Pocatello-Chubbuck and Idaho State University have got the town-gown relationship down pat. So much so that they even celebrate their friendship twice a year.
“ISU is so entwined in the community, it is sometimes hard to separate the two,” says Andy Taylor, interim director of public relations for the university. The city feels good about the relationship too, Pocatello mayor Brian Blad said in an editorial about “the impact of this fine institution not only on Pocatello, but the entire Gem State” in the Idaho State Journal.
With 14,000 students statewide, most of them in Pocatello-Chubbuck, it’s not surprising that ISU and its home town enjoy a year-round friendship that’s celebrated in two popular annual events. Welcome Back Orange and Black brings students to Old Town Pocatello each fall. And every spring, Celebrate Idaho State brings hundreds of students and community members together for a day of fun. Both events are organized by CommUniversity, a group of townspeople and students working to foster town-gown relationships.
A Cultural Center
For the entire community, ISU is a hub of cultural and economic life. Ranked fourth among “The 25 Most Amazing University Performing Arts Centers” by bestvalueschools.com, the Stephens Performing Arts Center offers a year-round calendar of outstanding theatrical, dance and musical performances by professionals and students from ISU’s School of Performing Arts. The Idaho State Civic Symphony teams with the university’s department of music. Two art museums on campus are open to the public, as is the Idaho Museum of Natural History.
The Holt Arena, home to the university’s Bengals sports teams, also hosts local prep athletics, home shows, rodeos and wrestling meets, making it a popular multi-purpose venue.
While the university’s cultural opportunities are a big plus for the community, its economic opportunities and contributions are equally important.
An ISU Business School study cited by Blad found that students spent more than $140 million on living expenses in Idaho, and that ISU, as Pocatello’s largest employer, paid some $70 million in wages to its 1,661 full-time staff and 323 part-time staff in 2015. Of that $210 million, he said, “it is no stretch of the imagination that a large portion” goes directly into Pocatello and surrounding communities.
In fiscal year 2015 ISU netted more than $25 million in research funds from outside sources. And its technology transfer initiatives are bringing increasing wealth and jobs to the area in collaboration with private business and Idaho’s Higher Education Research Council (HERC)’s Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM).
“The grants provided to researchers through HERC IGEM specifically require that they have a link between the university, the researcher or principal investigator, and an industry partner,” says Dr. Neels Van der Schyf, ISU vice president of research. “To write the grant, you need an industry partner who will put up money toward the goal, ultimately the commercialization of the project. It has been very successful.”
Among the commercially-oriented grant projects ISU is undertaking are development of a process to safely irradiate produce to ensure longer and safer shelf life, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to study agriculture, and a $700 thousand grant to purchase specialized equipment to develop and fabricate crystal materials for academic, industrial and government uses.