Skip to main content
Episode 54

transformed: The Humanist Approach to Transformation

Joe Gottlieb (00:01):

Welcome to transformed a higher digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats, and the new hows in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed, while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence. Culture, strategy and tactics, planning and execution, people, process, and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s what’s required to truly transform. Hello, welcome and thanks for joining us for this special presidential series episode of transformed. My name is Joe Gottlieb, president and CTO of Higher Digital, and today I am joined by Dr. Marlene Trump, president of Boise State University. Marlene, welcome to transformed.

Marlene Tromp (00:52):

Thank you. I’m just delighted to be here. What do you wanna talk about?

Joe Gottlieb (00:57):

Well, I would love to talk about the humanist approach that you are taking to transformation at Boise State. But first, tell me a bit about your own personal journey and how it has shaped the passion that you bring to the work you do in higher ed.

Marlene Tromp (01:12):

Well, as a first generation graduate of college, I saw how difficult it was to get to school, and my own father was actually reluctant for me to take scholarships that I received because he thought they were like publishers, clearinghouse sweepstakes letters. He thought that it was just a bunch of garbage, and it was a trick to get a Wyoming kid out to some fancy school somewhere where you wouldn’t get that degree. And so I really understand what it’s like for all those first gen students out there that are trying to find their way and figure out the process. And, I loved school so much when I got to college that my senior year, one of my friends said to me, what do you wanna do when you graduate? And I said, I don’t know. I just wanna stay in university forever. And I have, I am very proud to say, made that happen <laugh>.

Marlene Tromp (02:02):

And, I, I began as an English professor because what I really loved was thinking about people and human relationships. And, and I’ve taught at Denison, I’ve taught at asu, I’ve been at uc, Santa Cruz, and I’ve been at Boise State since, uh, 2019. But the thing I’m really proud of about my history is that those years at Denon University really taught me how to be connected with students. And my years at the University of California really showed me how when an an organization thinks about excellence all the time, how that changes and evolves, the organization and my years at a s u taught me about how to think innovatively in higher ed, not to be bound by what’s happened in the past. And so for me, understanding how to think differently and understanding that excellence matters and understanding that students are at the center of that center of that is really the story of my history.

Joe Gottlieb (03:08):

Wow. Great background. And I love the way that you’ve drawn something from each of the stops along the way, and it’s really shaped that approach you take. And this topic, I I gotta say, I’m really excited about the topic we have in front of us, so we’re gonna enjoy the next 30 minutes. I know, I am th this concept of the humanist approach, which I’m gonna speculate, and, and, and state, is probably something that can lead to a very organic appreciation of technology in the right context. And also a very practical connectedness to strategy, right? It’s all about the people in the end. And I know I love that concept, but apparently your accreditation board sees the excellence in it at Boise State as well. Didn’t they recently tell you that your new strategic plan has the highest level of engagement that they’ve ever seen?

Marlene Tromp (04:05):

That’s correct. And in fact, it was, pretty stunning. Our, our external reviewers came in and they said they had never seen greater buy-in to strategic plan than they’d seen across every sector of the university. Students understood it, the faculty understood it, the staff understood it. They were engaged, they were committed. And I think that has a lot to do with the fact that, that we are really invested in those things that matter to people. Right now, we’re really invested in understanding how our students are gonna go out there and change their lives and change the world. You know, they come here, they change their lives, they develop their minds, they get all these, um, they, they’re able to take in, develop their talents and their gifts, and then they go out and change the world. And, and we actually conducted our strategic planning process during the shutdown of the pandemic, the, the very difficult period at the beginning of the pandemic when we didn’t know when we were gonna be connected. And there were some folks who said, gosh, we can’t do it now, because now the pandemic has hit. And I said, um, there’s no better time to understand what your priorities are than when you’re in a crisis. And so we jumped in and, and we had incredible buy-in across the community and engaging with the process, and our community wrote the plan. And so, um, we’ve done incredible work on this plan already, and we’re already seeing it move the needle.

