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Registration is required to attend all Osher Institute programs. The Spring 2021 semester is taking place fully online with livestream and recorded class options. (Please note: Links to recorded Osher Institute programs are only for current Osher members.)

Registration for the Spring 2021 semester opened on Monday, December 7, 2020.

To register:

Spring 2021 Catalog Available Now

Thank you for accessing the online version of the Spring 2021 semester catalog!

Hard copy catalogs were mailed to members on Monday, December 7.

Please note: The Osher Institute office and the Yanke building are closed to the public until further notice. If you would like an additional copy of the Spring 2021 semester catalog, we will be happy to mail you one. Please contact the Osher Institute office at osher@boisestate.edu.

Additional Information

Visit the Registration Information page to view our policies and updates for the Spring 2021 semester.

Visit the Presenter Biographies page to learn more about our presenters.

Spring 2021 Programs

Starting in January

Access to The Great Courses Plus

We have extended our partnership with The Great Courses Plus, an online video-on-demand platform offering thousands of college-level videos and lectures. Register for this offering to receive a unique login for your own account with The Great Courses Plus at a significantly discounted yearly rate.
Please note: It will take two weeks to process your account information after you register.
Dates valid: December 1, 2020 – July 31, 2021
Cost: $35

The Memoir in Pieces: Writing Our Stories One Fragment at a Time

This writing workshop will examine a growing trend of memoirs told in pieces. Participants will read excerpts from book-length memoirs and shorter works using fragments, lists, letters, and even illustrations to convey a life story. Discussions will include how these memoirs often blur the line between prose and poetry through the use of white space, compression, and extended metaphor. If you’ve been working on a memoir, this workshop will provide new ideas, approaches, and inspiration.
Please note: This is a pilot workshop that will be held via Zoom Meeting with enrollment limited to 15. It will not be recorded or offered as part of future archived programs.
Presenter: Susan Rowe, MFA, MA
Dates and times: Tue. and Fri., Jan. 19, 22, 26, 29, Feb. 2, and 5, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $125

Property Tax: Value, Policy, and You

Join the Ada County Assessor to gain a comprehensive overview of property tax in Idaho, including its history in the state; an explanation of the current system and the assessor’s role in the process; a discussion of property tax as a funding source as well as the interplay with the other tax types; a summary of actual and potential policy implications; and the impact on taxpayers.
Presenter: Robert McQuade, Ada County Assessor
Date and time: Tue., Jan. 19, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

The Nine Lives of Benjamin Franklin

Born the tenth son of a humble family of Puritan candle-makers in Boston in 1706, Benjamin Franklin rose to the front ranks of science, engineering, and invention in ways that were unexpected and meteoric. With only two years of proper schooling, Franklin later received honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and St. Andrews as well as the eighteenth-century equivalent of a Nobel Prize for Physics. Like his hero, Isaac Newton, Franklin’s great genius lay in optimizing, tinkering, improving, and never being satisfied with the world as he knew it. We’ll examine many of Franklin’s ideas to make life simpler, cheaper, and easier that encompassed public works, civic improvements, and political trail-blazing.
Presenter: Dr. Richard Bell, Professor of History, University of Maryland
Dates and times: Thu., Jan. 21 and 28, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $25

American Art in the Late Modern Period: Rauschenberg to Postmodernism

Meet Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, two important artists of the twentieth century. Both served in WWII, then met at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Over the next decade, Rauschenberg and Johns created works that challenged the norms of the art world and opened possibilities for avant-garde movements such as Pop Art, Conceptual Art, and Post-Expressionism. Discover how that work influenced Pop Art, Happenings, Fluxus, Conceptual Art, and other movements leading up to the Post-Expressionist painting of the Postmodern period.
Presenter: Dr. Muffet Jones, Professor of Art History, Boise State University
Dates and times: Fri., Jan. 22, 29, and Feb. 5, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $35

The Happiest People

Join Dr. Jonathan Biggane as he discusses his book, The Happiest People, and learn about current research on positive emotions, what makes a life worth living, and how to cultivate happiness. His book is a practical guide to well-being that uses interventions and research from the fields of positive psychology, neuroscience, and business. Dr. Biggane’s research focuses on intra-organizational relationships, with a particular emphasis on employee well-being.
Presenter: Dr. Jonathan Biggane, Associate Professor, Department of Management, California State University Fresno
Date and time: Mon., Jan. 25, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Preserving the Integrity of Elections and the Will of the People: An Osher Special Event

Is it time to enact the National Popular Vote Compact? Efforts in the 2020 election to influence the Electoral College, overturn results of the election, and interfere with the will of the people illuminate the growing call for consideration of enacting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Compact would protect the integrity of elections and the right of the American voters to elect the president. This discussion will consider the strengths and weaknesses of the Compact in light of serious threats to the integrity of presidential elections and democratic institutions.
Presenter: Dr. David Adler, President, Alturas Institute
Date and time: Tue., Jan. 26, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $25

What Does Healthcare Reform Mean Now, Post Election, from Both a National and State Perspective?

