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

May 3, 2013

Dear Friends,

Graduating from college makes a difference that should not be dismissed.

This fact has been on my mind all week as I joined in commencement ceremonies and met many of our successful alumni in Boise and Idaho Falls.

Consider the benefit of a college degree. On average, every year of higher education completed correlates to a 10 to 20 percent jump in annual wages. Put another way, the Idaho Department of Labor says that an Idahoan with only a high school diploma will earn about half of what a student with a bachelor’s degree will.

Further, high school graduates are five times more likely to be out of work than college graduates – even in times when business is growing. According to a recent Georgetown University study, two out of three jobs in Idaho will require college degrees for the foreseeable future.

Of course, there’s the challenge of making it to college. Fewer than 70 percent of students nationwide who enter elementary school will graduate from high school. That affects up to 4.3 million young people each year.

What’s more, fewer than half of entering freshmen nationwide will graduate from college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Notably more than 600,000 gain an associate’s degree and more than 1 million earn undergraduate degrees within six years of starting. Only a fraction of these will go on to earn advanced degrees.

Sadly, even fewer of Idaho’s youngsters per capita will successfully complete post-secondary degrees.

In Idaho, the high school graduation rate is one of the highest in the nation. However the rate at which those students enter college consistently ranks alongside states in the bottom five.

This is where our nearly 125-year history of education at the University of Idaho meshes with the aims of the Idaho State Board of Education, the Albertson Foundation, and others seeking to help more young Idahoans.

I’m proud to report that 80 percent of those who enroll at our university are retained here. That’s excellent!  Of those, nearly 60 percent graduate. This meets or exceeds many institutions in the Northwest, but we seek to do better.

Nearly a third of our students are the first in their families to go to college. Other under-served groups have also grown. Attendance by Hispanic students has grown 65 percent in five years and the number of military veterans has nearly doubled.

We’ve been nationally ranked as one of the most affordable, quality options for students to change their lot in life. We’ve worked hard to restructure our financial aid program to keep it that way.

We at the University of Idaho are providing the means for better lives and better futures.


M. Duane Nellis

Boise Spring Commencement Includes 135 Degrees For Treasure, Magic Valley Students. Graduating students are eligible to receive a combined 135 degrees this spring at the University of Idaho Boise campus. Candidates at our  Boise center applied for 13 baccalaureate degrees, 26 law degrees, 19 doctoral degrees and 77 specialist and master’s degrees. Some students will have earned multiple degrees. In Twin Falls, where the university offers classes at the College of Southern Idaho campus, candidates have applied for 10 baccalaureate degrees, eight specialist and master's degrees. Read more.

Idaho Falls Spring Commencement Includes 73 Degrees. Graduating students are eligible to receive a combined 73 degrees this spring at the University of Idaho's Idaho Falls campus. The candidates applied for 21 baccalaureate degrees, nine doctoral degrees and 43 specialist and master’s degrees. Some students will have earned multiple degrees. Read more.

Annual Engineering Design EXPO Announces Winners. The Student Union Building was home to robots, snowmobiles, submarines and other student-built engineering projects April 26 for the 20th annual Engineering Design EXPO. Teams of senior engineering students presented their hands-on projects to the university community and the public. The EXPO is the culmination of the College of Engineering’s senior design capstone program, ranked among the best in the nation and requires students to tackle every aspect of a design or research project. Industry and government sponsors support most projects. Read more.

Annual Innovation Showcase Announces Award Winners. University of Idaho students and student teams demonstrated their exceptional skill in a wide range of disciplines at the annual Innovation Showcase on April 23. Twelve of the 84 participants received awards.

First-place winners included Rhianna Hohbein, senior, ecology and conservation biology, for her work evaluating the effects on the short-tailed fruit bat of habitat loss and fragmentation in Costa Rica; Eric Demattos and Jeff Hutchison, both art majors, for their image-transfer system that allows for the layering of computer-printed material and traditional oil painting; Jennifer Anand Sundararajan, physics, for his research on using nanomaterials to improve nuclear power performance and safety; Vanessa Martinez, education, for her research on the relationships among acculturation, psychological measures and health-risk factors in college-age Mexican-American women; and Duy Nguyen, junior in biology, for his work on the “Regeneration of Axons and Up Regulation of Phosphorylated c-Jun in DSCAM Mutant Mouse Retina.” Read more.

New Public Policy Scholarships Honors Dedicated Public Servant And True Vandal. Frank Cushing ’74 spent more than three decades making a difference through public service. His began his career as a legislative assistant to the now late Sen. James McClure in Washington, D.C. From there, he continued in many public and private positions until 2012 when he lost his hard-fought battle with cancer. Frank always attributed much of his success to his Vandal experience. An active alumnus, he participated on the James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research Advisory Board and the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Advisory Board. To honor his dedication and service to the nation, state and university, Amy Hammer, his wife, established the Frank Martin Cushing Public Policy Scholarship that will be awarded annually to a student with an interest in public administration, public policy, politics or related fields.

Her employer – ExxonMobil Corp. – made a powerful statement by matching her contribution three to one, even though she had already retired. When asked why it was important for her to set up this endowment, Amy said, “Public service was Frank's life. I think he would be very proud of a legacy that helps another common sense Westerner get involved in the process of making government work, whether in D.C., in the states or on a local level." Through inspired giving, Frank Cushing’s legacy lives on.

For more information on giving to the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, call (208) 885-6426 or email