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Gaming, Nursing Team Wins National Education Award

man demonstrates haptic system while another looks at a computer monitor displaying what the haptic system is showingA Boise State University team of nursing and gaming professionals has won a national education award for developing a wearable technology that allows nursing students to practice complex simulations with significant cost savings compared to more standard training.

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) has bestowed a WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award to the Boise State development team for their Virtual Reality Nursing Simulation with Custom Haptic System for Patient Safety. The awardees will be recognized during WCET’s 27th annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, Nov. 11-13.WOW award

The haptic system is a new, wearable technology that enables a student to see and interact with (touch, hold or grip) objects in the virtual environment, allowing for complex simulations (like catheter insertion) with significant cost savings compared to more standard training on a simulation medical manikin.

The team was led by Anthony Ellertson, director and clinical associate professor of the Games, Interactive Media and Mobile program (GIMM) in conjunction with the College of Innovation and Design and the Division of Research and Economic Development. GIMM is a new undergraduate major formed under the College of Innovation and Design. Its focus is developing cutting-edge mobile and gaming technologies, including the Internet of Things, Virtual and Augmented Reality.

“Using virtual reality in education provides students with opportunities to practice necessary skills in a realistic and low-risk environment,” Ellertson said. “Not only that, projects like this one provide a cost efficient solution for increasing access to medical training for nurses.”

Ellertson, along with Suzan Kardong-Edgren, a nursing and simulation expert, were responsible for the technology’s conception and development. Ann Butt conducted field research to test the technology with students. Amod Damle, Cameron Heikkinen and Sam Blomberg also contributed to the project.

Students Map Vista Neighborhood, Create ‘Little Libraries’

In Civic and Ethical Foundations, a core course at Boise State, students learn about ethics, diversity and citizenship by participating in projects that take them beyond the classroom and into the world.

“Students use different skills outside the classroom,” sunnamed-11aid professor Caile Spear. “They get a richer experience by doing something hands-on in the community.”

​Spear, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology in the School of Allied Health Sciences, and her class is featured in this Update article.

Students in Spear’s Spring 2015 University Foundations 200 class found out first-hand what it means to be an active citizen by helping with the city of Boise’s Energize Our Neighborhoods initiative. They created a detailed, interactive “before” map of the Vista Avenue neighborhood that was presented to the initiative’s strategic leadership team in August. The map provides a yardstick for measuring changes in the community’s livability.

To create the map, the students put in about 1,200 combined hours walking more than 40 neighborhood streets, mapping sidewalks, bike paths, lighting and other physical aspects of the neighborhood.

The students also identified opportunities to improve safety and livability, such as removing low hanging branches that might pose a future hazard to street traffic, placing signs that might improve traffic flow, and noting which vacant spaces have the potential to become community green space or pocket parks.

“The students were an incredible benefit,” said Rhiannon Avery, grant and programs manager for Boise’s Division of Housing and Community Development. “Their presentation was really creative and they gave thoughtful suggestions that kept resources in mind.”

After mapping the Vista neighborhood, the students wanted to make an additional, tangible contribution to the community, so they constructed “little free libraries.” Little free libraries are tiny book exchanges where community members can stop to take or give a book. The “libraries” promote reading, inspire people to take a walk in their community and connect neighbors through book sharing. Materials for the libraries were donated by a local Home Depot and the Boise Weekly.

Initiative Promotes Being Fit for More than a Bit

As a Bicycle Friendly Campus located along the scenic Boise River Greenbelt, Boise State University already is in a strong position to support a healthy lifestyle. However, organizers believe a new campus initiative will help elevate the 22,000-student campus to a whole new state of fitness and well-being.

Known as BroncoFit, the initiative includes physical, mental and financial health, as well as an understanding of health insurance and the new health care models being developed as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

Baseline screenings are being developed to help campus organizers understand what students, faculty and staff already know, feel and do in relation to their health. While creating a new model of health promotion and health care delivery, this information will be used to generate programs, courses, apps and policies likely to result in more knowledgeable health consumers.

About 21 million students are enrolled in colleges and universities across the United States each year. Campuses also comprise countless employees in jobs ranging from teaching to administration. But very few institutions collect health data in a systematic fashion, and little is being done to create a business model for improving the health of university populations.

