Through its nearly nine decades of educating students, Boise State has inspired great devotion from those who support the university as donors, volunteers, mentors, and more. #BelieveInBroncos is our way to share their stories.
Jennifer Dickey and Andy Huang
Dickey and Huang support several local causes, including Boise State Public Radio where Huang is on the community board. They are also funding a STEM initiative at Garfield Elementary School in Boise. Dickey and Huang have long-held interests in the STEM fields. Their son Nicholas is pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at the University of California Berkeley and Huang taught computer science at Boise State in the 1990s. Dickey became familiar with Associate Professor Brian Jackson after reading a story in the Idaho Statesman about Jackson’s restoration of Boise State’s observatory on the roof of the Education and Science Building. When Jackson began his successful fundraiser to buy a mobile planetarium to further astronomy education in Idaho public schools, Dickey and Huang donated to the project.
“Nicholas and how his future was shaped by the teachers and opportunities available to him in the Boise School District were a large part of why we wanted to support the mobile planetarium in less-advantaged areas of Idaho. We saw the potential to ignite the same sparks that caught fire with our son,” Dickey said. “In my previous job as director of a youth suicide prevention program for the state, I saw the inequality of opportunity between urban and rural school districts. There needs to be some mechanism to equalize opportunity. Our donation to the mobile planetarium was a small contribution towards that.”
During the pandemic, Wali, a managing partner at Gardner Company, recognized that nonprofits and small businesses were struggling. So were college students who lost internship opportunities. Wali and Gardner Company wanted to help both groups. They came up with the idea for Bronco Corps, the program that places paid student interns with local businesses. Gardner Company partnered with Laird Norton Properties, a real estate investment firm, to support the program. Wali is a member of the College of Economics and Business advisory council and the university’s foundation board.
“We are fortunate that Boise State allows the business community to actively participate in the education of the student body. This provides for a workforce which can adapt to a rapidly changing world,” Wali said. “The need for well-rounded, critical thinking graduates will only increase in the years ahead and it should be the mission of every Idaho company to assist in that endeavor.”
Hall is a “double Bronco” with degrees in marketing and social work. She is an original member of the School of Social Work Advisory Council and has volunteered for several years to interview applicants to the online masters of social work program. She spent her two-decade career at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the Veterans Administration in Boise where she retired as the chief of social work. She regularly worked with student interns from Boise State and other institutions and tried, she said, to make sure those interns had rewarding experiences under her care.
Hall is a member of the Barnwell Society. The society, named for Boise State’s first president, Bishop Middleton Barnwell, recognizes donors who have chosen to benefit the university through their deferred charitable estate plans. Hall’s gift will create a scholarship to support students working to earn their master of social work.
“Two things in my life that I’m passionate about are Boise State, and social work,” Hall said. “My donation will help students. It’s also my way of paying it forward to a career that was very rewarding and fulfilling for me. It’s nice to know that my estate, whatever its value, will make a difference.”
Chris Stokes and Nancy Viano
In 2018, Stokes and Viano (a Boise State alum) founded What the Vote! A local, volunteer-run, nonpartisan program dedicated to registering and educating young voters. Since the program began, WTV! volunteers have registered more than 7,000 students at high schools and on college campuses to vote. The organization, “mostly grandmas and older people,” Stokes said, continued to grow. It created a website and gained a sponsor, the American Association of University Women. It produced a PSA and a civics video for teachers when COVID-19 made classroom visits impossible. Stokes, Viano and the other volunteers kept looking for ways to connect with students and hit upon the idea of creating an educational game. They heard about the Games, Interactive Media, and Mobile program at Boise State and its teams of students that develop technological solutions for clients. An anonymous donation allowed What the Vote! to hire a GIMM team to develop an in-class game. The game polls students on timely issues and spurs constructive conversation.
“We’re giving them a tool to start thinking about an idea and to think through issues that impact their lives,” Viano said. She praised the GIMM students’ “energy, professional work ethic and the excitement to make things better.”
Stokes called Boise State “an endless resource for all of us in the community.” “Anthony Ellertson (GIMM director) heard us, honed in, and understood what we needed. He got the students together and guided them. Dr. Ellertson built a partnership with us. And it’s one I hope will continue,” she added.
