Pledging to continue Boise State University’s “amazing trajectory,” Marlene Tromp was named the university’s seventh president Tuesday.
Tromp, 52, is chief academic officer at UC-Santa Cruz, a university that serves more than 19,000 students and has received $680 million in research grants and contracts over the past five years. Previously, as a dean and vice provost at Arizona State University, Tromp oversaw the startup of new academic programs, such as an interdisciplinary forensics major and a cybersecurity initiative.
Now, Tromp prepares to head the state’s largest university, with a growing enrollment that reached a record of 25,540 last fall. For State Board of Education member Linda Clark, Tromp’s background in academics and innovation made her the right pick for the board, and the right fit for the Boise State campus community.
“They’re looking for a president to take it to the next level, whatever that turns out to be,” said Clark, who headed the State Board’s presidential search committee.
The State Board wrapped up their search and selected Tromp Tuesday afternoon, during a three-minute meeting that had elements of a pep rally.
Making the motion to make a hire, State Board member Emma Atchley was interrupted as soon as she mentioned Tromp by name. An audience of more than 200 staff and students, packed into the Stueckle Sky Center at Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium, erupted in applause.
“Are we ready for the rest of the motion?” Atchley asked.
“This is a good sign,” State Board President Debbie Critchfield replied.
The board’s vote was unanimous, finalizing an offer that makes Tromp Boise State’s first female president.
Speaking to the university community, Tromp said she planned to build on Boise State’s spirit of innovation.
“The whole world needs what Boise State has to offer,” she said. “And we’re going to give it to them.”
Tromp also talked about her own experience as a high school student in Green River, Wyo. Overwhelmed by the process of applying for college, she got help from a school guidance counselor, who filled out the applications and paid the fees on her behalf. Tromp eventually wound up at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. — honoring her father’s wishes to enroll in college within a day’s drive of Green River, but becoming the first person in her family to attend college.
At Arizona State, Tromp created mentoring programs for first-generation students. As she assumes a president’s job in a state with stagnant college go-on and postsecondary completion rates, Tromp acknowledged the challenges ahead. Many Idahoans can benefit from a college education, she told reporters, but many young people don’t see the benefits of continuing their education.
But, she said, she hasn’t forgotten what she learned from her high school guidance counselor.
“What I saw was how important an advocate and a champion could be,” she said.
Tuesday’s announcement was 17 months in the making.
In November 2017, Bob Kustra announced his plans to retire at the end of an eventful 15-year run as president.
Kustra’s decision prompted one public but fruitless search for a successor. The State Board met in May, presumably to name a new president. Instead, the board abruptly changed course. The board did not make an offer to any of the three finalists for the job, and instead extended the search.
As Clark said at the time — and recalled Tuesday — the board didn’t consider any of those finalists the right fit. There were no such qualms the second time around.
“It was clear in surveys after the candidates visited Boise State last month that Dr. Tromp was the campus community’s top pick,” Clark said. “The board shares their enthusiasm about Boise State’s next president.”
Kustra tweeted out his own endorsement Tuesday afternoon.
“State Board hit a home run with Dr. Tromp,” he said. “Great credentials and experience to lead Boise State into a bright future.”
The second search now completed, Tromp will succeed Martin Schimpf, who has held the president’s job on an interim basis since July.
With Tuesday’s hire, the State Board completes a whirlwind hiring process. Since 2018, the board has named new presidents at all four of the state’s four-year institution. The most recent hire came on April 11, when C. Scott Green was hired to head the University of Idaho.