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

    November 21, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    As Idaho’s land-grant research university, we pursue research that pushes the frontiers of knowledge and makes a difference in people’s lives.

    We humans have a natural curiosity. We want to understand our place in the universe. We intrinsically value knowledge and seek to acquire it. We also want to explore concrete ways of enhancing our lives, putting research to work improving health and well-being, economies, and communities.

    Day in and day out, in classrooms, in laboratories, and in the field across Idaho and the world, we are leading the quest for knowledge, both basic and applied.

    In one case, that search has again taken us to outer space. Jason Barnes, associate professor of physics at UI, is working with his students and researchers around the country to create dazzling new photographs of the vast methane seas on Titan, a moon of Saturn. Dr. Barnes’ work enhances our understanding of the solar system and helps open the possibility of landing a spacecraft on Titan someday.

    Some research at UI happens closer to home. At a time when Idahoans use more water per capita than residents of any other state, Howard Neibling, an irrigation management engineer with the University of Idaho Extension at Kimberly, is pioneering efficient irrigation techniques for Idaho farms and ranches.

    If you’ve been to the Magic Valley, you know how it earned its nickname — water management turned this dry plain into an agricultural oasis. Dr. Neibling’s award-winning research will help Idaho agriculture continue to work its magic, doing more with less to keep our fields — and the world’s stomachs — full.

    Research isn’t just the domain of faculty and graduate students, of course. Undergraduate students at UI have an opportunity to participate in research or scholarly activity related to their majors. For example, this summer anthropology professor Mark Warner led a team of students on an archaeological excavation at the old “Surgeon’s Quarters” in Boise. Their discoveries will be used in an exhibit at the restored building — a vital record of the history of Western settlement in the state. 

    I recall from my days as an undergraduate that it is often hard to see the impact of your research because you’re doing one small, though vital, part of a larger project. As an example, the archaeological work in Boise is of a scale that brings undergraduates into the research process. Students can see some results of their work almost immediately, but they are also part of something that contributes to a much larger body of knowledge.

    Of course, any attempt to chronicle the research at the University of Idaho is bound to exclude many important projects. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching includes UI in the prestigious set of national universities classified as having “high research activity.” And though I regret that we cannot include a laundry list of the dynamic work, I urge you to read our annual research report to get a more complete picture of the scope and impact of our efforts in this area.

    I am thrilled to be among such talented and driven faculty and student researchers as those found at University of Idaho. Whether exploring the remains of the old frontier of the West or venturing into the “final frontier,” every day our researchers are helping us better understand our world and how we can thrive in it. 

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben

    P.S.: With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Mary Beth and I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday. If you’re looking for extra ideas for your table, consider the recipes from the dietetics students in Katie Miner’s class in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences. You can even peruse a catalog of historical recipes, some dating back to 1911. Enjoy!
  • November 14, 2014

    November 14, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    For a sports fan, and for a supporter of the University of Idaho, this is an exciting weekend. The University of Idaho men’s basketball team kicks off another season at historic Memorial Gymnasium, the volleyball team finishes up a strong Big Sky campaign ahead of the conference tournament, and our much-improved football squad takes the field for their final home game. It is a good occasion to reflect on the role that sports play in our lives and at our university.
    Sports have always been an important part of my life. I was on the tennis and swim teams in high school, and played racquetball throughout college, a passion I’ve continued — you may have heard me offer to buy lunch for the student who can beat me in a match. I’ve always found that sports present an opportunity to build personal discipline, forge lasting relationships and enjoy a unique camaraderie.
    My two sons were college athletes, both swimmers. I watched them pursue their sport with dedication, persevering through a challenging program of training and competition while also realizing their academic goals. It was not easy for them, but they took the dual role of student-athlete seriously, and I think the focus and discipline they found through their sports served them well during their undergraduate years and now in medical school.
    That commitment is matched by what I have seen from our student-athletes at the University of Idaho. During a year where they competed in their new home in the Sun Belt — a strong place for our football program to be — 18 students on the Vandal football team recently made the Sun Belt’s Academic Honor Roll or Commissioner’s List for outstanding GPAs.
    Tomorrow is our last home game for Vandal football, Senior Day for many of the players. These seniors have persevered through adversity, and many have been great ambassadors for both the university’s athletics and its academics.
    As one example among many, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Maxx Forde, a double major in marketing and finance. After his pursuit of football, Maxx plans to tackle a career in business. I have no doubt that, like most of our Vandal student-athletes, he will take the same work ethic and determination he brings to sports to life off the field, representing us well as a proud alumnus.
    For our non-football sports teams, the 2014-2015 year has brought a return to the Big Sky Conference. That follows historic success in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), including eight team championships last season that earned UI the Commissioner’s Cup trophy for overall success.

