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Boise State president talks about Japan, Micron and the PAC-12 debacle

Dr. Marlene Tromp, President of Boise State University
Boise State University, Micron
Dr. Marlene Tromp, President of Boise State University

As Boise State President Dr. Marlene Tromp welcomes another school year, she says the university continues its evolution from what started as a community college nearly a century ago to a 21st century education and business partner on the global stage.

“We have advanced so much as a university in ways that are truly transformative,” said Tromp. “And those impacts will ripple out across this state, this region, and the world in ways that no one could have predicted when this university was founded in 1932.”

Just days before the first day of classes for the 2023 fall semester, Tromp visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about those global opportunities, how the PAC-12 debacle concerns Boise State, and much more.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Well, here we are… Boise State back in session for a new school year. Convocation set for tomorrow, Friday…  The first day of classes, Monday the 21st. But really the official beginning of a school year is usually teed up by the president's State of the University address. That was yesterday at the Morrison Center. So, we are lucky this morning to get some time with President Marlene Tromp. Good morning.

DR. MARLENE TROMP: Thank you for having me here, George.

PRENTICE: How might you distinguish this new semester? What seems new and or different to you?

TROMP: George This is such an exciting time for Boise State University, for our students, for our faculty and staff, and for the State of Idaho. We have advanced so much as a university in ways that are truly transformative, and that has created different kinds of opportunities for every member of our community. And those impacts will ripple out across this state and this region and the world in ways that no one could have predicted when this university was founded in 1932. And so what feels really new to me right now is the enormous capacity for impact and the enormous opportunity for truly extraordinary things to continue to happen in the coming year.

PRENTICE: So give me a taste of that. What are you thinking?

TROMP: This summer I attended the G7 summit…

PRENTICE: In Japan?.

TROMP: Yes, it was an amazing experience. We had spent a great deal of time behind the scenes developing a partnership with universities here in the US with our already wonderful and trusted partner in Micron and with five universities and a semiconductor entity in Japan. And I got to meet those other university presidents from Japan, talk with them about their faculty and the research that they're conducting. We're developing ways to partner and do exchanges. I got to tour Micron's facilities there. But what in some ways was most exciting about it was the profound emblem it is of the way in which Boise State University, which was founded as this community college to.serve the community, is now serving our community by doing globally impactful work that will change the future for our students, whether they're studying to be in engineers in the semiconductor industry or whether they want to be a part of our Semiconductor for All program that will give students from any background access to that important field that will be transformational for the state of Idaho's future and for those students who are interested in those areas. Our Semiconductor For All program starts in kindergarten. We're actually reaching all the way down K-20 to find ways to really help students embrace this important Stem field from whatever perspective. It's that kind of opportunity will change the future of this university, the future for our students, and we'll have a tremendously positive impact on our state.

PRENTICE: I would be remiss if I did not take note that Boise State football will kick off another season in a couple of weeks, September 2nd, which does lead me to that ground breaking news of the well, what appears to be a crumbling PAC 12 conference. And all of the talk out of that that more often than not concerns Boise State status. Do you do you consider that fluid? Are you talking about that or do you sit back and keep the cards close to the vest until somebody makes some kind of offer?

TROMP: You know, first I have to say I was deeply grieved to see the PAC 12, which is such an August conference and has such a storied history. I was grieved to see that conference have so many departures, and I worry about the student athletes who will have to make it really extended travel across the country and the impact that will have on their academic careers and I think there are really hard decisions that institutions, athletics programs, conferences are making right now. And I've been I'm on the executive board of the Mountain West Conference and we've been very attentive to and conscious of all these changes and really watching that shifting dynamic. But it's been changing sometimes hour by hour. It literally had almost 100 phone calls last weekend, just about everything that was shaking up. And so it's not a passive sitting and waiting. It's constant analysis, constant engagement, constant dialog. And what we'll do is really strive to do the best for our students, our university in the state. So in that process, we really pay attention to all the puzzle pieces. And I know people are very proud of our Bronco athletics. And what I'm equally proud of is that this university has really matched the performance, the nationally significant performance of our athletics programs, and that's all across athletics with nationally significant performance and research, national upticks in our graduation rates. And we've broken records for philanthropy, for student graduation and for research. This year we shattered our previous research record. We actually hit 91 million this year. And when I arrived at Boise State, it was 53.

PRENTICE: Is change inevitable, though, on that landscape in athletics?

TROMP: I don't know that we have stopped seeing change. Yeah, I don't know that there won't be much more ongoing change. And I also serve on the NCAA Division 1 board of directors and I serve on the NCAA Division 1 Finance Committee. Everyone is asking questions as the world around us changes so profoundly about how college athletics will change. And so I think we'll continue to see flux. I don't know when we'll see a point where everyone takes a deep breath and feels like all the change is over because it began really the ball began rolling when there was a Supreme Court ruling around name, image and likeness when student athletes could benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness. And those changes are going to just keep coming. Now, what I'm most proud of in terms of our student athletes, of course, they have great performance on the field of competition, but our student athletes are in the top 5% academically of all NCAA D1 schools.

PRENTICE: And to your point, they are student athletes. I only have a couple of minutes, but I have always been curious. During the school year, do you get opportunity to be in classrooms either to be a part of the class or to teach or present a lecture?

TROMP: I do sometimes, and it's one of my very favorite… interacting with students is one of my very favorite things. I’ve just been so excited all week anticipating their return to campus. And every day when we have more folks here, whether it's students who are in the residence hall Association and they're getting ready for their student residents to arrive or students who are orientation leaders, the thrill increases because they really bring such a fantastic energy. And those are students, whether they're our first time full time freshmen or coming to campus for the first time, or whether they're returning students who bring incredible knowledge and experience. So it's really a treat for me. And when I'm walking across campus, I stop and talk with students all the time. But whenever I get to enter a classroom, it's a great joy. And typically, at least once a year, I've taught classes over the course of semesters before, but typically at least once a year I get to get into a classroom and give a lecture or moderate a discussion. But I do talk to students all the time.

PRENTICE: She is Dr. Marlene Tromp, President of Boise State University. Great. good luck for another semester. Have a great time next week, and thanks for giving me some time this morning.

TROMP: It's been my great pleasure, George. Thank you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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