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From the Vice President

Investment in Higher Education Pays off Locally and Nationally

I am sure you have heard about our recent distinguished visitor. Wherever you stand on national politics today, it is still exciting to think about the President of the United States coming to our Boise State University campus and praising the work we are doing to educate tomorrow’s leaders and boost Idaho’s economy.

Along with speaking to a campus crowd of more than 6,000 people this month, President Barack Obama toured Boise State’s New Product Development lab, which helps local entrepreneurs and businesses design and prototype new components and products, and gives Boise State students a unique chance to tackle these real-world problems alongside private-sector partners who often hire these students when they graduate.

“The work you do here is one of the reasons why Boise is one of our top cities for tech startups,” Obama said. “And that means we shouldn’t just be celebrating your work, we should be investing in it.  We should make sure our businesses have everything they need to innovate, expand in this 21st century economy.”

The President was talking about government investment, of course, but that is just a portion of Boise State’s valuable revenue. Our friends and alumni make sure we offer the scholarships and support the programs we need to attract this kind of national attention.

The payoff is swift and direct. As the President said, investment in higher education leads to new inventions and helps launch the manufacturers who can make those inventions here in America.

One of this “young generation of innovators and entrepreneurs” that he was talking about may very well be Boise State’s own Camille Eddy, a sophomore mechanical engineering major that introduced the President here on campus. Since, she has been featured in stories around the state and beyond as a great example of how providing access to higher education and support to more and more Americans can only boost our country’s prospects.

“She’s a great example of why we’re encouraging more women and more minorities to study in high-paying fields that traditionally they haven’t always participated in — in math and science and engineering and technology,” Obama said. “Camille has done research for NASA.  She’s gotten real job experience with industry partners. She’s the leader of your Microgravity Team. And, by the way, she’s a sophomore. So by the time she’s done — she might invent time travel by the time she’s done here at Boise.” (watch the clip)

“The point is, I want every American to have the kinds of chances that Camille has.”

The President himself did a fine job of outlining the importance of investing in our higher education institutions.

“Educating our young people, creating good jobs, being competitive, those things shouldn’t be controversial,” he said. “But where too often we run onto the rocks, where the debate starts getting difficult, is how do we pay for these investments. Because it requires dollars. The labs here and the infrastructure that we need, those things don’t just pop up for free.”

Students like Camille have opportunities here at Boise State because of donor investment. Camille is the recipient of the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation Scholarship – a scholarship that provides access and affordability. Investment that pays off on the local and national stage. Just ask the President.

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

Investment in Students Makes Stronger, More Engaged Communities

It has been said that great cities need great universities, and it has long been one of Boise State University’s priorities to fulfill that need here in Idaho’s capitol.

Yes, a university must educate tomorrow’s workers, innovators and leaders, but the responsibility goes far beyond that. Great public universities advance society and the economy through cutting-edge research. They boost entrepreneurship and economic development with expertise and support. They become an essential part of the fabric that makes up a community, through partnerships, volunteerism and much, much more.

Engaging with the needs of our surrounding communities is one of Boise State’s overriding goals — an intrinsic part of our mission as a metropolitan research university of distinction.

In recent years, our efforts have been recognized on the national scale.

This month, Boise State was named a Community Engaged Institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching — a designation we first received in 2006 when we were among the inaugural list of 76 such community-centered universities. Last year, Boise State was one of just 16 universities in the country recognized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities as inaugural Innovation & Economic Prosperity universities.

Our commitment can be seen in our partnerships with private industry and with state and local agencies; in programs like our Office of Technology Transfer, which helps turn Boise State research ideas into real-world innovations; and in our thousands of hours of volunteer and community work through initiatives like the Service-Learning Program, which connects real-life experiences with what is being taught in the classroom.

Our students help interpret language barriers at the Ada County Courthouse, provide free tax assistance to low-income and elderly Idahoans and help introduce science and technology to thousands of K-12 students around the state — and that is just scratching the surface.

All Boise State colleges have majors that integrate community engagement activities into coursework, and Boise State’s re-configured core curriculum — the Foundational Studies Program — means every undergraduate student will participate in a community engagement activity.

What all this means is that when you support one of our students through scholarships, you aren’t just securing their classroom success. Your investment has ramifications far beyond that. Your investment makes communities better in tangible ways.

Our recent commencement speaker Lauren Bramwell made the connection quite clear. The scholarships she earned freed her to focus her time on her passions — and she volunteered many hours to agencies including the American Red Cross, Idaho Food Bank, League of Women Voters.

“The scholarships have meant the world to me because they have allowed me to participate in the community and in campus life in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to without that financial support,” she says. “So I am incredibly appreciative. It’s amazing that people in the community make this opportunity possible.”

I couldn’t say it any better than that. Thanks for all that you do.

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

Our Tradition of Innovation Continues

What a happy New Year we are having at Boise State University!

