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

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.

 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is revered as an 18th century genius who composed some of the most sublime music ever written.  The fact that a starling became his beloved pet during one of the most creative and productive periods of his short life has perplexed historians and music lovers for years. Yet the unlikely story of the great composer and his common bird is a true one, and today’s guest, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, explores it in detail in her new book, titled “Mozart’s Starling.”

At the turn of the 20th century, the most popular entertainment acts in the country were found under the Big Top. The circus offered daring acts of bravery, wild animals, comic antics and the collection of human oddities known as the Freak Show.

With the 2017 total solar eclipse less than two weeks away, excitement is reaching a fever pitch in Idaho and other places across the country where this stunning celestial event will be visible.

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.

But as Tom Nichols explains in his book, The Death of Expertise, this information isn’t making us any smarter. In fact, it’s turning us into an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement and distrust experts.

This interview was originally broadcast in March, 2017

As every reader knows, novels can transport us to unexpected places. They also can shine new light on places we thought we already knew. Today’s guest, Shawn Vestal, manages to do both in his debut novel, Daredevils.

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.

This program was originally broadcast in March, 2017.

Six decades ago, President Harry Truman made a decision to fire an incredibly popular general with near celebrity status: General Douglas MacArthur. Was it a good decision? Only the future would tell.

It was a difficult decision at a critical time. The Cold War had reached a crisis point. People around the world lived in fear of the atomic bomb and the Chinese had joined the Korean War against the United States and its allies.

The re-election of Barack Obama in November of 2012 dealt a stunning defeat to the Republican Party. As the GOP reeled from the loss and began laying plans to win in 2016, a small group of shadowy and wealthy figures gathered at the request of Charles and David Koch, otherwise known as the Koch brothers. Their secret agenda: To map out plans to systematically and inequitably influence our political system.

What does it take for someone with seemingly every advantage in life to turn on their friends, their family and their country, all in the name of a cause? Today’s guest, Kati Marton, explores that question in her new book, True Believer: Stalin’s Last American Spy. 

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