"I came to be inspired. I need inspiration."
Those words were one bookend, spoken by a two-year Boise State University employee as she walked to the Morrison Center auditorium on Wednesday morning.
With those two succinct sentences, she managed to get to the heart of President Bob Kustra's annual address to the faculty and staff. If "be inspiring" isn't a discrete line in his job description, it's certainly a role the leader of any organization must fill. (Watch the address here.)
The other bookend came at the end of the speech, with the lights barely turned up, when a faculty member and administrator who has been at the university for more than 20 years noted that Kustra seemed to be, in some respects, taking a victory lap in celebration of all that has occurred under his watch: "We thought he'd be here five years, do a bunch of big things and move on to a much bigger university, saying 'Look what I did here.'"
But Kustra has stayed.
And the big things have kept happening.
When asked after his speech what, if he were writing the story, he would say about it, Kustra said the theme of the speech was a moment to acknowledge the accomplishments of the faculty and staff -- those two bookends, who were among the hundreds who packed the auditorium to the point that many were sitting and standing in the aisles.
In the speech, he singled out about three dozen people by name and showed videos that featured about two dozen more, as well as mentioning others in groups -- deans and department chairs, for example -- and he took the stage after playing an excerpt of "You Did It" from "My Fair Lady" as a way of congratulating all at the university who were involved in Boise State obtaining the coveted research institution designation from the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.
"We really thought we were going to celebrate the Carnegie designation," Kustra said, "but then we found this other thing that, in a lot of ways, is more interesting."
He is referring to a new report from a London-based consulting firm called Firetail that named Boise State one of 20 universities worldwide that is poised to succeed as higher education is beset by disruptions to the status quo not only of higher education but also to the global economy.
Firetail, which lists on its website the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among its client partners, identified criteria that universities need to meet challenges to education over the next 15 years. These so-called "ambitious, fast-improving, mid-ranking" schools are doing the right things, according to Firetail, that will differentiate them from the usual top schools.
Three of the points examined were integrated planning, global-social-local relevance and academic entrepreneurship.
Kustra said he was pleased Boise State was listed, in part because usually institutions have to sell themselves to be noticed or listed or ranked, but this one was a surprise and that no one from Firetail had contacted the university before the list was released.
Copyright 2016 Boise State Public Radio