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Winter 2016

Volume 3, Issue 1

The Honors Review A Newsletter from the Honors College at Boise State University

In This Issue From a Far-Away Land A Satisfied Peer Mentor Oxford Bound

A Note from the Dean

The winter newsletter is late, and that is my fault. It’s tardy because of a bit of disorganization on my part but also because the Honors College continues to flourish in so many ways. We welcomed our largest cohort of students by far in fall 2015, which grew the college by 40%. We now stand at 560 students. We expect another record year in enrollment for fall 2016. This is not an accident. Our growth ties to our goal to meet a national benchmark for size—around 750 students—and our anticipation of the fall 2017 opening of a new Honors College building featuring offices, classrooms, and 300 beds for residents.

Hello From the HSA



Letter from an Alumna



A New Alumni Chapter



The growth means more demand for classes and programming. We’ve added course options in accountancy, biology, physics, and psychology. We added a retreat course for juniors designed to hone oral and written communication skills toward job and graduate school applications. We expanded our list of study-away experiences while strengthening our Oxford program with a summer 2015 trip there and another planned for summer 2017. For last summer’s visit to Oxford, my wife, Ingrid, and my sons Carl (7) and Harald (5) joined the students and me. Harald practiced speaking in what he called his “British accident” (instead of “accent”), and Carl couldn’t get enough of the museums and freerange parks of that ancient city. Back stateside, I convened the first external advisory board for the

Honors College. It gathers eight men and women from a variety of backgrounds and professional experience—some graduates and some not who have committed to help me push the College to its next level of distinction. Two student representatives also serve on the board. One of them, Shayna George, has an article in these pages. Her testimony as well as the four other pieces by current and former students illustrate why this new board, along with myself, Annal, Chris, Emily, Peggy, and our new Development Director, Argia Beristain, work so eagerly on behalf of Honors students.

Dr. Andrew Finstuen, Dean Boise State Honors College

The Honors Review

From a Far-Away Land Shayna George Senior, Spanish

I’m from Antigua and Barbuda, a beach vacation destination voted the “Caribbean’s Most Romantic Destination” in 2015. Living not more than ten minutes’ walk from the beach, afternoons would find me standing at the water’s edge listening to the powerful crash of the waves. Coupled with the sweet hum of their constant ebb and flow, I often wondered at how in one minute something could be so loud and boisterous, and in the next so gentle and serene. Almost mischievously, the water would wash away the sand from beneath my feet and threaten to topple me over. Swimming and picnics are as natural to Antiguan and Barbudan culture as is breathing. I would hike with groups of friends and family under the moonlight to the beach and pitch tents. Under the thick, dark blanket of night we’d search out constellations as the stars proudly twinkled above. After some time, sleep would overtake us and the sun would be well into the sky before we knew ourselves again. And the sound of the waves would call to us until we couldn’t resist going for a swim. As I describe these scenes I can’t help but smile. Many people ask why I left all that behind and came to Boise, Idaho. In my opinion, I exchanged the beach for the audacious mountains. And with the mountains, a new family. When I arrived in Boise, I knew no one. What I did know: I wanted to do well academically. Boise State and its International GEM Scholarship had provided the academic adventure. Unfortunately, this opportunity nearly