Join us for this insightful lecture that will discuss issues within our current national healthcare system and what must be done to repair the fractures within it. Insights will be shared about the financial catastrophe we face as a nation as well as the discrepancy between spending the most of any country on the planet while only ranking 37th in the world for healthcare outcomes. Healthcare delivery reform will be emphasized at federal, state, and local levels. Key principles will be shared as well as what to do to stay as healthy as possible and maximize one’s experience within the healthcare system.
Presenter: Ted Epperly, MD, President and CEO, Family Medicine Residency of Idaho (FMRI)
Date and time: Wed., Jan. 27, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

From Potato Chips to Microchips: The Complex Relationships Among Idaho, the U.S., and China

This presentation will look at how Idaho’s industry and politics put us in the heart of the crossfire of the ongoing U.S. and China trade war.
Presenter: Dr. Jack Marr, Clinical Assistant Professor and COBE Global Programs Directory, Boise State University
Date and time: Wed., Jan. 27, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Ecology of Emerging Diseases

The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a novel virus. Misunderstandings about the origin and ecology of the virus have contributed to confusion about how to respond to the pandemic. This course will provide ecological context for emerging diseases, epidemics, and epidemiologists’ recommendations. It will also discuss the proposed origin of the coronavirus in a wildlife market, and what we can expect about the future of COVID-19 and other pandemics to come.
Presenter: Dr. Eric Yensen, Professor Emeritus of Biology, The College of Idaho
Dates and times: Thu., Jan. 28, Feb. 4, 11, and 18, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $45

Starting in February

Sea Otters on the Oregon Coast: Once Upon a Time and Perhaps Again

Once common in Oregon, sea otters were hunted nearly to extinction for their rich fur from the late 1700s through the 1800s along the north Pacific Coast. They’ve returned elsewhere but remain missing in Oregon. Why does it matter that they’re missing? What will it take to bring them back to their former home? This lecture will explore the history of sea otters in Oregon, their ecological and cultural importance, and the prospects for their return and recovery. It will also touch on the mission of the Elakha Alliance, an Oregon nonprofit organization devoted to sea otter conservation.
Presenter: Robert Bailey, retired, Oregon Coastal Management, Department of Land Conservation and Board President of Elakha Alliance
Date and time: Tue., Feb. 2, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Introduction to Astronomy

There are more than just stars and planets! Consider galaxies, quasars, black holes, neutron stars, supernovae, and much more. This course will explore interesting objects that are “out there.” Astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateurs make significant contributions; therefore, this lecture will include discussion of the equipment available to laypeople for those who may wish to participate for their own interest, or to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge.
Presenter: Paul Nelson, retired Senior Engineer, DRAM Research and Development, Micron Technology
Dates and times: Wed., Feb. 3 and 10, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $25

Will Rogers: The World's First Multimedia Star

Retrace the life of one of the most iconic Americans of the twentieth century and learn about the epic adventures of this humorous and lovable vaudeville performer. Will Rogers became Hollywood’s highest-paid film actor as well as America’s most widely syndicated newspaper columnist and radio broadcaster. We’ll discuss Rogers’ wide range of friendships, from his pet calf Sara to Charles Lindbergh to Wiley Post, a one-eyed pilot with whom he died in a tragic plane crash.
Please note: This course will only be offered as a recorded program. 
Presenter: Kurt Orzeck, freelance writer, editor, and blogger
Date and time: Thu., Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $45

Vietnam...Can't Get You Out of My Mind

When President John F. Kennedy challenged young people to ask what they could do for their country, Jim Jones decided on a career of public service. His book, Vietnam…Can’t Get You Out of My Mind, chronicles his tour of duty in Vietnam. While there, he lived and worked with South Vietnamese forces, helped an orphanage, served as an aerial artillery spotter, and grew to know the Vietnamese people. This lecture will provide members a glimpse into this powerful influence on the presenter’s life of public service.
Presenter: Jim Jones, JD, retired Chief Justice, Idaho Supreme Court
Date and time: Tue., Feb. 9, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Two Tin Cans and a String to 5G

This course will follow the history of the critical developments that have led to modern communications. We’ll discuss important concepts and the components that have enabled the internet and virtually free long-distance calls; how cell phones send and receive voice, photos, videos, and music; and the motivation and enhancements that have led to 5G. No technical background is required to understand how it all works.
Presenter: Dr. Bob Hay, emeritus faculty and lecturer, Boise State University
Dates and times: Fri., Feb. 12, 19, 26, and Mar. 5, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $45

Artificial Intelligence and You

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an extremely powerful tool and can be used for great benefit—or great harm. With a lot of confusion surrounding AI, this lecture will clarify what it is, how it may impact you today, and how it may be used in the future. We’ll explore how AI is applied in healthcare and other areas that affect us daily, and what benefits we might expect in the future. We’ll also discuss ethical issues around the use of AI as it’s used now and the potential for future misuse.
Presenter: Dr. Roger Longbotham, retired, Microsoft Corporation
Date and time: Tue., Feb. 16, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

World War True?

