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Friday Letter Office of the President

The Friday Letter

The Friday Letter is a weekly e-newsletter from the President and focuses on various topics, news, features and announcements. It is sent to faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and other friends of the University of Idaho.

If you would like to subscribe to receive The Friday Letter, please contact University Communications at (208) 885-6291 or uinews@uidaho.edu.


  • Current Issue

    April 24, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    As we approach the end of another great academic year, it’s worth reflecting on the excellence achieved by our Vandal students. Our first priority, after all, is facilitating student success. Though we celebrate each student’s graduation or achievement, some of our students have received national recognition for their efforts. In this letter, I would like to specifically recognize several recent winners of prestigious national scholarships.

    This year, again, the best and brightest from across the region made the University of Idaho their choice to pursue their dreams, as 23 new freshman National Merit Scholars enrolled at our state’s leading national research university. They joined a cohort that matches last year’s school record of 76 total National Merit Scholars. Earning a National Merit Scholarship is a rigorous process. We can be proud these students have chosen our university to prepare them for career and life success.

    Many Vandals have been honored with national scholarships this year. Recently, Benjamin Anzis, a sophomore from Marshalltown, Iowa, and Elyce Gosselin, a sophomore from Boise, received prestigious Goldwater Scholarships, supporting research careers in science, mathematics and engineering. Since 2005, 12 Vandal students have received this award. This year’s winners are already contributing to the discovery and application of knowledge in new and exciting ways, and I congratulate them on having their success recognized.
    Benjamin Anzis, a sophomore from Marshalltown, Iowa, and Elyce Gosselin, a sophomore from Boise
    Pictured: Left- Benjamin Anzis, Right - Elyce Gosselin

    Other students are contributing to UI’s global impact as recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, given by the U.S. Department of State. These competitive scholarships — only 800 are awarded nationwide — allow students the opportunity to study and intern abroad with financial support. Our two students, Marley Monroe and William Humble, studying psychology and civil engineering, respectively, will be exposed to enriching academic, social and cultural experiences, and they’ll return to UI able to share that information and understanding.

    I congratulate the University Honors Program at UI for facilitating many of these scholarships. The Honors Program offers a stimulating academic experience and the advantages of an enhanced learning community to approximately 500 students from all colleges and undergraduate majors. The Honors Program provides enriching classes; a motivated, challenging and scholarly peer group; and mentoring for getting involved in undergraduate research, leadership development, volunteerism and personal development. In addition, we have recently added specific staff support to further mentor students toward prestigious national awards.

    Undoubtedly, I’ve failed to mention some outstanding students, programs and accolades. That’s a testament to the abundant talent and initiative of students across disciplines at UI. I also want to make it clear: We value the achievement of all students at UI. There are many contributions to the classroom environment, to student organizations, to valuable programs and to the community that aren’t always measured with awards. But I know that Vandals across our campus — across the state of Idaho, that is — are embracing achievement in many ways, and preparing well for rich and full lives within their professions, their communities and their families.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
    Presiden
  • April 17, 2015

    April 17, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    This week the State Board of Education approved a 3.5 percent increase in undergraduate, resident tuition and fees at the University of Idaho. The increase supports the quality of our academic experience. I am also very aware the increase will have an impact on current and prospective students and their families. As our state’s leading national research university, we walk a tightrope between maintaining quality and providing access to an affordable education.

    We clearly needed to invest in employee compensation. Faculty and staff salaries have fallen far behind peer and regional averages. Simply put, we have been losing or failing to attract the talented teachers, researchers and support staff who make UI a premier institution and a great value. This tuition and fees increase — the lowest in 10 years, following the second-lowest last year — will allow us to fully fund the Idaho Legislature’s 3 percent salary increase and invest in our excellence.

    It is always our goal to keep our university affordable. A college education is a transformative experience, and our foremost priority is to make that experience possible. College-educated professionals are also the key to the future of Idaho, shaping our economic development and contributing to industries and organizations that make our state great. The State Board of Education’s 60 percent post-secondary attainment by 2020 goal recognizes the power of a college degree, and we are committed to doing our part.