Like so many of you, I rang in 2015 among friends and family down in the Phoenix area for Boise State’s third Fiesta Bowl victory in less than a decade. It was wonderful to see so many Bronco fans and Boise State alumni celebrating the week with class and joy and that unique brand of excitement that makes this university so special.

It is so heartening to hear — as many of us did many times in Arizona — how fun, respectable, polite and enjoyable the Boise State crowd is. Of course, we know that here at home, but it is always nice to hear it elsewhere!

I think for many of us here on campus, this victory was extra-special because it was engineered by one of our own. Coach Bryan Harsin isn’t just a former quarterback for the Broncos, he is a graduate of the College of Business and Economics — that is where he learned to manage a large organization and prepare it for success.

As you all know, Boise State doesn’t simply exhibit innovation and excitement on the football field (but could you believe they ran another Statue of Liberty play!). Across campus, innovation is our tradition, and we have plenty of developments in store for 2015.

A team of deans and other leaders are launching a new program called “Bridge to Career” that will identify the skills, experiences and competencies that graduates from all majors need to develop to be successful in the workplace, and then deliver them in hands-on, practical ways.

We are joining a consortium of some of the top research universities in the nation in creating “vertically integrated projects,” or VIPs, which give undergraduate, master’s level and doctoral students a chance to work with our top-notch faculty and community and industry partners to solve real-world problems in real time.

We are putting the finishing touches on our School of Public Service, which officially launches this summer to better train tomorrow’s leaders at all levels, and you will soon be hearing even more about our College of Innovation and Design, which will ensure that we continually reimagine teaching, learning and research to ensure that our students are getting the right skills at the right time and in ways that will make them successful long after their receive their Boise State diplomas.

Boise State’s ongoing success is possible only with your continued advocacy and financial support. Our alumni and donors fund athletic programs, new academic initiatives, student scholarships and other innovations that advance Boise State’s forward progress. You are part of our team on and off the field. Go Broncos and Happy New Year!

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

Boise State Graduates are Broncos for Life

This week, Boise State University celebrates the graduation of some 1,700 Broncos at our annual winter Commencement. That sets another record for us, and it looks like these bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree recipients, along with our graduates this past spring, are going to be part of the largest graduating class – the class of 2014 – in Boise State history — a record we gleefully break on a regular basis.

Last year, we conferred degrees to more than 3,800 people — more than any other university in the state. We now award more than 40 percent of all bachelor’s degrees conferred by public universities in Idaho.

These students are making one of the most significant transformations in modern life. They are “commencing” into their future, equipped with the experiences, skills and competencies that will help them succeed.

They are only university students for a few years. But they are alumni and part of the Bronco family for the rest of their lives. How our alumni and those of us who are otherwise affiliated with Boise State choose to maintain that relationship and exercise both its privileges and responsibilities can have major impact on generations of future students.

I am gratified frequently by stories of the generosity of our students. Their student organizations take volunteerism seriously. Their service-learning courses serve nonprofits, community groups and many others throughout the year. Service and charity truly are parts of the student experience at Boise State.

But for recent graduates, life can catch up fast. New experiences in the workplace — those starting salaries! Good intentions and even instilled habits of service and philanthropy can slip away before you know it.

That is why it is so important for new alumni to remain connected. To give back. To volunteer.

Some graduates may not realize they don’t automatically become members of the Boise State Alumni Association when they are handed their diploma on stage. But they can join as a new graduate for as little as $15 a year. That may not sound like much (even at the bottom of the career ladder), but it has an immediate impact on the lives of future Broncos. Together, the members of the Boise State Alumni Association have distributed more than $1.25 million in just 12 years through Alumni Legacy Scholarships — renewable, four-year awards that make sure a high-quality and innovative education is accessible at Boise State.

Every gift makes a difference at Boise State. So does every alumnus and alumna who stays connected and involved and engaged.

But don’t take my word for it. This year’s winter commencement speaker, Lauren Bramwell, is an inspirational woman who grew up in St. Anthony and has earned degrees in both communication and political science. She is thankful for the scholarships that allowed her this opportunity. This year alone, she has been the recipient of the Boise State Political Science/English Scholarship, the Stephanie Witt Political Science Scholarship, the Harvey and Eleanor Pitman Communications Endowed Scholarship and the Dr. John Keiser Public Affairs Scholarship. Lauren is a great example of the value of the return on this investment: She is applying to law school and hopes to fight for women’s rights and gender equity.

Here is a video about Lauren and her experiences to encourage you to learn more about her and see why we were so excited to hear from her at commencement.

Best wishes for a very happy holiday season!

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

Partnerships Provide Unprecedented Student Opportunities

If you have been through downtown Boise lately you may have seen the major construction project that has overtaken half of The Grove and started to dig a new hole around the U.S. Bank building in the heart of the city.

Boiseans are wary of downtown holes, because our famous one at the corner of 8th and Main streets was empty and ugly for so many years. But we are pretty happy with this one — and not in small part because the very people who filled that longtime eyesore with the beautiful Zions Bank building are, in fact, in charge of digging this one.

