President's Office

Administration Building
Room 105
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3151
Moscow, ID 83844-3151
Phone: (208) 885-6365

Friday Letter Office of the President

The Friday Letter

The Friday Letter is a weekly e-newsletter from the President and focuses on various topics, news, features and announcements. It is sent to faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and other friends of the University of Idaho.

If you would like to subscribe to receive The Friday Letter, please contact University Communications at (208) 885-6291 or

  • Current Issue

    July 11, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    Summer is a great time to be outdoors in Idaho, enjoying the natural beauty, but also participating in a healthy lifestyle. And, as I mentioned in my previous letter, it's been a great time to travel around our state, observing the impact that the University has in every region.

    An extraordinary example of fitness was the recent IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene triathlon. A large number of Vandals completed the grueling triathlon while 50 Vandal volunteers, organized by Andrea Barlow, helped with the event, which was sponsored in part by the university. All the volunteers, including Mary Beth and I, admired the tenacity of these contestants.

    Handing out electrolytes at a race of this caliber is exciting, but the University engages in more fundamental roles in helping Idaho residents eat smarter and exercise more. For example, our Eat Smart Idaho and Healthy Living programs reach across the state through UI Extension. Our Healthy Living program builds on two U.S. Department of Agriculture initiatives that began in the late 1970s. Our efforts, led by Paul McCauley and Kristen Hansen, focus on helping those with low incomes make wise nutritional and physical activity choices for the healthiest results.

    Currently, 27 nutrition advisors work in 38 Idaho counties to benefit more than 20,000 Idahoans each year. A 2012 study showed 25 percent to 50 percent of participants adopted healthier diets, including eating more fruit and fresh vegetables. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences advisors have also assisted food pantry organizations that help those in need to make ends meet.

    Thanks to a grant from the National 4-H Council in conjunction with Con-Agra Corporation, our 4-H team led by Maureen Toomey joined in a related effort with the Healthy Living program in collaboration with Eat Smart Idaho.

    The 4-H Food Smart Families effort delivers a healthy living program to students in first through twelfth grades. Over the summer, nearly 2,500 students in 19 counties will be led through 10 sessions including nutrition basics and meal preparation, which culminate in both a community service event, and a family meal in which they share what they’ve learned.

    Twenty-one teen advocates support 10 college interns and 27 nutrition advisors who lead these classes. Several of those volunteers shared their enthusiasm for the program at the 4-H Teen Conference in Moscow recently. Other community partners extend the reach and success of these efforts: summer migrant education programs in Canyon and Owyhee counties, Boys and Girls Clubs of Twin Falls and Ada counties, the Caldwell YMCA, Parks and Recreation Departments in Boise and Emmett, St. Luke’s Hospital in Donnelley, Coeur d’Alene 4 Kids, and other school and community organizations across the state.

    "Our partners are essential to success," said Maureen Toomey, Healthy Living coordinator. "Once the students get a chance to work with the food they really get excited about it. It’s amazing how well they respond."

    The UI and its partners are providing vital life skills to participants. Better nutrition and better health lead to lifelong improvements in life quality and in productivity as well as reductions in medical costs. Additionally, some program participants have used their experience to gain new jobs.

    It's all part of serving Idaho and its citizens; it's about making a hand off that contributes to success.

    President Chuck Staben portrait


    Chuck Staben

    P.S. Next month, I’ll join in another challenge by biking a portion of the 400-mile “Ride Idaho” event with Guillermo Ordorica, the new Mexican consul in Boise. I hope some of you will join us.

    Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

    Justice Scalia To Speak At UI-Sponsored Celebration.
    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will provide the keynote address at an upcoming conference and celebration in Boise in August. Learn More »

    McClure Center Releases Highway Survey Results.
    The McClure Center for Public Policy Research recently released the results of a statewide survey on the state of roads and bridges. Learn More »

    Loyalty: A Vandal Tradition Exemplified By The Georges.
    Archie George, director of institutional research and assessment, has served UI loyally for more than 30 years helping supply… Learn More »

  • June 6, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    Many of our students have left for the summer, but our University community keeps working.