    The Big Sky is an opportunity to renew historic rivalries and continue building on that success. Our volleyball team is off to a promising start, with a strong regular season that has qualified them for the conference tournament. This August our volleyball team earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Team Academic Award for the fourth consecutive season for maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team GPA. On the court and in the classroom, they are embodying the student-athlete ideal.

    Athletics bring more to our university than school pride. Providing financial and academic support, personal development, and camaraderie, athletics offers opportunities for college success to students who otherwise might not participate in higher education. Contrary to the sometimes negative perceptions of student athletes, Division I athletic programs — often the most diverse units in schools — succeed in graduating student-athletes at rates higher than their non-athlete peers.

    For so many student-athletes, success on the court or on the field is not just a complement to academic success, it is central to that achievement.

    I hope you will join me this weekend and throughout the year in rooting on our Vandal athletes. On the field, in the classroom and in the world after graduation, they give us much to cheer about. 

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben

  • November 7, 2014

    November 7, 2014

    Dear Friends,

    One of the pressing challenges in our state — and a broader regional and national trend — is a troubling shortfall in the number of physicians available to attend to a growing and aging population.
    You may have heard me jokingly mention that when I moved to Idaho with my wife, Mary Beth, I did my part to address the physician shortage in Idaho. As Mary Beth practices as a hospitalist, fully half the people involved in our move to Idaho are medical doctors.
    Of course, that’s hardly a scalable approach to a challenge of this magnitude. The state of Idaho actually ranks 49th nationwide in physicians per capita, a deficit that is particularly pronounced and felt in our many rural communities. The shortage means reduced access to medical care, including preventative care that keeps minor health concerns from becoming major challenges, creating a ripple effect of economic and societal consequences.
    Our opportunity to address this shortage in a meaningful way is through expanded access to medical training.
    The University of Idaho leads on this issue through participation in a joint medical program through the University of Washington called WWAMI — short for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. While there has been a split between Washington State University and the University of Washington — the former is pulling out of WWAMI to embark on its own medical training program in Spokane — WWAMI remains an ideal fit for the University of Idaho in many ways.
    The WWAMI program is Idaho’s medical school, holding its doors open to aspiring doctors from our state since 1971. Nearly 300 Idaho WWAMI students have returned to Idaho to practice medicine, armed with the very best medical education — according to U.S. News and World Report’s most recent rankings, the University of Washington ranked No. 1 for primary care, No. 1 for family medicine, and among the best in many other specialties.
    Recognizing the looming physician shortage, in 2009 the Idaho State Board of Education established a goal of moving from 20 to 40 seats for Idaho students in the WWAMI program. Last year we reached 30 seats. This year, we are seeking continued funding for last year’s seats, as well as five additional seats for a total of 35. Our request has been approved by the State Board of Education and will go before the state legislature in the spring.
    This is important progress we need to make — the health and prosperity of our state depends on it.
    More than 50 percent of the students we send to WWAMI eventually practice medicine in Idaho — a very high rate of return. One such student is Grangeville’s Lee Spencer. Lee is a participant in the Targeted Rural and Underserved Students (TRUST) track of the WWAMI program. The TRUST track connects underserved, often rural communities with aspiring doctors. Students from Idaho can complete their first 18 months in Idaho, then head to Seattle for a year before choosing locations for residencies.
    Lee would like to return to Idaho to practice in a rural community like the one where he grew up.
    “It’s where the need is,” he said. “It’d be hard to find a place where your money can have more return than investing in rural, family physicians. You can prevent so many health problems for people, making it possible for kids to have successful, productive lives, and stopping health problems before they start.”
    We need more dedicated professionals like Lee to have an opportunity to come back to our state. Five new WWAMI students at a time, we can build a healthier Idaho.  Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • October 31, 2014

