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From the Vice President

“The Difference Between a Pebble and a Mountain Lies in Whom You Ask To Move It”

Developing our strengths will get us closer to “doing what we do best every day” than if we try to fix our shortcomings. This is the basic premise of StandOut 2.0 by international headliner speaker and author, Marcus Buckingham. Buckingham joined us on campus last month for a special event presented by Boise State College of Business and Economics and our partners at KeyBank.

It was an honor to hear from one of the business world’s leading experts on teams and performance, especially given the relevance of Buckingham’s work to philanthropy. Buckingham bases his work on The Gallup Organization and Donald Clifton’s StrengthFinders, and applies the concepts to the workplace, leadership and fulfilling the quest for long-lasting personal success. He says that when we pay attention to our strengths as individuals, what we’re doing is finding out how we can most successfully rely on each other. Considering the kinds of partnerships we form with alumni and donors, “how can we most successfully rely on each other” is a very important question to answer.

If we define the strengths of Boise State University based on known traits such as “visionary, risk-taking, forward-thinking and innovative,” how would we best leverage these strengths with supporters of the university? Our University Advancement team also must consider how we play to individual strengths that are important for fundraising, such as strategic, connectedness, empathy, ideation, responsibility and more.

Buckingham teaches us that we are at our best when we are working in teams of individuals with diverse strengths, and when we know how to leverage our differences. When teams engage the best of each person, they are much more productive, engaged and effective. So when strengths are in play between our team, donors and alumni, the impact is much greater—and more meaningful to everyone.

I am committed to building a team with diverse strengths, growing our understanding of how strengths enable us, and using our strengths to maximize mutually beneficial relationships with our alumni, friends and community. This is how we discover how to most rely on each other. Buckingham says that innovation and best practices can be sown throughout an organization, but only when they fall on fertile ground. He also says, “the difference between a pebble and a mountain lies in whom you ask to move it.” Understanding our strengths gives us the power to align possibility with fulfillment and, together with your help, advance the mission of Boise State.

StandOut2.0 and Now Discover Your Strengths offer assessments to identify your strengths

Laura Simic’s Top 5 Strengths:

  1. “Strategic”
  2. “Futuristic”
  3. “Maximizer”
  4. “Connectedness”
  5. “Individualization”



Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Change, Growth and Connection at Boise State and Beyond

Heraclitus said, “Ever-new waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.” Boise State is like this — a river that remains a river, but changes with what it contains. Stepping into Boise State, like stepping into a river, would reveal many ways our university is changing.

Research is changing at Boise State. Recent news of recognition as a doctoral research institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is evidence that we’re transforming our graduate and research efforts. Boise State was one of only three universities to rank nationally among the top five percent for growth in enrollment in graduate programs in each of the past two decades. Carnegie classification speaks to a strengthening current in research and doctoral production in recent years at Boise State.

Alumni engagement also is building momentum. Our Bronco network reaches from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. with many points in between. Not only are we growing our presence academically, our network of alumni and friends is growing, too. New regional, professional and social chapters are launching. We are soon to welcome two new clubs, Denver and Phoenix, and three new chapters including the College of Business and Economics, Honors College and Criminal Justice.

Our other active chapters continue to connect us to our fellow Broncos around the world, as far away as Viet Nam.

A recent visit with alumni and friends at IDEO, an internationally renowned and award-winning global design firm in San Francisco, showcased a new partnership between IDEO and our College of Innovation and Design in the creation of new hybrid courses at Boise State. Earlier this month we joined Phoenix area alumni and President Kustra for a special gathering at a Mariners spring training game..

In Washington DC we introduced Dean Corey Cook, the inaugural dean of Boise State’s newly formed School of Public Service. With Dean Cook we will continue to build a presence in DC, where we value our connections to this community in all aspects of education, policy- making and public service.

Wherever we carry the Boise State flag an energetic and interested Bronco presence can be found. We invite you to get involved, find a community, show your support or volunteer. No matter where you are in the world, whether you’re an alumnus/a or friend you can connect to Boise State through the Alumni Association activities and offerings. We look forward to seeing you.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Award-winning Boise State Research Shows Relationships Matter for Giving

Award-winning research in the human anthropology lab at Boise State University recently explored motivations and predictors in generosity — How does the social relationship between a donor and solicitor influence donation amounts? What individual characteristics explain decisions? What motivates people to be generous?

To find out, two undergraduate anthropology majors, Shane Scaggs and Delaney Glass, rolled out a nine-month research project involving volunteers in a charitable giving game where they could make choices with their money — where to give and how much to donate. The overwhelming theme of the study was that people’s expectations and life experiences determined where they gave, to whom and how much.

Scaggs and Glass formed a research cohort, set up a lab, plotted their research, wrote their abstract and designed an experiment involving volunteers to test their hypotheses. First, volunteers filled out a questionnaire gathering socioeconomic, demographic, and personal experiences, then they played games modeled for the experiment. Participants were given $10. They could choose to give some, all or none of their money, and they could choose where to give based on who was asking—a close family member, close friend, local nonprofit or local celebrity.

Conclusions showed that social relationships do matter. For example, an individual gave more to a close relative (than to a friend, local nonprofit or celebrity) when s/he felt his or her involvement in community affairs was unimportant for improving outcomes. People who donated less often to charity were more likely to donate if a relative solicited them for money. Life experiences and expectations also predicted donation patterns. People who volunteered on a regular basis gave more when a non-profit solicited them. The key here is relationships. Without them, there would have been no action to give (or less generosity).

