted that for every $1 the state allocated to Boise State in FY2015, the university returned $8 in economic activity. When the contributions and impact of Boise State alumni were included, that benefit tripled to $24.

Since the study year of FY2015, Boise State has welcomed two record-setting first-year undergraduate classes and has continued to grow research expenditures as well as graduate and doctoral offerings.

Today, about one-third of all students in Idaho’s entire public higher education system are enrolled at Boise State, and the university awards nearly half of all bachelor’s degrees conferred by Idaho’s public institutions. Read more. 

Boise state’s student athletes shine in the classroom

We cheer them on the mat and on the field or court, but they also deserve recognition for their great academic accomplishments. Boise State had a school-record 73 student-athletes named to the 2017 Fall Academic All-Mountain West Team. Boise State topped all Mountain West institutions with its 73 selections. For the seventh time in as many years, since joining the Mountain West in 2011-12, the Boise State football team led the conference in selections with 36, up from 31 a year ago. Soccer (16 selections) and women’s cross country (9) each set the program record for most honorees since joining the Mountain West.

John Freemuth is Boise States 2018 Distinguished Professor


The title of Distinguished Professor constitutes one of the highest honors that may be given to a faculty member at Boise State and is reserved for a select few who have made significant contributions to their academic disciplines.

John Freemuth is the executive director of the Cecil D. Andrus Center for Public Policy and a professor of public policy and administration. He is a leader among the academic community in translating complicated and multi-layered scientific and political thinking to a broad audience.

Freemuth arrived at Boise State as a visiting assistant professor in 1986,  became a full professor in 1996 and was named executive director of the Andrus Center in 2016. He is the recipient of many honors including Carnegie Foundation/CASE Professor of the Year for Idaho, the Foundation Award for Service from Boise State University, and nomination to Phi Kappa Phi, an honor society that recognizes excellence across all academic disciplines. He has published widely, served as associate editor of two professional journals and has received millions of dollars in grants. Read more.

Boise State alumnus Karl Knapp has joined the university as a Professor of the Practice


Knapp is a partner at PJT Partners, a global investment bank based in New York. “Karl has had a long and successful career in the investment banking industry and is an excellent role model for our students in the Department of Finance,” said Ken Petersen, dean of the College of Business and Economics.

Knapp, who also will be working with Honors College students, graduated magna cum laude from Boise State in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. While at Boise State, Knapp was named as the university’s second Rhodes Scholar and went on to receive a master’s degree with honors from Oxford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He serves on Boise State’s Honors College Advisory Board and the President’s Board of Advisors. Read more.

“Better Call Saul” writer back on campus

In March, students had the opportunity to discuss acting and writing for television with Heather Marion, writer for the popular series “Better Call Saul,” and actor Erich Lane from “Dear White People.”

Boise State’s Arts and Humanities Institute Public Culture Initiative brought them to town. While in Boise, they also attended the premiere of “And Beyond,” a Boise State original television series created as part of the university’s first Narrative Television Initiative in the new School of the Arts. Read more.

W.W. Norton Releases Debut Novel by MFA Graduate Meghan Kenny


W.W. Norton and Co. has published “The Driest Season,” a debut novel by Meghan Kenny, a member of the first graduating class of Boise State’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. The novel is based on her award-winning short story of the same title, and has been named one of “six debut novels to watch for in 2018” by Barnes and Noble.

“Not every great short story is the seed of a great novel, but Kenny by and large succeeds,” noted the New York Times.

Set in Wisconsin during World War II, the book tells the story of 15-year-old Cielle, who is enduring a personal calamity while a war wages elsewhere.

The highly rated MFA Program in Creative Writing at Boise State University offers degree tracks in fiction and poetry, emphasizing the art and craft of literary writing. Read more.

University Exceeds State’s graduation Goal Benchmarks for 8th Straight Year

Nearly a decade ago, with a goal of better preparing Idaho’s workforce for the economy of the future and increasing the number of Idahoans with college degrees, the State Board of Education set forth benchmarks for its universities relative to the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually. Boise State has exceeded those benchmarks every year since.

Boise State has increased its overall number of annual graduates to nearly 4,200, up from 3,052 in 2008-2009. That includes 3,141 bachelor’s degree recipients — well above the 60 percent benchmark of 2,986. Read more.

Idaho youth converge on campus to share a love of science

Several thousand young students and their families visited campus in February for the 2018 Engineering and Science Festival. The annual free event offered more than 70 hands-on activities, demonstrations and interactive science shows — including helping to build a 11.5-foot model of the Saturn V moon rocket — aimed at all ages, from children and teens to adults.

Boise State Program Helps Transform the Idaho Youth Ranch

The Idaho Youth Ranch, for FOCUS, Allison Corona photo

The Idaho Youth Ranch approached Boise State University’s organizational performance and workplace learning program with a problem: how to streamline processes for volunteers and new hires so they could get right to work.

“We wanted to zone in on new hire training for our programs staff, but it was a daunting task considering the limited amount of resources to help create effective content,” explained Teresa Uhlenkott, director of training and employee development at the nonprofit.

As part of their education, students in organizational performance and workplace learning, an online master’s program housed within the College of Engineering, have long worked with companies on tackling specific organizational hurdles.

“We understand that a degree alone may not be enough to land your first job in the field or maintain your professional currency once you’re there,” explained Steve Villachica, associate professor. “Internships provide ‘street cred’ and experience. They are also a place where our students, graduates and program can give back to the community in ways that matter.”

The students helped refine job descriptions for internships and set up an online screening process, ultimately donating about $22,000 in in-kind services. Faculty plan to continue their working relationship with Idaho Youth Ranch and seek out other nonprofits. Read more.


Boise State 1 of 8 universities in nation chosen by NASA

Working for NASA is a dream few adults, let alone students, ever realize. But a team of Boise State students got to spend time at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to test out a high-altitude data recorder the students designed and fabricated for the space agency.

“With most projects, you design something but you rarely ever build something,” explained Zach Weyne, a mechanical engineering senior and the design team lead. “This is a unique opportunity to both design, build and test our own device for NASA.”

The opportunity is indeed unique. Boise State was chosen among eight universities nationally to participate in NASA’s new program, Student Opportunities for Airborne Research (SOAR). Read more.

New Study Shows Promise Turning Volcanic Sound Into Warning Signal for Eruptions

A new study led by Boise State associate professor of geophysics Jeffrey Johnson has proven the potential for using volcanic infrasound – inaudible sounds produced by active volcanoes – to help forecast future catastrophic eruptions. Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the study focused on Chile’s Volcán Villarrica, an open-vent volcanic system with a funnel-like geometry of its crater, which makes it particularly efficient in radiating infrasound. By monitoring the acoustic response of Villarrica’s crater, the scientists were able to determine that the volcano’s lava lake started to rise two days before its 2015 eruption. Read more.