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

The state of public education is a constant concern these days -- for families, for legislators, for teachers and experts. Many are questioning methods embraced by American school systems as we see other countries besting us, particularly in math and science.

China is among the countries rising to the top. That makes us wonder: Have they figured out something about educating kids that we haven’t? Or is China simply churning out students who excel at taking tests, but who are left behind when it comes to free thought and creativity?

Russia is certainly in the headlines these days – but for the next 30 minutes, we’re setting aside talk of election meddling and diplomats to discuss a work of fiction. The novel, and it’s a bestseller, is A Gentleman in Moscow, and it’s written by today’s guest, Amor Towles.

This interview was originally broadcast in January, 2018.

For most of its history, America has struggled to maintain a balance between fantasy and fact. According to today’s guest, Kurt Andersen, our country is now in a moment where we feel entitled to believe whatever we want, regardless of the evidence. How this happened, and why we should be concerned, is the subject of his book, Fantasyland, How America Went Haywire, A 500-Year History.  


When it comes to getting cash to make ends meet, many Americans don’t take their business to the local bank. Instead, they rely on alternative financial systems such as check cashing stores and payday lenders.  Despite high interest rates and sometimes exorbitant fees, these services fill a vital need for those living paycheck to paycheck, and who, for a variety of reasons, distrust banks.


This encore Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in September, 2017.

Scott Anderson holds the unique distinction of having a full issue of The New York Times Magazine devoted to his story. That speaks both to the quality of his work, as well as to its immense relevance.


Our country was founded on the very idea that a free people should not be ruled by kings and queens. That said, there is an undeniable and lasting allure associated with monarchies. And that’s particularly true when it comes to Great Britain.


This is an encore program, originally broadcast in July, 2017.

Thanks to technological advances like the Internet, we have access to more information than ever before.  Gone are the days when we argued at length with friends over a piece of trivia – instead we pull out our smart phones and instantly get the answer.


From the moment we first laid eyes on them, Americans have been captivated by mustangs — with their strength, their determination and their wild nature. They have been featured in countless Western paperbacks, movies and songs through the years, and we’ve named war planes and muscle cars after them.


Sheriff Walt Longmire, his sidekick Henry Standing Bear and the wide open spaces of Absaroka County are the fictional creations of author Craig Johnson – but they also have found their way into popular culture. In addition to the bestselling series of novels, there is a real-life Longmire Days festival that each summer draws thousands of fans to Buffalo, Wyoming; a website where you can purchase Longmire-for-Sheriff bumper stickers and other memorabilia; and a hit Netflix original series starring Robert Taylor as the beloved sheriff.


Most people are familiar with the phrase “a born leader,” but are leaders truly born?


During the final days of World War II, a group of American soldiers encountered a German spy carrying nothing but photos of beautiful white horses. The story behind those photos was even more surprising. Nearby, on a farm behind enemy lines, the Nazis had stockpiled some of the world’s most valuable horses as part of an ambitious breeding program to develop the perfect war horse. But with the Russian army fast approaching from the east and the Third Reich on the verge of defeat, these precious animals were now in great danger. The German spy had an audacious request: Would the Americans step forward to save them?
 


The Great Recession ultimately left millions of Americans without jobs and devastated entire communities. The bruises have lingered, perhaps nowhere more so than in the industrial communities of our nation’s heartland, in places like Janesville, Wisconsin. Janesville was home to the oldest operating General Motors plant until it shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas in 2008.


This encore program was originally aired in December of 2017.

The world of foreign diplomacy is a secretive one, and for those of us on the outside, it is also largely inaccessible. Veteran diplomat and author Matthew Palmer pulls back the curtains on this hidden world with suspense novels that offer an insider’s perspective on conflicts and cultures in far corners of the globe. And he’s done it again in his new book, titled Enemy of the Good.


The turn of the 20th century was a momentous time in U.S. history. After defeating imperial Spain in a brief but consequential war, America had expanded its global reach, with a footprint that stretched from Cuba and Guam to the Philippines. The country was developing and harnessing new technology like no other nation, its economic and diplomatic power was soaring, and it had nudged Europe and Japan toward a collective policy with China that favored U.S. interests.


This program was first broadcast in November, 2017

In his powerful debut novel, “Spoils,” Brian Van Reet transports his readers to the messy, murky front lines of the Iraq War, and a morally complex landscape, where the U.S. mission of winning hearts and minds is anything but clear. The fog of war is felt by American soldiers, Islamic jihadists, and the innocent Iraqi civilians caught in the cross hairs, and Mr. Van Reet tells their intertwining stories with an emotional intensity and precision that is utterly believable. His book is a testament to the power of fiction to mine deeper truths.


Pages