From the President - Spring 2015
The University of Idaho, our state’s leading national research university, has always embraced a broad mission. We generate and disseminate knowledge on a large scale, and partner with communities across the state through outreach and Extension. While those are critical roles, we can agree that there is no function more important than educating students and preparing them for a career and life as an educated citizen.
All too often, colleges seek to mold students to the institution’s practices, only secondarily regarding student needs and challenges. Higher education institutions assume students can intuit how to succeed in a setting where policies, procedures and expectations are often entirely new. A better approach, one we try to embody at UI, is to understand what’s needed for student success — motivational, academic, social, financial or procedural factors — and deliver on those needs as a partner. Without lessening standards, we facilitate greatly enhanced outcomes in academic achievement, personal growth and self-efficacy.
Many students come to college hoping to find their path, discover new interests and realize potential that they never knew they had. In this issue, we’re proud to showcase the experiences of students who have blazed their own trail at UI, nurturing academic and career interests, unlocking leadership potential and participating in organizations and activities they’d find no place else.
Two students profiled here are shining examples of our student-centered approach to higher education. One is a student from southern Idaho, majoring in mechanical engineering. He’s come into his own at the University of Idaho, recharging UI’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, mentoring others on campus and reaching out to southern Idaho high school students to get them excited about college.
Another student you’ll meet in this issue is a history major. Her UI experience has helped cultivate a passion for museum work. Our institution has partnered in that progress, opening up opportunities with internships and hands-on class work. That practical experience gives students a lens through which to make decisions about career choices. It also means students can enhance their classroom experiences with practical applications of skills and concepts, while making connections and learning about themselves.
Why is it important to focus on the student, and not the institution? Harvard University professor Clayton Christensen, known for his theory of disruptive innovation, offers an instructive analogy about drills. It goes like this: One does not buy a drill because it is a great deal; one buys a drill for the potential to make holes. It is the hole that interests the consumer, not the drill. In education, it is the graduate prepared for an extraordinary life as an educated citizen, not the institution, which must occupy our concern. We admire colleges that routinely mold such students, as we have done for 125 years at the University of Idaho. But our success as an institution comes from our students’ success, not the other way around.
Of course, college students are made, not born. Through the years, UI has evolved as a partner alongside our state’s K-12 system, taking a leadership role in training generations of educators and offering opportunities for K-12 students. You’ll see plenty of examples of our K-12 partnership efforts in the pages that follow — work that we are proud to take up to help meet our state’s goals and provide chances for students from many different walks of life, ranges of interests and degrees of preparation.
In the past year, we have positioned ourselves well to build on that legacy. The Inspiring Futures: Invest in the University of Idaho campaign recently concluded as a resounding success, with $261 million gifted — well over our original $225 million goal — including more than $90 million for student support. The generosity of donors resulted in 153 new student scholarships and the bolstering of many more existing scholarships. That is a profound investment in the success of students and the future of our world.
Vandals have a proud history of making the world a better place. One student at a time, and one graduate at a time, we’ll build on that success in the 125 years to come.