Many people gain an appreciation of history from movies. But how well does Hollywood handle history? We’ll take a look at memorable WWII films from four decades and determine if they’re really telling it like it was. From 1949’s Twelve O’Clock High to 2019’s Midway, we’ll find out where war movies hit the target and where they miss the mark.
Presenter: Lance Thompson, President, Idaho Media Professionals
Date and time: Wed., Feb. 17, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

The Scene That Became Cities: Lessons from Burning Man's 30-Year Experiment

For over 30 years, the phenomenon known as Burning Man has gone from an art experiment performed by two families on the beach to a global movement and media darling in which temporary “cities” are created and people swear by their transformational experiences. The images and visual art pieces that have come out of this movement are some of the most extraordinary in the modern world and are displayed in museums worldwide, including the Smithsonian. In this lecture, you’ll learn the history, culture, and philosophy of Burning Man; why it has the impact it has; and why “you have to be there to experience it” is completely wrong. In fact, it’s something you can do yourself, wherever you are.
Presenter: Caveat Magister (aka Benjamin Wachs), author and founding member of Burning Man’s Philosophical Center
Date and time: Mon., Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

The Life and Influence of Chairman Mao

Mao Zedong led China for many tumultuous years in the twentieth century. Assessment of Mao and his rule has varied widely: Some see Mao simply as a monster, others as an almost divine peasant hero. Then there’s the Communist Party of China’s official appraisal that he was 70% right and 30% wrong. This lecture will provide an overview of Mao’s life and thought, enabling a better understanding of the historical basis from which he and his ideas emerged and the impacts they had in his lifetime. We’ll also consider Mao’s continuing influence on China and the world.
Presenter: Dr. Jeff Kyong-McClain, Co-Director of the Confucius Institute, University of Idaho
Date and time: Mon., Feb. 22, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Caxton Printers of Idaho

If you own any books about Idaho, it’s likely that at least one of them was published by Caxton Printers in Caldwell, Idaho. In 1907, James H. Gipson founded Caxton as a small print shop. Over the following decades, Caxton published hundreds of books in numerous genres––Americana, fiction, children’s stories, and history, among others––primarily about Idaho and the American West. Gipson’s philosophy was to help writers from the West get published, regardless of the commercial success of their books. However, he also published well-known authors such as Vardis Fisher and Ayn Rand. This lecture will explore the history of Caxton and its importance to Idaho; the impact Caxton’s books had on Idaho; the way Caxton helped Idaho authors; and how a tiny publisher in Idaho was able to survive and compete with large East Coast publishers.
Presenter: Alessandro Meregaglia, 2019 Osher Faculty Grant Recipient, librarian, and archivist, Albertsons Library, Boise State University
Date and time: Tue., Feb. 23, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Archaeology and Science at the Paisley Caves, Oregon

Excavations at the Paisley Caves in south central Oregon have led to the discovery of DNA in human coprolites (feces) indicating that people lived there during the late Pleistocene Epoch, some 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. This presentation will explain the scientific processes and results of archaeological, biological, chemical, and paleogenetic investigations at the Paisley Caves. It also will bring the audience the most up-to-date information available about the association of humans and Pleistocene animals in Oregon’s high desert country.
Presenter: Dr. Dennis Jenkins, Senior Research Archaeologist, University of Oregon
Date and time: Tue., Feb. 23, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Taking the Mystery Out of Medicare

Are you frustrated by the confusing alphabet soup that is Medicare? This presentation will not only provide an overview of Medicare, Medicare Supplemental Insurance, Medicare Advantage Plans, and enrollment periods, but will also provide a great foundational understanding of Medicare.
Presenter: Jamie Whitlock, MD, retired chiropractor and Medicare educator
Date and time: Wed., Feb. 24, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Let's Write an Opera

