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President's Office

Administration Building
Room 105
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3151
Moscow, ID 83844-3151
Phone: (208) 885-6365
president@uidaho.edu

Friday Letter Office of the President

June 7

Dear Friends of the University of Idaho,

In case we haven’t met, please let me introduce myself: I’m Don Burnett. I began serving as our university’s interim president this week and will continue to do so while we look for a permanent successor to Duane Nellis, who has departed to become the president of Texas Tech University.

I’m an Idaho native, born to parents who grew up in Wallace, Idaho, and who attended the University of Idaho during the Great Depression. I’m told that they rocked me to sleep with the lullaby of “Go Vandals Go.” As biologists would say, I was “imprinted” as a Vandal. 

Depression-era students at the University had little money (my mother gladly started work in the library at 35 cents an hour), but they did not feel poor because they were “all in it together.”  For them, the University of Idaho was the gateway to the world. And so it should be for our students today. I’m committed to the life-changing opportunities that come through our commitment to education.

I’m also committed to proclaiming the legacy of our university as one of the nation’s great public institutions of higher education.  You know, of course, that we are Idaho’s only national land-grant institution. You may not know that we are also part of the distinctive “first family” of American land-grant institutions that were established as the founding comprehensive universities of their respective states, and that our university is enshrined in the state constitution.

This unique heritage as both a land-grant institution and a comprehensive founding university places us in the company of great public institutions like the University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota. These universities are powerhouses that have boosted the economies and bettered the lives of people in their respective states. They (and we) are the highest expression of one of America’s most transformative ideas: the land-grant university system.

I am humbled by the call to leave the deanship of our College of Law and to serve the entire university as interim president.  (By the way, there is a “precedent” for this:  The University of Idaho’s first president, James A. Forney, was also a lawyer and a judge, who agreed to serve on an interim appointment!)  Today, some twelve decades later, I will endeavor as a servant of the entire University to work with all members of the academic community, and with all friends and stakeholders of the University, to fulfill our distinctive mission and destiny.

I’m also glad to be serving with my wife Karen, who is a very talented graduate of the University of Idaho’s Master of Fine Arts (Creative Writing) program and an active participant in our community.  She’s an author and photographer who has also committed herself to a leadership role in Operation Education – our acclaimed scholarship program for veterans. 

Historians have exalted the University of Idaho as a “beacon for mountain and plain,” emanating from a “crested hill.”  Next year, when we celebrate the 125th birthday of our university -- Idaho’s founding university – and, as we anticipate the successful culmination of our “Inspiring Futures” Capital Campaign, let it be proclaimed that from this crested hill the beacon for mountain and plain has never shown more brightly.

I’m honored to serve with you in this great endeavor.  We are all truly “in it together.”

Go Vandals … go mighty Vandals!

Don Burnett
Interim President

[NOTE: The Friday Letter is going to a summer schedule.  The next edition will come out July 12. Weekly Friday Letters will return mid-August.]

Three Communities Benefit From UI, Micron New STEM Education Programs. U-Idaho’s science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – Education Research Initiative is launching innovative programs in three Idaho communities to support student academic success and increase interest in STEM education. The programs, which begin this month, are part of a five-year project funded by a $1.2 million Micron Foundation gift. In Jerome, a three-day summer camp for preschool Head Start students will focus on science. In Post Falls, online resources will assist parents in navigating techniques used in the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. In Lewiston, students will compete for prizes for the best student-produced informative YouTube videos featuring community members who have STEM-related jobs. Read more.

Idaho Universities Awarded $20M Grant To Study Interaction Of Landscapes, Cities. Researchers from the University of Idaho and partner institutions across the state will study the ways society and landscapes are interconnected thanks to a new $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Over the course of five years, the grant will fund a project that aims to help Idahoans make science-based decisions about natural resources and provide them with a better understanding of the complex relationship between people and the environment. The researchers will investigate the patterns and effects of growth in three of Idaho’s mid-sized urban areas near sagebrush, forest and agricultural landscapes – Boise/Treasure Valley, Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls and Pocatello/Idaho Falls. The researchers also will study how society perceives the benefits of cities and landscapes. Stakeholders across the state will be involved throughout the project, which has great potential to help communities improve quality of life, sustain the environment and grow the economy.  More information about Idaho NSF EPSCoR can be found at www.idahoepscor.orgRead more.

Three Communities Benefit From UI, Micron New STEM Education Programs. U-Idaho’s science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – Education Research Initiative is launching innovative programs in three Idaho communities to support student academic success and increase interest in STEM education. The programs, which begin this month, are part of a five-year project funded by a $1.2 million Micron Foundation gift. In Jerome, a three-day summer camp for preschool Head Start students will focus on science. In Post Falls, online resources will assist parents in navigating techniques used in the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. In Lewiston, students will compete for prizes for the best student-produced informative YouTube videos featuring community members who have STEM-related jobs. Read more.

Idaho Universities Awarded $20M Grant To Study Interaction Of Landscapes, Cities. Researchers from the University of Idaho and partner institutions across the state will study the ways society and landscapes are interconnected thanks to a new $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Over the course of five years, the grant will fund a project that aims to help Idahoans make science-based decisions about natural resources and provide them with a better understanding of the complex relationship between people and the environment. The researchers will investigate the patterns and effects of growth in three of Idaho’s mid-sized urban areas near sagebrush, forest and agricultural landscapes – Boise/Treasure Valley, Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls and Pocatello/Idaho Falls. The researchers also will study how society perceives the benefits of cities and landscapes. Stakeholders across the state will be involved throughout the project, which has great potential to help communities improve quality of life, sustain the environment and grow the economy.  More information about Idaho NSF EPSCoR can be found at www.idahoepscor.org. Read more.

Idaho Barley Commission Joins With CALS To Create Endowed Professorship. After a nine-month feasibility assessment and a unanimous vote of support, the Idaho Barley Commission recently entered into a joint venture with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to create the “Idaho Barley Agronomy Professorship Endowment." This $1 million endowment creates a position at the University’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center dedicated to barley agronomy. Endowed professorships like this exist in perpetuity, guaranteeing that this research position will forever benefit barley research in Idaho. Pat Purdy, IBC vice chairman and barley grower from Picabo, is a strong supporter of strengthening barley research within the University of Idaho and the Agricultural Research Service. “As Idaho barley growers, we are constantly faced with new challenges that are putting pressure on our bottom line profit,” said Purdy. “To help growers face these challenges, we need the research efforts and field work that only a dedicated barley scientist with the University of Idaho can provide, and this endowment will guarantee that such a position is permanently in place. “The IBC is a self-governing agency that serves to enhance the profitability of the Idaho barley growers through research, market development, promotion, information and education. For more information on giving to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, contact Kim O’Neill at (425) 359-2411 or kimoneill@uidaho.edu or Jen Root at (208) 885-4087 or jroot@uidaho.edu.