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

    March 27, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    Starting at our main campus on the Palouse, in Nez Perce ancestral lands, the University of Idaho has always been a place where cultures converge, and where we grow stronger by learning from each other and sharing perspectives and traditions. The annual Tutxinmepu Powwow, occurring this weekend in Moscow, is a great example of the thriving cultural traditions embraced at UI. Powwows are occasions to gather and pass on traditions and teachings — similar, in a very broad sense, to a university mission. We now have an opportunity to enhance that mission.

    The Native American Student Center and the Native American Student Association put together the two-day powwow. I was able to attend last year, and this year I’ll have the honor of participating in the grand entry and other events. The public is welcome, and whether attendees volunteer or just take in the fun, it’s a showcase for the vibrant Native cultures in our region. Prospective students participating in the powwow also have the chance to experience our campus and Moscow, seeing what a great atmosphere our university community has to offer.

    The Native American Student Center is at the heart of student life for many Native students. I’m proud of the role that the center plays in their UI experience. It’s a place to find academic, cultural and social support — to study and grow as students, to share interests and activities, and to hang out with friends and classmates. I know many talented leaders and future professionals are emerging out of the center and the Native American Student Association.

    At an organizational level, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) strengthens UI’s relationship with nearby tribes. The tribes who have come together in this agreement participate in the President’s Native American Advisory Council, which seeks unity and cooperation among Native American students, signatory tribes and UI. A complementary Advisory Board meets twice a year and provides feedback on the development of curriculum, the recruitment and retention of Native American students, and the provision of support services and educational programs. We recently welcomed the Yakama Nation as the 10th signatory to this memorandum of understanding, and I’m very glad we can partner with them on higher education issues and work together to support student success.

    I know that right away we can do more for more students. So after extensive deliberation with UI’s Office of Tribal Relations, tribal leaders and others, I have decided that enrolled members of MOU tribes and transfer students from tribal colleges will be eligible for in-state, undergraduate tuition rates at the University of Idaho. Some aboriginal elders and indigenous scholars have described post-secondary education as the “new buffalo,” a sustaining resource for individual and community-wide empowerment. We embrace facilitating that goal for students. In neighboring states, institutions in tribes’ traditional and customary ranges similarly partner with tribes to support access to post-secondary education.

    It is my hope that access to one of the best values in higher education will make UI the college of choice for more tribal members. It is my firm belief that we will be taking important steps in building a more diverse, culturally responsive and outstanding University of Idaho for all people.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • March 20, 2015

    March 20, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    For many students, Spring Break is a time for rest and relaxation. But nearly 100 Vandal students have been taking a different kind of break from their studies this week. Fanned out in communities across Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Montana and Oregon, they’ve been volunteering through the university’s Alternative Service Break (ASB) program.

    Alternative Service Breaks are opportunities for students — from freshman to graduate level — to get involved in positive, collaboration-centered extracurricular activities. Students broaden their social groups and engage with people they might not otherwise have met. A student from rural Idaho might work together on a project with a student from the East Coast, or from South America, or from Africa.

    While working with fellow students, ASB participants gain insight about communities from outside their world experience. Each ASB group partners with a local organization with a proven track record of sustainable impact: a rescue mission in Boise, conservation-focused groups in the Pacific Northwest, an organization that provides no-cost repairs for seniors in need in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example. This mission of partnership ensures that change is meaningful and long-lasting; it also lets students get to know and learn from community members, whom they work alongside.

    Alternative Service Break students are also developing leadership skills. Student coordinators take on the lion’s share of trip planning, and student leaders of each of the nine separate ASB groups this spring have worked with partner organizations in communities, planned trip details and communicated with their groups. In a program by students, for students and led by students, ASB participants gain practical skills with real-world applications.

    These are experiences that our Vandal students seek out on their own. The program strives to make the trips affordable, including through a pool of need-based support, as the two-week national and international trips in ASB’s winter program, for instance, cannot help but be a financial stretch for many students.

    I’m very proud of our ASB students. They represent our university with pride, and with the passion for service that all Vandals aspire to. They are the leaders, not just of tomorrow, but of today.

