Four years ago, Ruthie and I joined Idaho’s flagship land-grant university. Since then, our institution has faced numerous and in some cases unexpected challenges, as well as opportunities for success that have positioned the university for an exciting future, despite some vocal detractors. We are pleased that we leave the university well positioned for a bright and prosperous future.
With the Regents of Texas Tech University voting later today to hire me as the new president there, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on what all of us have accomplished since I came to the home of the Vandals.
I arrived in 2009, in the wake of our national economic collapse. But over the next three years our university community worked together, wisely paring nearly $30 million, or 25 percent, from the entire university budget.
I’m proud that despite these cuts, we were able to stop the shutdown of vital agricultural research centers, like Parma and Tetonia, by being more entrepreneurial and partnering with industry. Today, we count more than 200 business partnerships.
We also changed the way the university budgets and plans for the future. This new entrepreneurial mindset will help us keep costs down, while placing the university on a more stable footing through good stewardship and growth in research grants, knowledge transfer and enrollment. Further, the Governor and legislature have recognized our efforts through new investments over the last two years.
We successfully led an effort to change the state constitutio
n, allowing tuition to be used for instructional purposes. Prior to this time, we were prohibited from using our ‘fees’ in this way. But these successes are only part of the story.
In addition to strengthening our research, two years ago I led our effort to create our Laboratory for Applied Sciences Research
. A non-profit corporation, LASR provides opportunities for collaboration between industry and the university. It serves as a model for part of the statewide IGEM effort.
A more diverse student body now enriches our campus community. The President’s Diversity Council that I created has scored multiple successes throughout our campus by creating a more inclusive environment for our university community. This includes a student body of which nearly 30 percent are the first in their families to attend college.
At the same time, outstanding students are choosing the University of Idaho. During my tenure, the university ranks second in the region for total National Merit Scholars
, who were in the top one percent of high school graduates—we now have 57.
We’ve extended our outreach and engagement to the state by creating the Office of Community Partnerships
, which helps coordinate university talent and resources to benefit Idaho. Our university outreach is nationally recognized. We’ve received the McGrath Award for our work with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and White House Honor Roll recognition as a ‘university of distinction’ for our outstanding student volunteerism two years in a row.
We’ve also been recognized as one of the most veteran-friendly U.S. campuses, thanks in part to Ruthie and Bonnie Amos -- wife of UI alum Gen. James Amos -- who co-chair Operation Education
, our program that benefits disabled veterans.
In addition, we’ve expanded our research and teaching mission through our participation in WWAMI medical education,
the creation of a third- year law program in Boise, and initial funding for a UI Rangeland Center
. Hard work also secured over $80 million in public and private funds for facilities improvements across the university, including purchase of the McCall Outdoor Science School, and we’re nearing completion of the largest capital campaign in Idaho history.
We’re nearly $182 million towards our $225 million goal for the Inspiring Futures campaign
thanks to the generous support from our alumni, friends, and business partners. These gifts are making a tremendous difference in creating new scholarships, endowing professorships, establishing a distinguished university and mid-career professorship program, and improving facilities to ensure long-term success. And our outstanding faculty continues to elevate the university to new levels of international recognition that includes securing the largest interdisciplinary grant in university history.
Student safety also remains priority, and we have been recognized as one of the safest campuses nationwide. At the same time, we have found the need to implement initiatives to further enhance student safety. New efforts include a freshman ‘live-on’ policy, the Katy Benoit Safety Forum and enhanced student counseling and alert systems. We should also have recommendations before I leave from the pair of new task forces I formed to make further progress as we address challenges related to alcohol and substance abuse and our relationship with fraternities and sororities.
Ruthie and I will truly miss the University of Idaho and its wonderful students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. This university continues to contribute every day to Idaho’s economic and social well-being. For more than 120 years, the university has been a bright jewel in the Gem State, and it shines brighter every day.
Thank you for all your support.
Sincerely, M. Duane Nellis
P.S. Congratulations to our Vandal Women’s basketball team, which captured the Western Athletic Conference championship last week to score a place with the 64 teams competing in the first round of the Division 1 NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament. They’ll play first seeded University of Connecticut tomorrow morning. ESPN-2 is slated to air the game.
Librarian Receives Prestigious “Mover & Shaker” Award. U-Idaho librarian Ben Hunter has been named a “Mover & Shaker” in the library industry by the national publication, “Library Journal.” The journal identified 50 outstanding professionals committed to providing excellent service to meet the needs of the people they serve. Hunter, who leads the University of Idaho Library’s Cataloging and Collections department, was selected for his commitment to librarianship and success transforming the library’s technical services department. Read more.
Professor Authors Roadmap For Haiti’s Future. Guy Knudsen, U-Idaho professor of microbial ecology and plant pathology, authored “Stopping cholera in Haiti: Necessary steps” that is featured on Haiti Rewired, an online resource for technology, infrastructure and the future of Haiti used by Haitians, the Haitian diaspora, and the international civil society community. Read more.
Coeur d’Alene Tribe Supports College Of Law’s Native Law Program, Students. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has donated $10,000 in support of the Native Law Program and the Native American Law Student Association in the College of Law. “We are so honored to have the Coeur d’Alene Tribe supporting the Native Law Program for the second year in a row and with such a large donation,” said Angelique EagleWoman, faculty adviser to the University’s NALSA chapter and an associate professor who teaches Native Law courses. This gift has helped three student teams compete in the National NALSA Moot Court competition last month in Portland, Ore. Funds from this donation will also be used to underwrite the Navajo Nation’s Supreme Court visit to the Moscow campus on March 21. It will also support student travel to New Mexico for the Federal Bar Association’s 38th Annual Indian Law Conference and the annual meeting and job fair for the National NALSA. The Tribe has dedicated 5 percent of their gaming earnings to fund educational programs, including this one, around the region. For more information on the Native Law Program at the College of Law, contact Angelique EagleWoman at (208) 885-7634 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on giving to the College of Law, contact Terri Muse, director of development, at (208) 364-4044 or email@example.com.