Joe Gottlieb (05:32):

That’s really exciting. And I know that, a good plan and more importantly, a good approach that hopefully a plan can organize and guide is all about addressing the different dimensions of your context and that you find yourself in pursuing your vision, pursuing, applying your mission, and addressing your objectives. And so between your own vision, mission, and strategy where society is going, how higher ed is changing, and dare I say, reforming in a lot of ways, across how the value is viewed, how we leverage the pandemic and what that catapulted us into, frankly, a higher pace of change. And what happens after that, of course, the increasingly digital era, there’s just so many dimensions going on here. And also for Idaho, a rural state, how you address that construct. Did you feel not only the level of engagement, which is an amazing metric that everyone should have it at some level, right? But that it was also part of the fact that you were addressing this dimensionality. Is that something that you felt during the process?

Marlene Tromp (06:49):

Absolutely. And you know, it’s interesting because it was not only the dimensionality, I think there were two components to this. I asked our leadership team as we were facing all these challenges and all these headwinds, and we’re asking the same question. Now, I asked our leadership team, if you look forward into the future, what should your unit and this university look like in the future? And how do we use this moment of crisis to start to shape towards that? And we’ve asked our students in many ways the same questions, what do you need to be successful in this moment? And shaping toward that. And we actually did a project Joe called Project Launchpad that, um, invited people from around the country to share research and share practical strategies about when students were experiencing massive mental health crises during the pandemic. How do we help use the research to help each other get better and be prepared to meet student needs? So how do we all get better? How do we serve students better? How do we serve society better as a university? And, and I think that that future forward thinking, which is what I called it, um, was, was really a way to understand it, not just as a social problem or an economic problem, but as a human problem.

Joe Gottlieb (08:15):

Well, how that human problem is addressed in society is a, is certainly a big stage. It’s certainly a big context, it’s a necessary context. And, you know, as we sit and talk about this humanist approach to transformation, there’s a pretty major disruption gathering momentum, like none we’ve ever seen, at least not for a really long time. And so, what the question I’d have before you next is, what role is Boise State gonna play in preparing its students for a post AI world?

Marlene Tromp (08:47):

You know, I am so excited about this, and I know that it’s, what we’ve seen around the country is a lot of anxiety. But I’m a Victorian, and here’s another place that that humanistic background comes into play. I’m a Victorian, so I’ve read for 30 years about the ways in which technological innovation changed the culture and how people needed to be sensitive to the hardships it was producing, and to be able to utilize the ways that it was making new things possible, and how they had to navigate that, and what kind of crisis it produced in society. And I see this as being a similar kind of moment. So it’s not, it doesn’t, you know, it didn’t help the weavers go to go in and break the machines when there were new looms, you know, that were being produced. But what it did do is it brought people’s attention to the fact that there were people who’d spent generations weaving.

Marlene Tromp (09:44):

And now we needed to figure out what can these people’s talents be used for so they can continue to have good lives and contribute and be a part of the world that we all inhabit. And I think in an ai, um, world, what we need to be thinking about is when calculators emerged, um, well, when the printing press emerged, people said, now people won’t have a memory. And there’s some truth to that. Mm. I don’t remember things the same way we used to. I, I would challenge any adult now to tell me the phone numbers of their, you know, closest friends. They probably don’t know them because they just tell Siri to call so-and-so. Yeah. Or they click a, a icon on their screen. Um, I knew a ton of phone numbers when I was a kid. I don’t anymore, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have connections to my friends.

Marlene Tromp (10:33):

In fact, I can get to them much more easily now. And the same thing with a calculator. Like we were afraid that calculators would make people not understand math, but what we understand how to do in classrooms now is to use calculators to help people elevate and advance the math that they’re doing. And I feel the same way about things like chat, G P T and AI produced text. Um, if we can get past the most basic functions, like what a calculator does, and teach our students instead to think about how they critically approach complex narrative pros, ideas, evidence, and they’re actually becoming better critical readers of what’s presented to them. Because one of the things right now, for example, that Chap G p D is doing is making up facts where it doesn’t happen. Hmm. So where, you know, does, does learning how to use chat G P T and understanding how evidence gets deployed and understanding how to read and, and to determine where the evidence makes sense and where it doesn’t, and, and to fact check, is that gonna make us better readers of social media? Is that gonna make us better readers of political discourse? And so I think that actually there’s some real opportunities here. And I don’t teach grammar as an English professor. I teach higher order thinking. And so it’s an opportunity to dig into that higher order thinking. So rather than experiencing fear, I think we can focus on how do we engage this meaningfully so that we’re using it as a tool and we’re not ruled by it, but we’re responding to it