    Our university works hard to maintain access to a world-class education. New initiatives include changes in our Go Idaho! scholarships for Idaho residents and our Discover Idaho scholarships for out-of-state students. High school students with a 3.0 GPA now qualify for merit-based support, in addition to other scholarships for which they might qualify. We know those students can succeed at our university. Aid opportunities like that are part of the more than $20 million in support that the University of Idaho makes available to students every year, often with the help of generous donors.

    I know that for many students and families, paying for college can seem daunting, with yearly costs, the prospect of debt and a return on investment that may appear far in the future. Many of our undergraduates, 36 percent, are among the first generation in their family to attend college. But higher education is absolutely the right decision, and UI offers unmatched value. A new financial literacy program (“Better Education about Money for Students,” or “BEAMS”) we’re putting together this fall will offer financial literacy counseling, including information about how debt figures into long-term financial plans. (The average student debt of $26,700 at UI, by the way, falls below the national average.) We are ready and willing to try ideas that make a difference for our students.

    Students graduate from the University of Idaho prepared to meet financial challenges — the average starting and mid-career earnings of a Vandal grad are well above those from other Idaho institutions. College graduates not only earn an average of $830,000 more than those without a degree, Gallup polling shows that they also enjoy improved individual well-being and many positive social outcomes. Just as they have for more than 125 years, students can come to the University of Idaho confident that they are making a long-term investment in their future, and certain that we are assisting them by keeping college affordable and manageable.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
    Presiden
  • April 10, 2015

    April 10, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    You’ll often hear me refer to the University of Idaho as our state’s “leading national research university.” It’s a way of describing our university as defined, at least in part, by the scale and influence of our research, scholarly activity and creative work. Across the state of Idaho and beyond, UI research delivers a transformative impact, addressing critical problems and discovering new knowledge.

    “Inspired Discoveries,” our newest annual research report hot off the press, showcases some of the groundbreaking research at UI. You’ll read about important projects at the Aquaculture Research Institute in Moscow and Hagerman, where scientists are developing trout that thrive on plant-based diets and developing vaccines to ward against bacterial infections — major advancements for a crucial industry. In southeastern Idaho, the Idaho National Laboratory and UI psychology students at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies are using an immersive simulator to study efficiency, safety and communications on heavy-vehicle systems. Another exciting project looks at ways to design prostheses that work with the body’s neuromuscular system to minimize pain and enhance movement, a potential leap forward for millions in such need.

    Research at UI supports — and is supported by — industry partners. Those relationships help foster economic development and opportunity. In order to facilitate better access to research, we’ve revamped our intellectual property policies. You’ll read about the immediate effects of those changes, including a new project with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories that will help utility companies plan for and respond to disturbances on the power grid.

    Other much-needed and appreciated industry connections include relationships with Potlatch Corporation to study modern forest practices, with J.R. Simplot Co. at the Parma Research and Extension Center, and with Micron at the UI Business Process Center, where student teams partner with companies to solve real-world problems. In addition, our emerging dairy initiative, the Western Initiative on the Dairy Environment (WIDE), will help dairies adapt and grow in a complex environment for producers and processers.

    There are many other great projects, partnerships and developments highlighted in the report. I hope you’ll look through it and spread the word about stories that catch your interest. I also hope you’ll tune in next week when we’ll share with the world an exciting new research grant that will position us as leaders in complex system modeling.

    The nearly $100 million in annual research expenditures demonstrates the powerful breadth and depth of UI research. But research funding only tells part of the story — the scholarship and creative excellence found across colleges and programs is outstanding. I am proud of the hard work and passion of all our talented researchers, our motivated students and our invaluable staff members who are helping UI continue to grow as our state’s research leader.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
    Presiden
  • April 3, 2015

    April 3, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    Our university is a leader in many areas: teaching and learning, research, and community outreach. In addition, we play another important role, as a facilitator for dialogue about important issues facing our world. Several upcoming forums serve as great examples of our commitment to serving and strengthening the public discourse.

    I’d like to invite you to join the conversation at the upcoming Borah Symposium, held in Moscow April 6-8. The Borah Foundation, supported by the Martin Institute, has put together a stimulating program on “Troubled Borders: Sovereignty, War, Disease and Refugees.” Many highly regarded experts on public policy in these areas will present a range of ideas over the three days.

