The Idaho State Board of Education has named Dr. Marlene Tromp the seventh president of Boise State University.
Tromp is a first-generation college graduate from Wyoming who has been a campus leader at the public higher education system widely considered the best in the country, as well as the public university widely considered the most innovative in the country. She officially begins at Boise State on July 1.
“It will be an exciting new chapter for me to come to Boise State. I will be proud to lead the dedicated faculty and staff as they serve the students and Idaho, and to advance the transformative work of the institution,” Tromp said. “A pioneering university that has already made phenomenal advances, Boise State will have an extraordinary impact on our rapidly growing city and state. The future holds great promise for Boise State, its affiliates and the community it serves.”
“It was clear in surveys after the candidates visited Boise State last month that Dr. Tromp was the campus community’s top pick. The board shares their enthusiasm about Boise State’s next president.”
– Dr. Linda Clark, Idaho State Board member
Since 2017, Tromp has been the campus provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the 26th best public university in the country. She is the chief academic and administrative officer for the campus, which serves more than 19,000 students and has received $680 million in research grants and contracts over the past five years.
“Dr. Tromp has held leadership roles at two of the West’s top universities and now she will become president of a third one,” said Dr. Linda Clark, Idaho State Board member and Boise State screening committee chair. “Boise State’s momentum has been building for years, and Dr. Tromp is the right person to continue that momentum and to build on it moving forward.”
Before joining the University of California system – broadly recognized as the premier public university system in the country – Tromp was the dean of Arizona State University’s New Interdisciplinary College of Arts and Sciences and the vice provost of the university’s West Campus. Arizona State and its leadership team have been at the forefront of expanding the notion of what a public university can and should be, consistently being ranked as the No. 1 university for innovation by higher education leaders surveyed each year by U.S. News and World Report.
Tromp was praised at Arizona State for overseeing new academic programs, including a new interdisciplinary forensics major and a cybersecurity initiative, and for creating mentoring programs for first-generation students. She also co-chaired a university-wide task force aimed at combating sexual assault. At the University of California Santa Cruz, she launched faculty development initiatives, new support programs for staff, and led the community in the creation of a new Strategic Academic Plan.
She grew up in Green River, Wyoming, a trona mining town along Interstate 80 that saw its population jump three-fold in the 1970s when nearby mines led an economic boom. Her father worked at one of the mines. Neither of her parents were college graduates, but they supported their two daughters’ college aspirations – especially when Tromp decided she was going to become a doctor. She earned scholarships to Creighton University, nearly 800 miles away in Omaha, Nebraska, but the financial challenges remained tangible.
“My dad worked a lot of overtime, and I worked several jobs to help pay the costs of my schooling,” Tromp said.
“I understand what it’s like to be a first-generation college student.”
– Dr. Marlene Tromp
Though bound for medical school, she fell in love with Robert Browning’s poetry. Instead, she would go on to earn her bachelor’s degree in English, come home to Wyoming to complete a master’s degree and then study for her doctorate at the University of Florida. There, she wrote a dissertation on Victorian novels and the new laws being written then on domestic violence.
Her revised dissertation became the first of several books and dozens of articles exploring gender, social justice and cultural issues in 19th century life and literature – a time close enough that contemporary society can understand the people who lived it and their motivations, but far enough away to have “critical distance,” as she noted in an interview she gave during her time as president of the North American Victorian Studies Association.
“If we can look critically at something that’s happening in the 19th century, it may help us read our own cultural moment a bit better,” she said, “and that is one very important reason to study history.”
Her work on the 19th century includes books on sensation fiction, spiritualism and seances, freak shows, economics and xenophobia. She has studied the Titanic disaster and has a new book underway on Victorian murder cases, the latter inspired in part by team-teaching she did with a forensic scientist at Arizona State.
Her father, who has since passed away, was not disappointed that she didn’t become a medical doctor and was extremely proud of her career as a professor. He loved learning as much as she does and was proud of her leadership in higher education.
“Completing a degree felt to me like an incredibly magical moment,” she said. “I remember standing in the auditorium with the students I was about to graduate with, and thinking, my life has just changed. My whole world has just changed. And that felt so thrilling to me. And when he saw me walk off that stage in my academic robe and my degree in hand, it was one of the few times I saw my dad choke up.”
Her experience will translate well to Boise State, where more than a third of all students are the first in their family to attend college.
Tromp is committed to supporting students and faculty, serving and advancing the state of Idaho, and helping the university foster research excellence to increase discovery for its students and the world.