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

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 that is now entering its sixth and final season.

This interview was originally broadcast in June, 2017.

In recent years, the powerful and at times unexpected impacts of globalization have sent shock waves through our country’s political, economic and social systems. The promise that open trade and investment would bring new jobs, economic growth and price stability has not materialized for many Americans, who have seen their standard of living stagnate or diminish. At the same time, there is widespread disagreement about what our country needs to do to more effectively compete in the current global marketplace.

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.

In 1961, the world watched as tensions flared and the Berlin Wall went up, trapping East Germans inside a Communist regime. What was less well known was what was happening under that wall. Away from the glare of television cameras and public demonstrations, defectors and West Germans engaged in clandestine efforts to build tunnels and help East Germans escape.

Generations have grown up with the tales spun by Charles Dickens, and that’s particularly true around the holidays. Characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and young Tiny Tim have become cultural icons, and a reminder to take stock of our lives, celebrate each day, and care for those around us.

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.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of Casablanca, perhaps the most beloved of all Hollywood films. Somehow, this love story set in war time seems as relevant today as when it first lit up the silver screen back in 1942. People who’ve never even seen the movie still recognize its famous lines, and references to Casablanca abound in novels, plays, musicals, and other productions.

The war that became known as World War I began over 100 years ago and ushered in a new type of warfare – one built underground, in trenches, instead of above ground, on horses. In his book, To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild brings the war to life in a stark and dramatic new way.

This interview was originally broadcast in May, 2017.

The decades after World War II were a golden age when many people around the world enjoyed an increasingly good quality of life. But by the early 1970s, the good times had all but vanished as energy shortages, financial crises and rising unemployment shook economies in America and around the world.

Sam McPhee

Once in a great while, I interview an author who has more insights and ideas than can possibly be contained in a 30-minute conversation. Such was the case when I spoke with Emily Ruskovich about her debut novel, Idaho, and so we feature the second part of the interview here.

Emily Ruskovich’s novel, Idaho, begins with a family in northern Idaho who experiences an unthinkable, mysterious tragedy. Left behind is a mother of two in prison, and another woman — who barely knows her — trying to make sense of it all. It seems impossible that the two little girls who once played together in the open fields of beautiful Mt. Iris are gone.

Fifty years after he was assassinated at age 39, Malcolm X remains a controversial and somewhat mysterious figure. During his short but eventful life, he was a minister with the Nation of Islam who went on to found his own mosque, a fiery militant who advocated “any means necessary” to attain racial justice, and a brilliant, charismatic speaker whose legacy is still being determined.

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.

This episode originally was broadcast in March, 2017.

Humans think, feel and plan for the future. We say hello, and goodbye. We design and use tools to our advantage. But what if animals can do these things, too? What if we’ve just never really understood how to discern animal intelligence? Biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal challenges us to think more like an animal in his new book, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”

Hollywood usually is viewed as a symbol of the American Dream. But in the 1930s and ’40s, it became a symbol of something much darker: the Communist threat to American values that must be publicly rooted out at all costs.

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