Higher ed news items: ISU receives $10 million donation for scholarships

Master’s students in Idaho State University’s Physician Assistant studies program learn to perform a physical examination from professor Paula Phelps. (Idaho State University photo)

Idaho State University has received a $10 million donation for scholarships — one of the largest in school history.

The anonymous donation will support students in Idaho State’s physician assistant studies program.

The unnamed donor, a longtime higher education supporter, hopes the scholarships will help to increase the number of physician assistants working in rural areas, according to an Idaho State news release.

“He hopes that if students have less student loan debt, that they will be able to afford to practice as a PA in a small rural town and not be forced to take a higher paying job in a big city,” said Paula Phelps, a professor and associate director of the PA program. “We are so happy to be working with the donor to help place more primary care providers in rural areas.”

Idaho State hopes the scholarships will help thousands of students over the next 20 years.

Idaho State is the only college in the state that offers a PA program. The program accepts 72 students a year. The students take classes at Idaho State’s Pocatello and Meridian campuses, and in Caldwell through a partnership with The College of Idaho.

“The program places a distinct emphasis on training health care professionals who are prepared to provide care to those living in rural areas, or who are among minority populations,” Idaho State said in its news release.

In all, more than 1,100 PAs work across the state, in a variety of medical disciplines.

C of I team honored at model United Nations event 

Partnering with students from a university in Thailand, a team from The College of Idaho was honored at a recent model United Nations event in Kobe, Japan.

The C of I-Naresuan University team was recognized as a distinguished delegation at the conference in late November. The delegation just missed a top five ranking in the conference, which attracted students from 69 colleges and universities from five continents, according to a C of I news release.

“I was pretty sure, as a result of the collaboration, that we might not win an award this conference,” said Rob Dayley, a C of I professor of political economy, and the college’s model UN adviser. “Our students surprised even me, and I have a ton of confidence in them already. I told them I’ve never been more proud of a C of I delegation for all that they did. Mentoring these Thai students throughout our preparation and the conference itself was consequential, impactful.”

Nine C of I students and four Naresuan students were in the delegation.

The C of I students were Jahona Akbarova, a senior, business major; Lana Grubsic, a senior, international political economy major; Patience Mabidikama, a senior, international political economy major; Joseph Howell, a senior, political economy major; Sami Aldridge, a senior, political economy major; Fernando Barrios, a junior, international political economy major; Lorena Mazariegos, a junior, international political economy major; Tigran Abrahamyan, a junior, history major; and Elizabeth Beck, a sophomore, biomedical sciences major.

State Board official to chair multistate cooperative

State Board of Education executive director Matt Freeman has been elected to chair the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Matt Freeman

Idaho is one of 16 states in the WICHE cooperative. The commission is designed to support its member states provide more affordable, accessible higher education, and to ensure states receive “a strong return” on its investment in higher education.

“Postsecondary education continues to serve as a powerful catalyst for economic mobility – especially for students coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” Freeman said in a WICHE news release Monday. “At same time, higher education as a whole is being challenged in a lot of ways, and colleges and universities in the West specifically are facing their own unique set of barriers.”

Freeman will continue in his current capacity at the State Board.

Boise State professor secures grant for power grid research

A Boise State University professor has landed a federal research grant to look for ways to improve reliability of the power grid.

Kurtis Cantley

Kurtis Cantley, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will study applications of neuromorphic systems — intelligent, adaptable and cyber secure systems modeled after the human brain.

Using a three-year, $700,000 Department of Energy grant, Cantley will work with Idaho National Laboratory researchers to develop neuromorphic hardware to monitor the power grid. The goal is to create systems that can respond to changes on the grid — and ensure reliable service to everything from a large factory to a home collecting solar power. Security is another consideration — and the neuromorphic systems will be designed to be less vulnerable to cyber attackers.

Initially, Cantley and his team will test the neuromorphic system at the neighborhood level. But the system should scale to larger areas in the future.

Cantley’s award is part of a larger, $21 million Energy Department program to support research projects in underrepresented regions.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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