    Faculty and students dive into their research, whether in the laboratory, the library, or for many researchers, in fields and forests around the world.  Faculty members also revamp their courses over the summer. The overhaul of our introductory science laboratories, thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to Professor Trish Hartzell, is a great example.

    Of course our students will travel abroad, take classes, or hold summer jobs and internships around Idaho and across the world. In the meantime, staff members are working hard to wrap up projects, like the fiscal year end, while supporting summer activities, and preparing for the fall term start up.

    Our facilities crew will be working on two major projects and many smaller ones, including one that may have special interest for generations of students. Our College of Education building, originally built in 1968, will be stripped to the studs for a complete renovation, funded in part by the generosity of donors. It will reopen in 2016. 

    We also plan to open the new Integrated Research Innovation Center Building in 2016. It will provide 45,000 square feet of interdisciplinary research space. We’ll also renovate the largest lecture hall on campus — Life Sciences 277 — where many of you may have spent some time. We plan to post pictures of the graffiti that has accumulated over the last 46 years; you will be able to look for your own “mark” on a website in the future.

    My first summer as president will be busy too. I am sure that I will see many Friday Letter readers as I travel across the state: UI employees, students, and alumni as well as community, political, and business leaders. I look forward to meeting more Vandals and friends as I continue to listen and learn across the state.

    More specifically, I’m seeking input into the processes and partnerships that help make the University of Idaho a success. I want to hear from others about what they know and what they see for the future of this university. If I don’t get to visit you this summer, I’d still like to hear from you. Please share your thoughts about priorities and improvements here.

    Starting in June, I’ll tour the old Ada County Courthouse with state legislators.  This building is slated to become the new home for the Boise branch of our College of Law; next I’ll head to the Aquaculture Research Institute in Hagerman.  I’ll also visit extension and research centers, dairies, and ranches in southern Idaho, including the Taylor Wilderness Research Station. I’ll spend some time in the Twin Falls and Idaho Falls areas before heading north to visit Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.

    In early August, I’ll return to the Magic Valley to join a portion of the 400-mile “Ride Idaho” event where I’ll bike across some of the most beautiful country in the state.  I'll be sporting Vandal gear while riding with Guillermo Ordorica, the new Mexican consul in Boise, who plans to join me in this adventure. I hope some of you will also join us.

    Summer won’t be all travel; however, the University community will plunge into recruiting students with the help of a new enrollment management consulting director, and we will finalize our plan to bolster distance education efforts. Sprinkle in some research development activities, some fundraising, and the normal rhythm of serving as president and it is a pretty good recipe for a productive and educational summer.

    In a sense, I am like any freshman — enjoying the new opportunities and challenges of coming to the University.

    Have a great summer, and I hope that our paths will cross soon!

    President Chuck Staben portrait


    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

    $1.2 Million Grant Brings Life To Labs.

    The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has awarded a $1.2 million, five-year grant to UI’s Biosciences Retention and Academic Innovation Network for Students, or BRAINS, program to help attract and retain…  Learn More »

    Prof Wins Award For Nano Research.

    Physics Professor David McIlroy’s dedication to nanotechnology has earned him the Jean'ne M. Shreeve NSF EPSCoR Research Excellence Award.   Learn More »

    Dave & Sally’s Love Builds A Legacy.

    Dave Powers and Sally Newland found each other while studying at the UI in 1961. Sally is a member of Delta Gamma sorority and Dave is a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. Sally graduated with… Learn More » 
  • May 9, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    Commencement: 1. A ceremony at which degrees are conferred.  2. A beginning or start.

    The "beginnings" we celebrate at commencement manifest two central roles of our land-grant university: educating citizens and benefitting society. This week began our commencement season, in which the University community joins with our students and their families and friends to recognize individual student achievement and the impact these educated students have on our society.

    On Wednesday, the University conferred 152 degrees — bachelor’s, master’s, law, and doctoral — on students from the Treasure and Magic Valleys at a ceremony in Boise. This included 21 degrees earned in Twin Falls where the university offers classes at the College of Southern Idaho campus.

    Yesterday, I also shared in the commencement events in Idaho Falls where more than 80 degrees were conferred, including bachelor, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

    These degrees reflect many academic fields including agriculture, life sciences, architecture, education, engineering, interdisciplinary programs, law, and natural resources. However, there’s a bigger picture. Diplomas reflect the hard work of individuals who invested their time and effort. They also reflect the work of faculty, staff, friends, and family who similarly invested in each student.