What this tells us is really two things: It’s very important for us to show our community, alumni, donors and friends how their involvement is important. This builds trust and relationships that can reach a level of familial camaraderie that inspires giving. It also tells us that volunteers are not only extremely valuable for their time, but also that the relationship between volunteers and beneficiaries lends to charitable giving as well.

Findings of the research also included:

  • It’s still important to ask. 86% of the time charitable donations occur after some sort of solicitation.
  • Personal and tangible methods of solicitation are preferred.
  • Trust (in an organization) plays a role in people’s donations to a non-profit member, particularly in getting collective action started.
  • If an individual expected others to give a lot, they gave more themselves.

This study earned Scaggs and Glass a special award at the American Anthropological Association—the nation’s oldest and the world’s largest anthropology conference. And while the team receives recognition around the country, it is certainly notable that this work which has been described as “on par with that of some grad student and faculty presentations” has taken place right in our own backyard. Congratulations to the team and professor, John Ziker.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Learn more about the team and their research project titled “Four Pathways to Generosity: Evolutionary Mechanisms Deferentially Affect Charitable Donations,” overseen by department chair and professor, John Ziker.

Boise State Beats $25 Million Scholarship Goal

More than 500 students and donors gathered at the annual Scholarship Dinner to celebrate a major milestone yesterday: $29 million raised for scholarships! This exceeds the Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Opportunities scholarship campaign goal of $25 million and is a testament to the dedication and generosity of supporters of this university.

It was a dramatic reveal announcing the total dollars raised. Scholarship students stood before the audience and turned over large cards revealing eight figures right to left: zero, zero, zero…all the way to 29 followed by fanfare and resounding applause.


“Even though we beat our goal, we will never stop raising money for scholarships,” said President Kustra, in a statement renewing our commitment to students. “This is the best investment you can make,” he said. “Donors are like teachers. You never know where your influence is going to stop.”

Speaking from the heart, students shared their extraordinary gratitude to donors. Each had a unique and touching story to tell—their backgrounds, chosen fields of study, who inspired them most, their plans for advanced degrees or dreams of their first career. But there was one common theme among them—a desire to give the gift of scholarships themselves one day.

Boise State alumnus and scholarship donor Dave Wali, executive vice president of Gardner Company, shared why he and Kathy Wali choose to support students. “It’s very different times than what it was like for me when I was a student. It’s harder for students to afford tuition by working” he said, citing the increasing costs of tuition and living expenses and the growing burden of debt. Wali encouraged all donors to consider new scholarship opportunities to meet the needs of students today. The Walis are a great example of how the giving cycle continues and grows.

Beyond the hundreds in attendance at the celebration, there are thousands more giving to scholarships—and it’s a wide range of people who give. Faculty, staff, and students themselves are among scholarship donors.

We have many to thank for helping us surpass the goal. Donors such as Kem & Carolyn Gardner among them. At the groundbreaking for the City Center Plaza location of Boise State’s Department of Computer Science, Mr. Gardner announced a $1 million personal gift to fund scholarships for refugees, minorities and women pursuing degrees in technology related fields. The Kem C. and Carolyn B. Gardner Scholarship will enabled hundreds of deserving students at Boise State.

An investment in scholarships is an investment in student success, and in the future—a future glimpsed through the stories of students like Sarah Rehn, a senior studying chemistry at Boise State with plans to pursue a doctoral degree in the chemistry of nanomaterials. In Sarah’s words, “all of the life-changing experiences I’ve had throughout my time here have only been possible because of philanthropy and the endless opportunities that can be found at Boise State.”

Perhaps the power of scholarships is most evident if we dare to ask, what would be lost without them? Thankfully, we have donors and champions who are deeply committed to Boise State students seizing every opportunity their scholarships afford them.

Thank you to our donors who continue to enable the futures of Boise State’s stellar scholars.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Inspired Philanthropy: Creating a Giving Plan

You have $1 million to give. What would you do?

Many people shy away from planned giving thinking, “I’m not old enough,” or “I don’t have an estate,” or “There’s plenty of time for that.” If you have a house, a retirement plan, a life insurance policy — you have an estate. Thoughtful charitable gift planning ensures your role in shaping the future. I’m a big fan of philanthropist Tracy Gary’s book, Inspired Philanthropy.* Gary walks you through the reasons and process of creating a giving plan with impact. I love to share with people her work and how simple and meaningful creating an effective plan can be.

First, think about your values, because that’s what philanthropy is — an expression of values. Author and fundraising expert Si Seymour said, “Giving is prompted emotionally, and then rationalized. The heart has to prompt the mind to go where logic points the way.” I couldn’t agree more.

If it’s been a while since you’ve thought about your values, it helps to answer a few questions, like: What experiences and people have been key in shaping your core values and passions? With what have you been troubled? What brings you joy? What is your heart saying?

Seven questions to help you start thinking about your values

  • What experiences and people have been key in shaping your core values and passions?
  • What do you notice about your values when you consider your choices, such as life directions, career, free time, lifestyle, donations and spending?
  • When you hear of world events or witness an injustice, what moves you most?
  • With what have you been troubled?
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • With what have you been most delighted?
  • What brings you joy?

Getting back in touch with your values will make you feel pretty good. But it gets even better. Now you get to dream a little, and do some visioning. From your list of values outline some key issues that you care about. Think of a problem or need you would really like to help resolve. People often think of homelessness, access to healthcare, conservation, or access to education as examples.

