C of I Newsletter

2014. 01. 03

back to archive


C of I professor awarded NEH Fellowship for biography

Rochelle Johnson

College of Idaho faculty member Rochelle Johnson is one 72 scholars in the United States to receive a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship during its most recent award cycle. The fellowship will support Johnson’s work on a biography of Susan Fenimore Cooper, one of America’s first environmental writers.

Johnson, the only Idaho educator awarded an NEH Fellowship, will devote the 2015-2016 academic year to her project. Cooper (1813-1894) was a noted naturalist and philanthropist, as well as a widely celebrated author whose works include the literary daybook Rural Hours (1850).

“She labored tirelessly to provide a legacy that challenged that of her ancestors by centering on social justice, Native American rights and landscape preservation,” said Johnson, who was named the 2010 Idaho Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation.

John Ottenhoff, vice president for academic affairs, said researchers selected for the highly competitive NEH Fellowships have strong records of publication and extraordinary promise for creating new work that benefits the scholarly community and wider public.

“That Rochelle Johnson should get such an award is testimony to her outstanding work as a scholar; that she also is recognized as one of the College's great teachers speaks to Rochelle's dedication and to the overall quality of the faculty here,” Ottenhoff said.

Johnson’s project started 15 years ago, when she and her co-editor began editing Cooper’s literary works for modern audiences. Cooper, the daughter of novelist James Fenimore Cooper and granddaughter of prominent New York judge and settler William Cooper, has since received the attention of both scholars and general readers.

While working toward a biography of Cooper, Johnson has gathered papers from across the U.S. and in England. Her biography will be the first dedicated to a writer who is gaining more attention in recent years among those interested in literature and the environment.

Johnson hopes to present a more accurate picture of Cooper’s life and views about landscape preservation and social justice in her biography, which she intends to write for a general audience.

“Our present journey toward sustainability was influenced by women in the 19th century such as Cooper, and I think it’s important that her efforts are recognized,” Johnson said. “She wanted to stop and think about the future of our country in ways that are very helpful to us now—asking questions such as: what impact should a community have on the land, how should we respond to oppressed peoples, and how do we have an educated public while still taking care of those who are less fortunate?”

Several C of I students have worked with Johnson as research assistants over the course of her project, and she expects more to be involved before the biography is published.

“Their help is vital and not only are they gaining experience working with archival materials, but they also are engaging directly in literary scholarship that is rare even at the graduate level,” Johnson said.

Big Man on Campus: C of I student Joe Vaz is 7-foot-1-of-a-kind

Joe Vaz

College of Idaho junior Joe Vaz is quiet, humble and a little bit shy by nature. But as the tallest student ever to attend the C of I, he stands out everywhere his size-18 sneakers take him.

It is a paradox Vaz has lived within for virtually his entire life.

“You get noticed pretty much anywhere you go,” Vaz said. “There are days when you don’t want to be seen and you just want your space, but people are curious, so I’ve learned to answer their questions and be polite about it.”

One of the most common questions Vaz gets asked is whether he plays basketball, and the answer to that one is, emphatically, “yes.” Joe – whose 6-foot-7 mother, Mary Vaz, played collegiately at the University of Portland – began playing organized hoops when he was 4. He was an All-Avocado League selection at Rancho Buena Vista High and was named Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year at Palomar Community College in his native California before transferring to the C of I this year.

Through 14 games, he is averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds while making more than 60 percent of his shots for first-year coach Scott Garson.

“Joe gives us an inside presence,” Garson said. “He has great hands and shooting touch for a guy his size. But the thing I love most about Joe is that he gets more excited for his teammates’ success than for his own. He’s an unselfish guy who loves his teammates, and his teammates love him.”

One of those teammates, junior guard Josh Wilson, says Vaz has been a great addition not only for the basketball team, but for the entire campus.

“Joe is a great person, first and foremost,” Wilson said. “Walking around campus with him, it makes you feel like a celebrity because everyone knows Joe. He’s a fun person to be around – he doesn’t talk much, but when he does, he usually has something important to say.”

When he’s not on the basketball court, Vaz is studying anthropology and sociology with an eye toward a career in public service. He also enjoys learning about animals and hanging out with his teammates and roommate Brock Hulsey, a C of I football player.

“I like it here,” Vaz said. “It’s a great school academically. The teachers will talk to you if you need help, which doesn’t happen too often at the community college level. And a big difference is that everyone here is super-friendly. Walking around campus, people say “hi” a lot more than they do in California.”

Vaz’s classmates also enjoy having him around – and not just because of the advantage he gives the Coyotes on the court. Breaking through Vaz’s stoic demeanor has become a game of sorts for the basketball team, which recently surprised Vaz with a cake to celebrate his 21st birthday.

“We lit the candles and the guys sang the most boisterous ‘Happy Birthday’ you’ve ever heard,” Garson said. “They were banging on the table, shaking chairs and doing everything they could to get Joe to crack a smile. When he finally did, everyone burst out laughing because when you make Joe smile, you know you’ve done a good job.”