Joe Gottlieb (12:24):

A hundred percent. I I think one of the ways I like to think about it is, like you said, elevating what can be done. And honestly, in a lot of ways, chat, g p t and similar technologies are, is are, um, helping more people to discover the vast resources that the internet has to offer that might have only been as leverageable by a smaller set of folks that had a facility with search strings and a willingness to dig. But guess what? Wow. How much easier is it on the internet than in the stacks that you might not live near <laugh>, right? Like mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So we’ve got all this vast information available to us, it’s at our fingertips chat, g p t and similar technologies are allowing so many more people to ask questions that are, they’re more comfortable asking. It’s easier, it’s more convenient, they can get more knowledge.

Joe Gottlieb (13:25):

Now, you’re absolutely right. It makes all of us need to be more critical thinkers because it’s being manipulated by humans and it’s being, um, made up by machines and, and, and, and everything in between where they’re co conspiring to do interesting things. But it also reminds me, and when you said about the, the, the folks, the, the weavers and the looms, higher ed is at the, is at the sort of nexus of how do we think about every profession, every field evolving to grapple with the new technologies, the new capabilities, so that we can elevate what those are? Yes. And maybe there are new ones and maybe some of the old ones go away, or there’s interesting consolidation. Do you see it that way?

Marlene Tromp (14:19):

Yeah. And maybe, maybe the old tools are just as relevant, just as relevant, while we also learn what are the, it’s like a camera lens. Mm-hmm. When are the occasions when you need that telephoto lens? So you need that massive machine that’s gonna produce all sorts of whatever mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And when do you need, um, uh, a lens that’s going to, uh, allow that granular, granular hands-on? So it’s like the, the mass produced meal and the, and the carefully crafted meal produced by, you know, one set of hands. When do you need it? It’s like, use the tool that’s right for you. When I taught theory in my theory classes, what I always said is, all these different theoretical models are tools. Which tool is gonna reveal the information that you need and is going to give you the greatest insight? And so I think asking, um, students utilizing the, the, the power of our fields to ask students to think through, um, how do these tools actually yield more knowledge and more growth for us? And that’s something actually that we can help bring to the world outside of higher ed too, because we’ve got people who are getting access to this information and they’re just flooded. Mm-hmm. And as you said, that means that sometimes people are just stepping away.

Joe Gottlieb (15:48):


Marlene Tromp (15:49):

And so how do we, how do we help prepare people to navigate that incredibly complex landscape out there?

Joe Gottlieb (15:58):

Uh, it’s an important point, and that is this machinery is really good at the repetitive behaviors that humans can’t find themselves capable of persisting, of, of just repeating to a point that you one would go crazy. What they’re less good at. What the, what, what what can’t be taken away is, okay, that mass produced answer or that machine produced answer, which might have amazing scientific connection with, with great, of evolution of algorithms to what is available in terms of knowable data. How does it make me feel? How does it make a team of two students feel? How does it make our whole classroom feel that feeling is now, you know, if there’s, whether it’s a focus group or an individual, or it’s a personal, you know, experience with art that’s so different. It’s a million miles. It’s the opposite of this very powerful machine produced aggregation of something. Right? Um, and the all the fields will wanna reflect on that, I imagine.