From commissioning and composing to premiering and revising, it’s a long process for an original work to become a standard repertoire opera. This course will look at operas by Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, and contemporary composers to explain this process. Special focus will be given to An American Dream by Jack Perla, which will be performed by Opera Idaho in April, 2021. Each session features recorded excerpts as well as selections performed live by members of Opera Idaho’s Resident Company and the cast of An American Dream.
Presenter: Mark Junkert, Executive Director, Opera Idaho
Dates and times: Thu., Feb. 25, Mar. 4, and 11, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $35

Starting in March

Sage-Grouse in Idaho

Sage-grouse are found throughout much of Idaho’s sagebrush-dominated landscape. This lecture will offer a discussion of sage-grouse biology, including breeding behavior, reproduction, survival, movements, and habitat use. Science-based population and habitat management practices will be examined and compared to bad science, misinformed management, and political chicanery being implemented by state and federal agencies.
Presenter: Dr. Jack Connelly, retired biologist, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Date and time: Mon., Mar. 1, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Democratic and Economic Decline in Latin America

Across Latin America, there is widespread concern that countries are backsliding away from previous commitments to secure democratic rights and economic opportunities for their poor citizens. This lecture will examine the transformation of Latin America since the 1980s—from the widespread adoption of democracy and implementation of neo-liberal economics to the growth of paramilitaries and drug traffickers and the weakening of political parties. Particular attention will be paid to Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Presenter: Dr. Brian Wampler, Professor of Political Science, Boise State University
Date and time: Tue., Mar. 2, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

The Eagle Hunters of Mongolia: An Osher Special Event

Take flight on a journey across continents and cultures to discover the birth of falconry, its evolution over the millennia, and the ways this ancient art helps conservation today. Dr. McGough will focus on Mongolia’s nomadic Kazakh people and their practice of hunting with eagles as well as South Africa’s bushveld, where crowned eagles—primate hunters whose ancestors hunted our own Australopithecine ancestors—give unique insight into our evolution and how we think about eagles today. This special presentation will also provide techniques for hunting with golden and crowned eagles here in the U.S., both for rehabilitation and as a way to keep these ancient traditions alive.
Presenter: Dr. Lauren McGough, licensed falconer and Fulbright Scholar
Date and time: Wed., Mar. 3, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $25

Treating Opioid Use Disorder as the Chronic Disease It Is

The opioid overdose epidemic continues to plague communities across the country and may, in fact, be worsening as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The social distancing required to prevent disease transmission potentially worsens the isolation that often drives addiction and hinders access to treatment. We’ll discuss the importance of eliminating stigma and talk openly about addiction, which affects rural and urban communities alike and people from all walks of life. We’ll review how to diagnose opioid use disorder and make the case for treating this chronic disease in primary care. This is perhaps the only way for a rural and frontier state like Idaho (with the lowest number of physicians per capita in the country) to make a dent in—and hopefully, turn around—the opioid overdose epidemic.
Presenter: Magni Hamso, MD, Medical Director, Idaho Department of Health & Welfare
Date and time: Mon., Mar. 8, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Ten Common Misconceptions about Native North Americans

Do you know the names Jim Thorpe, Deb Haaland, John Trudell, and Joy Harjo? If not, you aren’t alone. A recent study by a Native-led nonprofit shows that 87% of schools fail to teach about Native Americans after 1900. This absence from the curriculum has led to major misconceptions about Native Peoples in even the most well-meaning segments of the general population. This lecture will be an opportunity to discuss and dispel 10 of the most common misconceptions about Native Americans. From cultural diversity to contemporary vibrancy to a relationship with the environment to global connections, you’ll learn about contemporary Native issues and contributions of today’s Native Peoples to our multicultural world.
Presenter: Dr. Kimberly Marshall, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma
Date and time: Tue., Mar. 9, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Cowboy Poetry and Western Music: Today and Yesterday

Cowboy Poetry is easy to identify by its distinctive subject matter, written by men and women who lived a cowboy life or fell in love with the romantic life of cowboys. They write poems about horses, cowboys, ranches, hardships, broken hearts, wide-open spaces, and happy times. Cowboy poets of today, such as Baxter Black and Sam Deleeuw, are known throughout the world. Western music was made famous by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Texas Ruby. Campfire songs that were sung in wagon trains, cow camps, and bunkhouses originated from Europe, heavily influenced by folk songs from England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Join us as we explore these singers and songwriters as well as shows held throughout the nation featuring cowboy poetry and western music.
Presenter: Sam Mattise, singer, songwriter, poet, musician, and author
Date and time: Wed., Mar. 10, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Inclusive Excellence and Implicit Bias

This lecture will introduce the concepts of inclusive excellence and implicit bias, and will present strategies to address implicit bias. The Multicultural Organizational Development Model and the Inclusive Excellence Inventory are general strategies used to address the nexus between overcoming implicit biases as individuals and how we can begin to address the systemic effects of such bias.
Presenter: Francisco Salinas, Director of Student Diversity & Inclusion, Boise State University
Date and time: Thu., Mar. 11, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Myth and Folklore: An Ecological Perspective

