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The Friday Letter

The Friday Letter is U of I’s long-running, weekly message straight from the president to members of the Vandal family. Each week during the academic year, and with breaks for holidays, the president offers an update on Vandal teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and notable initiatives and priorities. Alumni and friends are welcome to join students, faculty and staff in receiving the newsletter. To subscribe, contact Executive Communications Manager Brian Keenan at bkeenan@uidaho.edu.

The Friday Letter
Dec. 1, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
We are near the finish line of another great semester at the University of Idaho. In the classroom, in research and in communities, Vandals have been busy this fall. It’s impossible to catalog every Vandal success story here, but I want to point out a few representative examples of Vandal excellence, and thank all our students, faculty and staff for their outstanding work.
 
This fall our students once again set a high bar for achievement. Two Vandals, Stephen Hancock and Emma Redfoot, completed a semester as INL graduate fellows, joining an inaugural cadre drawn from ambitious students across the nation. Accounting graduate and football team member Jacob Sannon was one of 25 student-athletes nationwide to earn an 1A Faculty Athletics Representative Academic Excellence Award. We even have a Rhodes Scholarship finalist — congratulations to Zachary Lien for advancing that far toward this distinguished award. In our classrooms, in our fraternities and sororities, and across our organizations, students are thriving in academics, getting involved in research and scholarship, and giving back to their communities.
 
Talented, caring faculty and staff set a great example for that success. This semester, professor Lisette Waits was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her contributions to research and teaching in conservation genetics, wildlife and conservation biology, and non-invasive DNA sampling techniques. U of I faculty, staff and students fanned out across Idaho this fall — from Idaho Falls to Boise to North Idaho and points in between — implementing innovative Vandal Ideas Project: Transform programs to help reach students and change Idaho’s college-going culture. Across our statewide campus and beyond, Vandals continue to advance important work.
 
The University of Idaho’s research mission is unique in size and scope in Idaho. We’re delivering on that mission with exciting work this fall, including a new Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) grant to nuclear engineering director Richard Christensen, assistant professor R. A. Borrelli and CAES and BSU partners, to commercialize technology in partnership with a Japanese corporation. A team led by U of I scientists Peter G. Fuerst, and including lead author doctoral student Aaron Simmons, found a way to stimulate formation of new neural connections in the adult brain. CALS researchers Greg Moller, Dan Strawn and Martin Baker won recognition for its innovative water treatment technology with a top-10 finish in the second stage of the $10 million George Barley Water Prize Competition. Each example has significant impact here in Idaho but also has potential for global relevance.
 
These examples — and I regret that there is only space for a few — speak to the quality of the U of I research university environment, and to the students, faculty and staff whose talent and passion make it so exceptional. They are propelled in their endeavors by the support of alumni and friends of the university — the larger Vandal family. I’m grateful for that support as we continue to achieve positive results that make a difference for students and for the world.
 
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
President
THE LATEST NEWS FROM UI

Rankin Scholarship Endowment Encourages Native American Students

While earning her Master of Fine Arts from the Department of Theater Arts at the University of Idaho as a non-traditional student, Ginger Minor Rankin ’06 came to better understand and appreciate the educational journeys of Native American students. Now Ginger and her husband David Rankin ’62 have put U of I in their wills, to benefit the Ginger Minor Rankin Scholarship Endowment and, in her words, “provide encouragement for Native American and other minority students.” By leaving their legacy to U of I, the Rankins have made it that much easier for students to say “Yes” to higher education. “No one should be denied the joys and advantages that education brings,” she said. “Our hope is to let the young people know that we believe in them.”  For more information about building your U of I legacy, contact Sharon Morgan, senior director of estate, trust and gift planning, at 208-885-5760 or morgans@uidaho.edu.

CNR Research to Improve Logging Safety

Each year, hundreds of workers in agriculture, forestry and fishing industries die as a result of on-the-job injuries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For 2015, the combined fatal work injury rate for those industries was 22.8 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. The fields remain among the most dangerous in the nation. The next most dangerous fields — transportation and warehousing — come in at just 13.8 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers. It’s a huge concern for states like Idaho, where natural resources and associated industries contribute more than $5.4 billion to Idaho’s economy annually, according to the UI Policy Analysis Group. Researchers in the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources want to help. In 2015, UI alumnus and Assistant Professor Rob Keefe, director of UI’s Experimental Forest, received an $825,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to explore ways that technology can improve safety in the logging industry.

IRIC Facility Wins Architecture Award

The University of Idaho’s interdisciplinary research facility – the Integrated Research and Innovation Center (IRIC) – has been honored for building design by the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The design by Seattle-based firm NBBJ was touted with a 2017 AIA Honor Award for “its flexible, transparent and open academic hub that fosters interdisciplinary and cross-department research projects.” It’s the first AIA Seattle Chapter honor for a U of I building. A three-story, 75,000-square-foot complex at the center of the Moscow campus, IRIC opened in January 2017 as a key tool in helping support the university’s research mission. The LEED-Gold-certified facility is currently home to more than 30 teams and serves as the university’s premier academic research location for faculty, graduate and undergraduate teams from diverse disciplines. AIA Seattle’s Honor Awards for Architecture is a nationally recognized program that explores and honors projects designed by Washington architects — the projects themselves can be located anywhere in the world. The IRIC building was selected among four 2017 Honor Award recipients from 133 submissions.

U of I Research Targets Glacier Tree Mortality

The outbreaks of mountain pine beetle and western spruce budworm have cut into wide swaths of the forest in and around Montana’s Glacier National Park. Such damage has been more visible in the park over the past decade — to the tune of about 300,000 acres of damage since 2008 and 160,000 acres damaged in 2012. Associate Professor Jeffrey Hicke in the Department of Geography in the University of Idaho College of Science and master’s student Bingbing Xu are working to map those outbreaks. They also want to document the change and link it with climate data so park managers can better respond to the adapting forest. “If we develop this climate information, could we forecast for spring what will happen in the future?” Hicke asked. “It’s just another means of documenting a change in the park that could be really important.” Hicke received a one-year, $24,000 grant from the Glacier National Park Conservancy to document changes in the park’s forest. Richard Menicke at Glacier National Park reached out to Hicke after noticing trees close to the road and in hiking areas of the park that are continuing to defoliate and die.
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