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

    January 23, 2015

    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
  • January 9, 2015

    January 9, 2015

    Dear Friends,
    I hope the New Year finds you well, having spent well-earned time with friends and loved ones. Mary Beth and I had a wonderful holiday in Idaho with our family, too. Having our children home reminded me of when they were young and we read books with them; maybe this experience and the author I’m about to quote resonates with you as well.
    Our university has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, yet we are only getting started. As Dr. Seuss wisely said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
    With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the directions Vandals have chosen to take recently. A new working group of biology and statistics researchers called the Collaboratorium for Modeling Complex Problems, together with Associate Professor Marty Ytreberg of physics, has received a National Science Foundation grant. The grant enables this group to build models that study the evolutionary possibilities of the Ebola virus — timely research in the wake of the devastating epidemic in West Africa.
    Research also has practical impacts closer to home, exemplified by the role of the Aquaculture Research Institute in the development of the Kootenai Tribe’s new burbot fishery, an exciting development for fisheries science, conservation and culture.
    Our graduates have even had out of-this-world experiences. December 2014 graduate John Herrington had already been the first Native American in space, but back on Earth he charted a new course as the recipient of a doctoral degree in education. Mechanical engineering master’s graduate Sophie Milam traveled to Hawaii on a NASA mission to spend eight months in a dome that simulates conditions on Mars. Sophie was just named to Forbes magazine’s prestigious “30 Under 30 2015 in Science” list.
    Even though every student can choose a direction, often students can find their footing with the mentorship of committed teachers at the University of Idaho. Professor Karen Launchbaugh, in the College of Natural Resources, was named the 2014 U.S. Professor of the Year for the state of Idaho in November. She was honored for making extra effort to get her students hands-on learning experiences.
    Our School of Food Science Professor Greg Möller, recipient of the National USDA Excellence in Teaching Award given by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, was honored for his commitment to reaching students through digital education, a boon for students who aren’t always even in the same time zone.
    I could go on and on, describing the excellence at Idaho’s leading national research university. And that’s just the point: We Vandals will go on for the next 125 years of excellence in classrooms and lecture halls, in laboratories and in fieldwork, in our athletic endeavors and in our communities. Some of that work will receive awards, but much of it will go quietly appreciated by students, lauded by colleagues in research, and applied to great effect in our communities and economy.
    I am looking forward to the places we will go! 

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben

  • January 16, 2015

    January 16, 2015

    Dear Friends,
    This has been a difficult week in Moscow. We mourn the tragic loss of members of our community and our Vandal family. I know the thoughts of Vandals everywhere — in Moscow and beyond — have been with the families and friends of those we’ve lost.
    The victims of last weekend’s tragedy were deeply involved members of the Moscow community, and our town and our institution will surely suffer for their absence. The many expressions of sympathy this week attest to their characters — their passion, their service to others, their long roots in this shared home of ours.
    The outpouring of care and concern testifies to what unites us as people, as Vandals. These wounds will never fully heal, but we take on the challenge together, as always.  Moscow is a special community, and it is a safe community. In time, I know that we will emerge stronger and more resilient.
    This weekend we join with others across Idaho and the nation to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader helped build a more just society, and his message of peace is a lasting legacy for all times. I find this quote powerful: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let’s rely on each other, and offer love and support for one another in this trying time.

    At the University of Idaho, the ASUI Center for Volunteerism and Social Action organizes the participation of students, faculty and staff around the holiday we know in Idaho as Martin Luther King Jr. — Idaho Human Rights Day. The National Day of Service seeks to answer the call brought forth by Reverend King, who said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”
    Each year, Vandals answer that question with projects that make a difference for those in need in communities across Moscow and all of Idaho. As part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, the Volunteer Center will coordinate the efforts of nearly 100 student volunteers — many just back from participating in Alternative Service Breaks — to pitch in at nonprofits across the community. In addition, the Office of Multicultural Affairs is leading a food drive for the Vandal Food Pantry to help families in need.
    That service is an example of the difference we can make for others — really, for each other. Serving others is not always the easy thing. But it is the right thing, and it leads to lasting effects. I am proud of the work that the university community does for others around this special weekend.
    And I am so proud of how we have come together this week to support those who are hurting. Let us continue to take care of each other, taking heart and comfort through the strength and service of our Vandal and Moscow family.

