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Learning From The Best

Throughout the school year, Boise State students have incredible opportunities to learn from some of the world’s leaders, thinkers and innovators on our metropolitan campus.

Photo of Walter Robb and Diego Rodriguez.

Walter Robb and Diego Rodriguez

Hundreds of students from across campus got the chance to spend time and learn from innovative leaders Walter Robb and Diego Rodriguez.

The two Professors of the Practice were on campus to meet with students and faculty to discuss “The Mindset of an Innovator.”  Students, faculty members and the public were invited to ask questions and learn from the business and design leaders.

“Walter Robb and Diego Rodriguez know what it means to have the mindset of an innovator —a mindset that challenges people and organizations to look into the future for solutions not readily apparent to those who only live in the present.,”said President Bob Kustra. “This is exactly why we established the Professor of the Practice program, to bring the best of the best to campus and give our students unique and valuable experiences.”

Robb served as co-CEO of Whole Foods market from 2010-2017 before turning to his philanthropic interests, serving as chairman of the board for the Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Cities Foundation. During his time as CEO, Whole Foods grew from just 12 to 464 stores in three countries.

Rodriguez served as a senior partner at IDEO, was a founding professor at the Stanford, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence Emeritus at Harvard Business School, and a Visiting Scientist at the MIT Media Lab. IDEO is an award-winning global design firm that uses a design-thinking approach to helping organizations innovate and grow. 


David Brooks

Blending psychology, politics, spirituality and confessional, David Brooks’ “The Road to Character” provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues” — achieving wealth, fame, and status — and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed. Looking to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and a sense of their limitations, they have built a strong inner character.

Portrait of David Brooks Brooks spoke at our Distinguished Lecture Series on Sept. 27, 2016, at the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts.

Denis Johnson

Hailed as one of America’s greatest fiction writers, Johnson was the first visiting professor in Boise State’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program. Johnson taught the MFA fiction workshop in the Fall 2015 semester, and was featured in Focus Online. Frequently a teacher at the Iowa Writers Workshop, considered the No. 1 program in the country, Johnson was the winner of a National Book Award in fiction. Johnson, who died in May 2017, was an acclaimed, poet, essayist and playwright, and his classic short story collection, “Jesus’ Son,” is considered a modern masterpiece. Johnson delivered a reading to several hundred people in November 2015 in the Student Union.

Denis Johnson
DenisJohnson_JesusSon-Book DenisJohnson_TreeofSmoke-Book

Steve Swanson

#‎BoiseState‬ added one more link in its expanding chain of NASA connections when it named former astronaut Steve Swanson as a Professor of the Practice while he was still aboard the International Space Station. Swanson formally joined the University in August, 2015 as a Boise State Distinguished Educator in Residence. He was also featured in Focus Online Learn more about Steven Swanson

Steve Swanson
Learn About The Space Broncos
Space Broncos start to test their Micro-Gravity Tool at the NASA Johnson Space Center

Other Notable Guests


Matt Richtel

Matt Richtel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of this year’s Campus Read selection. Boise State selected the nonfiction book, “A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention,” as the 2015-2016 Campus Read. “A Deadly Wandering” recounts the experiences of Utah college student Reggie Shaw, who killed two scientists while texting and driving. Richtel lectured on campus at 6 p.m. Monday, November 6, 2015.


Anthony Doerr

Boise writer Doerr, who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, has had a long relationship with Boise State and its students. He has taught as a visiting distinguished writer in Boise State’s MFA Program in Creative Writing and was Idaho’s writer in residence from 2007 to 2010. The author of two short story collections, a memoir and two novels, Doerr’s fiction has won a raft of awards. He is the recipient of four O. Henry Prizes, three Pushcart Prizes, the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, the National Magazine award and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, the largest prize in the world for a single short story. Listen to a radio interview with Doerr about “All the Light We Cannot See” on Reader’s Corner with Boise State President Bob Kustra


Margaret Atwood

The Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series at Boise State University presented award-winning Canadian writer Margaret Atwood on April 8, 2015, in the Student Union Jordan Ballroom. Atwood has won many international literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize. She has authored more than 40 volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction and nonfiction. She is perhaps best known for her novels, which include “The Edible Woman,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Robber Bride,” “Alias Grace” and “The Blind Assassin.” Her lecture, titled “Expression and the Power of Words,” was free and open to the public and Atwood was available for a book signing following her remarks.

Sir Salman Rushdie

Sir Salman Rushdie

An acclaimed author and essayist, Rushdie has written 11 novels, including the Booker Prize-winning Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses, and a memoir, Joseph Anton. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, and served as president of the PEN American Center. He appeared on campus as part of the university’s Distinguished Lecture Series, an annual event presented by the Honors College. His lecture was titled “Literature and Politics in the Modern World,” and was free and open to the public.

Douglas Brinkley

Douglas Brinkley

Seven of historian Douglas Brinkley’s books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. His most recent, “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America,” led to his appearance as the keynote speaker of this fall’s 31st annual Frank Church Conference on Public Affairs, titled “Wilderness: America’s Heritage.” The conference focused on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, sponsored by former U.S. Sen. Frank Church. Brinkley is a professor at Rice University, a CBS News historian and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

Boise State’s Professors of the Practice

Boise State identifies talented and accomplished business, scientific and artistic leaders from around the country and beyond and invites them to bring world-class experience and excitement to Boise State students. The program offers students a chance to learn from experts who otherwise wouldn’t be likely to spend time in college classrooms. Along with astronaut Steve Swanson and sculptor Ben Victor, several other Professors of the Practice hail from the elite ranks of their fields:

Ben Victor

Ben Victor

At age 26, Victor became the youngest artist ever to have a sculpture in the nation’s foremost collection, the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. Nine years later he became the only living artist to have two works in Statuary Hall. Today, he is working as an Artist in Residence and Professor of the Practice at Boise State, which recently unveiled his 9-foot bronze statue of former Micron Technology CEO Steve Appleton in the courtyard of the Micron Business and Economics Building. The Benjamin Victor Gallery is located on the east end of campus on University Drive. Visitors are encouraged to stop by during business hours Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. Learn More about Ben Victor at his Professor of the Practice website, including a gallery tour and highlights of his most important works.

Ben Victor

Walter Robb

Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, first started in the organic food business in 1977. From running a single Whole Foods store in Mill Valley, Calif., in 1991, Robb rose through the ranks of the company and now shares top leadership with Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey.

Walter Robb Portrait

Ben Shedd

A more than four-decade veteran of the film industry, Shedd is best known for his Academy Award-winning “The Flight of the Gossamer Condor.” Shedd, who has produced 33 educational and science films and shares a Peabody award for his work in the early years of the PBS science series Nova, has taught classes in person at Boise State for years and, through Skype and other technologies, exposes students in Boise to working film experts in Hollywood and around the world.

Open Season movie poster

Steve Moore

The cartoonist behind “In the Bleachers” and the animated film “Open Season,” delivers guest lectures, and is teaching Studies in Media Production: Writing Stories for Animated Movies.