far-away land, about dealing with the vanished my first semester when my overwhelming demands of supporting sponsor could no longer host me. This myself through school while excelling meant I had to support myself. Now, work academically, about meaning in general. I and school competed for my time. I found wisdom in Dr. Finstuen’s words and juggled up to three jobs and a full course life experience. I also found common load but still wanted to be involved on ground with fellow Honors students who campus. Despite these obstacles, I excelled were experiencing similar things. In reality, and received an Honors College all the staff and students came together to scholarship, plus a wealth of extraform my academic family. When I first curricular activities in a welcoming came I knew no one, but now I am community. distinctly aware that my human situation My journey to that scholarship and has changed. I am into the Honors community began “In reality, all the staff and honored to be an with Dr. Stewart Gardner. I had students came together to Honors student. the pleasure of taking University form my academic family.” When Foundations 100, The Human -Shayna George Dr. Finstuen asked Situation, with Dr. Gardner as one me to write this piece, I was instantly of my lecturers. In the course, we discussed preoccupied. I wondered how I could put philosophers from Aristotle to John Locke. into so few words all that the Honors One day Dr. Gardner asked to speak with College means to me. What I want you to me. Then it happened: one of the most get from what I’ve said so far is this: when defining moments in my Boise State I came to Boise State I had the potential to career. He asked, “Have you considered do well, and I’m pretty sure that I would joining the Honors College Ms. George?” have gotten good grades. What I’m not Until then, I hadn’t considered it an sure about is if I would have been able to option, but the next semester I was in. contemplate the significance of life and the Working long hours and living off campus, role that a university education plays in it was difficult to get involved and find a such a life. I’m also not sure if I would community of peers. Things quickly have realized that every day, in every class, changed once I was in the Honors College. and in every interaction with others, I’m I arrived one Tuesday afternoon at a working toward becoming that type of weekly discussion group called “Free Time person who not only values the life I have, With Finstuen.” Somehow I mixed up the but brings value to those around me. What titles and it incorrectly lodged in my mind I’m sure about is that the relationships I’ve as “Fun Time With Finstuen.” These built and the lessons I’ve learned at the meetings were the first time outside of class Honors College will be with me for the where I could sit in a relaxed environment rest of my life. and just talk. I asked about the significance of life, about adjusting as a foreigner in a

Winter 2016

From Reluctant Peer Mentor to Glowingly Satisfied One Bethany Poythress

Senior, French, International Business

It was a mass email—which is to say, the kind of email I usually skim through and then ignore. But this time, as I skimmed through, something caught my attention — a peer mentor application for the Honors College. Maybe I was feeling pressured to have more leadership skills jammed onto my resume, maybe I was feeling lonely, or maybe it was just a whim, but I decided to look further into this peer mentor business. I pulled open the application to find a long list of responsibilities and a short list of “what you get in return.” The peer mentor experience promised “a glowing sense of satisfaction” for potentially impacting the lives of first year students. As a peer mentor, I would lead a discussion group of Honors freshmen students for nine weeks and help them connect to the Honors College and other campus resources. Shrugging to myself, I filled out the application, had a Skype interview with Honors staff, and was offered a position. By the time August rolled around and it was time for my peer mentor training to begin, I berated myself for signing up. My prior lack of involvement in the Honors College was at the forefront of my mind. I imagined arriving at training to see a group of funny, smart, close-knit students chatting happily…and then me, watching awkwardly from afar. All this, in addition to my quiet, introverted personality, made me unsure if I would be a good fit. In my mind, mentors were vibrant, outgoing, popular people—in other words, not me. But contrary to my fears, I found myself chatting easily with the other peer

each other. Whether we talked about what mentors. The training was useful, fun, and it means to be an Honors student, David worth the time. After our week of training, Foster Wallace, or even death, our small we departed with the first year students for group of just fifteen students continually the two-day retreat in McCall. Shortly after inspired us by arriving prepared and stepping off the bus, it was time for interested. everyone’s favorite activity: icebreakers. I The last day of class was bittersweet. I was a little anxious as I remembered stayed up late the night before baking freshman Bethany’s distaste for such cupcakes and making personalized cards activities, but I was also energized from my for each of my students. As I put the week of preparation. With a reassuring finishing touches on the last couple of glance from Luke, my fellow peer mentor cupcakes, my fingers covered in frosting, I and discussion partner, I plastered a big realized that what I was feeling could only smile on my face and announced that we be described as “a glowing sense of were starting. We began with basic satisfaction”. As I stood there in the introductions and then transitioned into kitchen, I reflected on my experience as a playing a game—and to my surprise, people freshman in Honors 198—as a know-it-all participated. freshman, I hadn’t gotten a lot out of it, This spirit of participation persisted except that someone knew my name. I throughout the retreat. We partook in then thought of my students, and how team-building exercises, listened to lectures eager they were to pay from Honors staff, “I imagined arriving at training to and finished off attention and contribute. see a group of funny, smart, closewith an incredible knit students chatting happily…and I like to think that they talent show. Not then me, watching awkwardly from even learned something. afar. ” But if nothing else, they only did I enjoy know that someone spending time with -Bethany Poythress knows their name, and the new students, I got to better know the Honors staff and cares about them at least enough to stay up explore my potential for leadership. making personalized cupcakes. And that can mean a lot, even to a know-it-all Although the retreat was a wonderful freshmen. experience, the discussion sessions themselves were the best part of being a peer mentor. Every week we attended a short lecture covering the topic of the week. A few days later, peer mentors met with their class to discuss the material and its applications. Luke and I got along very well and our experiences complemented


