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Here's what you need to know before attending Boise State basketball games at ExtraMile Arena

A view from up high of a men's basketball game taking place at ExtraMile arena. Fans sit in darkened stands on all four sides and the court is lit up while a game is in progress.
Boise State University
The 2021-22 Boise State women's and men's basketball seasons tip-off at ExtraMile Arena in early November.

When Boise State women’s and men’s basketball tips off at ExtraMile Arena in the coming weeks, officials will be expecting fans to wearing face coverings. And for those fans who would like a bit more space, the university will deliberately not sell out all sections of the arena, so that select areas can be used for extra social distancing.

“If you want to be in ExtraMile Arena, and you have reasons to feel additional concerns, we can provide you with a space that'll get you a little further removed from folks,” said Boise State President Dr. Marlene Tromp. “We’ve had such generosity from people in indoor settings.”

Tromp visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the revised safety protocols, the university’s increasing focus on cybersecurity and Boise State’s enrollment numbers for the fall semester.

“As Boise State continues to grow, and we see people wanting access to a Boise State education, we've grown at the graduate level and at the undergraduate level, and that's because Idaho is thriving.”
Dr. Marlene Tromp

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News Good morning. I'm George Prentice. We always have a full slate of issues to discuss when we're lucky to get some time with Boise State University President Dr. Marlene Tromp. So, let's do just that, Dr. Tromp. Good morning.

DR. MARLENE TROMP: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Up top, by my count, we are just over a bit more than two weeks away from the first Boise State women's basketball tip-off, and the men follow soon thereafter at ExtraMile Arena. Have you finalized… or are you finalizing… safety protocols for fans?

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

TROMP: The first thing I have to say is both our men's and women's basketball teams are fantastic, so I encourage folks to get out to ExtraMile Arena and watch them compete. We are really conscious of the fact that in our indoor spaces on campus, it's critical for people to wear face coverings. I was at a women's volleyball match this last weekend. We had security moving throughout the gym where we were reminding people to pull up their face coverings… to keep their face coverings over their mouth and nose. And we had great compliance. I don't know if you've ever been to see our volleyball team - they had a great victory this last weekend - but there was great compliance in that gymnasium. So, people are very conscious that they're really physically close to the student athletes; and even the athletes who weren’t playing have their face coverings on,  with that indoor space… just like all of our indoor spaces on campus. We will be expecting full compliance with our mask protocols, and we are also going to provide for folks who have additional concerns: some physically distanced sections within the facility. So, if you want to be in ExtraMile Arena, and you have reasons to feel additional concerns, we can provide you with a space that'll get you a little further removed from folks. So, we're not going to sell those facilities out for any of those games. We're going to make sure that folks can have access to space if they need more of that space. But I'll tell you something really interesting, George: We have now been so many months into this pandemic, and we contact trace every single case we have on our campus, and we have not yet contact traced a single case to an in-,classroom setting. So, what we know is that when people are wearing those facial coverings in classes, sitting shoulder to shoulder with each other…those facial coverings have kept our students, faculty and staff safe in the classroom. And so we believe we can do the same in ExtraMile Arena. And I will tell you that people were cheering with the kind of gusto and enthusiasm you expect at any Broncos athletic match at that volleyball game; but they did it with their masks on. So, we plan to mirror the incredible success we've had in the classroom with the kinds of practices that we want to have in ExtraMile Arena and it might also be worth mentioning that we just have had such generosity from people in indoor settings in following those protocols.

PRENTICE: Let's talk a little bit about cybersecurity. This has been… well, quite frankly, the last couple of years have been terrifying when we look at the number of major industries….a major pipeline, meatpacking plants, even cities and some government agencies across the U.S. that have fallen victim to cyber crime. And that leads me to a very recent recognition of Boise State from U.S. News and World Report for innovation and focus on cybersecurity.

TROMP: We are so proud of that effort. Right now, there are nearly a half a million cybersecurity jobs that are unfilled in the United States. There's such a huge demand in this field, and given the asset of the INL in this state, I really believed when I came here that we could make Idaho a national leader in cybersecurity. So, I hired Ed Vasko, who's a nationally recognized cybersecurity expert, to come into Boise State and help us think through how we might work with our faculty and with industry, and really accelerate what we're doing at Boise State. So, we've created a program called Blue Turf Pathways that allow our students to come from a full range of fields of study. In fact, Ed Vasko calls them people-oriented programs. So, if you're a psych or sociology major, you can bring that skill set into one of our academic programs in cyber. Contrary to what most institutions have done… most institutions have narrowed the funnel, so they require students to take a huge number of increasingly specialized cybersecurity classes. We've widened the funnel so that we're touching more students and giving them the opportunity to have access to a full range of options to get additional training in cybersecurity so that as they go into their careers, they can become cyber specialists in their own fields. So, for example, that psychology student or sociology student might have a different way of looking at how to solve or address cyber challenges.
So, if we're only hiring people out of engineering, we're going to get a very narrow look. But if we're hiring people from across the curriculum, we're going to produce a broader range of cyber experts. So, we have a complete cyber curriculum stack, which means we have certificates, bachelor's, master's and PhD programs. And we're one of only a handful of schools in the entire country that offer those kind of pathways; and we're doing something really exciting this year. We've launched the Cyber Dome, which an IGEM grant helped support through our Institute for Pervasive Cybersecurity that allows students to engage regardless of their major. They might be getting a cyber certificate, they might be a cybersecurity major. But regardless of their major they get to actually engage in real cybersecurity problems in a safe environment and to grapple with that… to develop that competency and grapple with those problems before they graduate. So, what a lot of industry complained about is that students had a very good theoretical knowledge of cybersecurity, but they weren't practically ready to problem solve when they got on the job. So, we aim to reach out broadly across the curriculum and to make sure that our students are prepared to actually solve real cyber problems as soon as they graduate.

PRENTICE: Full disclosure… and I don't think this is a big surprise. I'm an employee of Boise State, and the amount of cybersecurity training that we all go through…. most probably would be the envy of many private businesses.

TROMP: I think that's absolutely true. It really fulfills a special passion I have, which is ensuring that rural communities get access to good paying jobs that allow them to continue to thrive. And if you train in cybersecurity, you can go home to your small town in Idaho. Like, I could have gone home to Green River, Wyoming and do a job that is meaningful, impactful, challenging, exciting and allows you to earn a good living right there in that hometown, and lets you stay connected to your community and introduce new resources into that community. So, we really see it as a multilayered win for the state, for these programs to be an opportunity for our students and the range of programs we've introduced in this year alone is just stunning.

PRENTICE: I've only got about one minute left. Do you have any news on enrollment for the fall semester? Do you have any numbers yet?

TROMP: Yes, I do. As Boise State continues to grow, and we see people wanting access to a Boise State education, we've grown at the graduate level and at the undergraduate level, and that's because Idaho is thriving. Boise is thriving and Boise State is helping to prepare those young people to make an impact in the world around them. The overall university enrollment has had an increase of 7.2 percent from last year and a 6.9 percent increase since 2017.

PRENTICE: Dr. Marlene Tromp is president of Boise State University. And when we get together next, I'd like to talk about… my goodness…it’s tough to fathom… but a recap of the fall semester, and looking forward to the spring… and there's everything to look forward to in 2022. And until then, thank you and have a great morning.

TROMP: Thank you, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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