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

    April 17, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    This week the State Board of Education approved a 3.5 percent increase in undergraduate, resident tuition and fees at the University of Idaho. The increase supports the quality of our academic experience. I am also very aware the increase will have an impact on current and prospective students and their families. As our state’s leading national research university, we walk a tightrope between maintaining quality and providing access to an affordable education.

    We clearly needed to invest in employee compensation. Faculty and staff salaries have fallen far behind peer and regional averages. Simply put, we have been losing or failing to attract the talented teachers, researchers and support staff who make UI a premier institution and a great value. This tuition and fees increase — the lowest in 10 years, following the second-lowest last year — will allow us to fully fund the Idaho Legislature’s 3 percent salary increase and invest in our excellence.

    It is always our goal to keep our university affordable. A college education is a transformative experience, and our foremost priority is to make that experience possible. College-educated professionals are also the key to the future of Idaho, shaping our economic development and contributing to industries and organizations that make our state great. The State Board of Education’s 60 percent post-secondary attainment by 2020 goal recognizes the power of a college degree, and we are committed to doing our part.

    Our university works hard to maintain access to a world-class education. New initiatives include changes in our Go Idaho! scholarships for Idaho residents and our Discover Idaho scholarships for out-of-state students. High school students with a 3.0 GPA now qualify for merit-based support, in addition to other scholarships for which they might qualify. We know those students can succeed at our university. Aid opportunities like that are part of the more than $20 million in support that the University of Idaho makes available to students every year, often with the help of generous donors.

    I know that for many students and families, paying for college can seem daunting, with yearly costs, the prospect of debt and a return on investment that may appear far in the future. Many of our undergraduates, 36 percent, are among the first generation in their family to attend college. But higher education is absolutely the right decision, and UI offers unmatched value. A new financial literacy program (“Better Education about Money for Students,” or “BEAMS”) we’re putting together this fall will offer financial literacy counseling, including information about how debt figures into long-term financial plans. (The average student debt of $26,700 at UI, by the way, falls below the national average.) We are ready and willing to try ideas that make a difference for our students.

    Students graduate from the University of Idaho prepared to meet financial challenges — the average starting and mid-career earnings of a Vandal grad are well above those from other Idaho institutions. College graduates not only earn an average of $830,000 more than those without a degree, Gallup polling shows that they also enjoy improved individual well-being and many positive social outcomes. Just as they have for more than 125 years, students can come to the University of Idaho confident that they are making a long-term investment in their future, and certain that we are assisting them by keeping college affordable and manageable.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • April 10, 2015

    April 10, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    You’ll often hear me refer to the University of Idaho as our state’s “leading national research university.” It’s a way of describing our university as defined, at least in part, by the scale and influence of our research, scholarly activity and creative work. Across the state of Idaho and beyond, UI research delivers a transformative impact, addressing critical problems and discovering new knowledge.

    “Inspired Discoveries,” our newest annual research report hot off the press, showcases some of the groundbreaking research at UI. You’ll read about important projects at the Aquaculture Research Institute in Moscow and Hagerman, where scientists are developing trout that thrive on plant-based diets and developing vaccines to ward against bacterial infections — major advancements for a crucial industry. In southeastern Idaho, the Idaho National Laboratory and UI psychology students at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies are using an immersive simulator to study efficiency, safety and communications on heavy-vehicle systems. Another exciting project looks at ways to design prostheses that work with the body’s neuromuscular system to minimize pain and enhance movement, a potential leap forward for millions in such need.

    Research at UI supports — and is supported by — industry partners. Those relationships help foster economic development and opportunity. In order to facilitate better access to research, we’ve revamped our intellectual property policies. You’ll read about the immediate effects of those changes, including a new project with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories that will help utility companies plan for and respond to disturbances on the power grid.

    Other much-needed and appreciated industry connections include relationships with Potlatch Corporation to study modern forest practices, with J.R. Simplot Co. at the Parma Research and Extension Center, and with Micron at the UI Business Process Center, where student teams partner with companies to solve real-world problems. In addition, our emerging dairy initiative, the Western Initiative on the Dairy Environment (WIDE), will help dairies adapt and grow in a complex environment for producers and processers.

    There are many other great projects, partnerships and developments highlighted in the report. I hope you’ll look through it and spread the word about stories that catch your interest. I also hope you’ll tune in next week when we’ll share with the world an exciting new research grant that will position us as leaders in complex system modeling.

    The nearly $100 million in annual research expenditures demonstrates the powerful breadth and depth of UI research. But research funding only tells part of the story — the scholarship and creative excellence found across colleges and programs is outstanding. I am proud of the hard work and passion of all our talented researchers, our motivated students and our invaluable staff members who are helping UI continue to grow as our state’s research leader.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • April 3, 2015

    April 3, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    Our university is a leader in many areas: teaching and learning, research, and community outreach. In addition, we play another important role, as a facilitator for dialogue about important issues facing our world. Several upcoming forums serve as great examples of our commitment to serving and strengthening the public discourse.

    I’d like to invite you to join the conversation at the upcoming Borah Symposium, held in Moscow April 6-8. The Borah Foundation, supported by the Martin Institute, has put together a stimulating program on “Troubled Borders: Sovereignty, War, Disease and Refugees.” Many highly regarded experts on public policy in these areas will present a range of ideas over the three days.

    I’m looking forward to engaging presentations on healthcare and refugees in Idaho, climate change issues, global medical emergencies, and more. And I’m happy to welcome to campus the many participants from far and wide, including James Hill, the consul general of Canada in Seattle, and Guillermo Ordorica, the consul of Mexico in Boise, who will serve as panelists. The Borah Symposium concludes with a keynote address by scholar and author Dr. Thomas Barnett. I suspect that Senator William Borah, the “Lion of Idaho,” would be impressed with the breadth and depth of this year’s symposium.

