One of the most remarkable things about Boise State is the pace at which it adapts to the ever-changing needs and challenges of offering a higher education in and for a world and workplace marked by transformation. Such flexibility is an uncommon trait among colleges and universities, especially at public higher education institutions that face dwindling state appropriations to fund their mission.
But at Boise State, we live in a unique culture of innovation and change that is helping to redesign higher education. We are trim and nimble, and always seeking out efficiencies and new ways of doing things – rather than repeatedly returning to the old ways.
It is an entrepreneurial mindset that seeks to diversify the university’s funding sources by building a growing culture of philanthropy and asking those closest to the university – its alumni, friends and corporate partners – to invest in and help guide its future. By its nature, this tradition of constant and essential reinvention makes us excellent partners and stewards of those investments. The heightened expectations among our donors for successful outcomes and accountability are a natural fit with our self-examining mindset. And as our success as a university grows, the importance of giving at all levels grows as well. Every gift makes a difference, no matter its size.
Evidence of Boise State’s versatility is everywhere. Our future College of Innovation and Design seeks to remove the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines, giving students and faculty new freedom to pursue cutting edge knowledge from multiple viewpoints. The Foundational Studies program infuses our curriculum with opportunities to develop the “soft skills” employers need. Even Boise State’s investment in new facilities – 19 projects with 1.5 million square feet of new classroom, laboratory, office and public space over the past 10 years – is pursued with a creative eye toward purpose, use, and tremendous return on the investment.
In partnership with the university’s trustees on the Idaho State Board of Education, Boise State recently undertook a massive examination of its operations to ensure its resources are being directed to areas that will help its long-term success. The results of this process, which are being implemented, defined strengths and weaknesses systematically, helping identify where future investments should be focused.
This tradition of change, as we call it, was originally borne of necessity to accommodate the rapid growth and complexity of our student body and the need for a more robust research agenda that would help our metropolitan and regional economy thrive – all in the face of dwindling state appropriations. Today, the dynamism of this engrained culture is embraced as a strength that drives innovation and breaks open confining boundaries, while also providing new metrics by which we, and our partners, can measure accountability and success.
How do we define success? By providing our students with every opportunity to become critical thinkers, inclusive collaborators, strong communicators and effective problem solvers, so that our graduates – tomorrow’s alumni – become not only productive employees and creative leaders, but also thoughtful and informed citizens.
Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.