Marlene Tromp (17:02):

Yes. And what did you learn from that process, and what did you learn while you were digging in that information? And, you know, there’s something very different. Um, uh, the book I’m working on right now is about unsolved or belatedly solved murder cases in the 19th century. And it’s very different to show people a bunch of pros from the 19th century and to take them into an archive where they see the handwritten police investigation notes from a crime scene or where they see, you know, um, there’s a, there’s a room in the national archive called the Invigoration Room in the UK’s national archive, um, where things like the King James Bible get to be seen. And that’s where I saw the Jack the Ripper letters. Like, when you actually get to put your hands on something, how does it change the way you think? How does it change your experience of it?

Marlene Tromp (17:57):

What do you know differently as a consequence of that? And, and, and that’s the same with these tools. Like there’s an engagement, there’s a human component that’s an engagement between the human and the technology that can be enriching for both. It’s not about passivity. And that’s, that, that’s the piece that we need to really make sure that people understand our students, folks out in the world beyond the academy, is you don’t have to be a passive recipient of any of these new technologies. How do you engage them? How do they help you grow and learn? Um, how are they challenging you?

Joe Gottlieb (18:36):

Well, and this is all happening at a time when more and more of the students that you are educating are wired completely different than the way you and I are wired. And, and literally screens and advanced technology and social media have literally rewired their brains

Marlene Tromp (18:58):


Joe Gottlieb (19:00):

Creating a, what we’d have to call a necessary opportunity to reimagine teaching and learning, knowing that this rewiring has occurred. So talk about how you are enlisting this new generation of rewired students in your design process for your, your higher ed programs.

Marlene Tromp (19:16):

Thank you. I’m just, I’m so excited about this question because I think this is really important. And when I talk to faculty, one of the things I often say is, you have to remember that our students now grew up with computers in their hands, so they think differently. And it doesn’t, it, it doesn’t mean that they think worse, they think differently. They use those tools as a part of their, this is Donna Haraway’s, ma Cyborg Manifesto. They use those tools as a part of who, as part of their minds, as a part of who they are as thinkers, a part of the way that they engage with other people. And we need to ask our students to help us understand, because this change is happening so quickly, we need to ask our students, help us understand how you think higher education should operate. And that’s how I got engaged in rep four.

Marlene Tromp (20:09):

And Rep four stands for Rapid Educational Prototyping. And it’s for all sorts of reasons. Um, and I can send you to the rep website to learn more. But the, but the basic concept behind this is that we bring together students, especially students who typically don’t have, don’t come to university, the students who are least likely to go and say, what would make your experience one that would help you thrive, what would make you go to college? And what would help you thrive there? And we thought, I thought students were gonna say, oh, make math different or teach math differently. And, and incidentally, there are things we’ve learned about how to teach math differently that is more humanistic. But, um, what they said over and over again in that first couple of years that we’ve done this project and what we do, this is really cool.

Marlene Tromp (21:02):

So the students design, um, higher education in a new way. We bring together the nearly quarter of a million students who are now participating in this project around the country, and they vote on each other’s concepts. And then we pilot those concepts on our campuses. So we’re actually deploying the concepts that our students are creating. And we have, I expect that they would say things about like, oh, I don’t wanna take these general studies or, or, or do math differently. And what they wanted was community. They wanna find each other and connect with each other. And, and I really think once they find those connections, then they might wanna talk about their general studies requirements, which I’m happy to explain to them why that’s valuable. And they might wanna talk about, um, how we teach math. And they might wanna talk about, um, what happens in an English class.

Marlene Tromp (22:02):

But what they need first is to feel connected. And that was a message that came through loud and clear from our students. And what that suggests to us is that these students, just like we are, I mean, who doesn’t panic when they leave their phone behind? Cuz you feel like you’ve left a part of yourself behind these students are, have this cyborg quality to them just like we do. But in spite of that technology, in spite of those rewired brains, in spite of the fact that, that we all engage across that technological landscape, they wanna connect with each other and other people, they wanna connect with their faculty, the staff and each other. And so recognizing the way in which it can’t just be people who’ve grown up in my generation that are building the experience for students, but students themselves are building what the experience looks like for them. That’s critical. And what we’re seeing is that humanistic component is a part of it.

