Innovations Suggest New Models to Shape University of the Future

Wednesday, September 16 2009

Written by Tania Thompson

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho has outlined the next steps in its Request for Innovations process to harness the land-grant institution's work, approach and resources – both talent and fiscal – to move the university forward.

In a communication today to the university's statewide community, President Duane Nellis announced eight Strategic Innovations Initiatives that will help the university "do bold and great" things.

"It is my strong belief that the University of Idaho has the opportunity to take advantage of this time of dramatic change and extraordinary challenges in higher education by doing things both differently and better," Nellis wrote. "We must become more entrepreneurial, more engaged and actively committed to sustainability. We must be committed to fostering and growing global connections, to an approach that bolsters interdisciplinary studies, and to diversity as an asset and cultural requirement."

Earlier in the year, the university asked members of its statewide community to think creatively about how to innovate for the future, operate more efficiently and effectively and do so without additional cost or resources, or in a way that might enhance revenue. Nellis and members of his leadership team reviewed and collectively prioritized the 16 submitted proposals into eight Strategic Innovations Initiatives that support and are linked to the work of the university's strategic action plan.

The four goals addressed by the university's strategic plan address teaching and learning; scholarly and creative activity; outreach and engagement; and organization, culture and climate.

At a glance, the eight Strategic Innovations Initiatives include:
• Shaping the student learning experience by focusing on recruitment and retention by engaged teaching and learning activities;
• Enhancing student-to-student mentoring to improve student learning and retention with tribal and college/university communities in a proposed Parfleche Exchange Program;
• Re-imagining research and scholarship institutes, centers and core facilities to foster and enhance interdisciplinary research and education;
• Harnessing the statewide alumni network to help better support the university;
• Building a better, more integrated framework for the university's statewide network;
• Creating a culture of continuous improvement and re-engineering business and academic processes to be more efficient and effective;
• Cultivating a respectful culture and supporting professional development of the university's own workforce; and
• Minimizing waste to become a more sustainable institution.

A steering group will oversee and support implementation of the Strategic Innovations Initiatives, with progress made toward operationalizing their efforts by May 2010. To facilitate and streamline the work, the university will establish a Center for Outreach and Engagement to better link the work of university faculty, staff and students with stakeholders across the state, and a council within the center to streamline innovations project implementation.

"I look forward to great progress as we shape our university for the future," Nellis said. "We have many challenges, but also many opportunities to move the university forward in exciting ways."

Detailed descriptions of the eight Strategic Innovations Initiatives are available online:  
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit