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The Friday Letter

The Friday Letter is U of I’s long-running, weekly message straight from the president to members of the Vandal family. Each week during the academic year, and with breaks for holidays, the president offers an update on Vandal teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and notable initiatives and priorities. Alumni and friends are welcome to join students, faculty and staff in receiving the newsletter.

Letter from the President
Office of the President |
September 23, 2022
Dear Vandals,

Kira Witte aspires to one day practice medicine in her hometown of Emstek, Germany. She also strives to reach her immense potential as a soccer goalkeeper.

Thanks to sharp scouting by the University of Idaho soccer coaching staff and scholarship support through the Vandal Scholarship Fund, Witte can do both. She’s studying medical science in Moscow while helping the Vandals chase a Big Sky championship.

Last year, Witte played professionally for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga – Germany’s first division. She started just one game all season – against world soccer power Bayern Munich. While she showed promise, Witte knew juggling pro sports and a university schedule was not a realistic option, so she reached out to friends who had pursued college athletics in the United States.

“I talked with my friends who were playing in the U.S. and they loved it,” Witte said.

She met with Associate Head Coach Sean Mapson on Zoom and committed to the Vandals sight unseen. Witte appreciates Moscow’s small-town feel, which reminds her of Emstek. Her teammates welcomed her right away and she’s spearheaded the Vandals’ early success this fall with seven shutouts in eight games. Witte anchors a stout defense, and Maddy Lasher, a junior from Post Falls, is a catalyst on offense for the Vandals, who carry a 5-1-2 record into Big Sky play.

“Our defense is playing really well, so I don’t have to do too much,” Witte said. “We knew we would have a good team, but I don’t think we expected to do this well so early. It’s our aim to fight for the (Big Sky) title.”

The Vandal Scholarship Fund (VSF) enables the U of I to give scholarships to student-athletes like Witte. Last year, more than 2,000 individuals donated to the VSF, raising more than $1.5 million toward athletic scholarships.

As the country celebrates 50 years of Title IX this year, support for women’s athletics is especially critical. Nationally, participation has increased from 29,977 women competing in 1972 to 215,486 in 2021. Numerous studies outline the short and long-term benefits of competing in NCAA athletics, from developing time management skills to improved physical fitness and social skills.

Athletic Director Terry Gawlik witnessed the athletics landscape change throughout her life.

“Title IX certainly changed my life,” Gawlik said. “I was able to play, coach collegiately, become a sports administrator and now serve here at the University of Idaho because Title IX opened so many doors.”

Scholarships go hand in hand with the Title IX law, opening tremendous opportunities to play sports at a high level and develop skills that lead to rewarding careers. And increased support helps the U of I compete for championships.

“No matter if a student is from Emstek, Germany, or Eagle, Idaho,” Gawlik said, “VSF donors make a transformational impact in lives here in the Gem State, across the U.S. and worldwide, for generations.”

Freshman goalkeeper Kira Witte
Go Vandals!

C. Scott Green


U of I professor makes waves with smoke microbe research: Professor Leda Kobziar is pioneering research into living microorganisms found in forest fire smoke, or pyroaerobiology. Along with a team of students and scientists from other universities, Kobziar studies the ecological and pathological effects of airborne bacteria and fungi released into the atmosphere during wildfires.

Theatre students to present play readings online: Students from the Department of Theatre Arts will present free staged readings of original plays this weekend. The plays are part of the First Bite New Play Development Series and will be presented online by students. Registration is required to view the readings.

U of I senior gets a jump on her career through co-op program: Lian Koeppel, a senior at the U of I, already secured a job offer from Micron after making a great impression working with the company’s Talent Acquisition and University Relations and Sourcing teams during a seven-month co-op program, the first offered by the College of Business and Economics.

In her first collegiate tennis tournament, U of I freshman Valentina Rodas took the singles title at the ITA Bedford Cup in Colorado last weekend. Rodas posted a 4-0 record in the tournament. 

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