Now imagine that you have just been given $1 million to give away or invest in solving that problem or meeting that need. No strings attached. What would you do? Let your values and the issues you care about guide your ideas. What stirs your heart? It probably feels easier to imagine all this with a hypothetical million dollars on the table. But hold on to the ideas that come to you, because you don’t need a million dollars to practice inspired philanthropy.

Six questions to guide your visioning

  • Who would you convene or hire to support your efforts?
  • What institutional partners would you choose?
  • What outcomes would you hope for in what time frame?
  • How would you be involved to maximize impact?
  • How would you share your vision with others?
  • What is holding you back from starting some of this work, even without $1 million?

For those of you who are more likely to lead with your head as opposed to your heart, another way to think about putting together your plan is “Four Ps”. First is people — who you want to take care of (children, aging parents, students, the homeless, etc.). Second is property — what assets you have to work with (savings, a retirement plan, real estate, a life insurance policy). Third is plan — the goals you want to accomplish or problem you want to solve (a secure retirement, providing arts education for kids). Fourth is partners — who will help you implement your ideas. This one is important. Estate attorneys, financial planners, the donee organization, etc., are critical in making sure what you want to happen really happens.

Often, people get held back by one of three barriers to effective giving: Informational, emotional or strategic. Things like a lack of information about organizations and activities to get involved in, lack of confidence that you can make a difference, or not knowing how to get started — these are hurdles ready to be jumped by inspired philanthropists, and the visioning exercise will help you get over the hurdles.

Three major barriers to effective giving

  • Informational – Lack of information about organizations and activities you might get involved in.
  • Emotional – Lack of confidence as a donor, volunteer or activist; that you can make a difference.
  • Strategic – Lack of the time, focus or support that would help you push through the other barriers.

What does a giving plan do for you? Among other things, it enables you to be thoughtful and purposeful in your action and gives you a pathway into the future.

Giving plans: WIIFM?

  • Gives you a chance to express yourself and your passion as well as your goals and reasons for giving.
  • Enables thoughtful and purposeful action.
  • Allows you to take care of future needs.
  • Fosters more enjoyment, integrity and effectiveness than automatic, reactive giving.
  • Has benefits, even transforming power, for both the giver and the receiver.

Thoughtful giving plans (including estate planning) are not, surprisingly, a one-time task, but an ongoing process. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you get started:

  • Is an ongoing process, not a one-time event.
  • Identifies your goals (perpetuating a legacy, minimizing taxes, providing for family).
  • Identifies your beneficiaries (to whom do you want to make gifts).
  • Identifies your assets (cash, appreciated securities, appreciated property, retirement accounts, life insurance).
  • Determines your liquidity needs (the amount of money you need to live on now and in the future, including emergency expenses).
  • Helps you organize your records.
  • Ensures your wishes are carried out.
  • Creates a plan that has the impact that fulfills your goals.

And I hope you pick up Gary’s book. There are so many rewards in return.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

*Gary, Tracy. Inspired Philanthropy. Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan and Leaving a Legacy. Third Edition. Jossey-Bass. 2008.

A True Blue Promise to Idaho Students

Idaho’s college bound high-performers may have another good reason to stay in their home state and become Boise State University Broncos.

This week Boise State announced a new financial aid package — the biggest in Boise State’s history: the True Blue Promise scholarship, designed for Idaho residents applying as freshmen entering college. This is very exciting news for incoming students, alumni and donors.

It’s especially great news for Idaho’s college bound high-school seniors who, although they’ve worked hard to show a strong academic performance, would not be able to attend college without financial support. The True Blue Promise scholarship provides Pell grant-eligible students with four years of scholarship support — $2,000 a year for four years. Combined with a Pell grant, the True Blue Promise scholarship could cover the full cost of tuition.

The “True Blue Promise” as a name says it all for these students who are ready to make their college dreams a reality. It says they can worry less about how to pay for college, get more involved in student life and take full advantage of their educational opportunities at Boise State, and they’re more likely to graduate on time.

College affordability is a concern for many Idahoans. President Bob Kustra said at the announcement of the new scholarship, that it is” aimed at opening doors to higher education for Idaho students who want to attend Boise State University.”

Proud alumni and friends of Boise State often say that they “bleed blue.” What better way to demonstrate pride and commitment than to give to The True Blue Promise Scholarship fund?

Scholarships remain the university’s highest philanthropic priority. Donors can make a powerful and immediate impact on academically strong Idaho students who demonstrate both financial need and merit. There are three ways donors can support the True Blue Promise scholarships:

  • Donors can endow a named True Blue Promise scholarship with a gift of $52,500 (with an option to pay this over a five-year pledge). Incentive funds are available so the scholarship can be made available immediately.
  • Donors can make a four-year commitment of $2,125 annually totaling $8,500, and a donor-named scholarship will be immediately disbursed to a talented Idaho high school student who meets the True Blue criteria.
  • Donors can make gifts of any size to the True Blue Promise Fund from which annual awards will be made.

The True Blue Promise scholarships will help Idaho students go on to college, and meet the State’s higher education goals. Please contact our development officers with any questions you may have, or visit


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Passion for Music Becomes Philanthropic Legacy


What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”  ― Albert Pike


Philanthropy is a strong legacy. We are reminded of that, sadly, when we lose a dear friend like Keith Stein whose support of Boise State, with his wife Catherine, has had measureless impact on Boise State and our community.

