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 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
  • 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
  • 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

  • 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

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