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

    October 24, 2014

    Dear Friends,
    Most mornings I start my day by walking through the main entrance to our iconic Administration Building. On the north wall in the great arched entryway is a small historical marker, one you may have seen yourself. The inscription reads: “Erected by the Commonwealth of Idaho for the training of her future citizens to their highest usefulness in private life and public service.”
    Those words represent the state’s commitment to a robust investment in public education, as well as the university’s promise to students.
    Student success is at the heart of our mission at the University of Idaho. It is vital to future prosperity — for our students, for our state and for our world.
    The University of Idaho is working to meet the state’s goals for an educated citizenry. The Idaho State Board of Education, our institution’s Board of Regents, has established the Complete College Idaho initiative, with a goal of 60 percent of state residents ages 25 to 34 having attained a degree or certificate by 2020.
    For individuals, this goal is critical. We know how important a well-paying job is to lifelong success. The average college graduate earns $800,000 more over a lifetime than an individual without a degree, according to a study by the Federal Reserve. And while money still can’t buy you happiness, a well-paying job is a major factor in how many self-report as “thriving.” College graduates don’t just earn more — they are often happier, more engaged citizens.
    Recently, the Social Mobility Index released a list of higher education institutions that succeed in helping disadvantaged citizens climb the economic ladder, measuring affordability, the background of students, graduation rates and graduate earnings. Our institution ranked No. 21 nationwide, joining institutions such as the University of California-Berkeley and UCLA in the top 25.
    This semester, 36 percent of our students will be of the first generation in their families to go to college. An affordable, high-quality education means they are in a great position for a rewarding career, an effort we will support to our utmost. Our university is truly an engine for social mobility.
    It is no secret that students graduate into an increasingly global economy, where a highly skilled workforce is needed to propel innovation and industry. More and better-paying jobs in technology, agriculture and other growing sectors mean healthier communities and brighter tomorrows for future generations.
    The University of Idaho is doing its part to provide the workforce essential for our state — a talent pipeline for industry, but also a prosperity pipeline for individuals, families and communities.
    However — and you may spot this as a now-common refrain of mine — we can do more. We can be better.
    To help achieve the state’s 60 percent goal, and to reach more students with a transformative experience, we have to work hard. We must grow enrollment. At 77 percent, our freshman retention rate is strong, matching the national average for institutions like ours, but it can be stronger. We must also continue aligning our curricula to the demands of the economy.
    We will get there. The challenges are great, but so are the opportunities. Daily, the graduates of the University of Idaho see returns on the investment in their education. As an institution, we strive to increase the state’s return on investment in its future, one student at a time.


    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

    New Leader for National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology
    The University of Idaho College of Engineering announced Tuesday the selection of civil engineering professor Ahmed Abdel-Rahim as the permanent director of the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT). Abdel-Rahim has been serving as interim director since the spring and has been an active NIATT researcher since 2000.

    “Ahmed brings a rare combination of excellent research credentials and discerning leadership skills to the NIATT directorship,” said Jon Van Gerpen, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering. “I have been impressed with his problem-solving skills and willingness to collaborate.”

    Abdel-Rahim’s research focuses on traffic operation and controls, transportation systems, modeling, highway design and traffic safety, and, most recently, security and survivability of transportation infrastructure.

    Award-Winning UI Tree Nursery Featured for Forest Products Week
    As part of Idaho Forest Products Week festivities, the new Tom and Teita Reveley Nursery Facility at the University of Idaho Pitkin Nursery will be offering tours, educational activities for school children and information about Idaho’s forests and wood products from 3-6 p.m. today.

    The open house event, co-sponsored by the College of Natural Resources and the Idaho Forest Products Commission, is free and open to the public. Kids' activities will take place from 3-4:30 p.m. Nursery tours will begin at 3:30 p.m. and run every 30 minutes. Light appetizers will be served and prize drawings will take place all afternoon.

    Ritters Establish Engineering Scholarship Endowment
    The College of Engineering is grateful to Susan and Jim Ritter ’68, ’71 for committing to provide perpetual support of students through the establishment of the James H. Ritter Family Engineering Scholarship Endowment. “This donation allows us to continue a strong relationship with the University of Idaho, encourage the education of future engineers, and provide an educational experience that is unique and innovative,” said Jim, a 2014 inductee into the university’s Academy of Engineers.