Keith and Catherine have been generous to many Boise State programs, but none so much as the music and athletics departments. The Steins led the way for Boise State becoming Idaho’s first All-Steinway School with a gift that purchased 35 new pianos and created an endowment to support the ongoing care and upkeep of the instruments. The Steins philanthropy also re-established our marching band in 1986 and has long-funded scholarships, uniforms, travel and equipment for the Keith Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band as well as the Keith and Catherine Stein Band Hall in the Caven-Williams Sports Complex.

Catherine shared the story that Keith was inspired to support the band, in part, because he was such a fan of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man – Harold Hill and Seventy-Six Trombones in the Big Parade. In addition to keeping kids out of trouble in fictional River City, music’s contribution to the development of cognitive skills, language and spatial intelligence is well documented, and there is evidence that music enhances the quality of life, aids in motivation and helps manage stress.

And then there’s the pure joy – the joy that Keith and Catherine’s benevolence has brought to so many. Each time the Keith Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band takes the field, Keith will be with us in every note. That’s quite a legacy.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Fundraising Game Changer at Boise State: Crowdfunding

Sept. 14 Boise State launched PonyUp, our new crowdfunding site, and the first project to go live literally aimed for the stars.

In just the first 10 days following launch, we raised more than $5,360 for Professor and astronomer, Brian Jackson’s project to bring back the Boise State Observatory. With 19 days left to go, the project is already 67% funded.

Dr. Jackson’s PonyUp project made the local evening news and headlines on Boise State Public Radio. People are pulling for this unique and exciting project. Significant fundraising happens at a grass roots level with this far-reaching method connecting the university’s philanthropic needs with the student body and the donor community. Projects that may not have received funding otherwise may work best through crowdfunding, where smaller gifts have real impact because “the crowd” is ponying up, too.

Behind the scenes of PonyUp, the Annual Giving team within University Advancement is actively working with cross-campus partners from research, communications, academic affairs, student programs and athletics to find great PonyUp projects. Our Student Foundation is taking the lead on developing the projects, getting them ready to launch and managing the activity. PonyUp not only raises funds for unique initiatives, but also provides students with real-world fundraising experience and education about philanthropy.

Boise State’s student-centric model is cutting edge for crowdfunding, a relatively new practice for universities. Boise State is among the first to adopt the practice. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) reports that fifteen percent of institutions have held crowdfunding campaigns. Likely, even smaller percentages have launched their program on a platform that effectively manages micro-philanthropy. PonyUp runs on technology that allows University Advancement to effectively manage crowdfunding in a way that promotes a lifelong relationship with Boise State and benefits both the university and donors.

It’s easy for Boise State donors, alumni and friends to get behind PonyUp projects (more projects are going live in October). We also welcome new donors who come to us through crowdfunding. What we’re really doing is building a culture of philanthropy at Boise State—and inviting everyone to join.

You can PonyUp to bring the observatory back to Boise State (check out the donor incentives which include a private star-gazing party)!

Learn More about PonyUp or suggest a project for PonyUp.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Philanthropy Grows Basque Studies at Boise State – An International Program

Ongi Etorri! “Welcome” in the language of the Basque, Euskara.

Every five years not far from Boise State campus the streets and venues are filled with traditional Basque music, dance, food and sport for Jaialdi, one of the largest Basque festivals in the world. Most Boiseans know that this is home to one of the largest concentrations of Basque Americans, and many participate in the six-day celebration at Boise’s Basque Block and other Treasure Valley venues alongside visitors and performers from around the world.

Boise State offers a Basque Studies program and a minor degree through multi-disciplinary advanced studies of the Basque people, language, history, politics, economics, etc. We even have a course in Basque cinema! This unique program is considered a distinctive case study of the human experience. Basque Studies students have the opportunity to study abroad in the Basque country, where they are immersed in the culture and language. Students also participate in symposia, weekend workshops and a student club centered around Basque culture.

The funding for Basque studies at Boise State comes from a few sources, including the Etxepare Basque Institute and Basque Government of Euskadi, as well as private gifts that support faculty, programs and scholarships. The Elorriaga Family Foundation and Ascuaga Family Trust are two examples.

The Elorriaga foundation was established by John Elorriaga, the son of Spanish Basque immigrants and a ’49 graduate of Boise Junior College. Raised in a boarding house in Jordan Valley, Oregon, Elorriaga later became the chairman and CEO of U.S. Bank and U.S. Bancorp. Elorriaga’s philanthropic support of Boise State reaches beyond Basque studies into many other forms, including research and technology, a professorship and fellowship in the College of Business and Economics, as well as funding for scholarly conferences, library needs, technology and equipment. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Boise State University in May, 2011.

Scholarships for students pursuing Basque studies are funded by generous donations like the one from the Frank and Winifred Ascuaga Family Trust. Like Elorriaga, Frank Acuaga’s parents were Basque immigrants, and Ascuaga was also a graduate of Boise Junior College. His family ran a dairy operation until they sold it in 1955 and started a feedlot and farm, which they ran for more than 35 years. Frank was the founding member of the Caldwell Basque Group.

These donors have shared a legacy that will sustain these programs for years to come, like the Cenarrusa and Iglesias families and Nerea Lete, Associate Professor of Basque Studies in the Department of World Languages within the College of Arts and Sciences. Lete recently appeared on local news KTBV Channel 7 talking about how the Basque language is thriving because of Boise State’s commitment and curriculum.

