Bob Kustra

President of Boise State University

Bob Kustra is the host of Reader's Corner a weekly radio show that features lively conversations with some of the nation’s leading authors about issues and ideas that matter today.

Dr. Bob Kustra is president of Boise State University, the largest public university in Idaho, with an enrollment of nearly 20,000 students served by 2,800 faculty and staff.

Now in his ninth year, he leads the university in a time of dynamic growth in student enrollment, new construction, fundraising and research. Long heralded for its devotion to classroom teaching, Boise State has expanded its mission to become an emerging metropolitan research university of distinction..

With a long and distinguished career in public service in Illinois, Dr. Kustra served two terms as lieutenant governor, following 10 years in the legislature. He also chaired the Illinois Board of Higher Education, responsible for funding and oversight of the state’s nine public universities. Dr. Kustra’s background in radio includes four years as host of a talk show on WLS-AM in Chicago.

Prior to joining Boise State, Dr. Kustra served as president of Eastern Kentucky University and the Midwestern Higher Education Commission. He has held faculty positions at the University of Illinois-Springfield, Loyola University of Chicago, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Northwestern University.

Ways To Connect

If you’re looking for an engaging summer read that makes you laugh even as it explores big themes involving family, loss, disability, and the redemptive power of a good road trip, then Jonathan Evison’s novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving may fit the bill.

This interview was broadcast first in January of 2013.

A child who heads off to kindergarten without knowing his colors or shapes may be considered academically unprepared for school.  But what if those measures mattered less, and the child's character mattered more?

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Two years later, the Berlin Wall was inexplicably opened, allowing East Germans free access to the West for the first time since 1961.

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in September of 2013.

The power of sports to mend rifts between nations and establish bonds of friendship and understanding was put to the test in 1934, when a group of Major League baseball players – including Babe Ruth – traveled to Japan to play a series of 18 exhibition games in 12 cities.

This is an encore interview and was originally broadcast in October 2014.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s dedication and perseverance led to the preservation of some of our greatest national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife sanctuaries. Thanks to Roosevelt’s vision and foresight, our children’s grandchildren can enjoy species that in a not-too-distant past were threatened with extinction, and visit natural areas that today remain as pristine and untouched as they were a century or more ago.

The year is 1956. The place is a village outside Moscow. Boris Pasternak, Russia’s greatest living poet, hands a copy of his unpublished novel “Doctor Zhivago” to an Italian book scout intent on smuggling it out of the country. Understanding the risks of his action, Pasternak reportedly comments, “You are hereby invited to my execution.”

This interview was originally broadcast in November of 2014.

In a brutal labor camp in a remote part of western China, a man imprisoned for 20 years plots his escape.  In Beijing, an ambitious foreign correspondent stumbles into a web of secrets that are more valuable than he ever dreams. And in London, British intelligence agents who bear little resemblance to James Bond scramble to pursue a surprising and intriguing lead.

Many of us have heard or read about the health threats posed by the overuse of antibiotics to treat common diseases. Indiscriminate use of these powerful drugs can lead to the development of resistant bacteria that are immune to the agent that is attempting to destroy them.  And antibiotics don’t just kill “bad” bacteria – they also kill the “good” bacteria that flourish in and on our bodies and protect us from disease.

This interview with Dan Fagin was originally broadcast in September of 2014.

When the chemical company Ciba purchased a huge swath of forested land in Toms River, New Jersey, back in 1949 and laid plans to build a major factory on the site, the local citizenry mostly thought it was a good thing.

Cuba is a mere 90 miles from the United States, a puddle-jump flight or a long swim across the straits of Florida. Yet, for more than a half-century, that distance at times has loomed much greater, as U.S.-Cuba tensions played out across the world stage and here at home. That situation is changing – and dramatically so.

Last December, after 18 months of secret talks, President Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana. The news sparked intense reactions and a flurry of speculation.

This interview was originally broadcast in September, 2014

The rugged coastline of the Pacific Northwest is dotted with historic cities and sea ports. But today’s well-established metropolises belie the imagination and tenacity that it took to settle this wild and remote region.

Every new technology has its critics. Whether it’s a fancy new digital gadget with a seemingly endless number of functions, or an addictive new app for your Smart Phone, the latest and greatest inventions can sometimes give us reason to pause.

Years ago, Clive Thompson was pessimistic about the impact of new technologies like the Internet on modern life, too. But over time, his opinion changed as he observed how new digital tools enabled people to be more creative and effective.

This interview was originally broadcast in May, 2013.

This is a continuation of our interview with Terrie Williams, author of The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species. 

Courtesy Terrie Williams

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in April 2013.

In 2008, a young monk seal abandoned on a sandy Hawaiian beach captured the hearts of locals and tourists alike. Playful and inquisitive, the seal quickly developed a love for all things human. When local fishermen objected to his presence, environmental officials made an unprecedented decision to move him across the ocean to the Santa Cruz, California, lab of a marine biologist.

The epic battle between man and machine has long been part of our culture, folklore and philosophy. But bestselling author Nicholas Carr makes the case that increasing automation is raising the stakes in this battle– and he is not at all sure we will remain masters of our creations.

In his book, "The Glass Cage: Automation and Us," Carr explores how a growing reliance on computers and computer software is rapidly changing the way Americans live, play, work and learn.

In the world of empire building, success is a numbers game.  That’s the premise of a book by today’s guest, Jacob Soll, titled The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations.

Soll cites poor accounting practices as the culprit that led to the storming of the French Bastille, the defeat of King Philip the Second’s Spanish Armada and the epic Enron debacle that was felt around the world.  Poor accountability, he writes, has repeatedly led to “financial chaos, economic crimes, civil unrest, and worse.”

This interview was originally broadcast in August of 2014.

When an oil rig explodes, a factory building collapses, or a water supply is tainted, the finger pointing often starts and stops with the multinational corporation behind the operation.  In recent years, big business has been implicated in a plethora of scandals and accidents that have cost lives and damaged the environment.

Courtesy of WashingtonInstitute.org

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France that claimed 17 lives sent shock waves around the world and heightened concerns about growing tensions between Islamic extremists and the West.

Aaron Zelin, is an expert on global jihadist groups, and he researches global terrorist organizations such as ISIS, how they operate and how they are changing. 

This interview was originally broadcast in May of 2014.

It’s no secret that the zero-sum game of Cold War politics often led U.S. policymakers into global alliances that had more to do with anti-communist expediency than lofty democratic ideals. One relatively unknown Cold War episode involves the 1971 atrocities against the Hindus of Bangladesh that led to war between India and a U.S.-supported military dictatorship in Pakistan.

Everyone knows how to gain physical strength – go the gym, lift weights, do calisthenics, or engage in other muscle-building activities. 

But what about gaining mental acuity? Is it possible to increase intelligence, and if so, how?

Dan Hurley explores this question in his book; Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power.

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