    We had also been anticipating the annual Sherman J. Bellwood Lecture, a signature event in the College of Law that provides opportunities for students and the community to engage with leading minds in the justice system. Originally slated for next week, we unfortunately have had to postpone the event until a later date due to a health-related conflict. I wish Juan Guzmán — the much-admired, Chilean former justice who had planned to present at the lecture — all the best for a speedy recovery.

    A wide array of other public events take place throughout the year at UI, including the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, the annual Hemingway Festival, the McClure Center lectures and many more. And just as you don’t need to be a jazz musician to appreciate the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, you don’t need to be a lawyer to enjoy the Bellwood lectures, or be an international relations expert to gain insight and perspective from the Borah Symposium. These events are about people coming together, bringing their own interests and experiences, to learn about topics that affect us all. They are about an engaged and informed citizenry exercising fundamental virtues — learning, discussing and applying new ideas and information.

    We are Idaho’s leading national research university, and the hard work of many faculty, staff, students and volunteers means that we are also a leader in shaping the discourse in our state. These are much-needed discussions about our shared history, contemporary concerns and future vision. I hope you’ll join us at these upcoming events, and participate in the conversation that makes us, for all our differences, a more united and a more educated citizenry.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • March 27, 2015

    March 27, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    Starting at our main campus on the Palouse, in Nez Perce ancestral lands, the University of Idaho has always been a place where cultures converge, and where we grow stronger by learning from each other and sharing perspectives and traditions. The annual Tutxinmepu Powwow, occurring next weekend, April 4-5 in Moscow, is a great example of the thriving cultural traditions embraced at UI. Powwows are occasions to gather and pass on traditions and teachings — similar, in a very broad sense, to a university mission. We now have an opportunity to enhance that mission.

    The Native American Student Center and the Native American Student Association put together the two-day powwow. I was able to attend last year, and this year I’ll have the honor of participating in the grand entry and other events. The public is welcome, and whether attendees volunteer or just take in the fun, it’s a showcase for the vibrant Native cultures in our region. Prospective students participating in the powwow also have the chance to experience our campus and Moscow, seeing what a great atmosphere our university community has to offer.

    The Native American Student Center is at the heart of student life for many Native students. I’m proud of the role that the center plays in their UI experience. It’s a place to find academic, cultural and social support — to study and grow as students, to share interests and activities, and to hang out with friends and classmates. I know many talented leaders and future professionals are emerging out of the center and the Native American Student Association.

    At an organizational level, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) strengthens UI’s relationship with nearby tribes. The tribes who have come together in this agreement participate in the President’s Native American Advisory Council, which seeks unity and cooperation among Native American students, signatory tribes and UI. A complementary Advisory Board meets twice a year and provides feedback on the development of curriculum, the recruitment and retention of Native American students, and the provision of support services and educational programs. We recently welcomed the Yakama Nation as the 10th signatory to this memorandum of understanding, and I’m very glad we can partner with them on higher education issues and work together to support student success.

    I know that right away we can do more for more students. So after extensive deliberation with UI’s Office of Tribal Relations, tribal leaders and others, I have decided that enrolled members of MOU tribes and transfer students from tribal colleges will be eligible for in-state, undergraduate tuition rates at the University of Idaho. Some aboriginal elders and indigenous scholars have described post-secondary education as the “new buffalo,” a sustaining resource for individual and community-wide empowerment. We embrace facilitating that goal for students. In neighboring states, institutions in tribes’ traditional and customary ranges similarly partner with tribes to support access to post-secondary education.

    It is my hope that access to one of the best values in higher education will make UI the college of choice for more tribal members. It is my firm belief that we will be taking important steps in building a more diverse, culturally responsive and outstanding University of Idaho for all people.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • March 20, 2015

    March 20, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    For many students, Spring Break is a time for rest and relaxation. But nearly 100 Vandal students have been taking a different kind of break from their studies this week. Fanned out in communities across Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Montana and Oregon, they’ve been volunteering through the university’s Alternative Service Break (ASB) program.

    Alternative Service Breaks are opportunities for students — from freshman to graduate level — to get involved in positive, collaboration-centered extracurricular activities. Students broaden their social groups and engage with people they might not otherwise have met. A student from rural Idaho might work together on a project with a student from the East Coast, or from South America, or from Africa.

    While working with fellow students, ASB participants gain insight about communities from outside their world experience. Each ASB group partners with a local organization with a proven track record of sustainable impact: a rescue mission in Boise, conservation-focused groups in the Pacific Northwest, an organization that provides no-cost repairs for seniors in need in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example. This mission of partnership ensures that change is meaningful and long-lasting; it also lets students get to know and learn from community members, whom they work alongside.

    Alternative Service Break students are also developing leadership skills. Student coordinators take on the lion’s share of trip planning, and student leaders of each of the nine separate ASB groups this spring have worked with partner organizations in communities, planned trip details and communicated with their groups. In a program by students, for students and led by students, ASB participants gain practical skills with real-world applications.

    These are experiences that our Vandal students seek out on their own. The program strives to make the trips affordable, including through a pool of need-based support, as the two-week national and international trips in ASB’s winter program, for instance, cannot help but be a financial stretch for many students.

    I’m very proud of our ASB students. They represent our university with pride, and with the passion for service that all Vandals aspire to. They are the leaders, not just of tomorrow, but of today.

    So if you see some tanned, enthusiastic students next week, remember, they may not have come straight from the beach. They may have been building a house out in the sun, or clearing a trail or helping a senior in need. And they are heading right back to their schoolwork, their student organizations and their many other commitments. They’ll have earned a little rest — not that they’ll take it.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
  • Archived Issues