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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
Dec. 7, 2018
Dear Friends,
The first degrees earned by University of Idaho students were awarded 122 years ago, in 1896. The first graduating class included two women and two men. Times were different: Commencement proceedings stretched out over four days, with speeches from the president, from the agricultural college dean, from future Sen. William H. Borah. A musical concert and other informal gatherings took place. Each 1896 graduate actually had to deliver an oration before receiving his or her degree.
None of our 578 graduates tomorrow will have to deliver a speech – they’ve done plenty of public speaking over their Vandal careers. But the class of 1896 had a Commencement motto that I think bears continued relevance: “Not finished, but begun.” That understanding of tomorrow’s event as a beginning, not a conclusion, is still a very useful way of thinking about the distance traveled so far and the journey yet ahead.
And make no mistake, our students have traveled quite a distance. A student in the College of Business and Economics, Nick Bonds, is graduating with not one major, not two, not three, but four majors. Along the way, he also completed a minor in statistics, a certificate in entrepreneurship, a graduate certificate in human resource development and half the coursework for his planned master’s program. What I appreciate most about Nick’s accomplishments, though, is not the raw accumulation of credentials, but his bright and genial contributions across the range of his pursuits – inquisitive, not acquisitive, and engaged, earnest and passionate about learning, growing and giving.
Nick is from Idaho. But other graduates have joined us from farther away. Graduate Leanna Keleher, from Alaska, is receiving degrees in sociology and child and youth development. She plans to center her graduate research on preventing and stopping parental abuse and neglect. What could be more important than improving how we keep our children safe?
Mia Nakayama, a first-generation college student working on her second bachelor’s degree, this one in mechanical engineering, joined the Vandal Family from even farther away – Japan. A graduate of the College of Engineering’s Grand Challenge Scholars Program, Mia’s work examined the economics of wind turbines. She’s interested in how infrastructure contributes to a company’s success, and will have a chance to apply her skills, passion and experience right away at a job she has lined up with an industrial engineering company.
We have many more stories of Vandal success this winter – read through them at our Commencement website. Each of our graduates has a unique story to tell of obstacles overcome, interests explored and potential unleashed. I recently heard University of California President Janet Napolitano explain that “It is our obligation to be great.” That’s a standard of excellence we’ve lived out for many years at the University of Idaho; it’s also a standard that is embodied by our students and renewed with each graduating class.
I look forward to seeing what challenges our graduates take on, what changes they spur, what new heights they inspire. How will they direct their obligation to be great? That work has just begun.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
Latest News from U of I

Chobani Scholars at the University of Idaho

The Chobani Scholars, a multi-year scholarship program and the first of its kind at the U of I, is dedicated to helping educate the next generation of dairy professionals. Funded by a $168,000 commitment from the Chobani Foundation, this exciting program awards a $20,000 scholarship, spread over four years, to eight eligible students beginning college in 2019 and 2020. Priority is given to students from the Magic Valley, where the Chobani company operates the world’s largest yogurt plant. “As an independent food company with deep ties to our dairy communities, it’s important to us all that we do everything we can to support the next generation of dairy farmers,” said Michael Gonda, Chobani’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. “The Chobani Foundation’s mission is to strengthen the communities we call home, which makes this investment in the future of farmers so important. We can’t wait to meet the Chobani Scholars and welcome them into our family.” For information on supporting the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, please contact Jen Root at [email protected] or 111-111-4087.

Janet Nelson Named 2018 AAAS Fellow

University of Idaho Vice President for Research and Economic Development Janet E. Nelson was named a 2018 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her contributions to the field of chemistry. Nelson is one of 416 fellows named this year. The honor, one of the most prestigious given to scientists in the United States, was formally announced in the journal Science. Nelson, who also serves as a professor of chemistry at U of I, is the sole awardee this year from an Idaho institution of higher education. The AAAS Council elected Nelson for her distinguished contributions to the field of inorganic chemistry and for her national leadership across academia, government, not-for-profit organizations and industry communities. “Janet has dedicated more than 30 years of her life to the advancement of scientific research and research policy,” said U of I President Chuck Staben. “She is an accomplished leader and a driving force behind the University of Idaho’s commitment to the land-grant mission. We are proud to see her earn this well-deserved recognition.”

U of I Study Predicts Increase in Global List of Threatened Plant Species

More than 15,000 plant species have a high probability of being considered threatened or near-threatened under a new model used to predict conservation status. The model, which shows the predicted levels of risk to plants worldwide, was published as part of a study to help governments and resource managers evaluate where conservation resources are most needed. Findings from the model, built by a research team from the University of Idaho, University of Maryland, Radford University and The Ohio State University, were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species is a powerful tool for researchers and policymakers working to limit species loss across the globe. A new approach developed at U of I and The Ohio State University uses the power of machine learning and open-access data to predict plant species that could be eligible for at-risk status on the IUCN Red List.

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