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

These days, the terrorist organization known as ISIS has much of the world on high alert. How this happened is the subject of a book by today’s guest, Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick.

Washington, Lincoln and FDR are revered as leaders who helped shape the course of history. They are often referred to as “great” presidents. But is it possible to have a great president today? And is greatness a quality that Americans even want in their chief executive?

Aaron David Miller examines the history of the U.S. presidency to explore those questions in his book, The End of Greatness.  In the book, Dr. Miller makes the case that greatness as a presidential virtue is largely overrated – and that it occurs too infrequently to be relevant to current politics.

Following one of the most divisive and contentious elections in history, it is easy to say that we are a nation in cultural crisis. But what does that actually mean? In the Rust Belt, as well as in rural Appalachia, it means factories closing and good jobs shipped overseas in less than a generation. It means an uptick in drug abuse and violence in the home, an erosion of the education system and trust in our government, and the disintegration of children’s dreams for a better future than that of their parents.

When Sally Ride flew into orbit aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, she made history. As the first American woman in space, Ride helped change perceptions about what women could accomplish and inspired a new generation of girls to literally reach for the stars. But Ride was more than an icon for the U.S. space program – she also was a complex, private woman with singular talents and skills, who continued to contribute to science and education until her death from pancreatic cancer in 2012.

At the height of the Cold War, a seemingly unassuming Soviet electronics engineer reached out to several Americans he encountered in Moscow and offered his services. While he was initially ignored, the engineer, Adolf Tolkachev was eventually accepted by the CIA’s Moscow station as a volunteer spy for the United States. Over a number of years, and under the nose of the ever-watchful KGB, Tolkachev passed on highly classified information about Soviet military technology to U.S. intelligence operatives.

The recent death of Fidel Castro has once again placed Cuba in the spotlight as the world remembers the fiery dictator who sparred with 11 US Presidents, and questions are what lies next for his country.

One of the most infamous incidents between the US and Cuba involved the ill-fated invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs in 1961.  Jim Rasenberger writes about this tense time in his book "The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs.  It's now out in paperback.

Throughout history, brave souls have answered the call to serve their countries, and to risk it all on the battlefield. But few, perhaps, have done it with more guts and gusto than Winston Churchill. In her latest book, “Hero of the Empire,” Candice Millard introduces us to a young Churchill who believed early on that he was destined to lead, and who thirsted for a chance to be a war hero — mostly so he could be recognized for it. During the Boer War of 1899, in which the British Empire drove into Southern Africa, he got his chance.

Owyhee County is Idaho’s second largest county and yet one of its least populated. Despite its emptiness, Owyhee County has a rich history, one that has been thoroughly explored and documented by today’s guest, John Bieter.

What’s it like to be an octopus? Is it anything like being a human? Is it even possible to know?

In the 1840s, a million Irish citizens died of starvation during what became known as the “Great Hunger.” Taking up the desperate cause of his countrymen was a spirited and wealthy young orator named Thomas Francis Meagher.

In the season of the 2016 general election, we’re discussing the history of voting rights on today’s show with, Michael Waldman. He is the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s School of Law, and the author of a new book, titled The Fight To Vote.

Many of us remember reading The Great Gatsby in our high school English class – and not exactly loving it. What was it about this slim novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald that was supposedly so great, we wondered. And more to the point, why had it remained popular while other worthy books had slowly faded away?

Domestic terrorism has taken many forms since the horrific events of September 11th. From these disparate acts, a sinister pattern of domestic terrorism has emerged as American Muslim men and women are radicalized from afar by extremist groups like ISIS.

Peter Bergen, is an internationally recognized expert on terrorism, a documentary producer and CNN’s national security analyst. In his latest book, titled United States of Jihad, Mr. Bergen discusses the social and political influences that can transform average Muslim Americans into homegrown terrorists.

Imagine a world where you are driven to work by a driverless car, your morning news is written by a computer, and your lunch is prepared by a robot. In such a world, it would not be a stretch to wonder if humans were about to become obsolete. We’ve already seen this scenario play out in movies and popular novels.  But according to today’s guest, there are reasons to worry about how new technologies are reshaping the real world right now.

As anyone with children, or grandchildren, knows, parenting isn’t easy. Children and adolescents are growing up in a complex and connected world where smartphones, video games, organized activities and friends vie for their attention. At the same time, parents aren’t exactly always sure what their job description should be – or how to best nurture their child.

On a summer morning in July 1915, thousands of poor factory workers lined the Chicago docks, waiting to board ships for the much anticipated annual picnic hosted by Western Electric Company. But as 2,500 passengers flooded aboard the first ship, the SS Eastland, disaster struck. The huge liner flipped onto its side, drowning more than 800 people in the filthy Chicago River, including 22 whole families.

Every once in a while, you come across individuals who make you feel better just for having encountered them. As David Brooks, puts it, “They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.”

Hot dogs and popcorn under the sweltering summer sun at the local ball park is an image embedded into American culture. But for the players jogging into the dugout, sweat dripping from their caps, baseball is more than just America’s pastime, it’s their career. And it’s a career unlike any other.  With 162 regular season games in 182 days, major league baseball places unique demands on the players, their families, and those who work in a variety of roles to support the team.

Today we’re continuing our timely conversation with author Jacob S. Hacker about the changing dynamics between the public and private sectors in driving economic growth, and how those changes are impacting our politics, culture and prosperity.

Mr. Hacker is a professor of political science at Yale University and the co-author of a new book, American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper.  He wrote this book with his colleague, Paul Pierson, who is at the University of California, Berkeley.

For much of the 20th century, private and public enterprises worked as both partners and adversaries to drive economic growth in our country. But in recent years, the balance within this so-called “mixed economy” has shifted away from public investment and regulation. Today, the term “Big Government” is widely considered a pejorative – despite the role public institutions have historically played in laying the foundation for social development and prosperity.

Pages