• Criminal Justice
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• Urban Studies and Community Development
By Corey Cook
Dean, School of Public Service
Some years ago, Boise State was granted the state mandate to provide educational opportunities related to public affairs education. President Bob Kustra’s commitment to this work was apparent from the first time I met him while interviewing for the position of dean in Boise.
The university has a proud legacy of graduating students who go on to important positions throughout the state, and of contributing to the intellectual capital of our leading scholars who address public policy issues. The central idea animating the creation of this new college was President Kustra’s notion that bringing public service scholars and academic programs together under one (as yet theoretical, but some day physical) roof would create something greater than the sum of its parts.
The new school has expanded our academic offerings and homed in on ensuring that students, whether they be undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree or working professionals seeking a doctoral degree, have the knowledge and skills to succeed in public service careers. Our faculty have developed new interdisciplinary academic programs, explicitly integrated communication, analytics, ethics, and hard and soft skill development into the undergraduate curriculum. They have promoted the adoption of high-impact educational practices like living-learning communities, undergraduate research opportunities, community-based learning, and internships that enhance student success.
In addition, the school has promoted applied research in service to Idaho communities searching for innovative solutions to the seemingly intractable challenges they face. The school adopted tenure and promotion guidelines that emphasize and reward applied research and public engagement. It also has reinvigorated the university’s historical commitment to public service research by engaging faculty and students, from the undergraduate through the Ph.D. levels, in collaborative projects across Idaho through the new Idaho Policy Institute.
But one of the more challenging components of this venture has been creating an administrative structure that reflects a “one school” idea. Over breakfast during my first conversation with President Kustra, he talked about the problem of intellectual “siloing” on college campuses and his hope that the school would find a way to move beyond this isolating structure.
The faculty in the school have embraced that charge, ultimately recommending and supporting the elimination of departments (so that all faculty would be hired by and tenured into the school). It has not been a simple process to move away from one of the governing principles of higher education. Single disciplines coalescing into departments for the purpose of administering academic programs is employed at the vast majority of public and private institutions. But seeing beyond departments has allowed us to better serve the needs of students, to more efficiently deploy limited resources, and to collaborate on research that serves the needs of Idahoans.