    Chuck Staben
  • December 19, 2014

    December 19, 2014

    Dear Friends,
    As we approach the New Year, our university’s 125th anniversary draws to a close. The anniversary proved a fortuitous time to join the Vandal family — the pride in our institution’s achievements and the optimism about our future are all the welcome a new president could ever ask for.
    Now a leading national research university, Idaho’s land-grant school emerged from humble, often muddy beginnings on the hills outside Moscow. President James A. MacLean, the third president of the University of Idaho, guided construction of new facilities, including the school’s first gymnasium; raised admission standards and helped shape the modern academic experience; and warded off efforts to relocate key university programs, such as the School of Mines and the College of Agriculture.
    When a fire gutted the Administration Building, MacLean found a way to rebuild it, and the iconic building stands tall more than 100 years later. MacLean’s nearly 13-year tenure is an example to all Vandals — and Vandal presidents — of what can be accomplished with vision, hard work and dedication.
    Not all success stories are as well-known. At a recent event, our provost and historian Katherine Aiken told the story of Alfred Carlton Gilbert, a young Oregonian who was inspired while watching University of Idaho pole vaulters at the turn of the 20th century.
    “I thought it was wonderful, soaring so high in the air just by using a pole,” Gilbert said. He decided to give it a try himself, and, favoring a bamboo pole, revolutionized the sport and won Olympic gold in 1908.
    If you grew up with an Erector set, you also have A.C. Gilbert to thank — he invented them in 1913, and in 1918 successfully argued against a wartime proposal to ban toy production. That effort earned Gilbert the nickname “The Man Who Saved Christmas.” Sometimes Vandal spirit is contagious, it seems.
    That spirit of innovation — sometimes from unexpected people and places — is a Vandal tradition that we’ve celebrated all year. I was able to attend the Jan. 30“birthday party” in Moscow, one of several statewide celebrations throughout the year. The Vandal family embraced our anniversary year, attending events, participating on social media and generously displaying Vandal pride all year.
    We can build off that positive energy. We will grow our university’s impact: Our students will go on to become leaders, our research will continue to change our world, and our outreach will help our state’s communities improve. We will build on our proven success. Like those who have come before us, we will find a way.
    Lastly, a word of thanks for the many who contributed to make this a special year. My predecessor Don Burnett kept the anniversary on the right track. Volunteers on several committees and countless other students, faculty and staff members worked hard to pull together the many pieces of this year-long celebration. This labor of love paid off for all of us, a fitting showcase for Vandal excellence in the past, present and future.
    Who knows what Vandals and those they inspire will accomplish in the next 125 years?

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben

  • December 12, 2014

    December 12, 2014

    Dear Friends,
    Tonight Mary Beth and I attend a special event on the Palouse, the Jazz Choirs Holiday Concert in Moscow. With the participation of more than 700 local and regional elementary, junior high school, and high school choir members, as well as the performance groups at the University of Idaho under the direction of award-winning professor Dan Bukvich, the occasion highlights the power of the arts to bring our community together.
    We get many chances to see the power of the arts at the University of Idaho. The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, a must-attend event every February, provides thrilling entertainment for our community and a dynamic learning opportunity for thousands of K-12 and many UI students. The Jazz Fest earned UI the distinction of being the only public university to receive the National Medal of the Arts — the nation’s top arts honor.
    Our university’s embrace of the arts is year-round. Just last week, the Idaho Repertory Theater and University of Idaho Theatre Arts opened “A Christmas Carol” at the Hartung Theatre — a cast and crew of more than 50 people put together this show. The Prichard Gallery in downtown Moscow features work from students and faculty, as well as artists from all over the country. And programs such as the Hemingway Festival, a unique literary event with readings, presentations and visiting authors, bring scholars and citizens together.
    Vandal artistic endeavor also attracts state and national notice. Kim Barnes, professor of creative writing in our English department, was recently honored with the Governor’s Award for the Arts for her contributions to literature. You may have seen Prichard Art Gallery Director Roger Rowley’s artwork featured on “CBS Sunday Morning” in November. The list could go on and on, filled with brilliantly creative people, programs and places.
    I couldn’t imagine life without the enriching experience of art. As a scientist, I often take a highly rational approach to engaging the world. The arts have helped me to understand that there are also interpretive and emotional approaches to seeing the world.
    Unfortunately, the liberal arts have been attacked by public figures and media reports, claiming that careers outside STEM disciplines don’t benefit students financially. Data from New York Federal Reserve economists say otherwise; the return on investment for students in those degree paths is 12 percent yearly — only one important measure of success.
    Tonight we’ll be enjoying the musicianship and celebrating the holiday season. Interim Provost Katherine Aiken and I actually have our own small parts to play in tonight’s concert, and I admit to being a bit nervous, as musical performance is well outside my comfort zone. Please listen closely to the real artists, our faculty and students, as you enjoy the drum group’s performance tonight. And, enjoy the power of the arts to enrich our lives. 

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben

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