The Gardner Company is working with a host of public and private partners to create an important hub of transportation, technology and commerce that will help poise Idaho’s capitol city for a strong future — and we at Boise State University are incredibly pleased to be part of this effort.

When these buildings and the below-ground transit center are completed, Boise State will move its entire computer science department to a building shared by one of the largest tech companies in town, Clearwater Analytics, and within walking distance of some 20 or more of the city’s software developers and related technology businesses.

This will present an unprecedented opportunity for these students to intern and connect with the very businesses that are clamoring for their skills. In fact, Boise State’s computer science graduates are in such demand, a consortium of eight tech companies last year gave more than $280,000 in private dollars to secure a $1 million state grant that will help double the number of these sought-after graduates.

Partnerships like these offer the kind of unique, high-quality undergraduate experiences that are among Boise State’s hallmarks. When students get a chance to learn from hands-on research or real-world internships, they start to better piece together the hard skills they have learned in their fields of study with the so-called “soft” skills of teamwork, communications and problem-solving they will need to be successful in their chosen career paths.

Boise State strives to create these opportunities at every level, and we have reimagined our general education programs around a pathway that develops and builds on these skills and connections. We are taking this to a whole new level with our new College of Innovation and Design, which will launch new ways to teach, research and learn, like the developing a “Bridge to Career” program that is being designed to help students from all majors hone the competencies their future employers value the most.

We know this model works — we built our renowned College of Engineering over the course of two decades with the close partnership and generosity of Micron Technology, and that college’s world-class research, commitment to Idaho’s tech community, and devotion to boosting science, technology, engineering and math instruction at all levels delivers on Micron’s investment every day.

University faculty and administrators are reaching out more and more to our community’s and region’s businesses and industries for partnerships and insights to best prepare the workforce and the innovators needed for Idaho’s future. The university’s doors and minds are open —  we need leaders like you to help us make these next great steps.

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

Milford Terrell, a Paragon of Service

Anyone who has attended a Boise State University commencement ceremony for the past several years has seen just a bit of the energy, excitement and zeal that define Milford Terrell.

His booming voice has filled the arena with his heartfelt message to graduates: Be proud of what you have accomplished, he would tell them. And look forward to what is next.

“Is this a great day or what?” he would ask. Loudly. And then he’d repeat it — even more loudly — never satisfied with the initial murmuring reaction of the few thousand graduating students and their family and friends who generally fill the remaining 10,000 or so seats. If any distant relative of a graduate thought they could doze through these ceremonies, Milford disabused them of that notion.

Milford was the first Boise State alumnus in decades to be named to the Idaho State Board of Education, which serves as the board of trustees for Boise State and the other state universities. The decorated Vietnam veteran is the longtime president and owner of the incredibly successful DeBest Plumbing and Mechanical, but he has always found the time to give back to his state and community.

When he announced that he would step down from the State Board after a decade of service, he said he was planning to spend more time with his wife and family. It will be time well-deserved — Milford has served as a volunteer for the State of Idaho and for six Idaho governors in one capacity or another for more than 30 years.

During that time, he remained devoted to Boise State, where he had attended vocational-technical programs for his plumbing apprenticeship. He is past president of the Bronco Athletic Association and served on the Boise State Foundation Board, and was selected as the 2012 Boise State Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal.

Few have had the opportunity to be witness to Boise State’s remarkable trajectory from as clear a vantage point as Milford. During his service to Boise State and the governors, he helped lead the university beyond the community college mission that he knew so well from his own experience to a metropolitan research university of distinction with a national reputation and a fast-growing research mission.

We are honored that Milford is this year’s recipient of the university’s Silver Medallion Award – which he will receive at commencement on December 19. The Silver Medallion is Boise State’s highest recognition of service to the university. He has truly led a life of service, and one that can inspire and guide us all. We will miss his larger-than-life presence at future commencements, though we know his love for Boise State will mean he will remain a vibrant and vital part of our campus life.

I will sign off as Milford would today (and believe me, he would say it loudly and he would mean every word of it): Go Broncos!

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

Thank You for all That You do for Boise State

On this Thanksgiving week, I am pleased not only to have a chance to express my gratitude— but to have an avenue to reach the very people it concerns.

Here at Boise State, we are thankful for you.

We are thankful for our alumni, who boost the perception of Boise State and the value of a Boise State degree every day as they inspire and succeed in their personal and professional lives.

We are thankful for our community and industry partners, who join with us to improve the world in which we live and to help ensure that our students are getting the real-world skills and experiences they need to succeed in the modern workforce.

And we are thankful for our donors at every level, because every gift makes a difference to our students and their future, no matter the size.

If you haven’t made a commitment to make a gift every year, the holidays are a great time to start a new tradition. Your support of Boise State drives this university and makes it possible to continue to provide a high-quality and affordable higher education to students in Idaho and beyond.

