Did you know: Dr. Kustra has lived in the Treasure Valley for 13 years.

Dr. Bob Kustra, President,
Boise State University

What is the first thing you would show a visitor to the Treasure Valley? Why?

I have a feeling that Boise State’s famous Blue Turf would already be on their list. On the way there, I would stop to show them our state-of-the-art Micron Business and Economics Building, which houses a high-tech stock market room and the boardroom used by our nationally known MBA programs. I’d take them through the New Product Development lab in the Micron Engineering Complex — where President Obama visited to show the country how innovation in higher education can drive the modern tech economy. And I’d walk them through the center of campus to meet some of our amazing students. They are the reason that Boise State now confers 46 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded by Idaho public universities and has the largest graduate school in the state.

What is your company’s philosophy on the importance of community?

Boise State University was created in direct response to community needs and has continually innovated and reinvented itself in anticipation of community needs through its more than 80-year history. As Idaho’s metropolitan university, our mission makes it clear that our educational, research and creative activity are all designed to foster community engagement and the region’s economic and cultural vitality. One of Boise State’s five driving goals is to align university programs and activity with community needs.

What makes the Treasure Valley a great place to live?

The Foothills, the Greenbelt, the Boise River… My wife, Kathy, and I love the access to so many recreation opportunities right outside our door — almost as much as our dog Sadie does. She and I enjoy walks through this amazing city and its Foothills just about every morning. These outdoor amenities coupled with the cultural opportunities available to all citizens create a community that is hard to beat. We also love how safe it feels, which is a big selling point for Boise State to parents from around the country and the world. I remember calling Kathy from the Greenbelt on my first visit to Boise and the Boise State campus. She hadn’t seen it yet, but I knew then we had found our new home.

What is the biggest challenge or opportunity for our community in 2016?

Ensuring that we maintain a commitment to invest in all levels of education — and recognizing that the value this adds for everyone in the region. From pre-kindergarten to high school to university and beyond — they’re all connected. If we don’t start our children off in strong early childhood education programs, we will be playing catch-up for the rest of their school careers, and that will cost even more money in the long run. Our economy demands highly educated workers and leaders, and while it is our job at Boise State University to adapt to the changing needs of our community and our students, the pathway to longterm success starts long before a student reaches our campus.

What lasting impression do you hope the community will have of Together Treasure Valley?

I hope that Idahoans will realize that the Treasure Valley’s leaders and leading institutions can find a shared vision that furthers our community’s values while both embracing and preparing for the inevitable challenges that come with continued growth and development.

Why did you choose to get involved in Together Treasure Valley?

One of the things that puzzled me as a new citizen of Idaho when I first arrived was the Great State of Ada moniker that Idahoans from outside our region used to refer to the Treasure Valley. Obviously not intended as a compliment, it drew a line of separation between Idahoans based simply on where they lived, and implied that the size of a region somehow casts it as the state’s problem. Far from it, the Treasure Valley is the economic engine of Idaho responsible for almost half of the state revenue that fuels the state budget. I applaud the Statesman for this effort, which brings the Valley’s leaders together in a spirit of collaboration and builds an even stronger Valley that serves not just the citizens of southwestern Idaho, but citizens across the state.

How has the Treasure Valley changed since you’ve lived here?

Certainly there has been tremendous growth in the population as well as the diversity and sophistication of industry. The opportunities today for high-tech workers, creative artists and innovators, and business and social entrepreneurs are unprecedented, and it has been essential for Boise State to keep up with these changes and the demands. We’ve partnered with the software industry and are moving our entire Computer Science department Downtown. We have built new majors like the Gaming, Interactive Media and Mobile program that grew to double our anticipated enrollment within its first year, since virtual reality and related technologies are so poised for local innovation. We revamped the idea of a school of government with our School of Public Service, and created the College of Innovation and Design to lead the way in finding new pathways of learning, forging new community partnerships and envision what the university of tomorrow will look like.

Who could be better served by our community?

Without a doubt, early learners could be better served across the state of Idaho. Pre-kindergarten is essential in giving students the start they need to be successful in school, higher education and life. High school graduates from families with limited financial resources are also underserved here — just three states spend less per student on financial aid than Idaho. Boise State created the True Blue scholarship to help Idaho students who show both need and merit. For our neediest students, the scholarship and federal grants will cover all of their tuition, but financial needs are still a struggle for many families. Finally, we need to be sure good jobs with decent wages await our recent college graduates so that we can keep them here in the Treasure Valley. Boise State programs like Bridge to Career are aimed at making sure our graduates are ready to succeed.

What is the Treasure Valley’s best-kept secret?

It is really difficult to put a finger on just one thing, but rather I think it is the combination of all we have to offer here in the Treasure Valley. There is a whole list of things that work together to make this place special — the beauty of the setting, the friendly people, the temperate climate, the safety, the community support for the arts, the food! It is a tremendous combination of things that draw people here. When we are hiring someone from out of state at the university, we know we just have to get them here to visit and experience the area. Then we have them hooked.

Who is someone local who has influenced you?

Steve Appleton was a man who never lost sight of his love for this community or its university. Steve worked tirelessly to enrich in so many ways the community he called home. He played a critical role in transforming Boise State into a research university serving the tech economy of Idaho. I valued his friendship, his generous support, and especially the advice and counsel he provided me personally over the years.

Anything else you’d like to highlight about how your company supports the Treasure Valley?

Boise State University is proud to be Boise’s university. We’re a great university in a great college town — a lofty goal set decades ago by President John Keiser. To remain that way, we have to continually embrace new opportunities and look forward, whether that is through our dedication to the arts and cultural backbone — as in our planned Center for the Fine Arts — through our responsive partnerships with business and industry or through continued collaboration with the city, our surrounding communities and beyond. We know that Boise’s future — perhaps even more than its past — is intrinsically connected to how we at Boise State adapt and lead and innovate. No one at the university takes this responsibility lightly.

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