This week is a great time to appreciate the people and philanthropy that keep the Basque language and culture alive and thriving in Boise, even if you don’t come from Basque heritage. Personally, I’ve found a way to join in the festivities as a member of the Biotzetik Basque Choir. I like to say I’m an “adopted Basque”, having joined this warm, enthusiastic and talented group of people who share their love for the Basque culture through music.

The Biotzetlk Basque Choir. Laura Simic, upper row, far left.

The Biotzetik Basque Choir. Laura Simic, upper row, far left.

You can learn more about Boise State’s Basque Studies program and activities on the Basque Studies Facebook page or at


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

13 Ways of Looking at Endowments

Do you have a clear vision of the impact of all of your charitable giving? If not, you are not alone. Organizations that depend upon donor support often struggle to tell this part of the story, especially in a way that’s meaningful at a personal level.

Boise State is making the connection between donors and impact. We show you how your dollars go to work, introduce you to the characters, share the inspiration of new ideas and actions taken. We unite allies and look at the challenges ahead, together. And when supporters ask, “what more can I do?” we have the right answer for them.

This year, we’re sharing a new way of looking at giving to Boise State:


Click here to see The Impact of Your Giving
(click here for a printable version)

Explore 13 Ways of Looking at Endowments. You may not have thought about giving quite this way before.

After all, giving isn’t really about the monetary transaction. It’s about impelling progress, broadening horizons and enriching lives. Giving creates change for the better and lasting impact. For inspirational stories about how giving makes a difference to the lives of students, faculty and donors, take a look at our website.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Boise State Alumni Voices Reveal Attitudes, Interests & More

“Most people read their college alumni magazines for the class notes,” says the New York Times in an article on how social networking changes the way alumni interact with the university—and each other.

Boise State has certainly evolved to adopt social media, as is evident in the myriad of Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups and active, heavily hashtagged Twitter feeds. Yet, even with social media providing platforms and channels that connect us, many universities continue publishing print magazines, and Boise State is no exception.

A recent “class note” in Boise State’s magazine turned up something special.

Published by the Office of Communications and Marketing, FOCUS on Boise State University is our print magazine reaching the broadest audience including alumni. Each issue covers campus, arts, research, and alumni news. A new online version will complement, not replace the print version, as we hear people still like to get the magazine delivered to their homes.

The current issue of FOCUS includes a farewell message to Bob Sims, professor emeritus and founding dean of the university’s College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs, who passed away in May. His colleagues gave a touching tribute in their comments.

Shortly after the latest issue of FOCUS hit mailboxes, our office received an email from Mrs. Sims. She had read the tribute, and she wondered if we would send her a copy of the photo in the article. She had never before seen that picture of him.

This tribute is a good example of what many alumni look for in a university magazine—reminders of the enormous impact of people like Bob Sims.

Recently, we conducted our Alumni Pulse Survey to find out more about what alumni look for from us, and their attitudes and preferences. These findings, as well as national data, are shaping our programs and communications and making us more responsive to our alumni and donor community.



Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Read Bob Sims’ farewell
Visit FOCUS online

“College Alumni Magazines Struggle to Compete with Facebook”, New York Times – June, 2008

Practicing “The Art of Fulfillment”

I’ll begin this note with a bit of good news. Thanks to the support of alumni and friends, and the hard work of the Alumni Association and volunteers, we set a new record for funds raised at our Alumni Auction Gala. At this time, it’s expected we will reach $650,000 net, and it’s quite moving to think of the many students who will benefit as a result.

Perhaps what’s even more inspiring, is that we also set a record in the “paddle up” for scholarships. These are pledges made by donors who raise their paddle to the auctioneer’s calls for cash donations. These gifts are particularly generous, because they’re without reciprocation (other than a tax deduction). In one night, donors raised their paddles pledging $167,000 in scholarships!

Now, while these gifts can be thought of as without reciprocation (in contrast to bids on items) we can also take a different view— that of making a difference in the quality of people’s lives.

One of the most popular TED Talks with more than 14 million views is one by an expert in leadership psychology, Tony Robbins. In it, he explores the “invisible forces” that motivate our actions—why we do what we do. He observes that we don’t work in our self-interest all of the time and examines what drives us.

Robbins poses the question, “what is it that shapes us?” And he challenges people to explore their personal world view and values today in order to contribute more in the future.

In exploring human needs essential to fulfillment, Robbins narrows in on significance, connection and the need to give. He explains how emotion is a great force that shapes our ability to contribute. He calls it “the art of fulfillment.” That’s how I see the act of giving to scholarships at Boise State—the art of fulfillment in practice when we decide to give—to shape someone’s destiny with the gift of scholarship.

At Boise State, we’re shaping destiny every day through scholarships. Our campaign “Extraordinary Times. Extraordinary Opportunities” has raised more than $15.8 million of our $25 million goal—evidence of many caring people practicing the art of fulfillment in support of Boise State.


Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Local Donor Impact Has Global Reach

It’s not every day that a gift to the university comes in the form of organisms thought to be among the oldest living things on earth. However, it did happen recently here at Boise State. It reminded us that gifts come in different shapes, sizes and forms, and that the impact of giving also can look very different, at least at first glance. Consider these two examples of impact:

  • Rejuvenating an entire ecosystem and making important discoveries in climate change and pollution rates.
  • Restoring and revitalizing a major national park in Mozambique, Africa.