If you would like your support to have the greatest impact on the lives of our students, direct it toward scholarships, the most direct way to give a meaningful and long-lasting gift to the next generation. Scholarships are our greatest need and our top philanthropic priority, and for good reason — they improve the lives of our students, and prepare them for success long after the diploma.

Scholarships allow students to explore future opportunities to their fullest potential, unhindered by financial uncertainty. Scholarships help motivate students in their studies and demonstrate to them that they are coveted, lifelong members of the Bronco family. Scholarships help ensure that great potential is not left unrealized.

So to all of you alumni, partners and donors, let me speak for this university and our current and future students when I say thank you, sincerely, for all that you do.

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

Giving is Living

As the holiday season approaches, we all hear a great amount about the needs that exist in our community.

Struggling families need help putting food on their tables. Many need help providing holiday joy and care for their children or their elderly. We all will be asked to donate our change, to buy extra presents, to volunteer at a free holiday meal or a food bank.

We will want to give, and that is good — philanthropy creates healthy, robust and dynamic communities.

But here is something to consider as well: This act of giving can help the giver, perhaps more than you think.

Dr. Douglas Lawson examined this connection in his book, “Give to Live: How Giving Can Change Your Life.”

A successful life, he found, is full of meaning, cooperation and compassion. Americans know this — and through lean and prosperous years alike, we always have given more to charity than we did the year before.

There are emotional and spiritual rewards for helping others. Some see increase in self-acceptance, better concentration or an improved ability to cope with stress and crisis. Giving, to others, brings clarity, peace of mind, a greater connection to one’s faith.

And these rewards have been shown to manifest physically in longer lives, stronger health, better sleep, improved cardiovascular and immune system functioning and much more.

Much like stress can accumulate over time and cause negative effects, love and gratitude can add up as well. As Dr. Lawson concludes, giving can change America, but it can also change your life — and the lives of everyone in the community and far beyond.

These are the benefits when you make philanthropy a way of life, when you realize that the only way to live fully is to give fully. Giving, in a very real sense, IS living, because through giving we make our lives better in countless ways.

When we build this culture of giving, we build it to last for generations. Modern medical and social sciences agree that a person’s patterns of generosity are formed during the first four or five years of life. What we do as parents is especially important in determining whether our children become adults who share easily and support others.

As Dr. Lawson writes, when we give to others — when we share our time, our talents and our treasure — we do not end up with less in our accounts, but more.

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

The Changing Face of Philanthropy

The face of philanthropy is changing — and that is creating opportunities for both institutions and donors that will help all of us reach our goals to leave our communities, our nation and our world stronger and more vibrant than ever before.

Take, for example, the ever-increasing role of women in higher education and philanthropy.

This may not surprise you (or at least half of you!) — but women volunteer at a higher rate than men across all age groups and all educational levels. Female-headed households are more likely to give to charity than male-headed homes.

Women have a keen interest in programs for girls and women, but they are leaders in funding all causes. Surveys show that they are more likely than men to be motivated by helping those with less. They are more likely to give because they believe it makes a difference.

Women look closely to be sure the organizations they support are run efficiently, but they desire to “give back” to their communities.

And they have a lot to give — not just in time, but in financial support. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women are surpassing men in terms of educational attainment, representing 67 percent of college graduates and 51 percent of the nation’s PhDs.

American women age 50 and over control $19 trillion in net worth and own more than three-fourth’s of the nation’s total wealth.

You may want to read that sentence again. I know I did when I first read it.

Women today have incredible power to do good — and here is the best part: They quite often want to do it together. These same surveys indicate that women philanthropists value collective experiences, community and connection.

All of these factors have major implications on philanthropy at Boise State, across our nation and in the world. Something to think about.

At Boise State, it means that meaningful lifetime engagement with our alumni and friends is critical. Opportunities where donors work together to compound the reach and influence of their individual contributions are more and more important. Joining the Boise State Alumni Association, for example, is an easy and effective way to pool resources with other Broncos to help future Broncos get a great start. Others have united together and leveraged their employers’ matching gift programs to endow scholarships that each may not have been able to afford alone.

It also means being excellent stewards. Showing donors the impact of their gifts is paramount.

Every gift makes a difference, no matter its size or scope. The face of philanthropy is changing. More and more people are finding ways to make possible what otherwise may be impossible. They empower, and they inspire.

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

Boise State Still Growing, Improving Each Year

Last week we announced that Boise State’s student body has climbed 1.2 percent this year to 22,259.

We are excited about this increase because it counters the trend around Idaho and the country — the total number of college students in the United States had been dropping for two years in a row.

We have welcomed more in-state students, seen an even bigger jump in out-of-state students, and, importantly, there have been great improvements among some of the key groups of potential students we know we need to reach and engage. The number of Hispanic and Latino students on campus increased by 14 percent, for example.

This ethnic, socio-economic and geographical diversity is important on campus. Having students from different backgrounds, locations and family experiences boosts the education of all Boise State students. Not only do the students learn from and challenge each other, but their habits and expectations can help change the culture of a campus.