Bicknell-Holmes, a professor and librarian at Albertsons Library, is a regular food donor to the Campus Food Pantry and donated to help establish the Boise State student community garden. When the pantry opened, she spoke to the American Association of University Women Boise Chapter on student food insecurity. That inspired the group to adopt the pantry as a cause. Bicknell-Holmes coordinated donations from the group in addition to donating personally.
“When I learned that 28% of Boise State students reported being food insecure I was stunned. When I was in college, I tried to eat inexpensively because my budget was tight, but I never went hungry or worried about where my next meal would come from. I never had to dumpster dive behind restaurants for food or skip meals because I didn’t have enough money to eat. Nearly a third of Boise State students are worried about not having food to eat or are going hungry. These students are striving to build a better life for themselves and their families. I feel compelled to support them, even if only a little, by donating and helping stock the food pantry, by talking about food insecurity among college students to anyone who will listen, and by recruiting others to donate. College is hard enough without battling an empty stomach and fatigue because you’re hungry.”
As the director of Filmfort, the cinema-focused component of Treefort Music Fest, Smith (who works on campus as communications and project coordinator for the Center for the Study of Aging) recognized the need for the festival to better connect with and nurture Boise’s filmmaking community. She created an internship program with Boise State’s film and television arts program where students work on professional sets with the filmmakers featured at the annual event. Leading up to the festival, the interns work with Smith to brainstorm creative concepts for social media and marketing campaigns. They watch films and write reviews that help determine Filmfort’s programming. Smith secured a grant from the Boise City Department of Arts and History that supports one of the program’s series called Microdose where Boise State students immerse themselves in the creative process of independent filmmaking.
“Filmmaking is a team sport and I believe it works best when you have people at all levels of experience on the team. Students provide fresh perspectives, and are the future of our film scene here in Boise,” Smith said. “I want to offer the professional experiences that were afforded to me when I was starting my career in film. Filmmaking and event production are both skills you obtain experientially, but it can be intimidating if you don’t have guidance on how to dive in and get started. I love getting students excited about the opportunities we have for them right here in Boise after they graduate, and they strengthen the work we do at Filmfort.”
Smith is president of Franklin Building Supply, a partner and sponsor of the Venture College’s Hacking for Homebuilding competition that challenges students to solve real-world problems posed by experts in the building field. Students devise solutions that could potentially grow into startups. Smith has also been an advisor for the event and has helped the Venture College connect with other businesses in the community.
Smith said he wanted to engage established businesses like his 40-year-old company with Boise’s growing start-up scene and help students “take a leap forward in their entrepreneurial journeys.”
“If you survey the U.S. today, there are no startup ecosystems which have laid claim to being the place for startups in agricultural-tech or construction-tech,” Smith said. “I believe the timing is right for Boise to be the place people think about for those startups, but it will require all the pieces of that ecosystem coming together to make those domains a focus.”
That includes businesses of all sizes and the university working together.
The unique format of Hacking for Homebuilding, “reverse pitches” in which businesses bring their problems to the table, has exposed students to career opportunities, and interesting problems and challenges that require multidisciplinary approaches, and the talents of students from many disciplines, Smith said.
Debbie Kaylor and Kimber Shaw
Each year, Kaylor, Career Services director, and Shaw, associate registrar for Registration and Records, volunteer for B on the Blue. They help students move into their residence halls and find their way around campus during the first week of classes.
“I volunteer because I fell in love with Boise State the first day I stepped on campus a lot of years ago. It was a scary transition for a small-town Idaho girl, but Boise State changed my life in so many positive ways. Campus has grown and changed over the years, but I still love it and am so proud to be a Bronco. I want everyone who steps on campus to feel like they are welcome and that they belong.” said Debbie Kaylor.
“Boise State University and our students are my life passion. I have been at Boise State since 1990 and before that I was a student employee and volunteered in that capacity too. This university contributed to my personal development and identity in a very significant way. It continues to contribute to my professional development. I moved from a very small town about 65 miles away in 1985 to attend Boise State. I was lucky enough to meet faculty, staff and other students early on who would become my mentors and life-long friends. Boise State is my home and if I can be a small part of making that happen for our students, I am all in,” said Kimber Shaw.