Bob Kustra

President of Boise State University

Bob Kustra is the host of Reader's Corner a weekly radio show that features lively conversations with some of the nation’s leading authors about issues and ideas that matter today.

Dr. Bob Kustra is president of Boise State University, the largest public university in Idaho, with an enrollment of nearly 20,000 students served by 2,800 faculty and staff.

Now in his ninth year, he leads the university in a time of dynamic growth in student enrollment, new construction, fundraising and research. Long heralded for its devotion to classroom teaching, Boise State has expanded its mission to become an emerging metropolitan research university of distinction..

With a long and distinguished career in public service in Illinois, Dr. Kustra served two terms as lieutenant governor, following 10 years in the legislature. He also chaired the Illinois Board of Higher Education, responsible for funding and oversight of the state’s nine public universities. Dr. Kustra’s background in radio includes four years as host of a talk show on WLS-AM in Chicago.

Prior to joining Boise State, Dr. Kustra served as president of Eastern Kentucky University and the Midwestern Higher Education Commission. He has held faculty positions at the University of Illinois-Springfield, Loyola University of Chicago, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Northwestern University.

Ways to Connect

A handful of times in our planet’s history, the vast majority of plant and animal life has gone extinct, leaving a desolate and alien earth, devoid of trees, fish, and familiar signs of life. In the more recent past, scientists have pointed to asteroids to explain some of these extinction events. But today, that view is being questioned. More evidence is pointing towards terrestrial causes of our past extinctions, notably climate and ocean change, spurred by the influx of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.


The state of public education is a constant concern these days -- for families, for legislators, for teachers and experts. Many are questioning methods embraced by American school systems as we see other countries besting us, particularly in math and science.


Altruism seems to be built into our DNA. From the founding of thousands of public libraries by Andrew Carnegie a century ago, the recent mass emergence of social entrepreneurs, and the dawn of the “effective altruism” movement, “making a difference” is part of what gives us purpose. Yet not all altruism is created equal. In labs around the world, studies are being conducted to better understand why we give, what we can learn from our mistakes, and how we can use evidence-based methods to more effectively help our fellow man. 


When it comes to getting cash to make ends meet, many Americans don’t take their business to the local bank. Instead, they rely on alternative financial systems such as check cashing stores and payday lenders.  Despite high interest rates and sometimes exorbitant fees, these services fill a vital need for those living paycheck to paycheck, and who, for a variety of reasons, distrust banks.


Millennials. Baby Boomers. Gen-Xers. The Greatest Generation. Each designation conjures up ideas and preconceptions about the Americans born during those eras. But what of the Gifted Generation? That designation may be less familiar. It refers to Americans born in the years following World War II. They are the earliest -- and historian David Goldfield would say, the most fortunate -- group of Baby Boomers.


This encore interview with Nancy Koehn was originally broadcast in March, 2018.

  

Today we’re continuing our conversation with Scott Eyman about his book Hank & Jim. The book chronicles the long friendship between two Hollywood icons, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart. Unlike many friendships, theirs wasn’t based on shared beliefs about things like religion or politics. In fact, Stewart was a church-going Republican married to the same woman for 45 years. Fonda was a liberal Democrat and a non-believer who was married five times. Despite these and other differences, Fonda and Stewart found solace in each other’s company. They understood each other on a cellular level and around each other, they could have fun and relax.


Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart are beloved icons of Hollywood’s Golden Age, with careers that spanned decades and movies that still hold up today. They also were best friends who enjoyed spending time together, away from the glitter of their very public lives. With each other, they were simply Hank and Jim, two guys who flew kites, built model airplanes, played elaborate practical jokes on occasion, and didn’t find it necessary to talk about making movies, women, or the world war they both served in.


This encore interview was first broadcast in February, 2018

With more than 500 million citizens in its 28 member states, the European Union has long embodied the dream of a united Europe, where the free movement of goods, capital, services and workers would lead to greater economic and political clout for all. But in recent years, the fissures within the EU have deepened. The Syrian refugee crisis, the economic downturn, a spate of terrorist attacks and the Greek financial bailouts have roiled the EU.  And then came Brexit, the decision by British voters to exit the European Union, much to the surprise and consternation of the many observers who expected the referendum to fail.

    

Chances are that today, like every day, you’ll interact with one or more of four gigantic companies that have become embedded in daily life. Need to buy a book? It’s just a quick click away on Amazon. Curious about the person who wrote it? “Google” the author on your iPhone. You can follow her on Facebook, too. And that’s just the veritable tip of the iceberg when it comes to the services these companies provide. They can make our lives easier – but at what cost?


Today’s mountaineers tackle the world’s tallest peaks with the latest in technical gear – from down suits to nylon ropes and even cell phones. It is a far cry from the 1920s, when the first mountaineers to attempt Mount Everest climbed in hobnail boots, hauled canvas tents and were literally facing the unknown.


Soner Cagaptay, is an expert on a country that many of us know too little about. That country is Turkey, the oldest democracy, and the largest economy, between India and Italy. Turkey occupies a crucial position between Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. And that makes its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a vitally important figure on the world stage.


A daily battle is raging along the 10th Parallel – the line of latitude 700 miles north of the equator in Africa and Southeast Asia where Islam and Christianity intersect. In this critical geographical band, religious ideologies clash, often erupting into deadly violence as more than half the world’s Muslims and 60 percent of the world’s Christians compete for the souls of the region’s burgeoning population.


The descriptive phrase, “The Wild West,” brings to mind images of gunslingers, dusty miners and pioneering families eager to forge a fresh start in an inhospitable place. But in a new book, journalist Blaire Briody takes us on a tour of America’s contemporary Wild West: the badlands of North Dakota, under which reside an estimated 4.3 billion gallons of recoverable oil, making it the largest oil reserve in the lower 48 states.


This encore program originally was broadcast in March, 2018.

The Great Recession ultimately left millions of Americans without jobs and devastated entire communities. The bruises have lingered, perhaps nowhere more so than in the industrial communities of our nation’s heartland, in places like Janesville, Wisconsin. Janesville was home to the oldest operating General Motors plant until it shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas in 2008.

  

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