These are actual outcomes—the impact of donors supporting Boise State in very different, yet related, life-changing work in partnership with the university’s department of biology. The two forward-thinking donors are Dr. Roger Rosentreter and Mr. Greg C. Carr.

Roger Rosentreter, amid thousands of samples in collection at Boise State University’s herbarium, holds Circinaria rogeri, lichen discovered by and named for him.

Roger Rosentreter, amid thousands of samples in collection at Boise State University’s herbarium, holds Circinaria rogeri, lichen discovered by and named for him.

9 May, 2015 - Greg C. Carr receives the honorary doctorate of humane letters at Boise State spring commencement for “generous contributions to the humanities and his commitment to the improvement of human welfare.”

9 May, 2015 – Greg C. Carr receives the honorary doctorate of humane letters at Boise State spring commencement for “generous contributions to the humanities and his commitment to the improvement of human welfare.”








Rosentreter is a botanist retired from Idaho’s Bureau of Land Management. Now he lectures across the west on a variety of subjects from fire, rangelands and home protection, to sage-grouse habitat in Idaho.

In a manner he describes as more of a hobby, Dr. Rosentreter has collected lichens for more than 40 years. Now, they’re part of Boise State’s living, vibrant collection at the Snake River Plains (SRP) herbarium, serving researchers world-wide. You don’t even have to know what lichen or herbaria are to comprehend the importance and value of such a gift, because the actual impact comes through decades of research and discovery taking place here and around the world. Thanks to Rosentretter’s living collection, Boise State can contribute to the kind of research that’s protecting and healing our planet—tracking climate change, pollution rates, and more.

Idaho Falls native, Greg Carr is this year’s honorary doctorate of humane letters at Boise State. Known for his incredible entrepreneurial spirit and passion that inspired many successful business ventures, Carr is recognized for conservation projects across the United States and, internationally, to Africa.

Carr’s financial support of Intermountain Bird Observatory programs and his Gorongosa Restoration Project in Mozambique have opened up avenues for Boise State researchers and helped to elevate avian research to the international sphere. Boise State’s research techniques are needed in a part of the world where the study of bird migration reveals globally significant insights. And, the impact of supporting this research program translates into something of enormous importance—restoration and revitalization of one of the world’s greatest national parks.

Although these stories of donor support illustrate different forms of giving, both are wonderful examples of local philanthropy with significant global impact. When donors support Boise State’s department of biology they are, quite literally, changing the world.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Greg C. Carr acceptance speech May 9, 2015
Learn more about the herbarium collection at Boise State

Boise State Grads Ring a Bell for Commitment

It’s time for spring commencement and as the tassels turn, grads must choose if—and how—they stay in relationship with the university.

Why is it so important for grads to stay connected to Boise State?

Professional and personal growth is bolstered by affiliation. Being in a community of peers is empowering to recent graduates seeking career connections, networks, and opportunities shared through a peer community. In fact, our research shows that Boise State alumni are particularly interested in career-related alumni opportunities.

Newly formed bonds are strengthened. In commitment to a fraternity or sorority or through community service and outreach projects, students find strong connections to organizations that they wish to keep strong well beyond college years. Staying connected allows relationships and service opportunities to continue.

We know that Broncos feel the deepest connection to their academic schools, colleges and programs (and to Bronco football)! In keeping these connections, the learning process, and the Bronco pride, continues.

One very simple way for graduates to keep ties to the university is by joining the  Boise State Alumni Association. Encouraging grads to take this step is important because membership is not automatic, and it supports the university and its alumni in multiple ways. You can say “congratulations” to your favorite graduate with a gift of membership.

Very soon, alumni will have a wonderful place to call home. The new Alumni and Friends Center will be a place to build upon long-standing traditions, encourage the rekindling of lifelong friendships, provide alumni programs and services, ignite school spirit and create future memories. A lasting way for graduates to commemorate their years at Boise State, and for supporters to congratulate them, is to engrave a brick for the courtyard of the new Alumni and Friends Center.

It’s a new Boise State tradition at commencement to ring the “Bell of Excellence” signifying the transition from student to alumni life, and a commitment to carrying on excellence in support of the university. I look forward to watching this custom take hold and welcome the class of 2015 to the growing family of Boise State alumni.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

New School of Public Service, WIIFM?

This month, Boise State announced the new School of Public Service (SPS) and its inaugural dean, Corey Cook. Current students as well as alumni, public servants and leaders are all touched by this change in some way. Also, supporters and alumni affiliated with the College of Social Science and Public affairs may wonder what this means to them. Why the change? What’s changing and what’s staying the same?

When there’s big change like this, people want to know, “What, exactly, does it mean to me?”

So what does the new School of Public Service mean to us? It means Boise State is deepening its commitment to the community with the goal to be an engine driving the Idaho economy and providing significant return on public investment. Basically, it’s our job as a public university to enhance the community in meaningful ways. This is manifest in creating this innovative and outward-focused school, building philanthropic opportunities to support it, and involving alumni and friends in the public service mission of the university.

As a supporter of Boise State, you can expect that changes like this are the result of the university’s strategy to stay nimbly relevant in ways that have real impact. This is good for students, faculty and the organizations we partner with in fields such as political and military science, public policy and administration and criminal justice. It’s also an opportunity to refresh the focus of our centers and institutes supporting these fields.

This change brings new dean Corey Cook, who joins us from the University of San Francisco, where for the past six years he has been the director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good Cook says he envisions Boise State’s new school as a training ground for future public servants across sectors—in government at all levels, in private businesses, and in nonprofits and philanthropies.

