Marlene’s Tromp’s debut address on the state of Boise State University on Aug. 21 pushed back against criticism of the diminished value of a college education, arguing that higher learning is as important as ever—and Boise State can be a leader in that realm.
“Public higher education was built for the expressed purpose for transforming people’s lives,” she said.
Tromp said that 57% of 18-24-year-olds do not believe a college education is worth the expense. She added that 58% of conservatives believe college educations have negative impacts on students, but Tromp's speech delivered an optimistic assessment of the value of education, and the role of research in forming Boise State's image.
In the past, Tromp said, philosophy students would become bank executives, business leaders and shapers of society, but a shifting attitude toward the need for academia has refocused its value toward future employment and away from intellectual curiosity and passion.
Boise State, however, has done the leg work to ensure that its research is "pressing and relevant," in addition to being meaningful to students. That emphasis means the university can cast real-world ripples in areas like searching for cures for cancer.
"The research we do across the university transforms fields of knowledge," she said.
She charged the crowd, many of who were staff members, with helping people understand the importance of university research.
“If universities aren’t mean to be bringers or light, then who is?” she said.
Importantly, the university was recently upgraded to an R2 designation, which means it’s considered a “high-research” doctoral university.
This, among other things, points to the university’s ability to blaze trails for other universities around the country. Tromp said were it not for the magnetic pull of Boise State’s culture, she would not have left her job at the University of California-Santa Cruz. She added that she moved her 17-year-old son and 91-year-old mother with her, not an easy feat, which only speaks to the potential she sees in Boise State.
Notably absent in her talk, however, was direct mention of the recent debacle around diversity and inclusion at Boise State. Tromp made brief mention of being subjected to a tumultuous political climate, likely referring to the public outcry when conservative legislators asked her to reject the school’s diversity and inclusion programs. Rather, her discussion focused on moving forward and trailblazing the university’s path.
“It is a moment in which it is a sign of bravery even to speak,” she told the large crowd at the Morrison Center Wednesday morning.
To close, Tromp quoted from playwright Wendy Wasserstein: “Go out there and do something remarkable.”
“Boise State University, this is our charge,” she said.