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How the School of Public Service Serves All of Idaho

Boise State at the Capitol
Photo of Dean Corey Cook

March, 2019

While the Boise State School of Public Service is located in Boise, we are committed to serving all of Idaho.

In this issue of Public Interest, we’ll show you how our Idaho Policy Institute has expanded and is engaging in projects that make a positive difference across the state.

We’ll also introduce you to a political science alumna who is applying the skills she learned in the School of Public Service in a way that might be surprising.

And we’ll share some of the international learning experiences of a current student.

Finally, we want your thoughts on who we should honor with our fourth annual Commitment to Idaho Award. Nominations are being accepted now. If someone is doing great things for the Gem State, we want to recognize them.

Corey Cook
Dean, School of Public Service
Boise State University

students at capitol

Commitment to Idaho. Who Do You Know?

Nominations being accepted for the Commitment to Idaho and Enhancing Public Discourse Awards

The Boise State School of Public Service is currently accepting nominations for the 2019 Commitment to Idaho Award. Established in 2016, the award recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond for the Gem State. Nominees are sought from the non-profit world, the public sector and the business community. Past winners have been U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (2016), Idaho Rep. Bruce Newcomb (2017), and Jodi Peterson of Interfaith Sanctuary (2018).

Nominees are also sought for the 2nd annual Enhancing Public Discourse Award. This award recognizes a journalist or media figure whose work has elevated public discourse. Previous winners have included Betsy Russell and Dottie Stimpson.

Read more and make your nomination on the School of Public Service website>

Cassie Adams
Cassie Adams in Seoul

Alumna Spotlight – Cassie Adams

“You never know what might inspire you”

Cassie Adams began her Boise State education with a brief thought of becoming an immigration attorney. But, realizing she didn’t want to go to law school, at least not for now, she explored other ways to positively impact the lives of others. This search led her to a career as an immigration paralegal in Dallas, Texas.

“After I graduated, I made a checklist of what I wanted out of my first job and my career,” she said. “I wanted to do something in the international area, with international people, I wanted to help people, and I wanted to specialize my knowledge in a specific field. Becoming an immigration paralegal checked all these boxes for me.”

While immigration paralegal may not seem like the most likely career path for a Political Science graduate, Adams finds that her studies prepared her well. “The reading, writing, research, and learning how to connect the dots in the plethora of course class material was great practice,” she said.

She was also challenged by the experiential learning opportunities offered at Boise State, including working as a research assistant with Dr. Nisha Bellinger. “Becoming her research assistant helped push me to increase my research skills by researching difficult topics that I might not have normally chosen for myself,” she said.

Adams came to Boise State from the “one stoplight” town of Saint Anthony in eastern Idaho, but has always enjoyed connecting with international people who have different cultures and backgrounds. With this in mind, she took advantage of an opportunity to study abroad, spending a semester studying International Relations at Korea University in Seoul. Although her international experience was challenging and out of her comfort zone, Adams found her ability to adapt to difficult circumstances to be a confidence booster.

Adams encourages current Boise State Students to study and research issues by looking at them from more than one angle and to get involved in things that matter. “It’s important to get out of your comfort zone,” she said. “You never know what might inspire you.”

Read About Cassie Adams and other SPS Alumni on our website >


Student Spotlight: John Hougaard

“When given the chance to discuss my experience working at the US Embassy with future potential employers, I would immediately remark that it was a great opportunity for me to further pursue my goal of becoming a political officer for the US State Department and learn the steps to becoming one. Through this internship I was able to have firsthand experience working in an embassy environment. Through my interactions with embassy personnel, it gave me an idea of what day to day tasks are like in the embassy.

For example, political officers often meet with host country officials and attend receptions to what each office in the embassy does. I was greatly involved in the logistics of the US Embassy’s 4th of July event, where it might sound like it would be an event to have fun and relax, but in reality, it was a work-related event and the embassy’s personnel had to meet with people and make connections.

From my job working at the US Embassy this summer, I have also gained and used many different life skills that will help in later jobs in life. I worked with embassy political officers, other interns, marines, as well as locally employed staff with which I had to talk to and work with which improved my communication skills. Some skills and experiences which I used were customer service, organizational skills and working with a team.
Read about John Hougaard’s internship experience on the School of Public Service website >

Let’s Do This!

Experiential learning opportunities are one of the top priorities for the School of Public Service. Learning that is considered “experiential” contains the following elements: reflection, critical analysis and synthesis, opportunities for students to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for the results. It provides opportunities for students to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, or physically. When students are engaged in learning experiences that they see the relevance of, and the product has more significance than a grade, they have increased motivation to learn and produce a more thoughtful product.

We love to share details about existing SPS experiential learning programs and a student success stories. If you have an idea for a great student experiential learning opportunity or just want to get involved, contact Jeff Benton at to learn how you can make a difference.

Click here to donate to experiential learning programs
 in the School of Public Service

Benjamin Larsen and Gabe Osterhout
Benjamin Larsen and Gabe Osterhout

Idaho Policy Institute Expands to Better Serve Idaho

IPI also completes analysis of economic impact of military retirees on the state

Two and a half years after launching, the Idaho Policy Institute has completed over forty projects encompassing every geographic region of the state, and has grown its staff from three to eight full-time employees and two graduate students.

In the fall, IPI added two new research associates, a senior research associate, and an additional graduate student research assistant as it continues servings as an objective resource for decision makers statewide.

Projects range in cost from $1,000 to over $200,000 and are both short- and long-term in length; a project can take can take as little as six weeks or up to a year to complete. IPI has also partnered with the MPA Capstone class to provide low or no cost student-led research over the course of a semester.

Recently completed projects of note include a business needs assessment for the West Central Mountains Economic Development Council, a report on the economic impact of military retirees on the state, a survey for the City of Boise’s Energy Future plan and an external evaluation conducted for the State Board of Education of the state’s early literacy program and college and career advising and mentoring program.

Current work includes two surveys for the City of Nampa and City of Mountain Home that will assess the cities’ needs while they update their comprehensive plans, an external evaluation of New Path Community Housing and research on attitudinal awareness for World Wildlife Fund.