This is my first Friday letter, and it comes at the end of my first week as the University of Idaho’s President. As I reflected on the subject of this letter, I realized that Interim President Don Burnett had once again given me a perfect segue in the subject of his final Friday letter: change. I’d like to thank Don again for all he has done, and I hope you will send him your own thanks here. Certainly this week has been an enormous change for me personally -- one I have awaited somewhat impatiently.
An important part of preparing to lead a national, public, land grant university has been coming to a deeper understanding of why such universities are so vital to their students, to their states and to the United States. Institutions like ours bring value by providing an irreplaceable means for positive development, particularly now that higher education is changing and being questioned.
Public higher education in the United States began when the Founding Fathers recognized that an effective democracy would need an educated elite to serve as leaders. Universities provided leaders for the new American society, but the role of universities evolved and broadened.
New Bill, New Opportunities
President Lincoln signed three bills in 1862 that opened opportunities for men and women regardless of their backgrounds while also offering a means to build the economy of growing states: the Railroad Act, the Homestead Act, and the Morrill Act. All played a part in Idaho's development and in the founding of the University of Idaho.
Lincoln's words can encourage us at the University today, “The land-grant university system is being built on behalf of the people who have invested in these public institutions their hopes, their support and their confidence,” Land-grant universities met state needs with classes in “scientific and classical studies…agriculture and the mechanic arts…in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” Land-grant universities educate students who contribute to their states and to the United States, economically and as engaged citizens.
One of the next great challenges to the United States began with World War II and continued through the Cold War, when our country recognized the role of universities in research that could enhance our security. Today, particularly after the recession of 2008, the United States looks to its public universities to provide the education essential for employment, to cultivate leaders, and to provide the research and research capacity to ensure global economic competitiveness.
Changing Higher Ed Environment
Curiously, even as the nation looks to its universities for help, public funding for universities has decreased. The value of degrees outside STEM disciplines -- even the value of a college degree is questioned, and new, untested ways of educating students, typified by the Massive Online Open Course excitement, create fanfare. Our challenge is to balance issues of resources and access, to make evident the value of a college degree, to ensure that our research and engagement have the greatest possible impact, and to distill from educational trends those advances that can benefit our students and our University.
I know that a leadership transition is a time of institutional anxiety. People at the University and throughout the state are looking at me, and looking to me, in ways that I had not imagined prior to assuming this role. Believe me, the anxiety is not all outside
the president’s office. In fact, a close friend asked me about my greatest concern in taking this presidency. I told her that the complexity and difficulty are daunting; that it's difficult to see how to take advantage of all the opportunities that the University has to succeed.
Together We Succeed
But, over the past week, I have seen what should have been obvious as we spoke, that I am not alone. I’ve seen how much passion surrounds the University. I see faculty and staff contributing their extraordinary talents. I meet students who amaze me with their ability and energy. I meet supporters and friends who astound me with their interest and generosity. So, we can all be heartened that when we pull together, we will succeed.
I’m glad to be here to join in saying, “Go Vandals!”
|Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho
See President Staben's Welcome Address here.
Researchers Show BPA Threat To Hearts. UI researchers reported Tuesday that fetal heart development in rhesus monkeys whose mothers were exposed to bisphenol A or BPA, a common plastics additive, showed genetic changes that may signal later heart problems. Gordon Murdoch, an associate professor of physiology in the animal and veterinary science department, led the study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Passport foundation. The results were reported recently in PLOS ONE, an open-access scientific journal. When the pregnant monkeys were fed fruit containing BPA, their blood and their fetuses’ blood showed increased levels of BPA, according to a simultaneous study by researcher Fred vom Saal at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Murdoch examined the same monkeys and found fetal genetic changes affecting heart health. “Our study was the first to show that BPA affects heart muscle development in primate fetuses,” Murdoch said. Read more.
Athletes Win In Three Sports; Some On To Championships. Women's basketball, swimming and indoor track teams as well as the men's indoor track team have recently finished strong. Some are now headed to conference or national championships.
The Idaho Vandals women’s basketball team accomplished a feat that has not been met in 29 years with the defeat of Seattle University's Redhawks, 60-57, last Saturday, that secured to win the Western Athletic Conference regular season
title and claim its first 20-win season since 2003-04. The team will now travel to the WAC Championship games
in Las Vegas March 12-15.
The University of Idaho Swim and Dive team won three events and broke four school records March 1 to take second place in the Western Athletic Conference Championships
. Sophomore Jamie Sterbis won the 200 fly today with a time of 1:56.77, a new school record. She's now headed to nationals.
Kelly Gufford, first year coach for the Vandals, was named Diving Coach of the Year. Mairin Jameson earned the Diver of the Year award, and Rachel Millet earned the Swimmer of the Year award.
Indoor Track And Field
The University of Idaho men’s track and field team claimed the 2014 Indoor WAC track and field championship title
in a dramatic meet that came down to one point. The Feb. 28 event saw the women's team take third in the conference.
See More News And Features.
Ahrens Lend Support to Boise Law Program.
Ed Ahrens ’71 and his wife Teri have generously pledged $125,000 to the College of Law in support of expanding the law program in Boise. The couple are long-time donors to the University of Idaho, having supported areas across the University for 28 years. The Ahrens’ recent gift will help complete the tenant specific renovations in the Idaho Law Learning and Justice Center in Boise, keeping the college on track for occupancy in fall 2015. In addition to financially supporting Idaho, Ed has served on the College of Law Advisory Board and is a former member of the University of Idaho’s Campaign for Idaho Committee. He is a partner at Ahrens DeAngeli Law Group which offers services in the areas of wealth planning and preservation, as well as, trust and estate law. The firm’s attorney roster includes a number of University of Idaho undergraduate and law alumni, including the firm’s other partner, Darin DeAngeli ’87. For more information on giving to the College of Law, contact Terri Muse, director of development, at (208) 364-4044 firstname.lastname@example.org