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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
Feb. 22, 2019
Dear Friends,
This is an exciting weekend at the University of Idaho. Our 52nd annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival finds a lineup of world-class artists, music lovers from all over, and students descending on Moscow. We’ll welcome more than 4,000 students – college-age, elementary, middle and high school – from 130 schools to campus for competitions and workshops. While this signature event has evolved over the years, we’ve never lost sight of the power of musical performance and education to teach and inspire.
The festival is one of many recent success stories at Idaho’s great public research university. Let me share with you a few notable recent developments at our institution and for higher education. Did you know:
  • In January, the State Board of Education unveiled a new “Data Dashboard” that allows one to view and compare a wide variety of metrics. Take a look at important data points such as remediation, retention and graduation. At U of I, we are always looking to improve, and we have work to do, but we’re proud of how we’re serving students.
  • Last week, the State Board of Education approved the purchase of land toward a critical U of I project, the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. The Idaho Dairymen’s Association joins us to acquire 640 acres from the Whitesides family near Rupert. Idaho is now third nationally in milk production, so building the nation’s largest research dairy will help accelerate and enhance that success and is a great fit for U of I’s expertise.
  • Jim Bull will be joining the Vandal Family. Jim, an evolutionary biologist, is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and will be the first NAS member at an Idaho university. I’ve known Jim for 20 years – we were on a National Institutes of Health study section together. He’ll be a mentor for students and, as a specialist in the evolution of viruses, an important contributor to our research enterprise. When we talk about prestige as an institution, we’re talking about academic and research excellence personified by people like Jim.
  • U of I’s combination of affordability, academic excellence and career outcomes earned us a spot on The Princeton Review’s 2019 list of The Best Value Colleges: 200 Schools with Exceptional ROI for Your Tuition Investment.” The Princeton Review cites a number of data sources, including data on starting and mid-career salaries for graduates. The publication concludes: “The University is an incredible deal for both residents of Idaho and those who would like to spend their formative years in the Gem State.”
Those points represent important achievements across our mission to serve students, conduct research and make a difference in our state. Let’s keep building on our success.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
P.S. Last week I mentioned the Vandal Promise scholarship initiative. That program invites support of $5,000 annually for five years – a commitment especially valuable for students who work while attending college full-time. We appreciate the generosity of donors who have joined on already – and those who would like to – to make life-changing educational experiences possible for Idaho students. To learn more about supporting the Vandal Promise campaign, contact Kim O'Neill, associate vice president for development, at 208-885-5371 or
Latest News from U of I

Idaho Forest Group Sponsors CNR Distinguished Speaker Series

One of America’s largest lumber producers, the family owned Idaho Forest Group (IFG) prides itself on observing stewardship and land management practices that ensure sustainable, resilient, productive forests. IFG also serves the people of Idaho through cooperative, constructive relationships with employees, their families, landowners, and organizations such as the University of Idaho. With a demonstrated commitment to lifelong learning and a firm belief in community philanthropy, IFG recently sponsored an eight-part speaker series in collaboration with the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources, taking place over the next two years across Idaho. “The speaker series will provide a forum to discuss ideas, develop relationships, and create shared meaning from multiple perspectives,” said Tom Schultz, IFG’s vice president for governmental affairs. ”We are very pleased to have the College of Natural Resources as a strategic partner in educating students to become contributing members of society and our industry.” The first lecture will take place in Moscow at the Best Western Plus - University Inn on March 21, 5-7 p.m.; Dr. Alan Potter, senior adviser and former Executive Vice President with FPInnovations, will present "Forestry 4.0 and Other Research Initiatives in the Canadian Bioeconomy." Contact Jennifer Farnum at or 208-885-5145 for details and registration.

Architecture Professors Document Idaho’s Most Significant Structures

Several College of Art and Architecture professors — past and present — contributed their expertise to the recent publication of SAH Archipedia, an online encyclopedia that highlights the most significant buildings, landscapes, infrastructure and monuments across the country, including the top 100-plus in the state of Idaho. The professors helped explain the structures’ styles and typologies, materials and techniques and social and political contexts, according to the Society of Architectural Historians. Entries demonstrate the richness and diversity of architecture and building practices and vary in geographical location. They include the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, with its trailhead in Plummer; the Mission of the Sacred Heart, Idaho’s oldest standing building, constructed by the Coeur d’Alenes and Jesuit missionaries in Cataldo; the contemporary and visually stunning Chicken Point Cabin in Hayden; the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho in Nampa; the historic Fort Russell Neighborhood District in Moscow; and the Modern Idaho Potato Cellar in American Falls. The featured structures tell the story of architecture in the United States from pre-European settlement to the 21st century.

Overcoming Change and Uncertainty

When Bishal Thapa first arrived in Idaho he assumed he would encounter tall buildings, large groups of people and cars everywhere. Growing up in Nepal, Thapa harbored the perception that the United States was similar to what he’d seen on the big screen of New York or Los Angeles. Arriving in Moscow to begin his studies in agricultural education from the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and biological engineering with an agricultural emphasis from the College of Engineering quickly dispelled him of that notion. “They don't show Idaho in movies, they only show big cities,” Thapa said. “I flew to the Moscow-Pullman Airport and all I could see were patches of big round things everywhere on brown land. “I was thinking the whole time, ‘Am I going to the right place? Is my university just one building in the middle of the field?’” Thapa said. Fortunately, Thapa learned at a young age that change and uncertainty are guaranteed elements of life. How a person manages uncertainty — whether they choose to overcome change or resist it — all comes down to a person’s attitude. Read more.

CNR Doctoral Student Wins National Award from Ecological Society of America

College of Natural Resources doctoral candidate Kristina Bartowitz is one of 10 students nationwide selected to receive the Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award by the Ecological Society of America. This award provides graduate students the opportunity to receive policy and communication training in Washington, D.C., and meet lawmakers. Working with her faculty advisor, Tara Hudiburg, Bartowitz studies the interaction between climate, wildfires and ecosystems. Using ecosystem models, she is studying how repeated disturbance and climate change will impact forest composition and structure as well as ecosystem resilience. Bartowitz will travel to the nation’s capital in March to learn about the legislative process and federal science funding, hear from ecologists working in federal agencies and meet with Idaho members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

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Administration Building
Room 105
Moscow, ID


Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive
MS 3151
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