    “These permanent funds allow our engineering students to have an exceptional, well-rounded learning experience,” said Dean Larry Stauffer. “Without financial aid, students are not always able to put in that added energy and focus into their academics, or participate in extracurricular activities and internships.”

    Jim is the retired President, Chairman/CEO of Aviation Manufacturing Group LLC and currently works with the Boise Angel Alliance to help fund start-ups. For more information on giving to the College of Engineering, contact Mary Lee Ryba at 208-755-4916 or
  • October 17, 2014

    October 17, 2014

    Dear Friends,
    From my office window, I look out over the Admin Lawn and Hello Walk where the leaves are changing colors, students are bundling up a bit more and strands from a section of the practicing marching band occasionally filter across campus. Homecoming is here.
    For many alumni, this weekend means a chance to come “home” to a beloved institution. For my wife and me, this special place has quickly become our home, as well, so we are eager to share in the spirit of the weekend.
    Tonight Mary Beth and I look forward to joining university leaders and students in Vandal traditions. We’ll join the serpentine and wind our way through campus, led by the Vandal Marching Band — one of the best college bands in all the country. We’ll attend the bonfire and fireworks tonight, and after the Homecoming parade tomorrow, we’ll return to the Kibbie Dome to cheer on our Vandals, together with so many alumni.
    With over 100,000 living alumni in Idaho and beyond, the Vandal alumni network is one of our institution’s treasures. It is an exceptionally passionate fan base for our teams and a strong supporter of our academics. It is also a critical tool for social and economic opportunities among our graduates.
    Of course, many alumni already support programs and students generously with their donations, and for that we are grateful. But let’s not forget another layer of the potential impact of the Vandal network, and the relationships that can foster success for students when they leave our institution and join the workforce, eager to build rewarding careers and lives.
    I have recently spent some time talking about mentoring, and how our faculty members play an important role in that work for students. But they don’t take on this work alone — alumni have invaluable experience, connections and skills they can share with students and recent graduates.
    We know that mentoring relationships are incredibly important for student success. The Gallup organization — probably best known for their polls — has done extensive research on the well-being of students after and as a result of higher education, studying how “engaged” graduates are at work — how “deeply involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed” to their jobs students are after college.
    The results are striking. Having “a mentor who encouraged my hopes and dreams,” as well as impactful professors and programmatic opportunities such as jobs and internships, means that graduates are much more likely to describe themselves as “thriving” in their well-being and feeling “engaged” with their work — three and two times as much, respectively.
    More than institutional selectivity, an affordable education that offers relationship-based opportunities contributes to well-being and success.
    As an institution, we are working to connect students to internships and other opportunities where mentoring can occur. Individual colleges and programs do this, too, giving students a chance to apply their learning to the real world, and to form relationships that will be integral for their future career. We are always seeking to do more.
    But with 100,000 alumni and 10,000 undergraduate students, I ask you: How can we better connect you — with your experience, talent and commitment — to the employees and citizens of tomorrow? Can we better ensure that organizations like the one you may work for are reaching students with opportunities for training and internships? Would you like to get involved by visiting a class or participating in a program?
    The skills and knowledge that students gain at UI are first-class. Our institution must also excel at promoting mentoring relationships, thereby leveraging our amazing Vandal alumni network. As we look back with pride this weekend, let’s also look forward with optimism and ideas.
    Welcome home, Vandals. Whether you’re in Moscow or rooting for the Vandals from afar, thank you for the passion, for the generosity, and for the insight into how we equip our students to succeed with engaging careers and a thriving well-being.


    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News From the University of Idaho

    Gala Celebrates Donor Impact
    University of Idaho donors gathered last night for the annual University Gala hosted by President Chuck Staben and University of Idaho Foundation Inc. Chairman Richard Allen ’73. The University inducted several new members into the prestigious 1889 Society, recognizing alumni, friends, corporations, foundations and organizations whose cumulative contributions total $1 million and more. The 2014 inductees include Lawrence L. ’55 and Kaye A. ’55 Knight, Bayer CropScience, LP and E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Company Inc. Also, 43 new members were welcomed into the Silver and Gold Society, which recognizes gifts to the University of Idaho of $100,000 to $999,999. The names of the new 1889 Society and Silver and Gold Society members have been added to the university’s Legacy of Giving donor recognition display in the Administration Building main foyer. For more information on giving to the University of Idaho, visit the Inspiring Futures website.