    October 31, 2014

    Dear Friends,
    With Veteran’s Day around the corner, we have an opportunity to recognize the service of the men and women in our armed forces — student cadets here at the University of Idaho, current military and returning veterans.
    In “This Crested Hill,” a history of our university, we’re reminded that “The University of Idaho grew in part from the idea that land-grant colleges should provide the nation with a ready fighting force, a body of responsible citizen soldiers.”
    The university’s first military commander, Lieutenant Edward R. Chrisman, took the reins in 1894, overseeing the training — then compulsory — of all male students. A large percentage of UI students served in the Spanish-American War, and our students and graduates have served the U.S. military since. Women also played a role in our early military history, as the fabled, albeit informal, “Company C” organized in the late 1800s presaged a later age when women would serve alongside men in the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC units.
    Then as today, ROTC cadets grow as leaders. Some think of leadership as an innate or natural quality, but at UI we know that leadership can be inspired, nurtured and honed — for military service and for life outside the military.
    Military service enhances our security in many ways, not always by force. Our military serves in humanitarian missions that enhance global understanding. This past summer, three cadets from the Army ROTC’s Chrisman Battalion participated in the Army’s Culture and Language Program, each visiting a different country: Bosnia, Montenegro and Senegal. They assisted with flood relief, delivered humanitarian supplies, and forged bonds with servicemen and servicewomen across the world.
    We are proud of the ambassadorial work these young men and women undertake on behalf of the university, the state of Idaho and the nation.
    The university endeavors to serve the men and women who serve us. We currently serve more than 300 GI Bill benefit recipients. Operation Education is a signature program at the university, assisting disabled veterans beyond what the GI Bill offers, even helping family members. Operation Education started at the UI, but chapters have now formed at other universities. Generous donor support makes this critical program possible.
    A strong supporter of Operation Education has been General James F. Amos, who retired in October 2014 as the 35th commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and who is a 1970 graduate of the University of Idaho in business and economics. General Amos’ wife, Bonnie, and my wife, Mary Beth, are the honorary co-chairs of Operation Education. Operation Education’s Advisory Board is chaired by David Decker. We are lucky to have the support of these dedicated leaders.
    I did not serve in the military, but my father was a WWII veteran. A college student before the war, he joined the Army after Pearl Harbor, and rushed to complete his degree in 1942 before going to Europe and serving as an engineer under General Patton.
    At Homecoming this year, I was fortunate to meet and have my picture taken with Roger Guernsey, a member of the “Greatest Generation.”
    Chuck Staben portrait This generation came home to build careers and families, making the United States a dominant political and economic force. My father’s service first instilled in me the high regard I have for the military. This respect is reinforced by the veterans and servicemen and servicewomen that I meet.
    I hope you’ll join me in reflecting on the example of leadership and commitment that men and women in uniform — whether cadets on campus, active duty personnel or veterans — set for us all.
    We would not be the nation that we are today without them. Furthermore, we cannot be the university that we aspire to be without embracing the value that our tradition of military service, and the men and women who carry it out as citizen soldiers, bring to our campus, our state, and our world.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • October 24, 2014

    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
  • Archived Issues