students walk on University of Idaho campus

Visit U of I

Learn about the many reasons the University of Idaho could be a perfect fit for you. Schedule Your Visit

Parents on campus during orientation

Homecoming Oct. 1-7

Join other Vandal families for a week of celebration and Vandal traditions. View Calendar

campus full of students

U of I Retirees Association

UIRA has a membership of nearly 500 from every part of the University. Learn More

Contact

University Communications and Marketing

Phone: 208-885-6291

Fax: 208-885-5841

Email: uinews@uidaho.edu

Web: Communications and Marketing

UI Media Contacts

Leading the Way toward a Better University

President Staben Puts Future in Focus

On the bookshelf in University of Idaho President Chuck Staben’s office, tucked among volumes on fungal genetics and guides to the future of American higher education, is a book called “Better.”

In “Better,” surgeon and essayist Atul Gawande argues that success in medicine often involves doing the most basic tasks better than they were done before. Staben is quick to translate this concept to his new role.

“I don’t think we need to fundamentally change the University of Idaho,” he said. “But I think if we do everything we do just a bit better, we will become a better institution.”

Aiming for a Better Future

In his first seven months as UI president, Staben has been clear about his goals for the future and eager to start making them reality.

His No. 1 priority is increasing enrollment of Moscow-based full-time students. In the next 5-10 years, he wants to expand this population—which currently stands at about 10,000 students—to 15,000.

“The on-campus experience is really the heart of the University of Idaho experience,” Staben said. “We know from our alumni how valuable that experience is.”

A vital part of increasing enrollment is making a potential student’s interaction with the university better from Day One. One of Staben’s early acts as president was to hire a consultant to examine and improve all aspects of the university’s recruiting process, from printed marketing materials to the atmosphere of campus visits.

Staben’s primary target for recruiting those 5,000 new students is close to home.

“We’re the University of Idaho,” he said. “We’re Idaho’s public, land-grant research university, so we should be the primary university for Idaho’s students.”

That means making sure every qualified Idaho student has access to the university.

In fiscal year 2013, the university granted a total of $10.1 million in institutional aid to undergraduate students who were eligible for federal Pell Grants, an important federal program for needy students. Of that, the university provided resident undergraduates $5.5 million in institutional aid—three times the amount of need-based aid that the state provided to college students at all Idaho higher education institutions. UI provides exponentially more aid than other in-state universities.

“We are helping students access a great education here,” Staben said. “Fortunately, we have had very generous donors who have provided endowment funds and other gifts that help provide that access.”

And while the conclusion of the UI Inspiring Futures capital campaign provides additional resources for student aid, Staben is aiming to build on the campaign’s momentum. In the 2014-15 academic year, he plans to analyze UI’s scholarship programs so they address as effectively as possible student needs, recognize merit and promote the university.

Expanding enrollment and making college accessible go hand in hand. Rather than leaning on large tuition and fee increases and a smaller student population to fund the growing costs of education, Staben prefers to keep increases modest and spread out among more people.

Staben said he’s excited for the new liveliness and opportunities bringing more people to campus offers—programs could find the students they need to expand, campus events would have a bigger and more vibrant atmosphere, and the university could better compensate its faculty and staff members.

“We need more resources in order to attract and retain our people,” he said. “We have excellent faculty and staff, and they should be rewarded monetarily and in other ways. Money to reward those people will have to come from the state and from tuition and fees.”

Of course, adding 5,000 new students introduces challenges as well. But since all 5,000 won’t show up at once, the university has time to plan wisely for growth, Staben said.

Staben frequently meets with university and community leaders to discuss how UI’s housing, facilities and faculty can meet new students’ needs, and how the city of Moscow can prepare to absorb more people. Staben meets regularly with Mayor Bill Lambert to build partnerships such as UI’s collaboration with the city on a new branding campaign for Moscow.

Keeping growth affordable may mean stretching existing resources. Staben said he understands concerns about increasing class sizes, but also argues that higher student-faculty ratios are an unavoidable trend in American higher education. Schools continue to face decreased or static state funding and greater reliance on tuition and external sources such as research dollars.

“In some areas you don’t need to grow, and in some areas you do need to grow,” Staben says. “We will try things and see what works.”