    So if you see some tanned, enthusiastic students next week, remember, they may not have come straight from the beach. They may have been building a house out in the sun, or clearing a trail or helping a senior in need. And they are heading right back to their schoolwork, their student organizations and their many other commitments. They’ll have earned a little rest — not that they’ll take it.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • March 13, 2015

    March 13, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    The groundhog may have seen his shadow, and it may technically still be winter for another week, but from where I sit, spring is in the air. That has me thinking ahead to enjoying the outdoors and getting to see more of this wonderful state — from the seat of a bicycle.

    Biking has always been something that my family has enjoyed. It offers a rewarding fitness challenge, whether trying to make it up a challenging hill or riding for a full day in the summer heat. It’s also a great way to spend time with your thoughts, and to take in the scenery at a pace slow enough to really absorb the beauty around you.

    Mary Beth and I have found Idaho the perfect place to get out on a bike. In Moscow we’ve taken advantage of the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail, uniting Moscow and Pullman. We’ve also explored the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a short trek north of Moscow. And last summer we were thrilled to be joined by many Vandals in volunteering at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, which the university helped sponsor (and will sponsor again in 2015).

    Last summer I also had the opportunity to participate in the Ride Idaho bike tour. Starting in Twin Falls, the tour went to the City of Rocks, to Sun Valley and back to Twin Falls. I rode the first three days, and was accompanied by Guillermo Odorica, head of the Mexican Consulate in Boise, and other UI leaders and alumni. We enjoyed the natural splendor of southern Idaho. Mile after mile, community after community, the Vandal impact was everywhere — in facilities, projects and people. The state of Idaho truly is our campus.

    So for this year’s Ride Idaho event, what better way to see our campus — our state — than by bicycle, among fellow Vandals? This year’s route starts in Coeur d’Alene, home to one of UI’s statewide centers. A quick boat cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene will have us start our journey by bike on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. We’ll ride east in the ensuing days, including a segment on the Hiawatha Trail. After a jaunt through western Montana, in North Idaho we’ll pass Moyie Springs, where UI partnered on the Kootenai Tribe’s new burbot aquaculture program, before heading south through Bonner’s Ferry and Sandpoint to close the loop at Coeur d’Alene.
    This year, I’m hoping many of our University of Idaho alumni and friends can join us for Ride Idaho. Bike trips like this are opportunities for camaraderie. I have many fond memories of last year’s event, meeting new people and renewing friendships both on and off the bike seat. Last year our rendition of the Vandal Fight Song won “Dead Last” in the Ride Idaho talent contest, and the trophy sits on my shelf. This year I’m hoping that we get a few more folks together and make a better showing!

    Registration is now open, and if you’re able to make the trip, the university will provide free University of Idaho riding jerseys and hats to UI-affiliated participants. This is a fun way to make a strong statement that North Idaho is truly Vandal country. Check out the Ride Idaho website, and contact our Office of Alumni Relations for more details about the jersey and UI participation. I look forward to exploring Vandal country together.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • March 6, 2015