More and more of our students and parents — especially those paying out-of-state tuition — expect that they and their Boise State students will complete their degrees on time and on budget. Fewer students and parents want to amass the expense of taking extra years to finish. That attitude is spreading.

Our first-time freshmen are more likely to stay on track as sophomores, and then as juniors and seniors. In less than a decade, our four-year graduation rate has more than doubled and the six-year rate has increased by more than two-thirds.

Assuring the timely completion of degrees is just a part of how Boise State keeps college affordable and attainable. For example, we offer Finish in Four Program to help students with academic planning, course registration and career guidance. If a student sticks with the program, Boise State guarantees the courses needed for degree completion.

Scholarships, our greatest need and our top philanthropic priority, remain the most direct way that we can impact the lives of students. When students stay focused on earning their diplomas and staying on track to graduate on time, these scholarship dollars are even more valuable.

When you look at our trajectory in enrollment, retention and graduation, you realize that improvements like these are exactly why Boise State has gone through such a dramatic transformation, and expended the incredible effort needed to more than double our graduate offerings, boost research efforts and become a metropolitan research university of distinction.

It is paying off — for students, families and the employers of Idaho.

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

Learning Goes Far Beyond One’s Major

What is a college education worth?

It’s an often-asked question that implies a simple, quantitative – even monetary – answer. And while it’s easy to respond to this question in that way, especially given the unquestioned rising cost of going to college, such an answer belies the true opportunities that a college education offers to those truly willing and able to embrace the experience.

First, the easy answer. As study after study has shown those with a college degree earn higher wages – about $1 million more over their working lives. Nationally, the median salary for those with a bachelor’s degree is around $45,000, while those with a high school diploma earn about $28,000. The calculation is pretty simple when done this way. But it misses, I think, the real value of the college experience.

Being able to go to college, or attending a specific university, or even choosing a major in college is about more than getting a job. It’s about seeking out every opportunity, both inside and outside of the classroom, to learn about yourself, your peers, your community and your world. It’s about engaging with the issues of the day, gaining the confidence to understand what you can contribute to any effort and learning as much from your classmates as you do from your professor.

Certainly, learning a trade and getting a job is very valuable. Learning to build upon those hard skills by establishing collaborative relationships, effectively communicating your ideas, actively solving problems and thinking critically is invaluable. Those are the soft skills, insights and flexible competencies that will apply to a lifetime of work and citizenship, no matter what profession you pursue.

Everyone capable of succeeding in college should be given that opportunity. But for many, the ability to focus on their education in this way – to get the most value from it possible – is a luxury they just cannot afford. Many work or borrow money just to make ends meet while going to school. Time not spent in class or studying is often spent making a living or raising a family.

That’s why building private support for student scholarships is Boise State’s greatest need and top philanthropic priority. Scholarships allow students to focus on gaining the most from their Boise State experience. Rather than worrying about job to a pay the bills, well-supported students can spend their time studying, working at internships, conducting undergraduate research or volunteering on campus or in the community. They engage with peers and learn more deeply from faculty mentors. They find a much deeper satisfaction from their Boise State experience.

So what is a college education worth? It’s worth whatever someone can or is willing to put into it. The boundaries of learning stretch far beyond the curriculum of one’s chosen major. And if the lessons are learned right, they continue long after one’s degree is earned.

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

Student Philanthropy Builds Ties to the Future

Students are typically the beneficiaries of philanthropy at Boise State University. Generous donors fund scholarships, give to building projects and support academic programs, all of which ultimately make the learning experience of our students stronger and more meaningful.

But there are ever-increasing numbers of students who are much more engaged in Boise State’s growing culture of philanthropy. They work hard – giving their time, effort and, yes, money – to help build a foundation of philanthropic support for the generations of Boise State students that will follow them. And we love how their passion spreads among their peers because we know that involved students are more likely to be engaged as alumni and donors to the university later in life.

Many of you may have talked with some of these students through our telephone outreach program. Twenty-five very impressive Broncos work the phones in our call center talking with alumni, friends and others to update our alumni and donor records and invite them to support the university. The students are doing a great job helping our alumni understand that making annual gifts to Boise State – no matter the amount – is an increasingly important and sustainable source of funding for the university.

Members of our Boise State Student Foundation work to educate their peers on the importance of philanthropy to intentionally cultivate a culture of student philanthropy across campus. They recently established a “Students Helping Students” endowed scholarship and are raising money among their classmates. This group works closely with us on donor stewardship, especially with Blue, Orange and You (, our campus fundraising campaign for faculty and staff.

Our Future Alumni Network – or FAN club – is another student group building awareness among their peers about the importance of engagement after graduation. They work to advance campus traditions while fostering a sense of loyalty and school pride among students, preparing them to be Broncos For Life through events and programs that enrich the Boise State experience. During the first week of school this fall, they helped hand out 2,300 sports bags to first year students, inside of which there was a letter welcoming them to campus from the Boise State Alumni Association. Those bags, slung over the shoulders of the Class of 2018, are a common site on the Quad – and, since this was the program’s first year, they are coveted by upperclassmen.