The Honors Review

Oxford Bound Kelly Schutt Senior, Materials Science

My time at Boise State University has been nothing short of transformative. A combination of challenging classes, research experience, and support from outstanding faculty including Dr. Graugnard (Engineering), have brought me to the brink of living my dreams. Thanks to the dedicated mentoring of Dr. Finstuen and Emily Jones of the Honors College, I was fortunate to be awarded a Marshall Scholarship. This scholarship is the United Kingdom’s gift to the United States. It commemorates George Marshall’s role in rebuilding Europe after World War II and provides an opportunity to strengthen the special relationship between the UK and the US. After graduating from Boise State in the spring, I plan to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy in New and Sustainable Photovoltaics at the University of Oxford. This program provides an opportunity to contribute to research on perovskite solar cells. These solar cells may reduce solar panel costs by nearly 90%, a breakthrough enabled by their use of abundant materials in a film that is hundreds of times thinner than a human hair. The great research challenge is to stabilize these materials. If we can extend their useful lifetime to years or decades it will ensure commercial viability, promote climate stability, and provide an option for affordable electricity in the developing world. I am honored to have this opportunity, but none of this was destined. I was not innately good at science, and this journey would have been unimaginable just a few short years ago. My path to Boise State was unconventional. In high school, I had no plans to attend a university. While my parents pro-


vided me with a loving home, neither of them held a degree. Higher education seemed financially impossible. Realizing I needed marketable skills, I taught myself computer programming in high school and started a small analytics consulting business. While I had technical skills, the learning curve of starting a business was way over my head, and our early results were awful. We barely managed to scrape by. We stuck with it, and after a lot of hard work and struggle, we became a Google Partner Company. At Google conferences, I was inspired by people doing technical work that had far-reaching implications. One former Googler had been instrumental in running President Obama’s online campaign, while a Google VP had invented an interplanetary internet for NASA. I was simply working to make money, but I began to wonder if I could find a career with a greater and more positive impact. The transition to renewable energy stood out as an issue that offers compelling environmental and humanitarian benefits, but I needed an engineering background to contribute. After preparing for a challenge, I enrolled at Boise State and began studying materials science. I had many moments of self-doubt over the past few years. My weakest subject was mathematics, and despite many hours of study I failed my first exam in differential equations. I almost withdrew from the course. In research, things didn’t always go well either. I jumped at an opportunity to contribute to the Scalable Nanomanufacturing Grant, which partners Harvard University and Micron Technologies with BSU. I then spent most of an entire summer in a dark

lab, trying to image individual fluorescent molecules. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and each sample I made failed to produce results. But if we never fail, we may never discover what our limits are. By refusing to give up, we push against our limits and grow to take on new challenges. My time at Boise State University has been nothing short of transformative. Distinguished faculty provided the knowledge and support to make it through a demanding materials science program. Our undergraduate research opportunities and our McNair Scholars Program (a national program that funds underrepresented and low-income students) are fantastic and have helped prepare me for a career in research. The Honors College has challenged me to think outside of STEM and realize that technology alone has not and will not solve all of the problems we face. The Marshall Scholarship has given me an opportunity to contribute to research that could do a lot of good in our lifetime. It all feels like a long journey, but they say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day. Maybe some lucky people feel that way, but I think it’s ridiculous. The key is to take the time to cultivate the right intentions, to find a problem you’re truly passionate about, and to make solving that problem your dream. If the problem you care about affects other people, and you work diligently towards a solution, you’re sure to find support for your dream sooner or later. Looking back, the long days of studying and lab work were sometimes fascinating, sometimes stressful, often exhausting, but always worth it.