A new organizational structure will support the school’s vision. The College of Social Science and Public affairs will be dissolved. Most of its departments and centers will be migrated into the School of Public Service. Some others, mainly those disciplines traditionally and previously located in the College of Arts and Sciences, will move to that college.

As a donor, you can expect the gifts you’ve made to support departments and programs will stay with those departments and programs. If, perhaps, you’ve created a permanent gift fund to support a program that may no longer exist, you can expect a call from a Director of Development to discuss your wishes. As an alumnus/a, the degree you already have achieved does not change.

The new school is made up of rich and diverse academic programs that will prepare students, public servants and leaders to think both regionally and globally in an interdependent world. As is inherent in its name, it is a partnership – one that requires your engagement and support. There’s something in it for all of us. We look forward to the new opportunities.

See the School of Public Service Viewbook.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Growing Together For Boise State

From Easter egg hunts on the Blue to exclusive art gallery openings, we’re always hatching and shaping new ways to show our donors how much Boise State University appreciates them.

The annual Easter egg hunt is about being on the Blue together. The kids love it as much as the adults do. It’s special to be on the famed Lyle Smith Field in Albertsons Stadium where maybe the young ones will return as students one day. Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain—for all the blue and orange, Boise State alumni and donor Easter photos sure stand out on Facebook.

Perhaps at another level of a theoretical spectrum of event sophistication, we’re opening the doors to a brand new art gallery on campus to President’s Club members at the annual Spring Celebration. This year, we’ll recognize and thank President’s Club donors in the gallery showcasing the work of Benjamin Victor, an artist in residence and professor of practice who’s known for his talent as the youngest artist ever to have a sculpture in the nation’s foremost collection, the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. Now, he is the only living artist to have two works in Statuary Hall. This is an opportunity for loyal donors to see and hear how we’re elevating the arts at Boise State and in the community.

Something special happens when we bring members of Bronco Nation together. We are reminded that we have a common commitment to Boise State, and we get to share that with each other. We get to experience amazing moments together keeping us connected in our professional work, our community involvement and even in our recreation (have you seen the trips planned for the Alumni Travel Program)? Being a Bronco is as fun as it is rewarding.

This year, we’re asking donors to grow their gifts to the premiere giving society level, the President’s Club, so that we can see everyone enjoying what it means to be deeply connected and committed to Boise State University.

Thank you for your continued support.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Our Commitment to Financial Stewardship

This time of year, we notice news headlines calling out for budget cutting exercises and reduced spending. Of course, as a state institution of higher education there are implications for us—the budget informs our program and operations plans for the year. That’s why we continually and conscientiously act as good financial stewards of our resources.

Being good financial stewards goes beyond compliance and accounting principles, though that is certainly part of our practice. The greater purpose is in our responsibility to donors in the ways that we prudently manage private support to Boise State University.

We know that our donors have made an investment that comes with certain expectations. We know that your gifts matter to you as much as they do to the people and programs that depend upon them. We also know that you give with the expectation that great good will come from your gifts. Responsible financial stewardship means that we use your donations effectively for their intended purposes.

This is why we value our personal and lifelong relationships with our alumni and donors: We want your passion, vision and interests to augment the education of students, the work of faculty, and the growth of programs at Boise State.

You can, and should, have expectations of us and our partners in the advancement enterprise, the Boise State University Alumni Association and the Foundation. You can expect prompt acknowledgement for gifts, for example, responsible investment strategy, safeguarding of confidential personal information, operational transparency and proper governance and oversight. And for any questions or concerns, you can expect open doors and prompt and forthright answers to the very best of our ability.

We are committed to excellence in financial stewardship because we must have the trust of every donor. We strive to earn it—and keep it—because without it, we cannot effectively serve this institution.

As budgets for the forthcoming year are set, of course we expect to be challenged. With public funding decreasing, we rely increasingly on private funding – your gifts – to make possible the teaching, research and public service of Boise State University. And we will make good decisions because we value the trust that alumni and donors place in us.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

The importance of supporting research: Changing and saving lives.

Many people might like the opportunity to hear directly from someone who is working on cancer research, especially if they have good news to share.

This week at the first Bronco Discovery and Innovation breakfast we heard from Dr. Cheryl Jorcyk, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Biomolecular Research Program at Boise State University. Dr. Jorcyk’s good news is that her team at Boise State is making great strides in discovering the role of the cellular factor Oncostatin M (OSM) and its function in tumor progression.

One thing you don’t often hear over breakfast is that someone you’ve just met is on the verge of breakthrough knowledge that would lead to the development of a new drug that would prevent breast cancer invasion and metastasis. Life changing. And actually in the near future, we can hope, life saving.

So it’s a short leap to wonder what we can do to support Dr. Jorcyk and others like her—the brightest “searching” minds in research today. Research labs and student researchers, technology, equipment—all need backing. Support for research turns into cures.

Through philanthropy, we foster a supportive environment for the research enterprise at Boise State University. University Advancement works closely with Research and Economic Development at Boise State to help faculty gain external funding, partner with businesses to promote innovation, and create new assets that are available for industry to utilize in starting new businesses or gaining competitive advantages.

Funded out-of-the-box ideas stimulate local growth and the benefits are mutual.

We know that research promotes connections. And that’s why we’ve initiated the Bronco Discovery and Innovation series. It’s a way to expose our community to the innovative research happening at Boise State, to stimulate thinking and to open doors to mutually beneficial partnerships and philanthropy that will advance our collective well-being and the greater good.