Our students are on campus for only a few years, but they are alumni for the rest of their lives. Building lifelong relationships and educating current students about opportunities for post-graduation involvement is perhaps the most important thing we can do for the future of this university. And with help from these engaged, passionate Broncos today, the Boise State of tomorrow is in very good hands.

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

Change, Innovation, Philanthropy and Success

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.

Alumni and Friends Center Starts New Era

Last Saturday – with kickoff for the Broncos’ victory against Louisiana Lafayette just a couple of hours away – a group of ardent alumni and friends gathered across the street from Albertsons Stadium to break ground for the new Boise State Alumni and Friends Center. The festive Homecoming atmosphere was perfect for the ceremonial beginning of a building that will celebrate and foster the connections between generations of Boise State alumni and their alma mater.

This building will be the new eastern gateway to campus and a home to build upon long-standing traditions and to create new ones. It will encourage the rekindling of lifelong friendships, ignite school spirit and create future memories.

Once complete in December 2015, this elegant, 38,000-square-foot building will become the welcoming central location for alumni and donor programs, services and events. Located on University Drive between Grant Avenue and Denver Avenue, it will be an instant and very visible community landmark. Just a stone’s throw away from the usual throng of Bronco-faithful tailgaters on game day, it will be a wonderful venue for reunions, graduation celebrations, and pre- and post-game festivities. And it will be home to offices directly related to the relationship between alumni and donors and their university, including the Division of University Advancement, the Boise State Alumni Association, the Boise State University Foundation, and the Office of Communications and Marketing.

One of the most exciting things about our new Alumni and Friends Center is that it will be built entirely by alumni and friends, from charitable donations – no student fees, state funds or public bonding are involved. Its funding will come from passionate, engaged Broncos – like lead donors Allen and Dixie Dykman – who understand the importance of their involvement and guidance to the Boise State of tomorrow. There still are plenty of opportunities to support its construction.

The new Boise State Alumni and Friends Center represents a celebration of the legacy of those who have come before and our forward evolution in building lifelong relationships with our alumni and friends

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

Distinguished Alumni Build a Better Boise State

Once a Bronco, always a Bronco – a no matter where life takes you.

This Friday, the Boise State Alumni Association will celebrate that sentiment and honor eight alumni whose accomplishments and service make their lives as Broncos shine particularly bright.

These 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award winners are humanitarians, public servants, business owners, educators and executives. Their work and lives as alumni are an inspiration that raises awareness among all of our alumni, friends and current students – tomorrow’s alumni – about the importance of being an engaged and dedicated Bronco for Life. With each success they enjoy, they advance the reputation of their alma mater and build on the value of every Boise State degree. And through their dedicated involvement with Boise State, they are helping their university build a network of alumni and friends that guide and support the university’s path into the future.

This is no accident. Alumni Association President Greg Chavez (BBA, Information Science, 1985), has made strengthening Boise State’s future by harnessing the passion of alumni a central focus of his presidency. He sees how Boise State’s 75,000 living graduates are becoming more and more influential in our community, state and region, and that many are looking for ways to be more involved in enhancing the future of their alma mater.

That happens in many ways – but two are very important for building Boise State’s future. The first is for alumni and friends to become members of the Boise State Alumni Association. Even more important is consistent annual giving to the university . No matter the amount, annual gifts have great impact.

Our alumni are Boise State’s greatest ambassadors, its most constructive critics and its most important donors. Through their growing networks and engagement, these Broncos continue to build momentum and influence and advance a dynamic Boise State.

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

Traditions of Change at Homecoming

Next week is Homecoming Week at Boise State – one of our favorite times of year. Broncos from all eras will descend on campus to celebrate their alma mater.

Alumni and friends will have a great opportunity to get to know today’s students, visit favorite old haunts, relive fond memories and reunite with friends and teachers. They also will take part in one of Boise State’s most prevalent modern alumni traditions: Exploring all the ways the university has changed in recent years.

Of course, the week will culminate with the Broncos football game against the Ragin’ Cajuns of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. But a week full of events leading up to the game – including a celebration of alumni success, an alumni and friends tailgate barbecue and a groundbreaking ceremony for our new Alumni and Friends Center – will give alumni and friends great opportunities to learn about and understand today’s Boise State, its future direction and their essential role in that future.

Each year, alumni who return to campus after a long absence are amazed at how the Boise State they knew has grown into a metropolitan research university of distinction. They learn that perhaps the one constant in the university’s recent history is a tradition of change. It’s a tradition of ongoing and essential evolution that not only highlights the extraordinary future awaiting this university and its students, but also ensures that their Boise State degree will continue to rise in its value and prestige.

