Boise State makes much-needed connections with the Capitol

Boise State students, faculty, and staff assembled at the capitol building Thursday, Jan. 24 to showcase student demographics, research projects, and advancements to the school that are made possible by support from the state legislature.

The first floor of the Rotunda was laden with blue and orange for the day, including a Boise State emblazoned podium, a blue carpet rug and approximately seven eclectic booths encircling the room. These booths featured different departments and organizations of the university that are pertinent to both Boise State and the legislature. University representatives manned these booths, and student ambassadors also wandered about the legislature, mingling with different policy-makers for the day.

“Everybody agrees that it was probably the best day at the capitol we’ve had in recent years,” said Associated Students of Boise State University President Ryan Gregg.

Morning activities included a proclamation issued by Gov.  C.L. Butch Otter that Jan. 24 was officially Boise State University Day. The pep band and cheerleaders attended the event as well as ASBSU council members, various individuals representing certain campus organizations and approximately 35 student ambassadors.

“It was a great turnout by the students,” said ASBSU Secretary of External Relations Jace Whitaker. “I was really impressed.”

For the first time, university President Bob Kustra’s office coupled with ASBSU to make Boise State at the Capitol possible.

“Over the years, what we’ve noticed was that each person or each department or group brought something specific to it,” explained Whitaker. “The President’s office had a lot of logistical support and really knew how to make an event look great. The student ASBSU really brought students together to create the student ambassador team for the
legislators.”

Organization of the event was a two-part process. The first step, controlled by ASBSU, was to create a team of about 35 students to meet with legislators during the day. This team was comprised of individual students who are involved in many activities all over campus, including Greek life, the Honors College, multicultural student service, and various academic departments. Each student was paired with a legislator with whom to make contact for the day.

“I usually try to target some of the students who are heavily involved on campus. I look for students who have had training before in interacting and representing Boise State,” Whitaker said.

The second part of the process was the selection of the organizations that would represent Boise State using displays. The president’s office selected these organizations based on which remained most pertinent to legislation and to the legislators themselves. The guidelines for the displays were handled by the president’s office and each display maintained a certain level of visual appeal with graphics as well as statistics and some hands-on materials.

“The President’s office shapes the direction of where they want to go, and they select things that are very important or relevant to what the legislators are doing here,” Whitaker said.

The NASA’s Microgravity University program was featured at Boise State at the Capitol, as well as Boise State’s materials science program, which often works with the Idaho National Laboratories. Boise State’s microgravity research team has been selected for the fifth time as one of 14 university teams to participate in NASA research.

The Career Center and Alumni Center collaborated on a display which gave information about Boise State students after graduation, the new University Foundations program and the incorporation of workforce skills required by many businesses and corporations.

“Legislators are certainly interested in where they (Boise State graduates) end up going to work at, where they end up living, who they work for,” explained Debbie Kaylor, director of the Career Center.

Vice provost for Undergraduate Studies,  Sharon McGuire,  Ph.d., manned a booth that explained the curriculum for university undergraduates, including the campus reads and the clicker technology seen in many lecture halls.

“It’s an opportunity for us to interact, build relationships, showcase Boise State and learn what’s on the mind of the legislators,” said McGuire.

IDoTeach, a program aimed at producing teachers with expertise in math and science, and IGEM, or Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, both set up displays at the event. IGEM is a grant awarded by the state board of education that enhances the computer science program at Idaho universities.

A service-learning display was also present at Boise State at the Capitol, detailing the ways it involves community partners with university students to somehow aid the community. Dayna Mitchell, a representative of service-learning, believed that there were some other benefits of attending Boise State at the Capitol.

“Maybe get some buy-in, like now that you know what we’re about, what can you do for us,” she explained.

Boise State at the Capitol does provide the university with an opportunity to promote itself as a respectful and serious institution, stated Gregg.

“They still have this image of us as people who didn’t like to play by the rules,” Gregg said.

By attending the event, Boise State had the opportunity to repair any negative prior conceptions or conceived notions the legislators might have had about Boise State. Boise State at the Capitol was an opportunity for the university to put a face to its name for the legislators.

“Lots of times its easy for them to cut funding or deny funding if they don’t have a personal tie,” Gregg said. “People who champion causes usually have a connection with them.”

About the author  ⁄ McKenzie Perkins

McKenzie Perkins

McKenzie is a freshman majoring in Mass Communication with an emphasis in Media Studies and a certificate in Public Relations. She has eclectic interests in travel, sports, literature, and political science. She also works for KTVB Channel 7 and Boise State Public Radio. Follow her on Twitter @kenzperks