Staben also expects expanded distance education will play a role—though a smaller one—in the university’s future. He said distance education provides the dual benefits of generating resources for the university, while opening access to people whose job and family responsibilities keep them from the traditional on-campus experience.

“We need to serve people throughout the state, and that includes our nontraditional students who want the value and quality that we offer.”

Getting to Know Idaho Better

Along with looking to the future, much of Staben’s work as a new president has been learning about the University of Idaho of today.

He and his wife, Mary Beth, have traveled the state. They have flown to the isolated Taylor Wilderness Research Station, toured the Aquaculture Research Institute in Hagerman and met with UI alumni, students, staff and faculty across Idaho. Off campus, they’ve been camping, hiking and biking in the Idaho wilderness, and Mary Beth recently started work as a hospitalist at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. In Moscow, they’re already regulars at plays, athletics and cultural events.

“I think being involved shows that a university president cares—and I do. It’s good for me to be engaged and understand what’s important to the students, faculty and staff here and our alumni and constituents throughout the state,” Staben said.

“I’ve learned a lot, and I probably have a lot more to learn, but I feel like I’ve contextualized some of what I needed to in order to be effective here in Idaho. You can’t just come in and cookie cutter ideas on top of a new place.”

Staben regularly keeps open office hours on campus, and has kept up the Racquetball Challenge he started as provost at the University of South Dakota. Anyone is welcome to invite him to play at the Rec Center—and so far at UI he’s 5-0, though a retired professor, a “pretty crafty left-hander,” came close to taking him down.

As a former biology professor and researcher—his specialty was the genetics of fungi—Staben especially enjoys connecting with faculty.

“I’ve experienced the classroom; I’ve experienced the challenge and sometimes the disappointment of applying for grants. I know these things are difficult,” he explained. “I think I know what motivates the faculty, and I think I know to some extent what faculty value.”

Staben uses this experience to influence his leadership style, too.

“I like to collect data, I like to propose a hypothesis, and now I tend to discuss those with my staff or with my peers. I usually like to do something, collect data and see if what I did works,” he said.

“One of the funny things that being a scientist teaches you is that scientists are only certain when they know they’re wrong. That does tend to make me more willing to be wrong than some people would be, because sometimes it’s okay to be wrong. Admit a mistake, learn from it and keep moving forward.”

His time as a professor leads Staben to place a high value on research and scholarly activities at UI and the benefits they can bring to people inside and outside the university.

UI’s “fairly broad strengths” in research help attract undergraduate and graduate students to the university and give them connections with faculty in many disciplines who are active researchers, he said. Research contributes to the state economy directly through technology transfer, but also indirectly by sending well-prepared students—undergraduate and graduate/professional—into the world.

“We’re spinning out educated people who start businesses and discover things on their own,” he said. “Our students are people who work in Idaho businesses, who found Idaho businesses and farms, who teach in Idaho’s schools, and who form the fabric of an educated Idaho citizenry. Many venture out of Idaho to lead their communities and professions.”

Staben’s personal experiences also influence how he connects with students. Since much of Staben’s time on campus so far has been during the summer, he’s eager to continue meeting UI students and getting to know what’s important to them. For now, his three children—Mac, Cal and Rae, who are all in their early 20s—help give him insight into the college-student life.

“Kids of that college age can serve as reverse mentors for older adults,” he said. “My kids are constantly sending me articles that are interesting or teaching me things that I should know about, and probably correcting me. I think they’re an important part of being a college president.”

Being a Better President

 Before coming to UI, Staben served as a provost and vice president for academic affairs, a vice president for research and a department chair. Because he’s new to the role of president, he actively looks to his peers to learn what kind of leader he wants to be.

He particularly admires Arizona State University’s Michael Crow, who has guided ASU to record enrollment numbers, dramatic expansion of programs and facilities, and tripled research expenditures—a model Crow calls the “New American University.”

“I think he’s shown that a public university can grow enrollment and increase research and serve its state in an inclusive manner,” Staben said. “And I think we can do those things.”

Staben met another of his role models, Freeman Hrabowski at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, this summer. Hrabowoski has led UMBC to recognition as the United States’ top undergraduate teaching university while it serves a diverse student body.

“Idaho has the faculty and students to be a top institution,” Staben said, “but we must have the resolve and the vision that we can do so.”

