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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
May 17, 2019
Dear Friends,
In 2014, I came to the University of Idaho with a belief in the unique power of land-grant universities to change lives and improve the world. That belief is only stronger today. Over the past half decade, U of I has built on its legacy with a forward-looking vision and practical steps to improve on our excellence. In this my last Friday Letter, I want to reflect on that success and thank the Vandal Family for making it possible.
 
Over five years, we’ve enhanced access to a high-quality education and increased student success. We created initiatives like to change Idaho students’ default expectations from perhaps applying to college to actually going to college. We eliminated fees that presented an unnecessary hurdle. We fought for Gov. Brad Little’s recommended 50 percent increase in . We embraced diversity to broaden our welcome to all Idahoans, including those from underrepresented groups.
 
We made those changes – we fought those fights – because U of I’s goal has been that every Idahoan can enjoy the very best education in Idaho, a Vandal education. Talent is equally distributed around the world, but opportunity is not. Bringing more students to college remains an absolutely critical mission for the state of Idaho – a practical, economic and, I would say, moral imperative. Every student should have a chance to see how far their talent can take them.
 
We’ve also worked hard to improve the student experience and deliver the outcomes our students deserve and our state demands. We’re meeting statewide needs with programs such as a four-year computer science degree in Coeur d’Alene and more robust online options. Our new medical sciences curriculum prepares students for 21st-century medical education. The Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program has doubled in size, expanded its facilities, and revamped its curriculum so more students learn right here in Idaho and have the opportunities to stay here in Idaho to practice medicine. Our College of Law has also expanded its reach to Boise at the Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center.  
 
The numbers bear out the emphasis on student success: Last fall we raised our graduation rates by 5 percent, and we maintained a retention rate of over 80 percent. Some 90 percent of Vandal graduates have a job or plans for continued study at graduation. Vandal alumni too, anchoring a solid financial future.
 
Across undergraduate, graduate and professional education, we’re not only producing future employees, we’re producing well-rounded, dynamic people who change our world. To serve Idaho even better, I believe U of I needs to continue to focus on enrollment growth and improve graduation rates further. I have no doubt it can be done.
 
When we , I recall that University Distinguished Professor Holly Wichman said, “Let’s make things happen.” Our university has responded. Because of the talent and commitment of our faculty members, research teams and students, our annual research expenditures have increased nearly 20 percent over five years, to a record $111.6 million in FY18. Vandal research, scholarship and creative work is highly relevant in traditional and emerging fields, from the farms and forests to the worlds of disease and cybersecurity.
 
We’ve also focused on how our research serves industries more effectively. Changing our intellectual property approach increased our ability to collaborate with industry, resulting in new contracts with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) and Micron and an innovative partnership with Limagrain Cereal Seeds. We’ve added endowed chairs from SEL and the Idaho Wheat Commission as well as an endowed Micron professorship. I’m grateful industries in our region look to U of I for expertise as well as workforce development. Let’s keep working to build and reward that confidence.
 
Research does not occur in a silo at U of I. Over the past five years, we’ve enhanced research integration into undergraduate life. Two-thirds of U of I students participate in research, scholarship and creative activity – those high-impact experiences make a profound difference for student success. In fall 2015 we created the Office of Undergraduate Research to facilitate these opportunities, and it has taken off. Every year I visit our Undergraduate Research Symposium, and every year it grows; this year 183 students submitted a poster.
 
If you look at a map of U of I locations across Idaho, you’ll see the Vandal flag planted in new locations. We’ve begun a world-class Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment and acquired the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center and the Rinker Rock Creek Ranch site for rangeland studies in Sun Valley. Other new projects include potato germplasm, aquaculture research and Idaho WWAMI facilities here in Moscow. Our infrastructure for exciting, impactful teaching, research and engagement is as developed as it’s ever been.
 
Has everything been easy? Certainly not. We’ve struggled to maximize our enrollment. We’ve had challenges in Athletics, from conference affiliation to leadership changes to budgets, even amid exciting on-the-field accomplishments for a wide array of programs, unprecedented academic success for our student-athletes and landmark progress on our long-awaited Idaho Central Credit Union Arena project. But as a university, where we’ve had challenges, we’ve risen to meet them. This year, we will face significant budget challenges, but I’m confident the university can continue that unified, confident approach to pressing issues.
 
Longtime readers of this newsletter know that this is far from a comprehensive list of recent Vandal accomplishments. I hope you also know how much your involvement in the University of Idaho means to our success. We could not have accomplished what we have without our students, faculty, staff, donors, and friends. Thank you for your belief in this institution and your contributions for our students, our state and our world.
 
This university was founded in 1889. It existed before each of us and will go on long after us. We each have a window of time to contribute to what we see as important. To all alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff, I’d ask that you use your window wisely and intentionally. I hope you find some of the meaning, purpose and joy in your relationship with U of I that I have found over five years.
 
Thank you again, and for the last time in this newsletter, GO VANDALS!
Chuck Staben
Chuck Staben
President

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Room 105
Moscow, ID
11111-3151

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11111-3151

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