    March 6, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    Just over a year ago, I became president of our leading, national research university. One of my first public events was the state finals of the Invent Idaho competition, hosted here at the University of Idaho. It was a chance to watch the future of this state — its young people — imagine, design and build inventions that improve our world.
    The imagination and ingenuity of the elementary and middle-school students who came to campus amazed me. Last year one of the “Best of Show” awards went to an elementary-school student who designed a “seed board” that protects seedlings in the ground. The other top award went to a middle-school student who designed a “fast cast” that can provide stability for an injured limb before a bumpy trip to a hospital — a fall from a horse and its uncomfortable aftermath proved the inspiration for that invention. Young inventors heard from Spokane’s Brooke Martin, who won a similar competition in 2012 as an eighth-grader, moved her creation to Kickstarter and now has her product on the market. (I am considering buying one to keep an eye on our three cats.) ICPooch is a video chat/remote feeder that improves pet behavior; it won second place in the 2015 Microsoft Small Business Contest.
    Tomorrow the Invent Idaho competition is again held at the University of Idaho. Nearly 150 finalists from elementary and middle school, as well as high school finalists from a new track of the competition, will converge on our campus. By the time you read this, many will already be here, touring UI and getting a firsthand look at laboratories and research space, with educational demonstrations from faculty and staff. This is a great chance for students to see what work in fields relevant to their inventions and their commercialization — that means everything from agriculture to engineering, and from architecture to education, as well as business — look like at our university, and to picture their ideas taking further shape at our institution, as Vandals.
    I’m especially interested in the theme of this year’s competition, asking students to solve real-world problems, with a focus on helping other people. While they are using their talents to improve the lives of others, students are developing higher-level thinking processes and improving written communication skills with an “inventor’s journal” that allows students to document the ups and downs of their journey in the competition. That’s valuable experience and preparation for any young person, regardless of what field or career they eventually pursue.
    Tomorrow, one of the winners of Invent Idaho will receive a $1,000 scholarship to the University of Idaho, and another winner will receive a free patent search, courtesy of sponsorship support, to see if their invention is patentable. But all the participants are winners.  They’ll have done something difficult — given life to a new idea, and had the confidence and maturity to put it out there for the world to see.   Who knows? Maybe tomorrow we’ll be introduced to the next Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, or the future Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, a leading biotech company. Maybe one of our inventors is the next Vandal to take on space, like one of our own, Tom Mueller of SpaceX.
    I can’t wait to see what these bright young minds have invented … and also see as many as possible come to UI to fulfill their dreams.

    Go Vandals!
    Chuck Staben
  • February 27, 2015

    February 27, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    One full year into my presidency at the University of Idaho, I have been thinking about our mission of reaching students with a transformative education. How do we prepare graduates not just for careers, but for meaningful, engaged lives as employees, as community members and as citizens?
    We know that, on average, college graduates experience greater lifetime earnings than non-college graduates. However, those are relatively easy outcomes to measure. What they don’t provide us is a well-rounded look at how postsecondary education contributes to someone’s life. A report by the Gallup organization, together with Purdue University, sheds new light on what matters to graduates in their careers and overall lives. The results might also illuminate why Vandal students and alumni are so passionate about their experience at UI.
    Gallup confirms that, primarily, students look to college as preparation for a good job. So what is a “good” job? The old adage is true: Money isn’t everything. Gallup’s holistic measurement of well-being finds that a good job is one where employees feel engaged. Engagement at work is the lynchpin for five different kinds of well-being: purpose well-being, social well-being, financial well-being, community well-being and physical well-being. The report finds that, “If college graduates are engaged at work, the odds are nearly five times higher that they will be thriving in all five elements of well-being. The odds of thriving in all areas of well-being more than double for college graduates when they feel their college prepared them well for life outside of it.”
    A person’s experience in higher education makes a profound difference in their relationship to their future job and career. A number of factors experienced in college contribute to landing a good job and arriving at a thriving well-being: a caring professor who made learning come alive; rewarding internships or jobs; active participation in extracurricular activities and organizations; and a chance to work on challenging, semester-long projects.

    UI excels in these areas. For instance, most undergraduates at UI have chances to participate in firsthand research, scholarly work and creative activity, often right at the side of talented professors. Our university’s Career Center places students in internships and jobs that help them apply their knowledge and emerging skills. More than 200 student organizations, a robust intramural activities program, and a thriving Greek system mean abundant opportunities for relationship-building and personal growth.
    Can we do more? Absolutely. A priority before the legislature right now is funding for a Student Employee Readiness program that will improve how we connect students with internships, research opportunities and job placement. We invested in an undergraduate research office this year. Beyond those initiatives, we need to listen to students, continue to improve the experiences we offer inside and outside of the classroom, and do a better job of connecting to our graduates to understand their success.
    As the state’s leading national research university, we should be doing everything we can to position our students for success in a career and in life. One engaged graduate at a time, we’ll contribute to a thriving well-being for our state and our world.

    Go Vandals!
    Chuck Staben
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