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The Friday Letter

April 20, 2012

Dear Friends,

          Land-grant universities established by the Morrill Act 150 years ago, opened college doors to all Americans.

          The University of Idaho is a proud member of the land-grant tradition, which has played a pivotal role in advancing Idaho’s economic and social future for more than 123 years. Here are a few examples.

          This university leads our state in graduation rates – which are comparable with our peer land- grant institutions nationwide. A significant number of our freshman -- 81 percent -- stay for their sophomore year, which means higher graduation rates. We’ve also continued to excel at preparing our students, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. In 2010, 33 percent of the degrees we awarded were in STEM fields, which is the highest in the state and higher than most of our national peers.

          In other ways, we’re very different. We rank third among our peer institutions in enrolling low-income students, and we attract far more first-generation college students -- nearly 33 percent of our undergraduates. This means we must continue to excel at what we do best – providing a student-centered, engaged education that meets the needs of all our students. And although we strive to drive efficiencies in what we do, quality educational experiences require the investment of new resources.

          At the same time, we strive to make our university accessible to all qualified students. Having financial aid available to students is one important factor and our financial aid access program is a prime example of our efforts in this area. We continue to increase our institutionally funded, need-based, access grants. By fall 2013, we’ll provide needy new Idaho students more than $4 million in financial support from university resources. That’s a nearly 48 percent increase – or $2.7 million – more than the previous year. However, it is not just needy students who receive aid. Many of our students secure additional financial support based on merit, grants and loans. We are diligently working to improve productivity and cut operating costs to drive college costs down as low as possible. Which helps to explain why we’re able to offer life-changing educational experiences equal to or greater than our national counterparts and for far less. This year, tuition for full-time, degree-seeking undergraduates was about 75 percent of our peers’ averages.

          While we seek to keep costs as low as possible and counter forces related to inflation and regulation, there is no skirting the fact that the overhead to retain quality people and programs continues to rise. To continue providing the quality transformational education our students deserve and to meet our financial obligations, we asked our Board of Regents on Wednesday for a 6.1 percent increase in student tuition – about $356 per in-state undergraduate. Only three states have lower rates, including Utah and Wyoming.

          I’d like to express my deep thanks to the Board for its confidence in and support of our efforts to meet our obligations. We also appreciate new investments in our university by the state legislature.

          The University of Idaho will carry forward its mission to spark bright tomorrows for our great state. The launch of our capital campaign next week is a prime example of our bold belief that the University of Idaho must lead the way. This effort aims to bring in $225 million in investments sure to dramatically advance our university in ways that government funding cannot.

          I’m proud that we have retooled in ways that best serve our students – they must always take priority.

          Together we’re inspiring futures!

Sincerely,

M. Duane Nellis
President
 

Here's the latest news from the University of Idaho

Engineering Design EXPO Showcases Student Innovation. The University’s Engineering Design EXPO -- the Northwest’s largest and longest-running interdisciplinary initiative showcasing students’ engineering and technological innovations – will be held next week with a new distinction from the National Academy of Engineering. The NAE recently selected the EXPO as one of 29 examples nationally that demonstrates successful and continuing programs that infuse real-world experiences into engineering education. This recognition is additional proof of the distinctiveness and significance of this senior capstone experience and EXPO. Every U-Idaho engineering graduate participates in a senior capstone design course before heading to graduate school or into the workforce. This process challenges Idaho engineering students to tackle real-world issues with the help of industry partners. This year’s EXPO will feature 57 student capstone design projects ranging from customized audio integration while riding a motorcycle to an environmentally friendly bridge and stream design to evaluating water softening technology. Past winners have enjoyed marketplace success. For example, a recent project is saving The Boeing Co. millions of dollars in production costs. Five U-Idaho engineering students created a prototype that accurately sets the zero-point on the head of cutting mills. Boeing engineers refined and installed the device in its facilities worldwide.

Business Plan Team Takes Fifth at Rice University Contest with New Idaho Potato Process. A University of Idaho food scientist’s invention with the potential to create healthier processed potato products helped propel a student business plan team to a fifth-place finish in a field of 1,600 global entries in the Rice University Business Plan Competition. U-Idaho’s team snared $25,000 in prizes. U-Idaho students Gaylene Anderson and Jacob Pierson competed in the contest Rice University bills as the world’s richest. This year’s prizes topped $1.55 million. The U-Idaho team finished among the six finalists from 42 teams invited to Houston for two days of grilling by 250 judges. The proposed business is built on U-Idaho food science professor Kerry Huber’s invention. For lovers of potato snack foods and restructured fries (think Pringles potato crisps), Huber’s patented process offers potato ingredients with high amounts of resistant starch that can help lower a person’s glycemic index response, improve insulin levels, and lower fat and cholesterol levels. For those with Type 2 diabetes or allergies to corn or wheat products, this new potato variety could open the doors to a wider range of food products. FORTUNE magazine covered the competition and will feature the winners, teams and competition in its May 7 issue and on CNNMoney.com.

Opening of New Facility Marks an Extraordinary Time for the College of Engineering. Thanks to the generosity and foresight of College of Engineering donors, the doors to the John C. Wahl (JCW) thinkTANK are now open. This cutting-edge space provides a culturally enriching environment that helps creativity and learning to flourish. The addition of the JCW thinkTANK is one of the most important accomplishments of the college this decade. Ron Olson ’58 not only chairs the $2 million campaign, he and his wife, Barbara, also are supporting the project financially with a $35,000 pledge that will be matched with funds from The Boeing Company. Ron, a retired Boeing executive, has a distinguished history of volunteer leadership with the University of Idaho’s College of Engineering. He was instrumental in making the Engineering Physics Building campaign a success in the 1990s. Also, he has served many years on the College of Engineering Advisory Board and has judged the Annual Engineering Design EXPO. The official ribbon cutting ceremony for the JCW thinkTANK will be April 26 at 3:30 p.m. in the Janssen Engineering Building, in conjunction with this year’s EXPO and the Inspiring Futures: Invest in the University of Idaho campaign kickoff celebration. For more information on giving to the College of Engineering, contact Mary Lee Ryba at (208) 755-4916 or mryba@uidaho.edu or Nat Reynolds at (208) 724-0643 or nat@uidaho.edu.

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