Winter 2016

Hello from the Honors Student Association

The Honors Student Association (HSA) is a group of eleven dynamic officers whose mission is the coordination, promotion, and advancement of the Honors community. In a practical sense, we do this through the planning and organization of social, service, and outreach events. To continue to grow as leaders, the officers are going through leadership training, taught by the Honors College Assistant Director and HSA Advisor, Chris Hyer. This semester our team is reading “Leadership and Self-Deception” by the Arbinger Institute. Through this training, we explore topics such as understanding how we see ourselves as leaders, using healthy communication and confrontation, and exploring and expressing empathy as a leader. As a team, we hope that as we grow as leaders, we will develop the soft skills to facilitate the growth of the Honors community and one day help us take over the world. This year our officers have or will host a variety of events for students to stay involved with the Honors College community. Some highlights from the fall semester include hiking the Table Rock trail while collecting trash and debris, participating in Rake Up Boise (which had as many leaf fights as bags of leaves raked), and donating to Adopt a Family, which provides Christmas presents to a family in need. We also added a few new projects such as Habitat for Humanity and the Idaho Food Bank. We hope these new opportunities will further engage our current Honors students in conversations about service, privilege, and the impact a few can make within our community. One of the students’ favorite programs was our newly formatted Nerds@Night, which moved from the library to the Student Union. Over 65 students created a herd of nerds united by a healthy fear of midterms during the month of October. The Honors Student Association provided a venue for students to cower collectively at the thought of bad grades while vehemently studying and supporting each other through an organized study schedule and copious amounts of gummy worms to serve as brain food.

Sammy Walker

Janice Witherspoon

HSA President

HSA Historian

This year, HSA officers put in a lot of effort into the annual BroncOlympics, which occurred during Homecoming week. The Honors Student Association team (E=MCHammer) won Trivia Night (of course), had an epic lip sync routine (surprised us, too), and won first place in float decoration for this year’s homecoming parade (yippee!). We built a Harry Potter-themed float, complete with the Whomping Willow, Hedwig owl, and the Sorting Hat, which proved to tip the scales as the float judges were “sorted” into Bronco Nation. As Halloween approached, our Honors students put their fears aside as the Haunted Trolley Tour was as spooky as ever. The Trolley filled with students who learned about the haunted history of Boise as they visited downtown and heard stories about ghosts in the Idanha building, the Old Penitentiary, and a local cemetery. Keeping with the Halloween theme, our creatively dressed students volunteered at the YMCA Halloween Carnival dressed as Minions, Disney characters, Super Mario, and of course, the poor college student. We ran carnival games and handed out candy to children ages 2 to 12. The Honors Student Association is very proud to be engaging with the Boise community as well as advancing its own membership on campus. We look forward to next semester being just as exciting as we offer our annual karaoke contest, Honors week, River Sweep, and many other events into our spring calendar. If you would like to follow future events and progress of the Honors Student Association, like our page on Facebook at Boise State Honors Student Association.