Tim-Dunnagan“If we can create informed consumers of health promotion and care on campus, the potential exists to enhance and influence the health of the entire nation,” said Tim Dunnagan, dean of the College of Health Sciences. “The BroncoFit program aims to be the catalyst for this big idea.”

Campus policies addressing wellness, campus housing, food availability, walking and biking access, well-being courses and more will be examined or developed, with an eye toward creating a healthy environment.

Faculty, staff and students from the College of Health Sciences and the College of Business and Economics are contributing complementary theories and approaches from the fields of business, economics and health. Professionals within University Health Services are charged with implementation and day-to-day operations.

One step is creation of a freshman health enhancement course. Students will be offered incentives to answer questions related to their health knowledge, beliefs and behaviors as well as select biometric data. This information will be summarized for their personal use in a one-credit course about personal health and how to become savvy medical consumers.

two young men running on Greenbelt

“KIN-ACT 197 will offer practical, real-world information that is especially important to college students,” said Tina Freeman, a graduate of Boise State’s master’s program in health promotion and the central academic adviser in the Department of Kinesiology. “This includes mental health and test anxiety, physical health, injury prevention, healthy eating, financial responsibility and holistic therapies, among other things.”

The course will include 15-20 minutes of exercise in each class period, and a requirement to be physically active outside of class. The goal is to have each student meet The World Health Organization’s recommended weekly guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity.

Faculty interested in collaborating in the development, implementation and analyses associated with BroncoFit are invited to attend an informational session from 3-5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, in the Student Union Bishop Barnwell Room.

New Online Social Work Graduate Program Accepting Applications

social work graduationBoise State University’s School of Social Work has begun accepting applications for a new online Master of Social Work (MSW). The program received Idaho State Board of Education approval in August and will begin in spring 2016.

The MSW program will be completely online. The MSW program will be completely online. It is designed to provide access to education and training for those who find the school’s traditional face-to-face MSW programs in Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston and Twin Falls less feasible due to geography or demands, such as work or caring for family members.

“The Boise State University School of Social Work has a long history of developing programs to meet the needs of students and citizens of Idaho,” said Randy Magen, director of Boise State’s School of Social Work. “We are excited about how technology has enabled us to deliver a high quality online MSW program that takes advantage of the expertise of our full-time faculty.”  

The online MSW is not cohort based, rather students can be admitted and begin coursework three times over the academic year (fall, spring and summer). Full time students will be able to achieve an MSW in two years (61 credits) or, for those with a bachelor’s degree in social work, 16 months (37 credits). Part-time enrollment options also are available.

The curriculum is organized in the following categories: social work practice, human behavior in the social environment, research, policy, and electives that allow students to tailor their education to their area of interest. Field work is the most unique of the MSW program requirements. All MSW students must participate in field practicum internships. Students work in the field practicum for 400 hours their first year and 600 hours the second year.

The MSW program, including the online program, is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Boise State University is the only public university in Idaho with an accredited MSW program. In addition, Boise State’s Master of Social Work program was recently ranked top in the nation for its superior value, according to a survey conducted by

The employment outlook for graduates of the MSW program is excellent. According to the United States Department of Labor, “Overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.”

Faculty and staff involved with the program include:

  • Randy Magen, PhD, MSSW, professor and director
  • Robin Allen, PhD, MSW, associate professor
  • Donna Deason, administrative assistant
  • Sonja Enger, LCSW, Coeur D’Alene Asst. MSW coordinator
  • Stephanie Gilbert, MSW, Twin Falls BSW coordinator
  • Jaime Goffin, LCSW, Twin Falls field coordinator
  • Denice Goodrich-Liley, PhD, LCSW, associate professor
  • Daniel Harkness, PhD, LCSW, professor
  • Royce Hutson, PhD, MSW, associate professor
  • Bonnie Kenaley, PhD, LMSW, RN, associate professor
  • Sue Martin, ACSW, LMSW, C-SSWS, Lewiston MSW coordinator
  • Raymond Mullenax, LCSW, director of field education
  • Nicole O’Reilly, PhD, assistant professor
  • Ellie Pierce, administrative assistant
  • Michelle Pospichal, MSW, Twin Falls assistant MSW coordinator
  • Joelle Powers, PhD, associate professor, MSW coordinator
  • Alyssa Reynolds, LCSW, scholars coordinator
  • Cynthia Sanders, PhD, MSW, professor, BSW coordinator
  • Heath B. Walters, PhD, LICSW, ACS, Coeur D’Alene MSW coordinator
  • Nate Williams, PhD, LCSW, assistant professor