Myth and folklore are deeply embedded in our individual and community experiences and can teach us much about how and why we do the things we do within the natural world. This course will guide attendees through an ecological exploration of myths, folk tales, and folk practices, paying special attention to how our relationships with the non-human world are encoded in stories and how these stories can shape our ecological behaviors and perceptions.
Please note: This class will not meet on Friday, March 26.
Presenter: Tracey Kindall, History teacher, The North Fork School
Date and time: Fri., Mar. 12, 19, Apr. 2, and 9, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $45

Adaptation Barriers in the Age of Global Environmental Change: Insights from Coastal Bangladesh

While all countries will face the adverse consequences in varying scales, low-income, developing countries are particularly at risk because of limited financial capacities and heavy reliance on farming and fishing. Nevertheless, people in resource-poor regions are coping with forms of weather and climate-related anomalies. Based on empirical research in coastal Bangladesh, this discussion will include the micro- , meso- , and macro-level adaptation barriers that enhance the risks for those living in climate-vulnerable conditions. It also will provide critical insights on how to improve overall adaptation outcomes in other parts of the world facing similar socio-environmental challenges.
Presenter: Dr. Saleh Ahmed, Assistant Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University
Date and time: Mon., Mar. 15, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Gorongosa National Park and the Boise-Mozambique Connection

Zoo Boise and Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique have a truly unique connection. For more than a decade, a partnership has existed between the two places to help restore one of the most biologically diverse locations on the planet while using Zoo Boise as a tool to help drive the conservation and restoration of Gorongosa. Zoo Boise has a long-term commitment to this partnership, and with the recently opened Gorongosa National Park exhibit at Zoo Boise, this will continue for years to come as a little piece of Gorongosa is now in Boise.
Presenter: Gene Peacock, Director, Zoo Boise and Friends of Zoo Boise
Date and time: Wed., Mar. 17, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Crime in the Urban Environment

Are there neighborhoods or places you avoid at night because they don’t feel safe? Our personal experiences shape how we feel about certain locations and create beliefs that some places are more crime ridden than others. This lecture will examine why certain neighborhoods, corners, and types of places experience more crime. We’ll discuss how crime patterns change over time as cities change. Finally, we’ll explore how understanding urban crime patterns has changed the way that police respond to and prevent crime from occurring.
Presenter: Dr. Jessica Wells, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Boise State University
Date and time: Wed., Mar. 17, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Reaching for the Stars: An Osher Special Event

Join Dr. Ellen Ochoa in a fireside chat as she describes her career as NASA’s first Hispanic female astronaut, a veteran of four space shuttle missions, and director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. This special presentation will provide a focus on the process of building and operating the International Space Station and will feature a video chronicling one of Dr. Ochoa’s missions to the Station.
Please note: This session will feature extensive Q & A with the presenter.
Presenter: Dr. Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and Director, Johnson Space Center
Date and time: Thu., Mar. 18, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $25

Natural Language Understanding in Computational Systems

Artificial intelligence (AI) requires the ability to acquire, represent, understand, and produce natural language. Although recent work in data-driven, machine learning, and deep learning methods has advanced natural language processing applications, important challenges remain. This lecture will look at trends in understanding language on machines, what we can learn from children who acquire language seemingly with minimal effort, and what that means for future research. Dr. Kennington will share his research bringing together computer science, machine/deep learning, human-robot interaction, natural language processing, spoken dialogue systems, child development, and cognitive science.
Presenter: Dr. Casey Kennington, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Boise State University
Date and time: Wed., Mar. 31, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Starting in April

Transformation of the Automobile Business

The automobile business is facing two significant technology changes. First is the transformation from the internal combustion engine to the electric battery, a change that’s already underway and in the early years of sales. The second transformation is the development of autonomous vehicles, now still in the experimental phase with commercial implementation still some time away. Effects from both of these changes are being felt, with many more yet to come. This course will walk through these changes and discuss the general pattern of how technology tends to be developed and adopted over time.
Presenter: Chuck Folkner, retired Principal Systems Architect, Starbucks Coffee Company
Dates and times: Thu., Apr. 1 and 8, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $25

Great American Economic Thinkers: Part I

How does capitalism work? Does it work? Could it work better? Ultimately, what sort of economy should the U.S. be pursuing? This first of a three-part series will wrestle with how American thinkers have sought to answer these questions, and how their various ideologies and political programs have shaped the development of the American economy. This course will discuss how early American thinkers attempted to craft a capitalist republic, covering the classical paradigm, followed by discussion of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, the “American School” of economics; the slavery debate; and the early social reformers.
Please note: Part II and Part III will be offered in future semesters.
Presenter: Dr. Shaun Nichols, Assistant Professor of History, Boise State University
Dates and times: Mon., Apr. 5, 12, 19, and 26, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $45

