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Campus classrooms fill up as Fall semester begins

August 28, 2019
Dr. Smith Civ Class

After 31 years of teaching at The College of Idaho, Dr. Mark Smith knows a thing or two about how to start the first day of class: he gives the first of many quizzes.

“All right, welcome everyone,” he said in front of about 60 students in his Western Civilization class. “Are you all in the right place?”

Plenty of students looked around the room, but none got up and left. So everyone passed.

“I’d say there’s at least one a year,” Smith said with a laugh about students discovering they were in the wrong room. “But I didn’t have one today.”

Wednesday marked the first day of classes for the fall term as the College welcomed in what is expected to be the largest freshman class in school history. Enrollment will become official in about two weeks. While 60 people in one class may not register as a large class at a state university, it’s one of the biggest classes on a campus of just over 1,000 students.

One of the new students is Marianna Cervantes, a freshman who is still deciding which major to pursue, but successfully passed the first quiz in Dr. Smith’s class. “It’s pretty hectic,” said Cervantes. “Trying to find time to eat as well as finding all of my classes and not being late. It’s fun, though.”

During class, Smith spent a lot of time explaining how exploring ancient civilization is relevant. Using the example of students who intend to pursue business degrees, he pointed out that business doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is part of a society, it is part of a culture. Learning about society and culture can help people succeed in business, in science, in music, in anything. It’s the basis of a liberal arts education, Smith noted, preparing students for life. Not just for work. The message resonated with Cervantes, who graduated from Borah High School in Boise.

“He said history is a thousand-piece puzzle and we only have a hundred pieces,” Cervantes said, recalling Smith’s explanation that history relies on what is written, by whom, and what portion of it hasn’t been lost over time. “I’m really excited to dive in and to see what the women did (to help shape history).”

Civilization - either Western or World - is a requirement for all students at The College of Idaho, so the room in the Kathryn Albertson International Center (KAIC) was filled with students like Cervantes, still learning where buildings and rooms are on campus and learning what it takes to succeed in college.

“It’s always changing and it’s always the same,” Smith said of the first day of the new school year. “You’re getting a new crop of students from a new set of countries with different backgrounds and different habits. On the other hand, there’s the constancy of, we’re a liberal arts college and we’re trying to accomplish certain goals.”

The primary goal is to prepare students for life after college. Not just a job or a career. As Smith told his class on Wednesday, “your job is to explore.”

“It’s really energizing,” Smith concluded. “Just the energy on campus and the fact that it means our admissions folks have been doing well, things are functioning well. Campus life is buzzing. It keeps me young.”

The College of Idaho has a 128-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit