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

    February 20, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    Next week I’ll have the pleasure of attending my second Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow. Jazz Fest is a signature event for the University of Idaho, bringing together students of many ages, faculty and staff, and community members from all over. Mary Beth and I are looking forward to experiencing it together.
    What Jazz Fest does so well is combine the thrill of music and performance with the joy of teaching and learning. This year’s lineup stands out, with acclaimed artists such as Diane Reeves, the Air Force’s Airmen of Note ensemble, and many more. You’d have to travel far to find a comparable lineup of jazz musicians together in one place. In fact, Yahoo Travel recently declared our festival the one “Can’t-Miss Event” in Idaho.
    But next week is about more than music. It’s also an opportunity for education. In 2014, the Jazz in Schools program, a key piece of the festival, brought discovery through jazz to 42 area schools and 4,000 students. Many of those students will be on campus next week, as well, attending workshops and performing on the large stage. Jazz is collaborative improvisation, embodying an important life skill. Jazz musicians contribute to the whole through their instrument or talent, but not without listening, yielding the floor and participating in harmonies — sometimes leading, sometimes following, and together making something unique and beautiful.
    Importantly, while students are practicing those skills, they’ll also be getting a first-hand look at the university that we hope will be the setting for their college career. Not all of those students will be musicians or even study music, but it’s inspiring to see how music and culture can help young people find their path.
    Many honors have followed our University’s work with students and our long history of amazing music. The festival has received the National Medal of the Arts award — the first instance of that award being bestowed upon a public university — and the Peter McGrath Community Engagement Exemplary Award, which recognized the innovative learning, discovery and engagement offered by the festival.
    Of course, this event also celebrates the spirit and example of Lionel Hampton. More than just a musician, Lionel Hampton stood up for justice in our world, as a leader of one of the first integrated jazz bands and as an early supporter of South African leader Nelson Mandela. That heritage reminds us of the power of the arts — and its accompanying public stage — to be a catalyst for positive change in the world. We are proud of our part in that legacy.
    I hope to see many of you over the course of the week. Mary Beth and I will be taking in the music and enjoying seeing students learn and grow. And we’ll be grateful for the behind-the-scenes work of festival staff, University of Idaho student workers and the small army of volunteers that help make this wonderful experience possible. Now in its 48th year, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival continues to thrive.

    Go Vandals!
    Chuck Staben
  • February 13, 2015

    February 13, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    The University of Idaho has long been an international institution. Since its founding, the university has provided students from beyond our shores with a first-class education. In turn, international students bring new perspectives, cultural traditions and opportunities for engagement to the university community.
    Mary Beth and I have recently joined others in Moscow in the “Friendship Families” program — organized by the International Programs Office — which connects international students and scholars with local families. We’ve gotten to know three students through this unique program. Marcelline, or “Alex,” is from France, by way of Sweden, and is studying marketing and entrepreneurship. Another student, Gayelle, is from Burkina Faso, and is studying architecture. Last but not least, Pavan hails from India, and is doing graduate work in electrical engineering.
    These students are having life-changing experiences at the University of Idaho, in everything from food to academics to recreational opportunities. Cuisine, of course, is a ready entry point into any culture, and one of the ways Mary Beth and I are coming together with our students is through sharing meals. Recently, a dinner of lentil soup and biscuits, conventional in the U.S. but unusual for our students, proved a great way to bond. In addition to new foods, our international students have made many adjustments, including a rigorous academic program, new friends, and even new patterns of daylight and nighttime for our close-to-the-equator students. We all enjoyed getting to know each other, even introducing two of our students to the game of pool.
    These one-on-one relationships make a big difference for generating understanding between people and helping students feel at home. Scaled up, these relationships help a cohort of students make the most of their time at the University of Idaho, and are a boon to the internationalization of our campus.
    In fall 2014, students at UI came from no fewer than 86 countries, all 50 states and Washington D.C., and several U.S. territories. A full 5 percent of undergraduates and 10 percent of graduate students come from abroad — a substantial international presence. However, we view that as a starting point, and continue to seek more international students at UI, as well as more opportunities for scholarship and research abroad for our American students. Our university is affiliated with more than 370 universities in 69 countries, including 29 partnership universities. Thanks in some measure to a unique student-fee-funded scholarship, more than 15 percent of UI students graduate with study abroad experience. Study abroad and friendship families have been on our mind because our daughter, Rae, is spending winter quarter in Florence, Italy, studying Italian, art history and cooking. Her host family has welcomed her and enriched her experience tremendously. We will visit Italy in mid-March, meet them, and share Italy with Rae.
    The diversity that internationalization brings is not just a benefit to our international students, but to our entire campus community. Learning from each other means understanding the rest of the world. Innovative ideas don’t stop at our nation’s borders, nor do opportunities for collaboration … and competition. To thrive in today’s global economic landscape, students from abroad and from the U.S. need to interact with and learn from each other.
    We’re looking forward to continuing to get to know our students in the months to come. And our university will continue to make progress in recruiting international students and connecting U.S. students with life-changing experiences abroad. For 125 years we have been Idaho’s leading national research university, and will continue taking a leadership role on the global stage.