Presidents Touched by Greatness

Although they were controversial presidents, Jefferson, Wilson, and Johnson had major accomplishments. Many themes they faced are still current in our politics: race, war and peace, and progressive politics versus the inevitable backlash. In the context of current politics, we will revisit these larger-than-life characters, all of whom were also flawed, controversial people—and presidents.
Presenter: Marc Johnson, historian, writer, and host of the podcast, “Many Things Considered”
Dates and times: Tue., Apr. 6, 13, and 20, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $35

Wild Idaho Salmon and Steelhead: What's in Their Future?

Idaho’s iconic wild salmon and steelhead face uncertainty as their numbers have continued to decline since the 1950s, a result of human perturbations that diminish the capacity of salmon and steelhead to rebound. Thousands of years of evolutionary resilience are being tested for the salmon in their natal, riverine, and ocean environments. Improving wild runs of salmon and steelhead in Idaho has been the objective of federal, state, and tribal governments for 70 years. This course will discuss how some of the most robust science, billions of dollars, and years of litigation and advocacy from anglers and environmental organizations have contributed to defining the problem and recommending credible solutions.
Presenter: Bert Bowler, retired, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Dates and times: Wed., Apr. 7 and 14, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $25

Idaho's Geologic History

Idaho’s geology spans billions of years. Endowed with every geologic phenomenon seen in geology textbooks, this state has it all. This course will take us on a journey through time, beginning with ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks, proceeding through the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras, and continuing into the Cenozoic, which has many geologic features in the Boise and Snake River Plain areas. Discover some of Idaho’s mineral wealth and history of supplying essential raw materials for world wars, and its present-day conscientious efforts to reclaim and manage mining properties responsibly. Crustal instability in the past and present (Stanley, Borah Peak earthquakes, and enigmatic earthquake swarms near Soda Springs) will also be discussed.
Presenter: Dr. Peter Isaacson, Adjunct Professor of Geosciences, Boise State University, and Professor Emeritus, University of Idaho, Moscow
Dates and times: Wed., Apr. 7, 14, 21, and 28, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $45

NEW! A Conversation With David Pogue: An Osher Special Event

NEW! Join us for a very special event with author and columnist, David Pogue. A well-known New York Times columnist for over a decade, Mr. Pogue is an Emmy-award winner for his segments on “CBS News Sunday Morning” and a five-time TED speaker. During his visit with the Osher Institute, Mr. Pogue will speak about his most recent book, How to Prepare for Climate Change: A Practical Guide to Surviving the Chaos.
Date and time: Thu., Apr. 8, 10-11 a.m.
Cost: $20

100 Years of Radio Broadcasting

The year 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of broadcast radio in America. This lecture will take us back to the years just before the onset of this cultural phenomenon. Decade by decade, we’ll trace the development of AM radio, hear excerpts of popular programs, see the stars created by this new media, and examine how it has forever changed our lives and our society.
Presenter: Dennis Hall, community advisory board member, Boise State Public Radio
Dates and times: Thu., Apr. 15 and 22, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $25

Journey of the Bitterroot Grizzly

Bitterroot grizzly bear recovery efforts began in 1987 and involved an innovative approach to endangered species recovery. Drawing from his new book, Journey of the Bitterroot Grizzly, Steve Nadeau will provide members with an inside look at this recovery effort and describe the story of a remarkable grizzly that was born in the Selkirk Mountains in 2002 and travelled 200 miles to the Bitterroots by 2007—the first to do so in 60 years. Steve will also discuss the recent movements of grizzly bears in and around the Bitterroot recovery area and how these bears have survived the gauntlet to establish a new population in Idaho.
Presenter: Steve Nadeau, retired Wildlife Staff Biologist, Wildlife Bureau, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Date and time: Thu., Apr. 15, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Four Novels, Four Places

In this course, we will review four great novels in light of their exceptional settings: Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (Yorkshire), Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (London), Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Edinburgh), and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (The Isle of Skye). We’ll examine how these extraordinary places shaped both the authors of these novels and the memorable characters they created. It’s recommended that attendees read (or re-read) these books in advance of the course in order to maximize the enjoyment of the program.
Presenter: Dr. Samantha Harvey, Professor, Department of English, Boise State University
Dates and times: Fri., Apr. 16, 23, 30, and May 7, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $45

