This July’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. featured “Basques: Innovation by Culture.” It was a great backdrop for making connections and starting conversations on how we can build on Boise State’s Basque-centered programs and grow our relationship with the Basque community worldwide. Several Boise State colleagues and Boise government representatives joined Basque government officials for an exchange between the university and the Basque community here and worldwide.
Boise is home to the second largest population of Basque people outside of the Basque Country and we have a well-connected Basque mayor. So, our participation in education and economic development with the Basque community is incredibly fruitful. Boise State University is recognized for its role in the preservation of Basque culture. Boise State’s Basque Studies Program is a multi-disciplinary program of advanced study of the Basque people offering a minor and courses in Basque language, cinema and history. For students of engineering, the Basque government endows scholarships for graduate and Ph. D. students from the Basque Country who will study engineering at Boise State, providing a cultural and educational exchange.
I was at the festival to perform with Boise’s Biotzetik Basque Choir and was able to join the Boise delegation for a couple of the scheduled events. At one, we had the fortunate opportunity to meet U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (ID), U.S. Senator John Garmendi (CA), and prominent Basque American from Boise, David Jayo, senior advisor to the Director of the Interior. We also met several corporate leaders from around the world who do business with the Basque Country, the world-renowned painter Jesus Mari Lazkano (his work is featured on his website, jesusmarilazkano.com), and Chef Jose Andres, who is internationally recognized for his culinary innovation, humanitarian work, books and television appearances.
The conversations are leading to partnerships that will build bridges overseas and provide opportunities for students on many fronts, such as international internships, exposure to global business, educational exchange programs, language immersion and preserving the Basque culture. These and other partnerships are sparking new ideas for things that bridge human and intellectual capital between Basque and Idaho communities and companies.
The worldly opportunities that Boise State provides are incredibly unique. I’m not Basque, but I am enriched by this cultural phenomenon in our region, one with a prominent presence shaping Boise alongside Micron, HP, Albertsons, Simplot and other important influences. Boise State University is honored to be at the center of the exchange of ideas and activities that bring new innovations alongside enduring traditions.
Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.