    U-Idaho Student Selected for 8-Month Mars Simulation
    U-Idaho mechanical engineering graduate student Sophie Milam is about to find out what life is like on Mars. Milam, a mechanical engineering master’s student at the University of Idaho, has been selected to participate in Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS, a project funded by the NASA Human Research Program that simulates a long-duration Mars mission here on Earth.

    Bruce Pitman Retirement Celebration
    This afternoon we celebrate the career of Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Bruce Pitman, who is retiring after 41 years of service. The celebration will be located in the SprinTurf tent on the east end of the Kibbie Dome. The event takes place from 4:30 to 7:30, with a program starting at 6 p.m. You are invited to share your memories — how has Dean Pitman left an impression of on your life, career and Vandal experience? 

  • October 10, 2014

    October 10, 2014

    Dear Friends,
    Last week at Envision Idaho, one of our events for prospective Vandals, I welcomed more than 100 high school seniors from Idaho and beyond to our Moscow campus. For soon-to-be Vandals, it’s an exciting time, and our beautiful campus makes quite an impression. Students have a chance to picture themselves hustling to class under the trees on the Admin Lawn, watching a football game in the Kibbie Dome, and forming enduring friendships in an ideal college town.
    I suspect many students are excited to take the next step toward their future, but aren’t yet picturing the impact an engaged, supportive faculty and staff will have on their lives. But at the University of Idaho, new students join a special community of professionals who are driven to help transform lives.
    In my own professional journey, I was fortunate to be mentored as an undergraduate by Dr. Richard Gumport, who as fate would have it actually grew up the son of a southern Idaho potato farmer. Dr. Gumport taught me much about being a scientist, challenging me to solve my own problems in research and to think seriously about discovering new knowledge, not just absorbing what is already known.
    Those lessons, brought forward with humor and warmth, helped me transition from unsure undergraduate to a professional scientist and eventually a university leader, privileged to stand on a stage in front of the next generation of successful young men and women.
    Experiences like my own abound at UI. As just one example, the dedicated faculty in the College of Engineering, including faculty advisor Dan Cordon, helped steer student efforts that saw the Vandal Formula Hybrid Racing Team take the checkered flag against other national research universities in the 2014 Formula Hybrid Competition.
    Across disciplines, and not just in established programs but also in one-to-one relationships, our faculty connect with students to make a difference.
    Those academic experiences are only possible because of a campus environment that nurtures and supports students. No one exemplifies this mission more than retiring Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Bruce Pitman. For 41 years Dean Pitman has been on the front lines for our students, armed with compassion, patience and wisdom. Whether he is pitching in on an Alternative Service Break project — a program he helped develop — or being the point person for any number of the crises that can emerge at a sprawling institution like ours, he has made a lasting impact on generations of Vandal students.
    The examples could go on and on, in individual classrooms, through laboratory research, or at an instructor’s office hours. In ways small and large, our people are there for our students.
    Next year’s freshmen certainly do have a lot to look forward to. Imagine: 20 or 30 years from now, what professor or staff member will each student remember? Embarked on their own path, what will today’s students have done to encourage the next generation of leaders to look at things differently, to strive for new opportunities and to achieve things they might not have believed possible?
    Thanks to engaged teachers and dedicated leaders like Bruce Pitman, epitomizing the culture of caring at UI, we have every reason to expect great things from tomorrow’s Vandals. 


    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News From the University of Idaho

    Bruce Pitman Retirement Celebration
    On Friday, Oct. 17, we celebrate the career of Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Bruce Pitman, who is retiring after 41 years of service. The celebration will be located in the SprinTurf tent on the east end of the Kibbie Dome. The event takes place from 4:30 to 7:30, with a program starting at 6 p.m. We invite you to reserve your seat online and join us. Share your memories — how has Dean Pitman left an impression on your life, career and Vandal experience?

    Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Announces 2015 Artist Lineup
    The University of Idaho Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival will celebrate its 48th year with a dynamic lineup of nationally acclaimed artists and jazz professionals in Moscow, Idaho, Feb. 25 through Feb. 28, 2015. The lineup includes Grammy-nominated vibraphonist Stefon Harris; charismatic saxophonist Grace Kelly; the U.S. Air Force’s premier jazz ensemble, Airmen of Note; and four-time Grammy Award recipient Dianne Reeves, among many others. “This year’s festival lineup is showing off the myriad styles of jazz music,” said Steve Remington, festival executive director. “We’re bringing in artists that represent a broader range of diversity in jazz – the shows will be lively, and audiences will have a ball.” Call 208-885-5900 or visit online for the most up-to-date festival information.