Joe Gottlieb (23:07):

Well, and it’s not lost on me, that community is all about humanism extended to multiple people. Right? Like, so it’s, it, when you really think about it, it’s communities form around individuals that are expressing them, their, their, their, their humanity to, to peers or others that they encounter. And I’ve, I’ve been having raised three boys through the social media era, <laugh>, um, I have been had a vest vested interest in what’s going on. And it, and at times it’s been troubling and challenging. But one of the things that has been on my mind throughout is that, and you said this a moment ago when you said, when we leave our phone, we, we, we feel a bit nervous. And these kids in particular feel like they’re, they’re missing something. I believe that’s because these devices actually have made them more connected and more community centric.

Joe Gottlieb (24:11):

And I think that’s why that’s coming through. And it used to be we wondered about why did one student do better than the other? And we saw patterns of like, well, did they get involved with clubs or did they, did they feel right there? Um, were they ready? Like these were things that were markers for success. And I think more and more you’ve found it in this effort, right? You’ve discovered that what this generation is saying is make learning part of a community experience for me. Like I’ve approached everything else to this point, right? Including high school in particular.

Marlene Tromp (24:49):


Joe Gottlieb (24:50):

And if you wanna engineer this for, for more people like me to have success, that’s a key component, right?

Marlene Tromp (24:58):

Help me find my people.

Joe Gottlieb (25:00):


Marlene Tromp (25:00):

Help me find my people and connect to my people. And, and then the technology, just like with chat, G p t becomes a tool. It’s not, we, it’s not just an interface. It’s the way we get to, it’s not something that’s blocking, as you said, Joe, it’s not blocking our access to other people. It can be facilitating our access to other people. And we wanna ensure that’s always the case. But, but opportunities when we see technology as a part of the way that we as humans can interact and that we can create community on that larger scale, it doesn’t mean it’s always perfect and we always have to be coming back to it. But when that becomes possible, it changes our ability to reach people. And that’s why when we built a program called the Community Impact Program, we, um, didn’t just send an online program out to rural communities because it was designed for rural communities.

Marlene Tromp (26:02):

We sent the faculty out to meet those students. We introduced those students to one another. We created community. We made it essentially a hybrid model so that, that they were getting real human connections and utilizing the flexibility of the technology to do some of the learning. And so it was, it was what the community impact program was designed to do was help the university reach out into rural communities, but do it in a way that recognized the humanity of both the people that were coming from campus and the people who were in those rural communities. And it has just been a dynamite success.

Joe Gottlieb (26:40):

Well, and you’ve done this before, right? I think, think yes. And, and you’re doing it, uh, I think you did this at ASU and now you’re doing it at Boise State. And given the chronology here, I know that covid in particular created distance, uh, between Boise State and its students. And given the rural nature of, of your region, um, a lot of the people that needed education the most were feeling it to be farther away. Yes. So maybe spend a little more time on this program and how you’ve, you’ve reached out to really helped reconnect and reengage, uh, those students in the rural population.

Marlene Tromp (27:23):

Thank you. Um, you know, we, when I was at asu, I, I ran what was essentially a pilot for this program. And we looked at the, um, the community that had the, um, uh, a low graduation rate coming outta a ssu. And, and we said, what would could we do to make things different for that community? And we went into that community, utilized this hybrid model, and we went from about a 4% graduation rate to about an 89% graduation rate in that community. Which is just stunning. Hmm. It’s just stunning. And it took us a while to figure out how to do it right. What were the elements? But what we saw is if we put a human in the community who was there regularly for access to those students, we connected the students with each other and the faculty actually engaged with those students, then, then there could be that flexibility of online learning.

Marlene Tromp (28:15):

So they could work when they were free, when they weren’t, um, at work or, or connecting with either children or other family members or friends that gave them that flexibility. But they had the human element of it. It was that, that humanistic approach to that, the flexibility that comes with that online education. And what we did here is we said, when I came to Boise State, I said, how do we scale this? And how do we reach out to more and more rural communities? And there is not a state in this country, even a state with the biggest cities. You look at California, you look at New York, there are significant rural populations. And as we look at the demographic cliff and we’re seeing fewer and fewer students who are going to graduate from high school. So there’s gonna be a smaller population of people who are going, we better figure out, and we have needs as a nation, needs as states, needs as communities to have those people educated.