As excited as Staben is to lead UI to expansion, innovation and improvement, he also emphasizes the importance of everyday human interactions in making UI a better university.

”What one always hears as a university president is that someone made a huge difference in the life of a person while they were here—a faculty member, sometimes a staff member or even another student,” Staben said.

“It’s really enabling those experiences that I think is a primary role for the president—setting a tone where those life-changing experiences occur on our campus.”

Chuck Staben stands before the massive crowd of people during commencement 2014.
University of Idaho President Chuck Staben addressed graduates at the 2014 spring commencement ceremony.

Aiming for a Better Future

In his first seven months as UI president, Staben has been clear about his goals for the future and eager to start making them reality.

His No. 1 priority is increasing enrollment of Moscow-based full-time students. In the next 5-10 years, he wants to expand this population—which currently stands at about 10,000 students—to 15,000.

“The on-campus experience is really the heart of the University of Idaho experience,” Staben said. “We know from our alumni how valuable that experience is.”

A vital part of increasing enrollment is making a potential student’s interaction with the university better from Day One. One of Staben’s early acts as president was to hire a consultant to examine and improve all aspects of the university’s recruiting process, from printed marketing materials to the atmosphere of campus visits.

Staben’s primary target for recruiting those 5,000 new students is close to home.

“We’re the University of Idaho,” he said. “We’re Idaho’s public, land-grant research university, so we should be the primary university for Idaho’s students.”

That means making sure every qualified Idaho student has access to the university.

In fiscal year 2013, the university granted a total of $10.1 million in institutional aid to undergraduate students who were eligible for federal Pell Grants, an important federal program for needy students. Of that, the university provided resident undergraduates $5.5 million in institutional aid—three times the amount of need-based aid that the state provided to college students at all Idaho higher education institutions. UI provides exponentially more aid than other in-state universities.

“We are helping students access a great education here,” Staben said. “Fortunately, we have had very generous donors who have provided endowment funds and other gifts that help provide that access.”

And while the conclusion of the UI Inspiring Futures capital campaign provides additional resources for student aid, Staben is aiming to build on the campaign’s momentum. In the 2014-15 academic year, he plans to analyze UI’s scholarship programs so they address as effectively as possible student needs, recognize merit and promote the university.

Expanding enrollment and making college accessible go hand in hand. Rather than leaning on large tuition and fee increases and a smaller student population to fund the growing costs of education, Staben prefers to keep increases modest and spread out among more people.

Staben said he’s excited for the new liveliness and opportunities bringing more people to campus offers—programs could find the students they need to expand, campus events would have a bigger and more vibrant atmosphere, and the university could better compensate its faculty and staff members.

“We need more resources in order to attract and retain our people,” he said. “We have excellent faculty and staff, and they should be rewarded monetarily and in other ways. Money to reward those people will have to come from the state and from tuition and fees.”

Of course, adding 5,000 new students introduces challenges as well. But since all 5,000 won’t show up at once, the university has time to plan wisely for growth, Staben said.

Staben frequently meets with university and community leaders to discuss how UI’s housing, facilities and faculty can meet new students’ needs, and how the city of Moscow can prepare to absorb more people. Staben meets regularly with Mayor Bill Lambert to build partnerships such as UI’s collaboration with the city on a new branding campaign for Moscow.

Keeping growth affordable may mean stretching existing resources. Staben said he understands concerns about increasing class sizes, but also argues that higher student-faculty ratios are an unavoidable trend in American higher education. Schools continue to face decreased or static state funding and greater reliance on tuition and external sources such as research dollars.

“In some areas you don’t need to grow, and in some areas you do need to grow,” Staben says. “We will try things and see what works.”

Staben also expects expanded distance education will play a role—though a smaller one—in the university’s future. He said distance education provides the dual benefits of generating resources for the university, while opening access to people whose job and family responsibilities keep them from the traditional on-campus experience.

“We need to serve people throughout the state, and that includes our nontraditional students who want the value and quality that we offer.”

Getting to Know Idaho Better

Along with looking to the future, much of Staben’s work as a new president has been learning about the University of Idaho of today.

He and his wife, Mary Beth, have traveled the state. They have flown to the isolated Taylor Wilderness Research Station, toured the Aquaculture Research Institute in Hagerman and met with UI alumni, students, staff and faculty across Idaho. Off campus, they’ve been camping, hiking and biking in the Idaho wilderness, and Mary Beth recently started work as a hospitalist at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. In Moscow, they’re already regulars at plays, athletics and cultural events.