Wildfires: What Everyone Should Know

This presentation will review the physical science of wildland fires and the social science of preparing for and living with today’s severe wildfires. Learn how wildfire peril is different from other natural events such as tornadoes and hurricanes as well as the difference between beneficial fires and damaging wildland fires. We’ll look at the natural role of fire in North American ecosystems, discuss a brief history of U.S. wildfire losses, and examine the most recent research on how modern wildfire disasters occur. We’ll discover why these events are becoming more frequent and problematic, and how homes/structures are ignited by flames and embers. Finally, we’ll explore modern mitigation practices that increase the potential for home survival during even the most severe fires.
Presenter: Pat Durland, Firewise Program, National Fire Protection Association
Date and time: Wed., Apr. 21, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Understanding the Federal Reserve

Every day news stories address the Federal Reserve System, yet few people understand “The Fed.” This lecture will provide an overview of the history of the Federal Reserve Bank System and its operations, functions, and purposes.
Presenter: Skip Oppenheimer, Chairman/CEO, Oppenheimer Companies and Director, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Date and time: Tue., Apr. 27, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

The Story Behind the Story: The Making of a Literary Nonfiction Book

Join New York Times best-selling author Kim Cross as she details the research and fact-checking that goes into a literary nonfiction book. Her book, What Stands in a Storm, chronicles the biggest tornado outbreak in recorded weather: an April 2011 storm that unleashed 349 tornados on 21 states, killing at least 324 people. Cross spent a year interviewing meteorologists, first responders, and trauma survivors to create a moving narrative that unfolds with minute-by-minute accuracy. This lecture includes user-generated videos captured by eyewitnesses; social media posts and texts of people in the midst of the storm; and maps of the landscape before and after mile-wide tornadoes.
Presenter: Kim Cross, New York Times best-selling author and journalist
Date and time: Tue., Apr. 27, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Three American Art Movements

The Hudson River School, Regionalism, and Abstract Expressionism are examples of art movements that sprang up in the U.S. to reflect distinctly American views. The Hudson River School dealt with themes of 19th century discovery, exploration, and settlement. Magnificent, romanticized landscapes were the hallmarks of the school. A wild, sometimes idealized portrayal of nature reflected a belief in the presence of God in the landscapes. Regionalism depicted realistic, folksy scenes of rural America in the Midwest and the South. It responded to the Great Depression with reassuring images of the American heartland. Abstract Expressionism developed in the 1940s in New York City, which displaced Paris as the center of Western art. It was the first specifically American art movement to achieve international influence. The movement built on ideas from Surrealism and non-representational painting with emphasis on spontaneous, automatic, and subconscious creation.
Presenter: Dario Bollacasa, Docent, Boise Art Museum, lecturer, and tutor
Dates and times: Thu., Apr. 29, May 6, and 13, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $35

Starting in May

Small but Mighty: The Wider World of Boise Theater

In New York City, they’re called showcase theaters; in Los Angeles, they’re 99-seat companies; and in Chicago, they’re known as store-front theaters. Every major theater market has a thriving small theater scene engaging a community’s most talented performers in intimate or site-specific spaces, often performing plays with larger ensemble casts and producing scripts that haven’t made their way onto the larger stages in town. Boise has a host of exciting, talented, and diverse theater companies bridging the gap between student/community work and “professional” theater, including Boise Bard, Home Grown Theater, Alley Rep, and Opal Theatre Company. Structured as a series of one-hour interviews with artists from each company, this presentation will offer a sample of exciting work, missions, and unique qualities that these vibrant small theater companies bring to Boise.
Presenter: Jessica Ires Morris, Adjunct Faculty of Theater, Boise State University
Dates and times: Mon., May 3, 10, 17, and 24, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $45

Surveying Idaho's Butterflies: How You Can Become a Citizen Scientist

This lecture will explore data on Idaho’s butterflies that citizen scientists have collected over the past three decades and will discuss what that data might reveal. We’ll also review information on other entomologically oriented projects involving citizen science, including Insect Biodiversity Survey of the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, area BioBlitzes, and other museum-spearheaded projects. Finally, we’ll learn how individuals can become citizen scientists and how they can make valuable contributions to the world’s scientific knowledge.
Presenter: Dr. Paul Castrovillo, Entomologist for Idaho State Department of Agriculture and Insect Curator/Research Associate, Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History, College of Idaho
Date and time: Tue., May 4, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Bat Biology, Ecology, and Conservation

This course will introduce members to the biology of bats and the features that make them unique among vertebrates. Topics will include life history and social biology, functional ecology, and conservation biology, with an emphasis on the bats of Idaho. Learn about echolocation, migration, bat reproduction, rabies, and more before examining the leading threats to bats and the actions we can take in our communities to help them.
Presenter: Dr. Rita Dixon, State Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Dates and times: Wed., May 5, 12, and 19, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $35

