By Amanda Cairo
"My passion is higher education, and this job gives me the opportunity to lead a great institution."
Looking back on 125 years at the University of Idaho, newly arrived president Chuck Staben knows there’s a lot of history here. Following tradition is important, but he’s also looking forward to taking the helm and charting the course toward the next 125 years.
“I’m really looking forward to living in Idaho and working with the faculty and staff here,” says Staben. “My passion is higher education, and this job gives me the opportunity to lead a great institution."
Anxious to begin the job, Staben has been visiting Idaho in recent months, attending the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Meet the Vandals events and Legislative Week, and getting to know faculty, staff, students and alumni as he travels throughout the state.
“I’ve been very pleased wherever I go with the caliber of people I meet who are connected to the Vandal family,” says Staben.
Now that he’s on campus, Staben is looking forward to setting up office hours to talk with faculty and staff, meeting students and getting down to business.
“I have a fairly open and collaborative leadership style, although I may not always agree with everyone,” says Staben. “I will treat people with respect and listen to ideas. There’s a lot of smart people at a university, and they are a great resource.”
While he’s becoming familiar with programs at the university, he is looking forward to discovering more about them. And learning.
“It really is all about learning,” says Staben. “I love to learn new things, and that’s what’s so great about universities. You get to see things you never would have known about.”
While he has been pleased with what he’s discovered at the University of Idaho, Staben realizes there are challenges ahead, as well as opportunities. He looks to increase enrollment, promote high impact areas in both applied and basic research, and continue UI’s service statewide
“We are innovative, and we do a good job, but we can be more inventive in how we deliver education, on and off campus,” says Staben.
For Staben, leading the University of Idaho has been a work in progress his whole life. While he initially wanted to be a fireman as a boy, he latched onto science in school and made it his goal to become a scientist – and he did. His research evolved from biochemistry to genomics and bioinformatics.
After working in a startup biotech company, Staben’s love for academia and teaching took him back to university life, where he could reach students and pursue research at the University of Kentucky. As an administrator there and as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota, he found he could do even more.
“I felt like I could have a greater impact if I stepped into an administrative role,” says Staben. “It’s been an evolutionary process. It’s not what I expected to do, but I have enjoyed it very much.”
And when he’s not working, Staben hopes to start exploring the Palouse on foot, bike and skis, getting to know the local racquetball courts, travelling and exploring creative outlets like marbling paper to create stationary.
His wife, Dr. Mary Beth Staben, will join him in Moscow in mid-March. She looks forward to joining the Vandal family and becoming a member of the campus community. She is also looking to set up a hospitalist practice in the region.