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Boise State Students Reach Out to Boise Community, Across the Atlantic for Idaho Basque Challenge

Boise State University junior Lily Sessom was studying in Melbourne, Australia, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, sending her home. 

“I came back to Boise State and was kind of bummed I missed out on that experience, but being in the Idaho Basque Challenge has given me a bit of that, and that was appreciated,” she said.

The Idaho Basque Challenge is a semester-long partnership between Boise State’s Venture College, Mondragon University in the Basque Country of Spain and ESTIA University in Bidart, France. Student teams comprising students from each university engaged in social entrepreneurship, developing business plans to meet pressing needs in their communities 

Sessom’s international team focused on food waste and insecurity, designing a card people facing hunger could use to buy food that would otherwise go unused at local restaurants. To do that, they interviewed restaurateurs and others in food-related industries to learn about the need for new programs and how to build one. They looked off-campus for advice, information and inspiration, including restaurants in the Basque Country and Boise, as well as social entrepreneurship experts like Oliver Russell President and Founder Russ Stoddard.

Tasting event of the new Honors College dining menu, Allison Corona photo
One team participating in the Idaho Basque Challenge consulted with restaurants in Idaho and around the world to reduce food waste and feed people facing food insecurity.

“It’s an age-old ritual in many cultures, actually — youth engaging tribal elders for advice and wisdom,” Stoddard said. “There’s already a fire burning with these students toward a more meaningful way of working and creating value for society. Our job is to stoke that flame.”

In all, the first-ever Idaho Basque Challenge fielded six teams, each addressing a community problem through collaboration with local stakeholders. They presented their projects at the end of the spring 2021 semester. Though a second edition of the challenge at Boise State has not been confirmed, College of Innovation and Design Founding Dean Gordon Jones said the experience is good for students and the world.

“At the College of Innovation and Design, we’re always thinking about the world our students will be going into,” Jones said. “We think it grows educational experience connecting these two parts of the world, and it can enhance the learning in our local communities and the world at large by holding the challenge.”