“I think being involved shows that a university president cares—and I do. It’s good for me to be engaged and understand what’s important to the students, faculty and staff here and our alumni and constituents throughout the state,” Staben said.

“I’ve learned a lot, and I probably have a lot more to learn, but I feel like I’ve contextualized some of what I needed to in order to be effective here in Idaho. You can’t just come in and cookie cutter ideas on top of a new place.”

Staben regularly keeps open office hours on campus, and has kept up the Racquetball Challenge he started as provost at the University of South Dakota. Anyone is welcome to invite him to play at the Rec Center—and so far at UI he’s 5-0, though a retired professor, a “pretty crafty left-hander,” came close to taking him down.

As a former biology professor and researcher—his specialty was the genetics of fungi—Staben especially enjoys connecting with faculty.

“I’ve experienced the classroom; I’ve experienced the challenge and sometimes the disappointment of applying for grants. I know these things are difficult,” he explained. “I think I know what motivates the faculty, and I think I know to some extent what faculty value.”

Staben uses this experience to influence his leadership style, too.

“I like to collect data, I like to propose a hypothesis, and now I tend to discuss those with my staff or with my peers. I usually like to do something, collect data and see if what I did works,” he said.

“One of the funny things that being a scientist teaches you is that scientists are only certain when they know they’re wrong. That does tend to make me more willing to be wrong than some people would be, because sometimes it’s okay to be wrong. Admit a mistake, learn from it and keep moving forward.”

His time as a professor leads Staben to place a high value on research and scholarly activities at UI and the benefits they can bring to people inside and outside the university.

UI’s “fairly broad strengths” in research help attract undergraduate and graduate students to the university and give them connections with faculty in many disciplines who are active researchers, he said. Research contributes to the state economy directly through technology transfer, but also indirectly by sending well-prepared students—undergraduate and graduate/professional—into the world.

“We’re spinning out educated people who start businesses and discover things on their own,” he said. “Our students are people who work in Idaho businesses, who found Idaho businesses and farms, who teach in Idaho’s schools, and who form the fabric of an educated Idaho citizenry. Many venture out of Idaho to lead their communities and professions.”

Staben’s personal experiences also influence how he connects with students. Since much of Staben’s time on campus so far has been during the summer, he’s eager to continue meeting UI students and getting to know what’s important to them. For now, his three children—Mac, Cal and Rae, who are all in their early 20s—help give him insight into the college-student life.

“Kids of that college age can serve as reverse mentors for older adults,” he said. “My kids are constantly sending me articles that are interesting or teaching me things that I should know about, and probably correcting me. I think they’re an important part of being a college president.”

Being a Better President

 Before coming to UI, Staben served as a provost and vice president for academic affairs, a vice president for research and a department chair. Because he’s new to the role of president, he actively looks to his peers to learn what kind of leader he wants to be.

He particularly admires Arizona State University’s Michael Crow, who has guided ASU to record enrollment numbers, dramatic expansion of programs and facilities, and tripled research expenditures—a model Crow calls the “New American University.”

“I think he’s shown that a public university can grow enrollment and increase research and serve its state in an inclusive manner,” Staben said. “And I think we can do those things.”

Staben met another of his role models, Freeman Hrabowski at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, this summer. Hrabowoski has led UMBC to recognition as the United States’ top undergraduate teaching university while it serves a diverse student body.

“Idaho has the faculty and students to be a top institution,” Staben said, “but we must have the resolve and the vision that we can do so.”

As excited as Staben is to lead UI to expansion, innovation and improvement, he also emphasizes the importance of everyday human interactions in making UI a better university.

”What one always hears as a university president is that someone made a huge difference in the life of a person while they were here—a faculty member, sometimes a staff member or even another student,” Staben said.

“It’s really enabling those experiences that I think is a primary role for the president—setting a tone where those life-changing experiences occur on our campus.”

Article by Tara Roberts, University Communications & Marketing

Contact

University Communications and Marketing

Phone: 208-885-6291

Fax: 208-885-5841

Email: uinews@uidaho.edu

Web: Communications and Marketing

UI Media Contacts