    Go Vandals!
    Chuck Staben
  • February 6, 2015

    February 6, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    This weekend my wife, Mary Beth, and I enjoyed skiing at Sun Valley. Standing on Mt. Baldy, gazing over the snow-capped mountains of Idaho reminded me that it has been nearly a year since we moved to Idaho. One of the joys of finding a new home has been discovering the amazing places and meeting the wonderful people in this great state.
    Over the past year I’ve made it a point to travel to every corner of the state and see the full spectrum of University of Idaho activity across Idaho. From our statewide Extension network to special places such as Taylor Ranch in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, to our many Research and Extension Centers, the Vandal impact spreads far and wide in our state. During my bicycle tour of southern Idaho last summer, watching close-up mile after mile of agriculture and industry and visiting facilities, I realized that I’d be hard-pressed to point to an Idaho community not in some way impacted by the success of UI programs, students, alumni and research.
    It really does bear repeating: As the Gem State’s land-grant institution, Idaho is our 83,000 square mile campus.
    The University of Idaho is a launching pad for eye-opening life experiences. For instance, students wishing to explore our state, learn new skills and meet new people can take advantage of the Outdoor Program.  Program staff put together clinics and workshops, offer cooperative and instructional trips, and run the Climbing Center on campus. Additionally, UI has a convenient rental center with everything from camping gear to skis and snowboards to kayaks and canoes. They also tune and repair equipment.
    Mary Beth and I have found the Outdoor Program the perfect place to assist our Idaho adventures. The abundance of the affordable and enriching opportunities led Outside magazine to name UI one of the top 25 outdoor universities in the country, and it’s no wonder why.
    Of course, there are also plenty of recreation options for Vandals inclined to stay close to home. Campus Recreation runs intramural sports, a wellness program, sports clubs and a number of other activities that provide exercise, personal growth and opportunities for camaraderie. There are top-notch facilities, including the Student Recreation Center, that add to the experience for our entire campus community.  
    Idaho is a special place. The home campus in Moscow is situated in one of the country’s most uniquely beautiful spots, with rivers and mountains that offer something to do and see in every season. I hope students and staff alike will get out there and explore our landscape. Wherever you are in this remarkable state, an Idaho adventure is waiting.

    Go Vandals!
    Chuck Staben
  • January 30, 2015

    January 30, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    On Monday, I went before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) of the Idaho Legislature to discuss our university’s mission, activities and budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year. The governor has issued budget recommendations that would bolster many critical areas in our university’s work for student success, for important research and for outreach and engagement.
    The governor’s top budget priority, one I share, is ensuring salary competitiveness for our hardworking faculty and staff by issuing a 3 percent, merit-based CEC (“change in employee compensation”). It is no secret that salaries at our institution have fallen behind our peer institutions, and turnover among our faculty and staff is a disruptive force. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: You can’t buy loyalty, but you can lose it — even Vandal loyalty. Salary competitiveness helps us recruit and retain the talented people who make our university excellent.
    In our higher education funding model, funding for salaries is split between the state and our institution’s local sources of revenue. So a 3 percent CEC does create a funding obligation on our end — about $1.6 million. Were there an alternative revenue source to meet that funding need, we would be able to hold the line on student tuition and preserve access to a transformative University of Idaho education.
    A number of other requests represent a strong investment in programs that impact our students and our state:
    • Funding for the Student Employee Readiness program (about $520,000) and programs that support the State Board’s “Complete College Idaho” initiative (about $560,000) provide high-impact ways of helping students progress through their educations on-time, gain experiences with research and internships, and navigate career options for after college.