Hopefully, they also understand their own essential role in this university’s continuous rise to prominence. Our alumni are Boise State’s greatest ambassadors, its most constructive critics and its most important donors – they are essential to the future of this university. Without their interest and involvement, without their engagement in its future and without their generosity, this university’s future certainly would be much less bright. Their Bronco spirit, their own personal success, and their consistent annual giving, regardless of amount, are the driving force of Boise State’s direction into tomorrow.

So please, join your fellow Broncos for part or all of this most unique celebration of Boise State’s past, present and future.

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

Campus-wide Self-assessment Ensures Strong Stewardship

At Boise State University, our foremost focus is to create the best possible educational experience for our students. In doing this, we not only prepare them to lead happy and successful individual lives, but we also make this university an extraordinarily effective and irreplaceable partner in creating a community and society that’s more productive, healthy and happy.

Nothing, perhaps, better illustrates Boise State’s commitment to this goal than a recent year-long self-examination conducted across the entire campus. Called “program prioritization,” this rigorous and exhaustive assessment was launched at the direction of the university’s trustees on the Idaho State Board of Education – all of the state’s public colleges and universities undertook a similar process. But, for Boise State, the process’ value as a tool for self-reflection and improvement was unprecedented and embraced with vigor – the full participation of faculty and staff was integral to its success.

For the first time in Boise State’s 82-year history, every single program from every division was assessed using the same metrics: how does this program contribute to the university’s goals and success. Strengths and weaknesses – from top to bottom – were identified and plans for reinvesting resources by bolstering or, in some cases, eliminating ineffective programs were or are being made. Already, some of the findings are having a big impact on campus and plans are being developed for making this kind of reassessment a regular part of Boise State’s strategic planning process.

In the end, there is no question that this kind of self-reflection makes Boise State much more effective in delivering a top-flight education to its students.

Being effective also means being a good steward of university resources. Our students, state taxpayers, community partners and alumni deserve nothing less.

And in University Advancement, excellent stewardship is a cornerstone of our business. By practicing good stewardship we convey that we are competent and that our donors can trust us with their investment. Stewardship is more than an operational function of the advancement office:  It is indicative of transcendent values and proof of the institution’s integrity and trust.  Our donors deserve nothing less.


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

Opportunities Grow For Boise State Students

The opportunities for Boise State students to grow as tomorrow’s thinkers, innovators and citizens of the world – to expand their awareness of themselves, their abilities and how they might contribute to society’s improvement – continue to build.

Last week’s news about the university’s computer science program relocating to an exciting new location in downtown Boise is the newest example of Boise State’s strategic focus on making our graduates powerful agents of success for themselves and their future employers. This move not only gives the university greater visibility in the city’s newest talked-about address, it is a partnership with local industry that will meet the community’s needs with students ready for the challenge of the modern workplace – in this case, our local economy’s huge demand for more computer science professionals. Our students and faculty will work and study amid Boise’s greatest concentration of tech companies, creating extraordinary opportunities for creative collaborations, research and student internships, which often bloom into full-time job offers upon graduation.

But this is just one recent example of how Boise State students are given unique opportunities to broaden their horizons. For example, this rooftop garden experiment in sustainability is morphing into an extraordinary lesson in product development for students who may use that experience for their own entrepreneurial venture some day. And, of course, our partnerships with NASA continue to make the dreams of aspiring astronauts and scientists a reality.

Kem Gardner, chairman of the company developing our new downtown location, understands that providing students with opportunity is often much more fundamental than creating academic programs, internships and undergraduate research initiatives. That’s why he and his wife, Carolyn, recently made a very generous $1 million gift to Boise State’s greatest need and top philanthropic priority – student scholarships. He knows from his own experience as a student that scholarships are the best, most direct way to impact the lives of Boise State students – two-thirds of whom rely on financial aid to pay for school. Because of donors like Mr. and Mrs. Gardner, students who otherwise would be unable to afford college are able take advantage of all this university has to offer and earn their college degree.

Building opportunity for students is our everyday focus at Boise State. We listen to what they want their Boise State experience to be. We work with their future employers to ensure they are prepared to be successful contributors to our society and economy. And with our donors, we are building scholarship support for them to ensure they have the chance to make their mark as a Bronco.

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

A Better World One Graduate at a Time

“You can make the world a better place.”

With that one sentence, activist and Boise State University alumna Marilyn Shuler (M.A., public administration, 1978) summed up the hope and potential of the 1,637 graduates who participated in Saturday’s Commencement ceremony.

Few people could say such a thing with more authority. As the former director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, Marilyn’s life work has been making the world a better place. She co-founded, built and promoted the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial just across the Boise River from campus and is a founding member of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. She was involved in or led the development of the Idaho Black History Museum, the Peaceful Settlements Foundation and the John Shuler Fund at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in support of foster care.

And on Saturday, to recognize her remarkable accomplishments and hold her example high for its more than 75,000 living graduates, Boise State presented her with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Her address to a packed Taco Bell Arena was an inspiration.