Marlene Tromp (29:17):

How are we gonna, you know, refresh our workforce of, of people who do amazing things, whether they’re artists or, or leaders or what, you know, whatever they’re doing. We need those people who’ve either taken some classes and and left, which always breaks my heart. The people who have the incomplete degree or whether there are people who couldn’t leave home cause they were place bound. And in our case, that’s often someone who works on a ranch or a farm. What would happen if we went to them and brought them this hybrid model so they can feel connected and engaged and humanized and real. And do, you know, I talk, I meet virtually, um, in a Zoom meeting with every single one of those cohorts. And it allows me to say, you matter, our communities matter. And we’ve had incredible success in those programs. So students who have never even thought higher education was possible are finishing their degrees through these programs.

Marlene Tromp (30:23):

And they’re, um, you know, they’re stackable, which we’ve learned also helps when we’re talking about, um, communities that have low access rates. So they get a leadership certificate first, but they stay on and they, they keep working in those degrees. And we’re seeing the way that when you add in that human component, and it’s not just now, some people need the, the purely online experience because that’s what fits with their life. But for a lot of students, having that human element is gonna be so profound for them and help them be successful. And we’re also trying to do that, Joe, on the other side, which is we wanna deliver education in this way, but we also want our students who are here on campus or online to have access no matter what their major is. So let’s say they’re in a social sciences field or an arts field or humanistic field, and they’re wondering what are they gonna do when they graduate?

Marlene Tromp (31:21):

We wanna give them access to those technological futures because there are all sorts of career options in those technological futures. So we have a cybersecurity for all certificate and a semiconductors for all certificate because the semiconductor industry and the Chips and Science Act have, have really, um, the, the act was a commitment by the federal government to grow that work here in the us. So we’re not dependent on outside suppliers for all of our, um, technology. And, and it’s booming in the United States as a consequence right now, if you are, um, a student who wants to go work in that industry, we can prepare you no matter what your major is. And so we’re gonna get every student, whether they’re humanists or social scientists or artists, or they’re in engineering and in another field, maybe they’re in, um, construction engineering, but they want that cyber degree. So we’re gonna make that certificate available to every student without limiting prereq prerequisites that keep that outta your reach. And we are so excited about the impact this is gonna have, not just on them cuz it’s gonna make jobs available to them, but on our workforce and the way it’s gonna diversify our workforce because we’re bringing that humanistic element into those conversations out in the working world.

Joe Gottlieb (32:44):

Well, this is a great example of what we referred to earlier as the need to evolve the way we’re preparing students in various programs for the digital era and making them more employable, more familiar, uh, more valuable, honestly, to these markets that are emerging. And, uh, it’s exciting to see you start to scale that kind of approach that will deliver on that, that objective. It’s uh, it really is part of a very broad effort, as you mentioned earlier, that we have to accomplish across our entire country, let alone the, the planet. Right. But our entire country needs more of that going on so that more students are emerging from programs which might be focused on a role, they might play a functional role, be it someone who can write copy or someone who can diagnose a system that’s failing or someone who can attend to align in a manufacturing plan with increasingly digital technologies running. Right? All of this, they have their rules, but if we can equip them with this context that is more, uh, appropriate, more relevant to the digital era, they’re gonna be that much more valuable.

Marlene Tromp (33:56):

That’s right. And it’s gonna change their lives, but it’s also gonna bring their unique perspective and all the differences across all those fields into that conversation and that dialogue. And if you think about, one of the things I often say is, um, in the 19th century, in the Victorian era, you studied classical, um, literature or philosophy to become a bank president. So there were different conversations happening among banks in the 19th century than there are when what people study is business or accounting. If you, and if you introduce into that room, some of those people who have a sociology major or some of those people who have a philosophy major, you’re changing the conversation in that room and it’s gonna make everybody smarter to have all those different voices at the table.

