College of Art and Architecture
phone: (208) 885-4409
fax: (208) 885-9428
College of Art & Architecture
University of Idaho
835 Pine Street
Moscow, ID 83844-2461
Basque-ing in Educational Enlightenment
By Karen Hunt
Matthew Aldape never expected his University of Idaho education would also include a lesson on finding his Basque lineage in southern Idaho. He also never expected a virtual technology design class would be the perfect opportunity to showcase history to thousands of people around the state. Now, as he prepares to graduate, Aldape is richer in his heritage and in his educational experience.
Aldape, a Boise native, originally majored in engineering, but after taking several classes, he discovered that his passion for creating and designing his ideas fit the ideals of the College of Art and Architecture’s virtual technology design program.
“I found virtual technology design very fulfilling because there is no right or wrong answer,” says Aldape.
His first large project in the virtual technology design program was designed to tell the history of the Basque people in southern Idaho.
When Basque immigrants first arrived in the United States, many came through New York City and settled in Utah. But many of them found work as sheepherders in the Treasure Valley and soon settled in boarding houses.
Aldape and his classmate Jasper Dodson designed a virtual tour of the migration of the Basque to Idaho, using historical facts to create the interactive program. Each boarding house provides a list of everyone who lived there and when.
“We made an interactive program that used Google Earth to show the different boarding houses and who stayed at each house. It also tells the dates each immigrant lived in the houses,” says Aldape. “The Basque Center in Boise had a collection of interviews, photos and stories on their website that we were able to access and use for the project.”
With their diligent research, Aldape and Dodson presented their project to the Basque Center. The center gave them feedback to make improvements and incorporate more interactive features. Less than a year later, their project became part of the Basque Center’s kiosk exhibits.
It wasn’t just the research that resonated with Aldape, it was a chance to discover his heritage. Along the way, Aldape, who’s half Basque, discovered many of his relatives and their journey.
“I’ve always been a history buff but never knew how to explain it to my friends or family,” says Aldape. “The project provided me with a creative outlet to share a piece of history and discover my own family history in the process.”
Aldape went deeper into the project because of his roots, but also because virtual technology design professor John Anderson pushed him, tested him and encouraged him as a student.
“John is always pushing my limits to see how far I can go with my products,” said Aldape.
While the project had a significant impact on his experience as a student, it wasn’t just the academics that helped shape Aldape as he is poised to enter the work force after graduation. He is a proud member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
“The fraternity grounded me and made me learn that there a lot of rules,” says Aldape. “I love being a Vandal. I love this area, and I have a lot of pride in my alma mater.”
He added the Moscow campus, the fraternity, and faculty and staff had a profound impact on him as a first generation college graduate. Not knowing what to expect when he first arrived and being on his own, Aldape has a lot to celebrate.
“I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me and encouraging me to continue my education,” says Aldape.