It was a record-setting day, with more new graduates participating and more doctoral degree candidates receiving Ph.D.s and Ed.D.s (16 in all) than ever before. And if past trends remain true, nearly 70 percent of them will stay in Idaho to live, work and shape our state’s future – just as Marilyn did.

If anyone represents a new graduate’s potential for changing the world, it is Jamie Lundergreen, who served as the student speaker  on Saturday. President of the Honors Student Association and deeply involved in campus life, Jamie graduated with a dual bachelor’s degree in Spanish and psychology and plans to go into international education. I’m sure her future students will benefit from her talents.

Saturday’s ceremony was an exciting look into the possibilities awaiting our newest alumni and the direction of this university. Boise State awards more than 40 percent of all public university bachelor’s degrees in Idaho and each person who holds one of those degrees has the potential to do great things. Each of them was a student at Boise State for just a few short years. But they will all, like those who came before them, be a Bronco for Life. And every time they succeed, their alma mater succeeds.

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

Top Ten Scholars Embrace Life as Broncos

At a wonderful banquet last week, Boise State’s 2014 Top Ten Scholars were honored for their accomplishments as Broncos and given an important charge for their life as alumni of this university: do great things and stay in touch with your Boise State roots.

Delivered by alumnus Kevin Satterlee (B.S., political science, 1990), himself a past Top Ten Scholar and now vice president for campus operations and general counsel at Boise State, it was message full of understanding about how important these top students are to their alma mater.

“Boise State will confer 2,500 degrees next month at Commencement,” Kevin said in his keynote speech to the gathering of these top students, their family members, their favorite faculty and other members of the Bronco family. “But the ten degrees awarded to you are the ten I have the most faith in. They are the ten of which I am most proud and they are the ten I have the most hope in, because I believe you are going to go out and do great things.”

Our Top Ten Scholar award isn’t just about having the best grades. It’s also about being an inspiration to your peers and to future Boise State students through your character, leadership and accomplishments throughout life. As students at Boise State, these ten led by example by being involved in activism, community service, student clubs and student government. Each of them earned scholarships, fellowships or prestigious internships through their merit, abilities and the quality of their work. And because of their engagement as students, their appreciation for the opportunities they’ve been given as students and their love of Boise State, we know that we can count on them be among Boise State’s greatest advocates throughout their lives.

Kevin is a great example of this. He has chosen to make Boise State a focus of his career and this university’s future is advanced everyday by his work. But, as Kevin pointed out in his speech, one doesn’t need to work at Boise State to build its future. Our Top Ten Scholars go on to do an extraordinary array of work that shines a clear light on the opportunities of a Boise State education and builds its reputation every day.

For example, another former Top Ten Scholar, Jason Ellsworth (B.B.A., international business, 1996), credits his Boise State education with his career in a variety of industries all across Europe, Asia, and North America. Today, he runs Clēnera (, a solar energy project development, construction, finance and management company based in nearby Eagle, Idaho.

Laura Johnson (B.B.A., marketing, 1990; B.A., accountancy, 1992) oversees domestic and export market development programs for the State of Idaho. She says her Boise State education was “instrumental” in building her career at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, where she has organized and participated in 20 international trade missions to over a dozen countries.

A number of former Top Ten Scholars, perhaps inspired by their own gratitude for their past professors, have themselves become college professors, including Jakki Mohr (B.B.A., marketing, 1982), who is the Regents Professor of Marketing at the University of Montana. Jakki is the lead author of the only textbook on the marketing of high-technology products and innovations. She has taught in Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, India, Uruguay, Chile, Canada and France. A few years ago, she delivered a “TED talk” encouraging businesses to “bake biomimicry into their organizational DNA.”

And Tiffany Seeley-Case (B.A., communication/English, 1996; B.A., Spanish, 1997; M.A., education curriculum and instruction, 1999) was part of the university’s storied Talkin’ Broncos speech and debate team as a student and has taught public speaking, critical thinking, and digital and mass media at the College of Southern Idaho for 16 years. Long a supporter of the Talkin’ Broncos, she is a member of the Boise State Forensics Alumni Association Hall of Fame. Recently, she was thrilled to recently become adjunct faculty member at her alma mater, as well.

After they graduate in a few weeks, this year’s cohort of Top Ten Scholars will leave Boise State to go into medicine, become educators and scientists, and aspiring university professors. They will continue to strive for racial, economic and social justice. A few will go overseas to pursue careers in international development and science. Others will go on to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees here at Boise State, in the Ivy League and at other top universities.

And like those who came before them, their success and pride in Boise State will serve as an inspiration to those who will follow them. Through their example and lifelong engagement with Boise State, they help build on its momentum of success.

“If you stay with us we can move mountains,” Kevin told them at last week’s banquet. “Every time you succeed, your university succeeds and every Boise State degree becomes more valuable. Never forget that you earned your degree, that you earned this Top Ten Scholar award and that you are a proud member of the Bronco family.”

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