    • Support of UI’s Agricultural Research and Extension Service (ARES) via a requested $1.5 million increase would help ARES continue to take a leading role in the success of Idaho agriculture, the largest sector of Idaho’s economy.

    • Funding for expanded capacity of the WWAMI program (about $670,000) is a step toward addressing a dramatic physician shortage in our state, especially in rural areas, by making sure Idaho residents have access to the top-ranked University of Washington medical school through UI. This funding would add five new seats (for a total of 35) and offer continued support to previously funded seats, helping progress toward the State Board’s goal of 40 seats.

    • We are completing renovations on the Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center, and the governor has recommended $250,000 in what is effectively rent. The former Ada County Courthouse will be the home of our rapidly growing second- and third year law programs in Boise, and a welcome presence for the University of Idaho on the capital mall landscape.

    • Support of the Forest Utilization Research program (about $220,000) is a recognition by the governor of the need to support a critical industry in our state and conduct important research to address challenges posed by wildfire and invasive species.
    These recommendations provide a significant investment in our university’s excellence, and we appreciate the governor’s support of the university’s needs.
    Budget setting is a complex discussion between our institution, the governor, the State Board of Education and the legislature, as we partner together to achieve our shared goals for students and the state. That process will unwind over the next days, weeks and months. I’ll continue to communicate with our partners, and to share with you the news on our priorities and requests as it develops.

    Chuck Staben
  • January 23, 2015

    January 23, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    This weekend in Boise we celebrate a special milestone, the conclusion of the Inspiring Futures: Invest in the University of Idaho campaign. The donations from thousands of supporters — more than 45,000 — have made this campaign the largest fundraising effort in Idaho history. We have made a profound investment in the future — for students, for the discovery of knowledge, for the state of Idaho and for our world.
    We set a goal of $225 million to support four critical areas: student success, faculty excellence, world-class learning environments and innovative programs. The generosity of donors has allowed us to greatly exceed that initial goal, ending the campaign at an amazing total of $261 million.
    The campaign’s success results from the hard work of many committed individuals. Over seven-and-a-half years, dedicated men and women have tried to make a difference for Idaho’s leading national research university. We can be especially grateful for the work of campaign co-chairs Rich and Sharon Allen, and Jeff and Kristine Stoddard. These proud Vandals have offered leadership, perspective and inspiration, as well as financial contributions. In addition, countless Vandal staff members have gone above and beyond to communicate and execute the behind-the-scenes work of the campaign.
    Of course, the lion’s share of the credit goes to the 45,000 individuals and the many corporate and nonprofit partners who seized the opportunity to invest in a better future. One by one, these generous donations have added up to a powerful statement of belief in the excellence of the University of Idaho, and of our role in shaping the future for our world.
    I keep using the word “invest,” and for good reason. We know that education is the key to our future. More than ever, supporting student success, including through scholarship support, means unlocking possibilities for our graduates, the next generation of leaders, doers and dreamers. Over the course of the Inspiring Futures campaign, supporters have created 153 new student scholarship endowments.
    Furthermore, investing in teaching and research is a benefit for students, science and industry. With the help of 20 new faculty endowments, supported by individuals as well as organizations such as the Micron Technology Foundation, we are poised to continue leading in one of our primary missions: the discovery and dissemination of knowledge.
    Investing in our campus’ learning environments will also contribute to an inspired future at the University of Idaho. More than a dozen facilities are being renovated or newly constructed. Those investments complement the support of student experiences and programs that make a difference, from sustainable agriculture and natural resources to education and social sciences.
    This weekend we can look back with pride on these accomplishments, and we extend another warm thank you to the many donors who have made it possible. We can also look to the future, as the return on our shared investment comes back to us multiplied many times. This campaign is a success story whose chapters will be written in the lives of students, in advances in knowledge, and in opportunities and possibilities that benefit us all.

    Chuck Staben
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