Conversely, making others smile comes easily for Vaz. During his first semester at the C of I, he has helped the Coyotes sweep Northwest Nazarene in the Mayor’s Cup rivalry series, posed for pictures with campus visitors and caused a stir on social media with a photo of his new crew cut – a stark contrast from the shaggy mop of hair he had previously.

Whether Vaz is blocking shots on the basketball court or striding across the Quad, he is impossible to miss.

And once you get to know Big Joe, it’s hard not to crack a smile when he passes by.

C of I science education gets $750,000 boost from Murdock grant

Boone Hall

College of Idaho students will soon enjoy updated teaching laboratories in Boone Science Hall with the help of a $750,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust that is supporting a major renovation of the facility.

“The College of Idaho’s philosophy is to help students learn science by doing science,” said C of I President Marv Henberg. “That means engaging our students in research and directed inquiry, and this generous grant will help us create improved teaching spaces for doing science.”

The College is in the midst of a $9.5 million renovation of Boone Science Hall that is strengthening its long-standing legacy of outstanding teaching, learning and research in the sciences. The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust grant will support the project’s $2.1 million Phase II, set to take place in summer 2014.

Phase II will remodel teaching laboratories, classrooms and support areas into more flexible and interactive spaces that better support individual work, group projects, and interdisciplinary and problems-based approaches to learning. Enhancements will be made to accommodate growth in computing throughout the curriculum and additional student research.

The first phase of the Boone Hall renovation, a $7.4 million project completed in September 2010, made improvements to the building’s infrastructure, accessibility, safety and research facilities.

Henberg noted that 30 percent of degrees awarded to C of I graduates in 2012 went to students majoring in the natural sciences or mathematics, a percentage nearly three times the national average of 12 percent of college graduates. As The College of Idaho’s enrollment has grown significantly since 2006, the number of science degrees awarded has nearly doubled and new majors have been added in health science and environmental studies.

“The College’s PEAK curriculum requires every student to earn a major or minor in the sciences because we know how important that knowledge is for the success of our graduates in the 21st century,” Henberg said. “Completing the renovations to Boone Hall will touch every C of I student and ensure they continue to benefit from both outstanding facilities and excellent faculty.”

Thinking about sustainability in the New Year


By Kari Stocks

Throughout the C of I campus, posted signs encourage us to turn the lights off as we leave the room. We see those signs every day, but who makes them? What is the meaning behind them? While The College of Idaho campus is small, there are many goings on that we don’t always stop to think about. One organization that often flies under the radar is The Environmental Resource and Recreation Club (TERRA). I personally set out on a quest to understand what TERRA does and interviewed C of I sustainability steward Simon Boycott about The Real Food Rising Conference he and fellow steward Christina Stucker recently attended.

Boycott and Stucker are known as campus leaders in the sustainable food movement through their positions as sustainability stewards. Their responsibilities include maintaining the campus garden and promoting awareness of sustainability to both the campus and the public. Earlier this fall, Boycott and Stucker made zucchini bread with unprocessed ingredients from the garden and gave it out for free in McCain to help promote sustainable food habits to the C of I community. The stewards also encourage students to come take sustainable foods from the garden to eat and share with others.

Sustainable foods are unprocessed and packed with more nutrients than mass-produced foods. They are organic, grown without the use of pesticides and processed without the use of chemicals. This “right off the vine” agricultural process makes the food tastier and healthier for the consumer.

In addition to its nutritional benefits, sustainable food also supports the local community. C of I food service provider Bon Appetit, for example, is involved with purchasing fruits and vegetables from the campus community garden as well as from local farmers. Twenty percent of what Bon Appetit buys comes from C of I students and local growers, strengthening the connection between the campus and local farmers.

Boycott and Stucker recently took their initiative beyond campus, representing the C of I as delegates for The Real Food Rising Conference in Minneapolis. The sustainability stewards spent seven days learning about the benefits of sustainable foods and the nationwide Real Food Challenge, a program that promotes farm-to-institutional basics by teaching people how to produce healthy “real food” to combat the corporate dominance over production of mass-produced foods.

While Stucker and Boycott were in Minnesota, they learned more about the benefits of sustainable food – ideas they plan to share with the C of I community throughout the remainder of the school year. Of the more than 200 college students at the conference, Boycott and Stucker were the only representatives from Idaho.

“I found the experience absolutely amazing,” Boycott said. “It is one that I will remember for a long time.”

Boycott and Stucker encourage the campus community to think about sustainable living in the New Year and to be on the lookout for programming from TERRA and the sustainability stewards. Students who have questions or want to get involved in TERRA are welcome to email the stewards at [email protected] or [email protected].


Winter 2014

College Events Calendar

Every Friday

Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History hosts public open house, 1-5 p.m., Boone Hall basement. Click for more information.

January 3

Hokum Hoedown featuring C of I professor Scott Knickerbocker and the Hokum Hi-Flyers, 7 p.m., Linen Building (Boise). Click for more details!