    This partnership provides promise for the future, based on newly gained skills and knowledge that is essential to personal and societal improvement. We know from Department of Labor and Census Bureau data that on average, college graduates gain and hold jobs with higher salaries than those who do not attain a college degree. Further, college graduates live longer than nongraduates. We also know that UI graduates get a great return on their investment in terms of wages than many U.S. graduates, and that they lead fulfilling lives in their communities.

    Watching graduates enter society validates the core belief behind the Morrill Act central to our land-grant mission -- making higher education broadly available improves American social and economic development. Our founders shared this view, which is  codified in the very stone of our Administration Building, that the university was charged with training  Idaho leaders to achieve “their highest usefulness in private life and public service.”

    Just as we prepare leaders, we also recognize leaders at commencement. Frances Ellsworth ’71 is a Vandal who knows the life-changing value of learning at the University of Idaho and a graduate who has benefitted society. Frances has earned the Jim Lyle Alumni Award for volunteerism and the Silver and Gold Award for outstanding service to the University of Idaho. Frances has chaired the UI Foundation and she has been tireless in leading key UI task forces while also operating her own business and aiding the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center Foundation, the Idaho Humane Society, the Idaho Community Foundation, and more. The University was honored to recognize her service with the President's Medallion at the Boise Commencement.

    We’ll recognize new and established leaders at our ccommencement ceremonies in Coeur d’Alene on Monday and on May 17 in Moscow

    These ceremonies are inspiring because at each event, the smiles of the families, friends, and each graduate represent a new beginning for citizen leaders and another University of Idaho contribution toward the greater good.

    Chuck Staben portrait

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

    UI Racing Team Wins National Competition

    The Vandal Formula Hybrid Racing Team returns to Moscow winners of the 2014 national Formula Hybrid Competition this week… 
    Learn More »

    White House Releases UI Researcher’s Work

    A new National Climate Assessment includes a chapter about impacts to the region’s agriculture authored by Sanford Eigenbrode… 
    Learn More »

    Investing in Future Science Teachers

    Richard ’72, ’75 and Patricia Sorensen of McMinnville, Oregon, recently made a $30,000 pledge to create a scholarship…
    Learn More »

  • May 2, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    One privilege of joining the University on March 1 is that I began just in time to see the advent of spring on campus. And, it’s not just the spring bulbs, but the spring awards ceremonies that have brightened the last couple of weeks. Every day it seems as though I have the privilege of honoring the best, the brightest, the hardest working, or most selfless. 

     I’ve attended the ASUI Student Achievement Awards, Lavender Graduation, the Athena Awards, the Staff Affairs Awards Ceremony, several Alumni Silver and Gold events, the Funded Investigator’s Reception, and the University Awards for Excellence, just to name a few. I continue to be energized by the passion and expertise of our students, faculty, and staff.

    There are too many amazing people for me to mention individually, but let me share one story that epitomizes student success while also reflecting the impact and efforts of our faculty and staff. And, serendipitously, he’s a student I met at the Jazz Festival the very first evening after moving to Moscow.

    I had the honor of presenting the Theophilus Award to senior John Nuhn at the recent ASUI student awards. The Theophilus Award is named for one of the longest serving and most respected UI presidents. It recognizes and celebrates an outstanding record of academic achievement and service and is one of the highest honors a Vandal student may receive.

    John didn’t start his career here in quite the way that most Theophilus Awardees have begun. In fact, he left the UI after one disappointing freshman semester to tour nationally with a band he and friends had formed — Lystra’s Silence. But, in 2008, he returned as a married student with a clear mission and a clear course. John and his wife Renee share the goal of becoming physicians to help those in need. John’s view of need and service solidified while working in Uganda and Sudan. Renee had her own experiences in Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, and India.

    Together, they’ve become an unstoppable force that has now become the first husband-wife team to be accepted into the competitive WWAMI medical education program together. WWAMI is the medical education consortium (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) in which the University of Idaho participates led by the UW School of Medicine, the nation’s leading primary care physician training program. I’m confident that both these outstanding Vandals will become great doctors.

