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

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.

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?”

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.

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.

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.