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Debra Bonkoski and Cade Hulbert

Two of Boise State's best and brightest


There's street-smart, book-smart and smart-smart. Debra Bonkoski and Cade Hulbert are smart-smart. They're two of Boise State's top scholars being honored Tuesday, April 19, by the Boise State Alumni Association. To qualify, a student must have a 3.85 or higher grade point average. But Bonkoski's and Hulbert's grades don't define them. They're more inclined to talk about their entire collegiate experience, and they're extremely anxious to talk about life beyond graduation.

How did your collegiate experience change over four years?

Bonkoski: My freshman year was really tough. It wasn't until I changed my major from mechanical engineering to economics that I was happy. I got way more involved in clubs and social activities after that.

Hulbert: I had a full-ride athletic scholarship to play football for Brigham Young University. But I was very unhappy and left after two months. I had thought that I would play football for the better part of my life, but I was young and a little too naive. I took about a year off. When I came to Boise State, I played on the practice squad. NCAA rules wouldn't let me play in a game for at least a year. But it just wasn't fun any more. It was really hard to go into Coach [Chris] Peterson's office and tell him I was done. But I have to tell you, I've been so happy since the change.

And Debra, you have a football connection as well.

Bonkoski: I received a full-ride scholarship made possible with revenues that Boise State received when they won the Fiesta Bowl.

Cade, when you quit football, you lost your athletic scholarship. Did you qualify for academic assistance?

Hulbert: I did. For the past two years, I've received the Psychology Department scholarship. About $2,000 a year. That's helped a lot.

Debra, since your major is economics, let's talk money. A fair amount of your contemporaries are saddled with significant debt from credit cards and huge student loans.

Bonkoski: Absolutely. I have friends from high school who have taken out $30,000 loans each year to go to school. When they graduate, they have to go straight to work, and they're not able to do something like I'm doing: joining the Peace Corps.

Tell us about your Peace Corps plans.

Bonkoski: I'm leaving in June to be a junior high school math teacher in Ghana, West Africa.

Have you been overseas before?

Bonkoski: In 2009, I won a scholarship from the U.S. State Department to spend a summer in an intensive Arabic study program in Tunis, Tunisia. When I returned to Boise State, I became the language lab tutor for a beginning Arabic course.

Cade, what do you want to do with your degree in psychology?

Hulbert: I've always had law enforcement in the back of my mind. I've been interning at the Ada County Jail, where I've been helping inmates study for their GED high school equivalency exam. I fell in love with it. My end goal is to become a detective or even sheriff or second-in-command.

What would you tell an incoming freshman?

Bonkoski: I think some people get so stressed about what classes they're going to take. I took classes from almost every single major until I found something I really wanted to do.

Hulbert: I would tell a freshman that you've got to get internships. You really need real-world applications.

What have your study habits been like?

Bonkoski: I'm a really big note-taker. And I always rewrote my notes. I never did a lot of specific studying for tests. I just did it periodically through the semester.

Hulbert: It really helped me to record my notes. I would get reinforcement through my voice and my written notes.

And for those students who try to catch up and cram for tests?

Bonkoski: It doesn't work.

Hulbert: I wouldn't recommend it.

Do you have senioritis?

Hulbert: I'm really trying to stay motivated with my last assignments. But I'm looking forward to the real world. I can't wait for real-life applications with my skills.

Bonkoski: I had a great four years here, but I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life. I'm excited for what's next.