Consistently ranked in “Best Places” lists, Boise combines a small-town feel with big city excitement. Surrounded by mountains with a river that cuts right through campus, Boise is a safe city with an affordable cost of living, a thriving local arts community and a burgeoning cluster of high-tech start-ups.
Idaho and the Treasure Valley as a Learning Laboratory
Boise State University’s metropolitan location provides an excellent teaching laboratory for applied learning. Boise and much of Idaho has experienced a population boom in the past 30 years. The Treasure Valley now has half of the state’s population, and the Boise-Nampa-Caldwell Metropolitan Statistical Area has grown from about 150,000 to 640,000 between 1980 and 2016. Regional experts estimate 1 million people in this valley by the year 2030. This makes the Treasure Valley and other communities in Idaho an ideal place to study urbanization an community development.
Boise State University’s proximity to the state capitol and its location in one of the fastest growing regions in the West provides important opportunities for educators to make use of experiential learning, whereby students apply the skills and practices learned in the classroom to real world situations.
Idaho is often labeled a rural state because of its vast open space, agricultural and forestry industries, and overall low population density, however, it is largely urban when considering demographics and economic activity: about 1.45 million or 87% of Idaho’s estimated 1.67 million residents live in designated urban areas. Approximately 1.2 million or 72% of the state’s population live in the metropolitan areas of Boise-Nampa, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, Pocatello, and Lewiston. An additional 200,000 people live in the micropolitan areas of Blackfoot, Rexburg, Burley, Moscow, and Mountain Home. There are also several cross-border urban areas in the state—roughly 50,000 Idahoans live in Payette, Franklin, and Teton Counties, which are part of the Ontario, OR, Logan, UT, and Jackson, WY urban regions.
Academic programs in urban studies often focus purely on global and industrial cities. Few consider the unique dynamics of cities and communities in the Intermountain and Pacific Northwest. Boise State University’s program addresses the cultural, economic, and political factors that frame the American West experience with its smaller cities, urban/rural interdependence, geographic isolation, and environmental history. Our public, private, and community partners have called for an undergraduate academic program that understands this distinctive context, and where a different reading or analysis of “urban” and “community development” is essential.