We relish every opportunity to make connections with our alumni and donors, like-minded discoverers and industry partners who want to “be the change.”

For more information about the Bronco Discovery and Innovation series, contact Virginia Pellegrini, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations (208) 426-3158.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Make Extraordinary Happen

This past Tuesday, in Boise State’s Student Union, more than 500 people caught a glimpse of something extraordinary—the power of philanthropy coming to life through Boise State students. It was an extraordinary moment for donors, students, faculty and friends gathered around the tables at the annual scholarship dinner. Let me tell you why I love celebrating our students and their biggest supporters.

For those of us who are committed to building relationships and support for student success, a night like this is incredibly affirming. We get to see how what we do matters—for the university, the students and the donors. But what I love most is the one moment when everyone in the room realizes the profundity of our collective impact

Together, we’ve made the extraordinary possible. Boise State students are living their passion and solving real problems. While gaining their education, they’re conducting research in space, leading biomedical research, working in public service and teaching music to young children. From their stories, we can see that the return on investment in an education is exponential. We can’t possibly count the number of people who are touched, taught, helped or healed.

The actual impact is bigger than all of us, and it continues to grow in so many ways. We’re succeeding at making extraordinary opportunities—the theme of our scholarship fundraising campaign—and to help us answer an urgent need to support worthy students, we’ve set a goal to raise $25 million dollars in scholarships. Right now, we’re more than half way to goal having raised more than $14 million dollars.

As president Kustra praised the evening’s student speakers, he also spoke for the many students who were not present to tell their stories. “But if they were, they’d tell you they were struggling,” he said. 

Four ways you can help us grow giving to support our scholarships.

  1. Share the urgency for funding scholarships.
  2. Increase your gift.
  3. Set up Employer Gift Matching.
  4. Start your own gift now.
    1. Learn how.
    2. Give online.

See student stories from this year’s scholarship dinner.


Maddie Scholarship student profile


Riley Hunt, Engineering student for Scholar Donor, John Kelly photo


Edgar Scholarship student profile



The growing cost of an education is an impediment. Seventy-five percent of students at Boise State require financial aid. To keep students engaged in their studies and to attract the brightest students from all backgrounds, we have made scholarships our most urgent philanthropic priority.

The average scholarship covers about one quarter of the cost of tuition and most awards are only for the first two years. Students who are already receiving financial aid need more help from us.

“The right people are here in this room,” said president Kustra. “You’re making a big difference in the lives of these students. Now we need to push to get people we know to join in our cause.”

Nothing really speaks to what’s possible in the same spirit as our students—they are the evidence that donor gifts are making a very real difference in the world. I’d like to say “thank you” to the students for sharing their personal stories, and to the faculty and donors who joined us for a special evening.

The campaign for scholarships will continue through June 2017, which means we will continue to talk with you about the ways we can “Make Extraordinary Opportunities” happen together.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

Newest Recruit to Focus on Innovation and Design

Here’s a headline from a Boston-based magazine that should get every Bronco excited: “Harvard I-Lab Leader Leaving for Boise State to Revamp Education.”

The Boise State fan site BroncoCountry tweeted out the news the night before football’s National Signing Day: “Now this is a recruiting victory that deserves as much recognition as anyone we’ve landed in recent years. Great get!”

Bringing on Gordon Jones, the founding director of the Harvard Innovation Lab, to be the first Dean of Boise State’s College of Innovation and Design, may have raised the bar — and attracted attention around Idaho and the nation.

Jones turned the I-Lab into a gathering place that brings students and faculty with big ideas together across disciplinary boundaries to launch businesses, hone innovations and more. The college he will run at Boise State is envisioned as a university-wide hub that will leverage the speed, collaboration and risk-taking of a start-up to re-imagine the way the university teaches, learns and conducts research. It will be a lab to generate and implement big ideas.

A study by Eduventures, an organization that researches higher education best practices, shows that big ideas inspire transformational philanthropy. Ideas that set out to address global concerns, have world impact, drive innovation, or shape the university’s national role and reputation involve students, faculty and donors in collaborative ways from their inception. In fact, the research shows that a third of the successful big ideas come from the donors themselves. The findings highlight the importance of the collaborative process.

One of the College of Innovation and Design’s kick-off programs will be Boise State’s “Vertically Integrated Projects” — VIPs — launched with a consortium of research heavyweights like Purdue University, Georgia Tech, Rice University and others.

VIPs unite large teams of undergraduates with graduate students and faculty to work together on long-term research projects, in response to a community or industry-based need.

Boise State is piloting its first VIP program, titled “The Science of Art: Preservation and Reverse Engineering of Cultural Heritage.” Led by Dr. Darryl Butt, distinguished professor of materials science and engineering and associate director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, it will include students from both art and materials science who will study the science, history and psychology of color in art.

“This VIP course transcends academic borders and offers a unique opportunity for students — from all academic backgrounds — to collaborate together to overcome an identified problem,” said Brittany Cannon, a graduate student in materials science. “The union of the sciences and humanities allows issues, which may have otherwise been too difficult to address from a single perspective, to become manageable.”

Jones, will work with advancement and academic leaders on campus and Eduventures to create a university-wide collaborative process to generate and green-light more big ideas. An inclusive process that includes, students, faculty, administrators and donors who will help fund the bold visions that will propel the university – and society – forward.

Stay tuned.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.