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'This program was born out of a genuine desire to support students': Boise State faculty discuss creation and purpose of Bronco Gap Year

Boise State's new support program gives current and prospective students a chance to take a year off amid the pandemic while still exploring their interests.

BOISE, Idaho — Just last week, Boise State officials finalized their reopening plan for the upcoming fall semester. 

School is approaching quickly with the Fall 2020 semester beginning on Monday. This year, however, will look different than any other due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Boise State is the only school in the state that did no see a decrease in enrollment; in fact, enrollment increased by 1%. Although students may be planning to return to campus, some are wondering if the safest option is to take a year off.

Thanks to a new student support program, that option is a possibility.

Bronco Gap Year allows current and prospective students to take part in a "pathway" learning program, an individualized experience set by the student and their advisor, while also earning college credit.

At the end of the Spring 2020 semester, Boise State administration met with several students to learn about their college experience since the pandemic forced classes to move online. Through those meetings, academic leaders learned that many students were considering a gap year.

"That's when Leslie Durham, the interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, spoke up and said, 'Well, If so many students are interested in a gap here, let's create one,'" Kelly Myers, interim Associate Dean of Boise State's COAS, said.  "There was a lot of interest, and people agreed, so she came back to our team and said 'Okay, I think we got to build this thing.'"

The program creates a space for students taking a gap year. Through Bronco Gap Year, students do not have to be completely disconnected from the university but also do not have to be enrolled full-time. They can also earn three to nine credits during their time off.

 "We have done everything we can to maintain flexibility and to increase access. Because of that, they don't have to be enrolled as Boise State students." Myers said. "They can be anywhere, and at any point really in their educational journey."

Here's how it works: those interested can fill out an interest form, at which point a program advisor will reach out to them and give them more information. In addition, students can also put down a deposit and meet with an advisor to discuss their options.

Students can then choose which of the four pathways they want to follow and the duration of time they will be involved, ranging from one semester to a full academic year. The pathway themes are social entrepreneurship, public service, education and build your own.

"If at the end of their gap year experience [students] decide they do want to be enrolled, then we help them with that process," Myers said. "We get them enrolled, and then they're awarded the credit for what they did." 

Throughout their year off, students will still have access to all on-campus resources needed to successfully complete the program.

"This program was born out of a genuine desire to support students. This is emerging in a time of crisis," Myers said. "Students are struggling. We tried to figure out how we can just offer another space so that they don't get lost in this really complicated time where we know a lot of students have to work, a lot of them will care for friends and family, a lot of them are afraid. So bottom line is that we're all about support and we'll do everything we can, whether or not they want to come to Boise State."

The Bronco Gap Year program is set to officially begin on Sept. 14. For more information on the program or to inquire about registration, click here.

Celina Van Hyning is a Digital Media Producer at KTVB and a recent Boise State graduate. You can see more of her work on her Twitter @CelinaKTVB.

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