    Forest Products Industry Invests in Reveley Nursery Facility 
    The College of Natural Resources dedicated the Tom and Teita Reveley Nursery Facility at the Franklin H. Pitkin Forest Nursery on September 12. Built to support research, teaching and operations, the facility also serves as a model for industry partnerships. More than 10 partners provided expertise about today’s Idaho forest products and donated more than $100,000 in materials for the facility’s construction. The entirely wood building features products from Boise Cascade, Potlatch Inc., Tri-Pro Forest Products, Stimson Lumber, Idaho Forest Group, Bennett Lumber Products Inc., Idaho Veneer Co., Plummer Forest Products and Reggear Tree Farms. In addition, many other organizations supported the project, including the Idaho Forest Products Commission and Associated Logging Contractors Inc. The building features energy efficient and modern building techniques that show students what can be done with Idaho forest products. For more information about supporting the College of Natural Resources, contact Steve Hacker at 208-885-7400 or
  • October 3, 2014

    October 3, 2014

    Dear Friends,
    The strength of a university lies in the strength of its faculty. In my first 200 days as president, I’ve been privileged to meet faculty members whose enthusiasm, positivity and intelligence make the University of Idaho strong.
    The university’s first mission is education, and excellent faculty members share their knowledge with their students and encourage them to challenge themselves beyond the classroom. Faculty members also lead the way in research and outreach, bringing new discoveries and understanding to today’s most vital topics and extending those results to people who can benefit from them.
    The University of Idaho is home to longtime professors like the Lionel Hampton School of Music’s Dan Bukvich, a University Distinguished Professor, percussionist and composer whose recognitions include winning the 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award for the state of Idaho. Bukvich came to UI in 1977 and has since inspired a love of musical performance in generations of Vandals with his passionate, exuberant and occasionally offbeat teaching style. Many of us have enjoyed listening to the Jazz Choir under his direction.
    Alongside faculty who have dedicated years to the University of Idaho, many new faces bring fresh ideas and vibrancy to campus. This year, I’m pleased to welcome faculty such as Chris Marx in the College of Science and Lil Alessa in the College of Art and Architecture to the Vandal ranks.
    Marx, an associate professor of biological sciences, came to UI from Harvard as the first among a new group of professors in physics, mathematics, statistics and biology who will work to bridge their disciplines. His innovative work includes developing mathematical models that can predict how bacteria might evolve, giving scientists new tools to respond to and guide bacterial evolution in ways that could benefit humanity. Dr. Marx also has founded a company to commercialize some of the work in his lab on converting methane to dietary protein using bacteria, a technology that seems far-fetched until one considers the reduced price of natural gas due to enhanced recovery.
    Alessa came to UI from the University of Alaska Anchorage, bringing her expansive experience in helping communities connect with and utilize university research, which she’s used to establish UI’s Center for Resilient Rural Communities. Most recently, she was part of a team selected to create a Department of Homeland Security Center for Excellence that will help communities with maritime ports monitor the health of their local natural resources, with an eye on maintaining port security. Dr. Alessa has also been involved in the development of a proposal for a Western Dairy Research Center.
    These and many other faculty members give the university a firm foundation of excellence. They are teachers, advisers, mentors, investigators and pioneers. With their dedication and leadership, the University of Idaho is strong – and growing stronger.


    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

    Secretary of Transportation Visits U-Idaho
    The University of Idaho’s College of Engineering and National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT) played host to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx this Wednesday. The secretary participated in a panel discussion about transportation and infrastructure with students, faculty and university leadership. Secretary Foxx also got a first-hand look behind the wheel of the Vandal Formula Hybrid Racing Team’s 2014 race car, which won the 2014 national Formula Hybrid Competition.