Potential students can review the Admission Process webpage to learn how to apply for the program. Learn more at:

With this program, Boise State will offer 22 online degrees or certificate programs at the graduate level in fall 2015. Student interest in our programs is also noteworthy. The number of student enrollments in graduate level online programs has grown 62 percent in the past 5 years. Enrollments in all online graduate courses has grown 61 percent during the same time frame. Visit the eCampus website for more information about Boise State online programs.


Mary Holden Receives JAVA Service Award

Mary HoldenMary Holden, community liaison for the Center for the Study of Aging, was awarded the Justice Alliance for Vulnerable Adults Service Award during the 2015 Summit on Elder Abuse and Exploitation. Holden is also a graduate of Boise State’s School of Social Work (1991) and the Gerontological Studies Graduate Certificate program (2012). The summit was hosted by the Justice Alliance for Vulnerable Adults (JAVA), a program of the Center for the Study of Aging at Boise State University, on June 19 in the Student Union.

“Mary Holden represents the best of Boise State University,” said Sarah Toevs, director of the Center for the Study of Aging. “She is engaged in the community, committed to making good things happen, and strives for excellence. Her leadership of the Justice Alliance for Vulnerable Adults (JAVA) has been outstanding. Results include the delivery of over 50 monthly educational sessions designed for service providers and other professionals and the development of the annual Idaho Summit on Elder Abuse and Exploitation into a valued interdisciplinary event.”

The focus of the summit, “Overcoming Barriers to Successful Identification of Elder Abuse Crimes,” featured expert interdisciplinary panel discussions and two keynote speakers: Paul Greenwood, deputy district attorney from the Family Protection Division in San Diego, California, and Nora Carpenter, president and CEO of United Way Treasure Valley.

Greenwood has been a prosecutor since March of 1993. He is the head of the Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit for the San Diego, California, District Attorneys office. The San Diego DA’s Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit was awarded the California State Association of Counties’ Challenge Award for innovation and creativity in 1998. Greenwood has been involved in the prosecution of over 500 felony cases of elder and dependent adult abuse, both physical and financial. He assisted with the drafting of Elder Abuse legislation for California Evidence Code actions and has been featured on both CBS’s “Eye on America” and NBC’s “Nightly News.” Greenwood was inducted into the Elder Rights Advocacy Hall of Fame in 2011 by the National Association of Legal Services Developers.

Carpenter is the president and CEO of United Way of Treasure Valley and a well-known leader in Idaho’s nonprofit community. An Idaho native, originally from Caldwell, Carpenter is a recent addition to United Way, having joined the organization in late 2012. Throughout her career, Carpenter has focused her energy on building and inspiring emerging leaders to channel their talents toward positive, meaningful impact for themselves and their community.

Faculty Presents Research at American Holistic Nurses’ Association Conference

Alia Crandall and Marty Downey with research poster

Alia Crandall and Marty Downey with their research poster at the AHNA Conference.

Marty Downey, associate professor for the School of Nursing, presented two posters on pilot studies at the American Holistic Nurses’ Association 2015 conference in Branson, Missouri on June 12-17.

The first poster, “A Randomized Control Trial of the Effects of Healing Touch for Newborn Male Infant Circumcision Inpatients,” was presented with Laurie Bourn, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse from St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center. Healing Touch is a complementary therapy that involves gentle, noninvasive touch that supports the human energy system by restoring balance and harmony. Downey mentored Bourn and Melora Kellis, also a nurse at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center who studied whether Healing Touch therapy in addition to the current standard of nursing care affected the pain scores, oxygenation and heart rates on newborn males undergoing a circumcision procedure. Preliminary data for this ongoing study may provide new information about the combination of the traditional care and holistic therapy, which may reduce the infant’s pain during the procedure. This may also encourage practitioners to integrate more holistic practices into traditional healthcare practices.