The Honors Review

Letter From an Alumna Emma McInturff Chemistry, Class of 2009

mentors and the confidence that I was ready to take on what When I started at Boise State University in the Honors College in challenges would come next. 2005, I had no idea where I was headed and what I was doing. I I joined Chemical Research and Development at Pfizer as a think every freshly graduated high school student pretends to have process chemist in June of 2014, just after finishing my Ph.D. Since it all figured out, but, for most, that’s not true. I look back on my then, I’ve been struck by a realization that learning doesn’t end time as an undergraduate and feel so fortunate that I found such a when you leave the academic setting. Every day I’m surrounded by great learning environment. I moved into Driscoll Hall and quickly a group of incredible scientists who are experts in the field, and we found a home. Through the Honors curriculum, I had classes with work together to solve real-world problems for which there is no excellent professors that were dedicated to the education and easy answer. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work on a team success of their students. But to me, one of the hidden strengths of that is motivated to do excellent, state-of-the-art scientific research the Honors College was the strong community of high-achieving toward the development of new medicines to improve people’s yet distinct, diverse individuals. Students in the Honors College lives. weren’t afraid to challenge themselves. The status quo wasn’t just In process chemistry, we develop the methods to synthesize getting by and passing classes; it was asking tough questions, the active pharmaceutical ingredients that will be used to test the pushing limits, and striving for significant achievements. I safety and efficacy of potential new drugs, and eventually, to remember many big decisions I faced while at BSU: What was produce the drugs on commercial scale. Neither my undergraduate undergraduate research all about? Could I study abroad and be education nor my doctoral work in transition metal catalysis fully across the world from my family and friends? Could I survive prepared me for this task. I have already learned so much, from the graduate school? Through the opportunities provided at BSU and by following the examples of the success of my “I’ve been struck by a reali- technical details of the highly regulated drug classmates and friends, I felt empowered to face these zation that learning doesn’t development process to everyday lab tasks, like how to scale a reaction from a tiny test uncertainties. In hindsight, these valuable experiences— end when you leave the tube to a 200-liter reactor. The strong the careful instruction in organic chemistry research in academic setting.” foundation for learning and collaboration Dr. Don Warner’s research lab; the National Science -Emma McInturff that Boise State provided has helped me to Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduate welcome each new experience as an opportunity for growth and program; summer abroad studying in Spain; and spring break trips has given me confidence to do the same in the future. and retreats with the Honors College—played a key role in shaping When I was an undergraduate student in the BSU my future. chemistry department, I didn’t know that my current job even After graduating from BSU in 2009, I began graduate studies existed. But BSU and the Honors College started me on my in organic chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. With the path toward a challenging, fulfilling career that impacts the preparation I had as an undergraduate, I quickly was able to lives of many. I’m proud to tell people where I am from and embrace the new challenges of graduate work at a top-tier research where I went to school. While many are familiar with Boise university. Just as the Honors College served as a peer group to State because of the famous Fiesta Bowl victory and the Smurf support and challenge each other, I established a similar Turf (go Broncos!), I hope that the reputation for highly community with my lab mates that was essential to our collective motivated, excellent students with unlimited potential will success in the laboratory, as well as for encouragement during continue to grow, and I know that the Honors College will those tough days (or months) when research projects fail and selfplay an important role in this. doubt and exhaustion began to creep in. I completed my degree with a list of publications and awards, but perhaps of equal importance, with strongly forged relationships with my peers and


Winter 2016

Announcing a New Alumni Chapter

Community is an integral part of the Honors College experience at Boise State, and now the opportunities to foster that same community are expanding. Several alumni are organizing a group dedicated to connecting Honors students after they graduate. The group has a few key ideas in mind, one of which is supporting the Honors College by mentoring current students and by providing financial contributions. The group would also allow for networking among alumni, both locally and virtually. Since Honors alumni are spread around the

nation and even around the world, this group will provide a great way for alumni, whether near or far, to connect to one another. The organizing alumni are looking for more alumni to get involved and to give input about the mission and the goals of the group. If you are interested in joining, you can find the group on LinkedIn under “Boise State Honors Alumni.� For more information, contact Jamie Lundergreen (2014) at

Snapshots of the Honors Oxford Program Summer 2015



1910 UNIVERSITY DRIVE, BOISE, IDAHO 83725-1125 258A100001

NONPROFIT ORG US POSTAGE PAID BOISE, ID PERMIT NO. 1 (208) 426-1122 Honors College Staff Dean Andrew Finstuen, Ph.D. Assistant Director Christopher Hyer Development Director Argia Beristain Associate Director Annal Frenz National Scholarships Coordinator Emily Jones Management Assistant Peggy Lindley

Featured Honors Events Distinguished Lecture Series: April 14, 2016, 7:00 pm Jordan (SUB) The Honors College will welcome Dr. Carl Wieman as our spring 2016 Distinguished Lecturer. Dr. Wieman holds a joint appointment as professor of Physics and of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. Dr. Wieman has received numerous awards recognizing his work in atomic physics, including the Nobel Prize in physics in 2001.

Last Lectures: April 2016 At the end of April and in anticipation of graduation, seniors will present lectures to fellow students, faculty, friends, and family members, highlighting what they most valued about their time at Boise State. Lectures will be presented in the Driscoll Lounge.

Honors Week: April 2016 Come celebrate all things Honors! The Honors College and HSA will be hosting a week of social, educational, and service opportunities ranging from guest lectures and campus beautification to many food-centric gatherings.

For more information on Honors events, visit

Learn More About Honors Whether you are a student, prospective student, alumnus, or community member, we encourage you to visit the Honors College. We are happy to give you a tour of Driscoll Hall, arrange for you to sit in on an Honors class, and answer any questions you might have about the Honors College experience. Please feel free to contact us at (208) 426-1122 or

Boise State University Honors College Newsletter - Winter 2016