    John concluded his undergraduate career with a 3.97 GPA in psychology while serving as the ASUI Director of Health and Wellness. John helped to form a PreMed Club and volunteered for the Moscow Fire Department as an Emergency Medical Technician. He also racked up more than 500 hours as a hospital volunteer in the Gritman Hospital emergency room and served as a “Moscow Mentor” working with elementary school children.

    This isn’t a typical path for a UI student, but John shares one thing that is so common to Vandal success stories — passion. The passion I’ve seen exhibited by our alumni, faculty, staff, and students is truly remarkable. It’s an uncommon virtue that is very common here, and it’s clearly led to success for John and for many other students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

    Here’s to John’s success and to the success of the many great Vandals and friends we’ve honored this spring — Go Vandals!

    President Chuck Staben portrait


    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

    VIEW Competition Sets Record

    A record 31 teams competed in the ninth Vandal Innovation & Enterprise Works Business Plan… 
    Learn More »

    Vandal Earns Summer Fulbright

    Autumn Pratt, a mechanical engineering student, has received a Fulbright Summer Institute slot… 
    Learn More »

    It’s About Passion Not About Age

    Despite her young age, Annie Averitt ’00 has included the University of Idaho in her estate plans…
    Learn More »

  • April 25, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    In last week’s letter I shared with you the efforts we take in investing $5.5 million to ensure that qualified Idaho students with need have all or most of their tuition covered by financial aid. This week I’d like to share with you an important element of what makes financial aid and many other programs at the University of Idaho possible -- giving by alumni and friends. Specifically, we’ve seen a tremendous response to our Inspiring Futures campaign.

    Inspiring Futures is the largest non-profit fundraiser in Idaho’s history with a goal of $225 million for four essential cornerstone areas: students, programs, faculty and facilities. So far alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends have generously given $215M -- 96 percent of our goal!

    Giving towards the student goal has been the most impressive, though it’s not surprising given the passion that our donors have for students and the fond memories of their own student experience. One of the things that has impressed me about Vandals and their friends has been their commitment to academic excellence and to the next generation of students.

    As I’ve traveled the state, this passion has been obvious wherever I meet alumni and friends. That’s why we’ve received $70.3 million for scholarships and other student aid, even though our original goal was $54 million. Well done Vandals!

    Giving towards supporting existing programs or creating new ones has also exceeded goals with $56.4 million, which tops the goal of $54 million. We’re also nearing our faculty goal of $63 million with current giving exceeding $54.2 million.

    Often those who donate towards these goals recognize the impact that new programs and faculty excellence makes on the success of our students. Certainly, one of the most exciting aspects of this giving has been the addition of several endowed chairs that help us recruit the best and brightest faculty. Recent examples include the Micron Foundation gift to Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as gifts from the Barley Commission and from the Wheat Commission to Agriculture.

    Facilities, the remaining category, is one that we’ve raised $33 million towards a goal of $62 million. Top-notch students and faculty need top notch facilities. We are particularly excited by the donations to the Education Building and hope to raise $5 million from gifts from alumni and friends before year’s end to reduce the amount we need to take out in bonds. Construction on that building will begin in summer 2014; we plan that students and faculty will return to a great new building in late 2016.

    This university – your university -- excels for many reasons, including the generosity of those who are part of our University community. To date, we’ve had more than 100,000 gifts from more than 40,000 donors. That’s true commitment to the future success of the Vandal community.

    I’ve signed on to do my part by giving. I encourage you to do the same so we meet all of these goals by the campaign’s end on Ends December 31, 2014. Sign up here. And, join us for a celebration in January 2015.

    Thanks Vandals – I’m glad to be a part of this great community!

    Chuck Staben portrait

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

    Idaho Law Leads In JD Jobs

    The College of Law is showing a higher than national average of placement for jobs requiring a Juris Doctor degree…
    Learn More »

    Graduate Cooks Up Success

    Brian Vo’s lab and teaching work as well as the articles he’s published make him more confident of pharmacy school…
    Learn More »

    EXPO Links UI & Industry

    On May 2, the 21st Annual Engineering Design EXPO presented by the Micron Foundation will showcase…
    Learn More »

  • Archived Issues