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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. 15, 2019
Dear Friends,
Over my five years at the University of Idaho, we’ve promoted college-going for our state and its citizens. We’ve streamlined many processes at U of I and throughout the state as well as joined other institutions in aggressive marketing and recruitment. But the “go-on” rate remains stubbornly low. How can we finally move the needle?
Gov. Brad Little’s to can help bring more students to postsecondary education. Potentially reaching 2,000 more students, each $3,500 award can help address the central concern students have about college: cost.
Let me give you an example. A University of Idaho freshman, let’s call her Emma, comes from a hardworking family with annual income of $41,000 – somewhat below the state’s average family income of $49,000. (In fact, about 39 percent of U of I students are similarly situated.) Emma is a well-qualified student, with a solid 3.5 GPA. Even given the comparative affordability of our state’s public colleges and universities, and even after her family contribution ($1,000), federal loans ($5,500), personal savings from summer and part-time work ($4,000) and U of I aid (a renewable $2,000 Go Idaho! scholarship), Emma has a gap to bridge.
For Emma, a $3,000 gap might as well be $3 million. That’s why the Opportunity Scholarship is so important. The program weighs both need and academic achievement in determining eligibility. But funding limitations have meant that more than 4,500 eligible students – accomplished and motivated students similar to Emma – are on a waiting list to receive an award.
The Opportunity Scholarship is an award to a student, not to an institution. If a student earns an award and decides the academic programs at the University of Idaho are the right fit for his or her future, then we appreciate having earned that consideration. We are also putting our own skin in the game, bolstering our institutional aid with the new Vandal Promise campaign that seeks donors willing to offer $5,000 annually for five years so that money can go to qualified students. This campaign represents immediate cash to bridge a funding gap and help a student succeed.

An aggressive need- and merit-based program such as the Opportunity Scholarship – matched here at U of I by programs such as Vandal Promise – helps address cost, the primary driver of decisions not to pursue education. The renewability of the award for up to four years with a minimum GPA also incentivizes retention from year to year through to graduation – outcomes we strive to help students realize.
Unfortunately, the time has passed since one could pay for college simply through hard work at a summer job. One of our celebrated alumni, SpaceX co-founder Tom Mueller, did just that, in St. Maries. But costs have risen beyond the point where that is feasible for most students. I appreciate the governor’s and the state of Idaho’s commitment to ensuring we reward the ambition of students like Tom and Emma. This is a long-term investment in our students, in our state, and in our shared future.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
Latest News from U of I

Dennis Reece Invests in Student Success

Dennis Reece of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, recently made a $25,000 gift to establish the Dennis Reece Chemistry and Geology Scholarship Endowment. The endowment provides valuable scholarship support for undergraduate and graduate students in both departments. Reece earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and master’s degrees in chemistry and hydrology at U of I. He is a vice president with AECOM, overseeing remediation and restoration projects. “Scholarships to the University of Idaho are important to help students achieve their goals,” Reece said. “Their subsequent contributions during their careers will benefit Idaho and our nation.” For more information about giving to the College of Science, please contact Eric Bennett at [email protected] or 111-111-9106.

U of I Named “Best Value College” by The Princeton Review

The University of Idaho has earned national recognition with a spot on The Princeton Review’s 2019 list of The annual book is aimed at “college shoppers seeking affordable, academically outstanding colleges that stand out for their success at guiding students to rewarding careers.” The Princeton Review’s methodology is informed by 40 data points, including data on starting and mid-career salaries, and by surveys that measure academics, affordability and student success. Financial support is an important component of the analysis — U of I awards $25 million in annual aid, participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program, and has scholarships for other non-residents outside of that region. The university’s array of Career Services programs and resources are also touted. The Princeton Review’s bottom line: “The University of Idaho is an incredible deal for both residents of Idaho and those who would like to spend their formative years in the Gem State.”

Dopke Earns NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship

Former soccer student-athlete Kelly Dopke has been . The scholarship, worth $10,000, is awarded to former student-athletes based on academic and athletic success, as well as other factors including community service and standing within the institution. In all, 21 men and 21 women participating in fall sports are awarded the scholarship. Dopke will use the funds to jump-start her medical career. Earlier this year, she became the first Vandal soccer player and the third female Vandal ever to earn Google Cloud Academic All-America First Team honors, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Dopke was an All-Big Sky First Team selection and was named the 2018 Big Sky Defensive Most Valuable Player. She also earned United Soccer Coaches All-West Region Second Team honors. Her class leaves Idaho as the winningest class in program history, having won 41 games in four years. She currently boasts a 4.00 GPA in the medical sciences.

National Academy of Sciences Member Jim Bull to Join U of I Faculty

National Academy of Sciences (NAS) member Jim Bull will join the University of Idaho faculty in fall 2019 – the first member affiliated with an Idaho university. The NAS is charged by Congress to provide the nation objective and independent council on scientific and technological matters. Bull is an evolutionary biologist who has specialized in the evolution of viruses and sex determination. He joins the College of Science Department of Biological Sciences from The University of Texas at Austin. At U of I, Bull plans to offer a course that instructs students on how to think scientifically. He is starting a collaboration with Department of Mathematics faculty members Steve Krone and Chris Remien that will use computer modeling to investigate the effectiveness of a genetic engineering technology called gene drive that spreads desired genes throughout a population. In work with Department of Biological Sciences’ Scott Nuismer, Bull will study the potential for designing vaccines that could be transmitted from animal to animal without inoculating each animal individually in order to create an immune population.

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MS 3151
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