The second poster, “The Effectiveness of Two Holistic Therapies in Reducing Test Anxiety Among Nursing Students” was co-authored by Janet Willhaus, assistant professor for the School of Nursing, and Alia Crandall, a recent graduate of the Boise State baccalaureate nursing program. The research team sought to determine whether or not aromatherapy and Healing Touch therapy reduced test anxiety among nursing students. They found that these complementary holistic therapies may significantly reduce test anxiety among nursing students.

Crandall also attended the conference after receiving the Bea Alley Commemorative Conference Scholarship, which covers the registration fees for the full conference.

Karla West Quoted in Boise Weekly Story about Suicide among College Students

Karla WestKarla West, director of Counseling Services in University Health Services, was quoted in a Boise Weekly story about the pressures that drive 1,100 U.S. college students to commit suicide each year. West talked about the measures taken at Boise State to assist students, particularly in the first transitional year. At the heart of the university’s efforts is QPR – Question, Persuade and Refer — a technique that has been taught to about 600 faculty and staff. Read the story here.

School of Social Work Announces New Director

Randy MagenBoise State welcomes Randy Magen as the new director of the School of Social Work.

“Randy’s unique experiences and vast knowledge will make him a strong leader for the School of Social Work,” said Tim Dunnagan, dean of the College of Health Sciences. “We are excited to have him here at Boise State and I look forward to working with him in the years to come.”

Magen brings a wealth of experience to Boise State after teaching and leading social work programs at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he was a tenured faculty member for 17 years. He served as the acting director and MSW program coordinator for the school for a year and served again as the MSW program coordinator for another four years. Magen also served as associate dean for the university’s College of Health for the last three years. In 2009, Magen was the Lady Davis Fellow visiting professor for five months at the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.

Magen has a doctorate in social welfare and a master of science in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also has a bachelor of arts in ethnic and intergroup relations from James Madison College at Michigan State University. He is credentialed as an Academy of Certified Social Workers and is a Licensed Masters Level Social Worker in the State of Alaska.

Magen’s teaching interests include research, program evaluation, foundations of social work practice, social work interviewing, and social work with groups. Magen has served as an expert witness in domestic violence related cases for the state of Alaska, provided evaluation consultation for federal grant proposals for the Office of Children’s Services in Alaska, and has served as a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health.

Magen is a member of the editorial board for Small Group Research and a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, and the Society for Social Work Research.

Magen’s wife is a nurse practitioner and they have two mostly grown children, a daughter who is 27 and a son who is 24.

In addition to offering a bachelor of arts in social work program, Boise State’s School of Social Work offers Idaho’s only public master of social work (MSW) program after being designated by the State Board of Education to deliver MSW education throughout Idaho. To accomplish this mission, the school has three sites outside of Boise: Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston and Twin Falls. Recently, Boise State’s MSW program was ranked top in the nation for its superior value, according to a survey conducted by

Dr. Vincent Serio Receives Board Certification

Vincent SerioDr. Vincent Serio, M.D., physician and director of Medical Services for University Health Services, has successfully completed his recertification examination with the American Board of Family Medicine. Board certification confirms a standard of excellence in knowledge and practice to physicians who not only certify via the examination process, but who also work diligently on the maintenance of these skills during the seven-year cycle between examinations.

Health Services offers medical care to faculty, staff and students, and the dependents of these groups, on campus.

“Board certification by the American Board of Family Medicine is the highest professional recognition that a family physician can achieve.  It is an indicator of the physician’s commitment to the specialty of family medicine and the requirements needed to give quality care to their patients.  In addition to a written exam, the board evaluates quality indicators taken directly from the patients that the physician sees — so board certification means that the doctor not only talks the talk, but walks the walk,” said Serio.

The American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), one of 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties, is the second largest medical specialty board in the United States. Physicians must recertify every ten years in order to continue practicing medicine.