    I’m looking forward to engaging presentations on healthcare and refugees in Idaho, climate change issues, global medical emergencies, and more. And I’m happy to welcome to campus the many participants from far and wide, including James Hill, the consul general of Canada in Seattle, and Guillermo Ordorica, the consul of Mexico in Boise, who will serve as panelists. The Borah Symposium concludes with a keynote address by scholar and author Dr. Thomas Barnett. I suspect that Senator William Borah, the “Lion of Idaho,” would be impressed with the breadth and depth of this year’s symposium.

    We had also been anticipating the annual Sherman J. Bellwood Lecture, a signature event in the College of Law that provides opportunities for students and the community to engage with leading minds in the justice system. Originally slated for next week, we unfortunately have had to postpone the event until a later date due to a health-related conflict. I wish Juan Guzmán — the much-admired, Chilean former justice who had planned to present at the lecture — all the best for a speedy recovery.

    A wide array of other public events take place throughout the year at UI, including the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, the annual Hemingway Festival, the McClure Center lectures and many more. And just as you don’t need to be a jazz musician to appreciate the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, you don’t need to be a lawyer to enjoy the Bellwood lectures, or be an international relations expert to gain insight and perspective from the Borah Symposium. These events are about people coming together, bringing their own interests and experiences, to learn about topics that affect us all. They are about an engaged and informed citizenry exercising fundamental virtues — learning, discussing and applying new ideas and information.

    We are Idaho’s leading national research university, and the hard work of many faculty, staff, students and volunteers means that we are also a leader in shaping the discourse in our state. These are much-needed discussions about our shared history, contemporary concerns and future vision. I hope you’ll join us at these upcoming events, and participate in the conversation that makes us, for all our differences, a more united and a more educated citizenry.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
    Presiden
  • March 27, 2015

    March 27, 2015

    Dear Friends,

    Starting at our main campus on the Palouse, in Nez Perce ancestral lands, the University of Idaho has always been a place where cultures converge, and where we grow stronger by learning from each other and sharing perspectives and traditions. The annual Tutxinmepu Powwow, occurring next weekend, April 4-5 in Moscow, is a great example of the thriving cultural traditions embraced at UI. Powwows are occasions to gather and pass on traditions and teachings — similar, in a very broad sense, to a university mission. We now have an opportunity to enhance that mission.

    The Native American Student Center and the Native American Student Association put together the two-day powwow. I was able to attend last year, and this year I’ll have the honor of participating in the grand entry and other events. The public is welcome, and whether attendees volunteer or just take in the fun, it’s a showcase for the vibrant Native cultures in our region. Prospective students participating in the powwow also have the chance to experience our campus and Moscow, seeing what a great atmosphere our university community has to offer.

    The Native American Student Center is at the heart of student life for many Native students. I’m proud of the role that the center plays in their UI experience. It’s a place to find academic, cultural and social support — to study and grow as students, to share interests and activities, and to hang out with friends and classmates. I know many talented leaders and future professionals are emerging out of the center and the Native American Student Association.

    At an organizational level, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) strengthens UI’s relationship with nearby tribes. The tribes who have come together in this agreement participate in the President’s Native American Advisory Council, which seeks unity and cooperation among Native American students, signatory tribes and UI. A complementary Advisory Board meets twice a year and provides feedback on the development of curriculum, the recruitment and retention of Native American students, and the provision of support services and educational programs. We recently welcomed the Yakama Nation as the 10th signatory to this memorandum of understanding, and I’m very glad we can partner with them on higher education issues and work together to support student success.

    I know that right away we can do more for more students. So after extensive deliberation with UI’s Office of Tribal Relations, tribal leaders and others, I have decided that enrolled members of MOU tribes and transfer students from tribal colleges will be eligible for in-state, undergraduate tuition rates at the University of Idaho. Some aboriginal elders and indigenous scholars have described post-secondary education as the “new buffalo,” a sustaining resource for individual and community-wide empowerment. We embrace facilitating that goal for students. In neighboring states, institutions in tribes’ traditional and customary ranges similarly partner with tribes to support access to post-secondary education.

    It is my hope that access to one of the best values in higher education will make UI the college of choice for more tribal members. It is my firm belief that we will be taking important steps in building a more diverse, culturally responsive and outstanding University of Idaho for all people.

    Go Vandals!

    Chuck Staben
    Presiden
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