COEUR d’ALENE – After 18 months as the newest president of Boise State University, Marlene Tromp made her first official trip north last week to learn more about the Panhandle – and to tell you, the readers, more about it.
A proud Wyomingite from Little Green River, Tromp is a first-generation college graduate and the daughter of working-class parents.
As with many young Idahoans, cost posed a barrier between tromp and higher education.
After earning the highest standardized ACT test score in the state, 17-year-old Tromp received stacks of catalogs from interested colleges across the country. Even so, raising $ 80 to apply for the job was a hefty price tag for the Tromps in the 1980s, she said.
Together, they decided that the closest community college was Tromp’s only option for higher education.
That was until the school counselor paid Tromp with a copy of her admission essay from English class and applied to the schools. Tromp had only discovered the advisor’s trick, she said, when he called her into the office and told her she had been accepted – at all schools, with scholarships.
“Here was this very reserved guy from Wyoming who could barely sit in his chair. He was so excited, ”Tromp said with a laugh.
Tromp said she waited hours to show her father the acceptance letter and full scholarship offer from an “East Coast Elite School” handpicked by her advisor. After looking at the offer for a few minutes, Tromp’s father put it on the table and said:
“Honey, how are we supposed to get you home if it turns out to be fake?
“He thought it was like a sweepstakes letter from a publisher’s clearing house,” said Tromp. “He just thought it couldn’t be done. All the money and we don’t pay anything?
Breaking this barrier ignited Tromp’s fires for helping individuals gain access to educational services by removing barriers, she said. And that led to one of her first initiatives, after she became the seventh President of the BSU, to set up and start the Community Impact Program.
CIP combines online and off-campus learning opportunities where teachers travel to rural areas so students don’t have to leave their hometowns.
“We expect people to rush into the subway area to go to school,” said Tromp. “Lots of people are attached to their rural communities. Maybe they work on their family’s farm, family business, or are Dependent on them. They cannot go away for four years. That would devastate a family. “
Studies have shown that adding a human component to traditional online education, as in the CIP model, increases student graduation rates, the president said.
Tromp also worked on a similar program on the Arizona State University West campus during her tenure as vice provost and dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Elements of CIP incorporated into Tromp’s ASU model increased graduation rates within the Gila River Indian community from 4% to 89%, she said.
“We tailored it to things that were important to them,” said Tromp. “Our students liked it.”
CIP serves communities in Mountain Home, Western Treasure Valley, and West Central Mountains, but Tromp hopes to expand the program to underserved areas.
“I think we are missing out on incredible talent and prospects,” she said. “We don’t hear perspectives from people who grew up at Sandpoint and have experience in business, government, or the nonprofit world. What they see could change our understanding of anything.”
Since taking office, Tromp has also launched the Presidential True Blue Scholarship, specifically designed to help more rural Idaho residents attend college, and the Hometown Challenge, which brings them home after graduation .
More than 5,500 BSU alumni are Northern Idaho entrepreneurs, business leaders, teachers and professionals, data from the institution shows. Tromp hopes to further expand the influence of the BSU in North Idaho and to expand the “blue lawn thinking”.
Boise State’s blue turf is more than a neon AstroTurf, she explained. Before the BSU fully installed the lawn in 1986, no other school had tried to build a football field that was not green. Now every university that would like to have any turf color besides green must first obtain permission from the BSU.
“It’s a metaphor that we don’t have to do it like other people have,” said Tromp. “Isn’t that amazing?”