Jason and the Argonauts and Medea

Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, together with his tragic involvement with the sorceress Medea, is among the most ancient of the Greek sagas. It collects the greatest early heroes—children of gods—in a series of fabulous adventures and misadventures. It follows the career of Medea, who helps Jason on his quest, but is later betrayed by him with terrible consequences. This course is based on ancient works about Jason and Medea by Euripides, Apollonius, Ovid, and others. There is no required reading, but a list of suggested books will be sent out ahead of time.
Presenter: Dr. Richard Leahy, Professor Emeritus of English, Boise State University
Dates and times: Thu., May 6 and 13, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $25

Raven Mythology

From ancient lore down millenniums, traveling though worldwide mythologies, legends, and folktales, the mythical Raven is entwined with the history of humankind. Most researchers agree that around 20,000 years ago, the first Americans came from Siberia across the Bering land bridge to what is now North America. The Siberians and their shamans were accompanied by the mythical Raven who mediated between the physical and spiritual worlds. With the Siberian influence, Northwest Native American mythology speaks of Raven as Creator, Destroyer, and Trickster. With Raven as our guide, we will look at life with all its complexity, insight, ambiguity, contradiction, and humor.
Presenter: Dr. Hartzell Cobbs, retired Executive Director, Mountain States Group/Jannus, Inc, lecturer, and author of RavenWind
Date and time: Tue., May 11, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

Searching for America's Conscience and Soul

Time has a way of altering a nation’s values and principles—sometimes to the point that they become unrecognizable. This course will search for America’s conscience and soul through the examination of three main ideas: fundamental rights and the sins at the creation; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms; and Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis’ characterization of the U.S. Supreme Court as “the conscience of the nation.”
Presenter: Dr. David Adler, President, Alturas Institute
Dates and times: Tue., Wed., Thu., and Fri., May 18, 19, 20, and 21, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $45

Skin Biology and Skin Cancer Fundamentals

The skin is the body’s largest organ and is often considered the window to our internal health. This lecture will discuss the basic structure and function of the skin, how skin disease occurs, and evidence-based care for skin. We’ll then dive into an introduction to skin cancer and its management, treatment, and prevention.
Please note: This lecture will contain numerous images and video of skin disease and surgery that may be disturbing to some individuals.
Presenter: Jared Scott, MD, board certified dermatologist, Idaho Skin Surgery Center
Date and time: Fri., May 21, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Included with membership

Three Unique Biographies in Idaho History

Learn about the tenacity, triumph, and tragedy of three historical Idahoans: Farris Lind, the advertising virtuoso who ran the Idaho Stinker Stations and entertained drivers with his 150 humorous signs; Emma Thompson Just, an Idaho pioneer who, fearing an imminent attack from the Nez Perce during their 1877 flight, came within seconds of drowning herself and her children; and James Hogan, also known as “Jimmy the Stiff,” who was in the newspapers in the 1890s and the early part of the twentieth century more often than most politicians.
Presenter: Rick Just, author and Director, Writers at Harriman
Date and time: Tue., May 25, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

The Voice: A Vital Sign for Vocal Health

Voice disorders are common in older adults and may significantly impact daily communication and quality of life. Age-related loss of muscle mass, strength, and flexibility have been well documented and also affect the muscles of the larynx, including the vocal cords. These age-related changes can cause limitations in everyday communication. Surgical options for age-related vocal deterioration often have inconsistent or unreliable results. This lecture will discuss alternative treatments using established principles of motor learning and muscle strength training (high effort, resistance, and repetition) to offer safe and effective ways to recapture youthful voices and return to favorite communication activities.
Presenter: Heather Robinson, CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist
Date and time: Thu., May 27, 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: Included with membership

SIGs on Hiatus

Special Interest Groups (SIGs) will not take place during the Spring 2021 semester. We look forward to SIG meetings resuming in Fall 2021 if the global health climate allows it.

In the meantime, we encourage you to take advantage of our partnership with The Great Courses Plus to continue building your knowledge in these areas.

Learn more about The Great Courses Plus under the “Starting in January” header on this web page.

Stay Connected

Osher News: Read our monthly e-newsletter to stay up-to-date on events, newly added offerings, important membership information, and more.

Facebook: Like us on Facebook! Discover curated articles, see sneak peeks of the next catalog, and get real-time updates on Boise State campus news and Osher Institute offerings.

Virtual Social Hours: Join Director Dana Thorp Patterson for bi-weekly virtual social hours. Great conversation is always supplied—we just need you to join us! Dates for each social hour are announced in Osher News.

Osher on Demand: Visit our blog, Osher on Demand, to access a wide variety of online resources including recorded lectures from Osher Institute presenters, curated TED Talks, and more!

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