Serio came to Boise State University in 2004 as director of Medical Services. He sees patients in addition to supervising the medical staff and serving as a liaison to the University for health-related matters. His clinical interests include general medicine, reproductive health, and wilderness and travel medicine. He also performs minor surgery and procedures, including colposcopy, intrauterine device (IUD) placement, and skin biopsies.

Serio grew up in Richmond, Virginia and moved to Idaho in 1995 to train as a family medicine physician. After graduating from his residency in 1998, he practiced medicine at Terry Reilly Health Services. While there, he served as lead physician at the Boise clinic for homeless patients, practiced rural family medicine in Marsing and Homedale, Idaho, and delivered hundreds of babies. In 2001, he joined Saint Alphonsus Medical Group in Meridian, Idaho, where he again practiced full spectrum family medicine.

Serio holds a clinical instructor appointment at the Oregon Health and Sciences University, where he helps train physician assistant students, and has held a clinical instructor appointment at the University of Washington School of Medicine, where he was involved in training medical students. Serio completed a bachelor of science in biochemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He was awarded both a degree of master of science in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and a doctor of medicine degree from the Medical College of Virginia.

Serio is accepting new patients at Health Services (faculty, staff and students, and their dependents, are all eligible for medical care at Health Services). Call 426-1459 for appointments and more information.

Boise State Researchers Begin Pilot Study on Organic Produce Consumption by Pregnant Women

pregnant student speak with Cynthia Curl in produce section of grocery store

Recent Boise State graduate and mom-to-be Taylor Barrera-Lopez speaks with Cynthia Curl in the produce section of a local grocery store.

Making healthy food decisions can be daunting, particularly for pregnant women who need to consider the nutrients that they need to grow a strong, healthy baby. Additionally, healthy food and pregnancy can be financially burdensome.

Despite its relatively high cost, more than 50 percent of Americans purchase organic food at least occasionally. Organic food is grown without using specific pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These purchases are often driven by a belief that organic food confers a health benefit. However, very little evidence exists to suggest what, if any, health improvement is provided by eating organic food.

Boise State researcher Cynthia Curl, assistant professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Health in the School of Allied Health Sciences, is beginning a pilot study to better understand the effect of eating organic produce during pregnancy. She hopes that this pilot study will lay the groundwork for a larger dietary intervention study to investigate whether there is a relationship between eating organic food during pregnancy and subsequent cognitive outcomes in children.

In this pilot study, Curl will recruit ten pregnant women who currently do not eat organic produce. The women will be randomly assigned to either continue their current diets or to eat organic produce throughout their pregnancies, and the study will provide the women with the appropriate produce. Curl and her student research assistant, Jessica Porter, will assess the efficacy of the dietary intervention by measuring biological levels of selected pesticides at repeated intervals throughout the course of each woman’s pregnancy.

The research team hopes to identify and overcome logistical and analytical challenges and to collect data that is useful for designing the larger, future study.  That future study would include more women and would follow the children for up to two years to identify any differences in cognitive performance associated with the maternal diet during pregnancy.

Curl is one of twelve new investigators who were awarded participation in the University of Washington’s Institute of Translational Health Sciences’ “Rising Stars” program. The program was launched to help promising, early-stage investigators from the five-state WWAMI region of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho to make good impressions as they apply for additional funding opportunities.

On June 1, 2015, Curl and the other participants began a two-year career-development package designed to culminate with the submission of a K- or R-series grant application to the National Institutes of Health. The participants are receiving mentoring and instruction in grant-writing, and they will receive monthly check-ins from peers to get feedback on projects and will face mock grant reviews. Each participant is also receiving up to $15,000 in development funding.

Curl is an assistant professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Health in the School of Allied Health Sciences. Prior to joining the Boise State faculty in 2015, she spent eight years as the project manager for the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution at the University of Washington, a job she held while earning her doctoral degree. Prior to that position, Curl worked in academia as a researcher for the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center at the University of Washington. Throughout her academic training, Curl has earned several honors and awards, including the prestigious Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency, which supported her doctoral research, and the Magnuson Scholar Award, awarded each year to the top student in each of the Health Sciences Schools at the University of Washington.

The Rising Stars program is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant Number UL1TR000423. Learn more about Curl.