January 4

Orma J. Smith Museum volunteer workday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Boone Hall basement. Lunch seminar featuring 'Spider Identification and Biology,' presented by Dr. Craig R. Baird.

January 11

C of I swimming team hosts Pacific, 3 p.m., J.A. Albertson Activities Center pool.

January 15

Alumni Relations Ada County Luncheon, noon, J.R. Simplot Co. (999 W. Main St., Boise)

January 17

Basketball doubleheader versus Corban, 5:30 p.m. (women) and 7:30 p.m. (men), J.A. Albertson Activities Center.

January 18

C of I Alumni and Friends Destination Event: Sundance Film Festival, Peery's Egyptian Theatre (2415 Washington Blvd, Ogden, Utah).

January 18

Basketball doubleheader versus Northwest Christian, 5:30 p.m. (women) and 7:30 p.m. (men), J.A. Albertson Activities Center.

January 25

The College of Idaho Langroise Trio in concert, 7:30 p.m., Langroise Recital Hall. Performing works by Bloch, Mahler and Eric Sandmeyer featuring guest artist Betsi Hodges (piano).


The C of I goes to France! A dozen College of Idaho students will study international business and economics first-hand this month as part of a month-long, faculty-led field course in France. The students’ experiences will be chronicled on the C of I website and social media, offering an opportunity for people to follow this unique and intensive learning experience. Discover how the France course complements and enriches the C of I experience by visiting www.collegeofidaho.edu/france for photos, videos and more!


Coyotes on fire! While most of campus was on holiday break, the C of I basketball teams were busy tearing up the competition on the court. The men hammered Oregon Tech and then  knocked off No. 2 Southern Oregon inside the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. Meanwhile, the women scored three big victories over the break, including a road upset of NCAA Division I Utah State. The Lady Yotes also knocked off No. 14 Oregon Tech and No. 17 Southern Oregon at home. For all the latest basketball news, visit www.yoteathletics.com. Go Yotes!!!

C of I alumna Alexis Bennett ’13 is working as a publication and online communications intern for the American Quarter Horse Association. She has written articles for America’s Horse magazine as well as JQURNAL, the American Quarter Horse Journal. Click here and here to check out some of her work. Bennett, who majored in English literature at the C of I and was named Miss Caldwell Night Rodeo 2012, also completed an editorial internship with Boise-based supplement retailer Bodybuilding.com in 2013.

C of I alumnus Galen Currens ’07 currently is running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the release of his first musical album, The Killing Frost. Currens, a solo artist known as West of the Wild, sings and plays guitar, banjo, harmonica and drums on the album. Click here to learn more about Currens’ music and the Kickstarter campaign, which runs through Jan. 20.

Jeff Snyder-Reinke

C of I history professor Dr. Jeff Snyder-Reinke ran two ultramarathons this fall. In October, he ran the Foothills 50K Frenzy in the Boise Foothills. In December, he completed The North Face Endurance Championship, a 50-mile run in the Marin headlands north of San Francisco, Calif. Snyder-Reinke is contemplating running another 50-mile race this spring and a 100-mile race next summer, depending on how his training progresses.

Orma J. Smith Museum exhibit winding down at Boise Art Museum: The College of Idaho’s Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History is set to wrap up an 11-month run of the exhibit "Origins: Material Objects of Culture." The collection of artifacts remains on display through Jan. 12 at BAM, located at the entrance of Julia Davis Park in Boise. "Origins" includes 104 artifacts from the storage collections of the Orma J. Smith Museum, located in the basement of Boone Science Hall. For more info, please call (208) 345-8330 or visit www.boiseartmuseum.org. Orma J. Smith Museum Curator of Archaeology Jan Summers Duffy also can provide more insight about "Origins" at (208) 459-5507 or [email protected].

Read Quest online! Check out the fall 2013 issue of Quest magazine, which is in mailboxes now! The issue has a theme of “Leadership,” honoring the College’s longstanding tradition of educating leaders in many fields including politics, education, law, service and athletics. Click below to read Quest online, or check out archived issues at www.collegeofidaho.edu/quest.


C of I Vice President for Student Affairs Paul Bennion recently received the NASPA Region V Fred Turner Award for Outstanding Performance to NASPA. The prestigious award honors Bennion as a distinguished NASPA Region V member who has demonstrated continuous membership for 10 or more years and who has served in a leadership role at the state, regional or national level of NASPA, an association of student affairs administrators in higher education.


The Marty Holly Athletics Center is going up in a hurry! Click here to check out construction photos on the C of I Flickr page. We can't wait to open this great new facility for our student athletes and the entire campus community!

C of I alumnus Jeff Harris ’76 has been promoted to senior vice president at Washington Federal. Harris first joined the company as a teller in 1976. He served as a loan officer in Boise before moving to Twin Falls in 1978 and serving as the branch manager there. In 2005, he became the eastern Idaho division manager. An Idaho native, Harris graduated from Caldwell High School before earning his bachelor’s degree in business management from the C of I.

Happy New Year from The College of Idaho! Watch the College’s holiday video to enjoy some of our favorite photos from 2013.