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Meet winter 2021 commencement speaker Mariah Kidd

Mariah Kidd, a geosciences major and winter 2021 commencement speaker, photo by Priscilla Grover

Boise State is proud to present Mariah Kidd as one of two winter 2021 commencement speakers. Kidd will speak at the 5 p.m. ceremony on Dec. 18 at ExtraMile Arena. She graduates magna cum laude with a bachelor of science in geosciences and an emphasis in geology.

Kidd is a first-generation student from Meridian, Idaho. As part of the university’s geosciences program, she has participated in geologic research throughout Idaho at Craters of the Moon and in Stanley, Mackay and locations in the Treasure Valley.

“I’ve always had a deep sense of connection to the Earth, which originally led me to environmental studies,” Kidd said. “Pursuing a degree in geosciences was a path for me to better understand how the planet has evolved over time.”

Kidd (second from the right) on a geosciences research trip in Idaho

Her most memorable excursion took place at popular Boise overlook, Table Rock, where she determined what type of environment may have deposited rock sediments by a process called geologic unit mapping. Geologists use the many characteristics of rocks, pebbles and sand – all of which Kidd examined – to interpret past climate conditions. She learned that a rock’s roundness or angularity, its size and color, and other patterns reveal specific conditions required for the material to be deposited as it was.

“This project provided a new lens for me to see through,” Kidd said.

As part of Boise State’s Outdoor program, Kidd led trips where students snowshoed and built snow caves in Idaho City

From 2018 to 2020, she served as a trip leader for Boise State’s Outdoor Program, completing rafting guide school and backpack training with other students who share her passion for the outdoors. On one trip, Kidd and a group of 15 students explored Idaho City by snowshoeing into a location to build and sleep in snow caves.

Kidd attributes much of her academic success and development to Heidi Estrem, a professor and director of the first-year writing program in the English department who has known Kidd since her first days on campus.

“I was captivated by her curiosity, openness to reflection, and willingness to think about herself and her learning,” Estrem said. “I knew I had more to learn from her.”

After Kidd completed Estrem’s English 102 class in 2018, Estrem invited Kidd to participate in a writing study. This led to a collaborative research project on student writing. The two have logged 25 hours of interview recordings, thousands of pages of academic writing, and more than 15 notebooks of class notes for analysis. Their project is ongoing.

“I’ve watched her engage with philosophy classes, figure out how to study for math and science classes, find the major and emphasis that is right for her, explore extracurricular activities and work experiences, and all the while continue to push herself to ask big questions about learning, higher education and life after college,” Estrem said. “Mariah is quietly confident, willing to take risks, and genuinely interested in learning.”

Kidd said that her collaborations with Estrem have played a major role in building who she is and how she perceives herself.

“If it weren’t for Heidi’s interest in my writing and her support for me as a person, I would have never looked back on my college writing in the ways that I have,” she said. “It has provided insight about how much I’ve truly changed through the last four and a half years and has brought a new depth of appreciation for my writing, not only academically but also personally. I am confident that this experience will continue to bring reflective practices into my life beyond college.”

Kidd took part in multiple research trips throughout Idaho with her geosciences classmates

Kidd hopes to continue working as a float specialist at Stillwater Float Center in Boise, as a yoga instructor, and as a part-time babysitter. Her story likely will resonate with many other graduates: a first-generation student who’s worked several jobs throughout school, resided on- and off campus, and questioned if getting her degree was worth it. She offered advice to her fellow soon-to-be graduates and others.

“It seems simple and somewhat obvious, but it’s also worth mentioning. It’s normal not to have your entire life figured out right now. There’s a lot of pressure from society, family and ourselves that could make it feel like you need to have it all figured out. I would just remind you to trust your intuition, follow opportunities as they arise and let yourself figure it out along the way.”

Kidd received awards from the National Science Foundation GeoScholars Scholarship, Idaho Opportunity Scholarship and True Blue Promise Scholarship, and made the dean’s list with highest honors. She graduates with a 3.93 GPA.