    Vandals Win Excellence in Management Cup
    The University of Idaho was recognized as the 2013-14 Excellence in Management Cup champion by the Laboratory for the Study of Intercollegiate Athletics at Texas A&M University. The award, given annually since 2009, honors the athletic department that best demonstrates effective spending in correlation with championships earned. Institutions are ranked on how much they spend per championship. Learn More »

    Professor Emerita Supports Dance Faculty with Pledge
    Diane Walker, UI professor emerita of dance, has pledged $30,000 for the Diane B. Walker Dance Faculty Endowment to support the professional development of full-time dance faculty.
    “I hope to reward faculty members and assist in providing a means for them to conduct their creative and scholarly work,” she said.  Learn More »
  • September 26, 2014

    Sept. 26, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    This weekend, we honor three great contributors to the University of Idaho’s past, present and future.

    First, we welcome our students’ parents with Dads' Weekend. I’m thankful for the fathers and families who support, encourage and challenge our students, and I hope they enjoy this opportunity to get a glimpse into their children’s lives at the university.

    On Friday, we celebrate our supportive local community with the Vandal Town Block Party. This is a new event, sponsored by the City of Moscow and the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, designed to connect town and gown. Local businesses and bands will be on hand to welcome students to the community.

    Finally, this weekend includes Celebrating Idaho Agriculture and Ag Days. Agriculture has been central to the University of Idaho since our earliest years, and it remains the foundation of Idaho’s economy today, generating $7.8 billion in sales in 2013. Our state feeds the world with potatoes, grain, beef, dairy products, trout and dozens of other products. The University of Idaho continues to provide the information and innovation that keep Idaho’s agricultural industries strong and growing.

    College of Agricultural and Life Sciences researchers develop heartier grain varieties, fight potato pests, improve food production processes, and prepare growers for a changing climate and so much more. And we don’t just generate knowledge, we gather and share it through a statewide network of 12 regionalresearch and extension centers and 42 extension offices serving Idaho counties.

    In my first months as president, I’ve been eager to talk to researchers and industry leaders about ways this work can grow broader and deeper. I have visited every one of our research and extension centers and enjoyed several field days. I’ve met with agricultural commissions and associations and with leaders of the food industry in Idaho and nationally. As one result of such consultation, we’re now investigating the potential for UI to create a research center focusing on dairy — a booming sector of Idaho’s economy in which we can take a leadership role.

    We can’t do this work alone. The university is proud to partner with industry leaders such as Limagrain Cereal Seeds, commodities commissions like theIdaho Wheat Commission and generous donors such as Genesee wheat farmersRuss and Kathy Zenner — and that’s just one crop and one set of committed partners for whom we’re grateful.

    As many of these partners visit Moscow this weekend, I hope our community takes the opportunity to learn more about Idaho agriculture’s contributions and the role UI can play in its success.

    Celebrating Idaho Agriculture events include this afternoon’s free panel discussion, “Feeding 9 Billion People: Technology’s Impact,” at which top agricultural leaders will talk about how agriculture will use technology to feed the world’s rapidly growing population.

    On Saturday before the Vandals take on South Alabama, please meet Mary Beth and me at the Celebrating Idaho Agriculture Pregame Festival on the Kibbie Dome north lawn. (For details and other events, click here.)

    In addition to research, the University of Idaho provides another key resource to Idaho agriculture: the students who learn about agriculture here and take their knowledge to the state and the world. Their talent and skills are the true seeds of innovation.

    That’s something future Vandals will soon discover, too. As hundreds of high school students from the Northwest visit Ag Days, our CALS faculty, staff, students and alumni will introduce them to the opportunities they have at UI and inspire them to study fields related to agriculture, foods and natural resources.

    We know that, in the future, some of those students will return to campus as alumni to celebrate Idaho agriculture again as farmers, ranchers, researchers, entrepreneurs and industry leaders. We’ll be here, dedicated to helping this vital industry thrive. 

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben

    Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

    The Idaho Wheat Commission has continued its partnership with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The commission, which represents wheat growers throughout the state, will support the Idaho wheat-breeding program by providing $604,000 toward a new university position targeting wheat genetics.

    The Idaho Wheat Genetics Program will focus on broad areas of basic wheat genetic research, including the development of technology and processes to support wheat research and development. A national search recently launched to fill this tenure-track position, which will have an 80 percent research and 20 percent teaching appointment.

    “This new position will be at the forefront of efforts to focus new variety development on using new tools to identify and incorporate genetic traits, which will improve and accelerate the creation of new wheats tailored to grower and consumer needs,” said Donn Thill, Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station director.

    For more information, contact Kim O’Neill, CALS assistant dean of advancement, at 208-885-8606 or

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