Joe Gottlieb (34:48):

Yeah. That’s a whole other topic. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So lest we pursue that and, and run over too late, I want to throw one more question at, at you that really reflects something really exciting that I know is going on over there. And that is you recently attended the G seven summit in Japan. Yes. And while you were there, uh, you announced a very exciting partnership in the semiconductor industry entitled Upwards for the Future. So I know this is truly transformational on multiple levels. I want to give you a chance to talk a bit about it, but what’s involved and how’d you make that happen?

Marlene Tromp (35:21):

Well, it’s so exciting. So when the Chips and Science Act was passed, um, we really saw an opportunity, especially given the way in which we’re folding these perspectives together and really trying to integrate these things in the curriculum, we saw an opportunity to really think about the future and to think about how we’re training people differently, educating people differently, how we’re preparing people differently to get out there and, and have a, have a career as one of my colleagues likes to say, to make a living and make a life. And, and so upwards, um, stands for a university partnership for Workforce Advancement and Research and development in semiconductors. So it’s picking up on the very thing that our federal government has said, we need more independence on this front. We need to do this work on this front. And, um, we’re partnering with Micron here in the US who’s been the lead and, um, Tokyo Electron in Japan.

Marlene Tromp (36:17):

And it’s a bilateral partnership between the US and Japan to really train a, a more intellectually diverse workforce, a more, um, background diverse workforce so that we are smarter and better and prepared for a different future, a more challenging future. And to me, this is so thrilling and I’ll tell you what, um, people know Boise State for that blue football field, but the innovation and the creativity and the disruption that people saw when we did that Statue of Liberty Bowl play at the Fiesta Bowl that allowed us to beat Oklahoma State is exactly what’s happening in our academic enterprise and in our research enterprise. We have faculty right now that are working on, um, we know that quantum computing is a huge part of the future, and that it’s a very complex process that’s typically done at one degree Kelvin, which is about 426 degrees below zero.

Marlene Tromp (37:18):

And our faculty are working like just a handful of other labs in the world on room temperature quantum computing, using the D n A helix as a tool to, to create the, um, code for the computer. And so that would allow it to happen at room temperature. And so these exciting pathbreaking opportunities in which our students are engaged and in which we’re asking questions about how do we create, how do we bring all these different minds together from all different backgrounds to really change these industries and make us global leaders. And so for a school like Boise State to come exploding on the scene as a, as a football powerhouse, we’re doing it now in our research and teaching. And it’s just a thrill. Um, you know, we stood shoulder to shoulder with Purdue and University of Washington and University of Chicago at the G seven Summit as we sign this agreement.

Joe Gottlieb (38:18):

Another example of Boise State, um, bucking above its weight.

Joe Gottlieb (38:24):

Me. So let’s bring this to a close. Let’s offer our listeners three takeaways on this amazing, amazing topic of a humanist approach to transformation.

Marlene Tromp (38:36):

Thank you for that opportunity. I think we have to really benefit from humanistic thinking and not just scientific and technological thinking as we evolve higher education in the digital era. So we have to be influenced by all of these approaches, the artistic, the humanistic, the socialistic, and not just the scientific and the, and the technological approaches. And I think we have to employ this mindset not just to the content, which I think is how people generally tend to think of it, but also to the tools. So how are we bringing that thinking to these tools, to online learning to chat G P T, how did we think about how to use a calculator in a way that made us do higher order math? And I think we have to look for the places in our organizations where we’ve inadvertently because of the new technology, either displaced or disin, diminished that human element so that we can really reintroduce it and nurture that part of our organization’s back into the flow. Because that’s, that’s how we really help people thrive. That’s how we help communities thrive, and that’s how we change the world.

Joe Gottlieb (39:56):

Well done, Marlene. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Marlene Tromp (40:00):

Thank you. It’s been such a delight and pleasure to be here. Thank you for the conversation.

Joe Gottlieb (40:06):

And thanks to our guests for joining us as well. I hope you have a great day and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of transformed.

Back To Top

Follow Us on LinkedIn

Subscribe on Apple Podcast

About The Host


As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

Interested in being a guest?