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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. To subscribe, contact Executive Communications Manager Brian Keenan at [email protected].

Letter from the President
Aug. 17, 2018
Dear Friends,
Yesterday at our annual Convocation for new Vandals, we were thrilled to kick off a new year by welcoming back Vandal alumna Michelle Aragon '97. From Jerome, Idaho, Michelle was the first in her family to go to college, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication and advertising from the School of Journalism and Mass Media (JAMM). She’s now a successful advertising executive in New York City. Michelle offered a thoughtful and inspiring message for our new members of the Tribe from the North as they set out on their journey here at U of I. Having previously met Michelle, I appreciated the chance to ask her a few questions for this week's issue of the Friday Letter. Enjoy!

President Chuck Staben: What’s it like to return to U of I as a Convocation speaker? 
Michelle Aragon '97: It’s truly a homecoming in every sense. I’m very proud and honored to return to campus and have such a wonderful opportunity to speak with students and faculty. I’m hoping Convocation will serve as a platform for students to think about how to approach their time at the university. On a personal note, it’s incredible to experience the nostalgia of being back on campus and the memories of my time here at U of I.

CS: When you came to U of I from Jerome, what did you expect?
MA: I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations. It was a different world from what I had experienced in Jerome. I was excited yet nervous about being on my own, curious about what lessons would be in store for me, and looking forward to meeting new people.

CS: What’s a quality you developed at U of I that has helped you?
MA: My sense of curiosity. Attending U of I was the first time I was exposed to many new things, not only in the educational sense but also culturally. I was able to continue doing certain things that were familiar – i.e. working on the yearbook, just on a larger scale – but also explore new possibilities to find out what I liked and what I didn’t.

CS: What was an experience you had at U of I that changed you?
MA: The AAF NSAC (American Advertising Federation National Student Advertising Competition) U of I Ad Team. It was one of the most unique, real-world experiences I had, perhaps even more than I fully understood at the time. This was the competition team that created a marketing campaign on behalf of a brand. We truly bonded as a cohort and functioned as an agency team would to develop our plan and creative work that was ultimately pitched to professional judges. This is by far the best example of what it’s like to work in a professional setting on a new business pitch.

CS: What’s life like now, in your career in New York?
MA: Extremely full. I work in an exciting and dynamic industry that satisfies my intellectual curiosity and challenges me to think about the future. I’m also able to give back in meaningful ways through my non-profit work to make an impact in my community and for others as they begin their own career paths. Last but not least, I love food and live music, so I fully enjoy everything that a vibrant city like New York offers.

CS: What’s one key piece of advice you have for students?
MA: Use this time to develop your critical thinking skills – really honing in to understand the value you can bring by having and sharing your point of view. This is what will take you in new directions and open up opportunities in ways you hadn’t thought of.

CS: Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your story with our students and with our readers. And thanks for being a proud Vandal!
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
Latest News from U of I

Antibiotic Resistance, Vaccines, Malaria among $5 Million in NIH-Funded Projects

University of Idaho researchers are trying to answer questions that could help slow the spread of antibiotic drug resistance, develop techniques to produce vaccines more quickly and help with treatment of malaria thanks to three federal grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The awards to Eva Top, Craig Miller and Holly Wichman in the College of Science and Shirley Luckhart in the colleges of Science and Agricultural and Life Sciences, total nearly $5 million to support multiyear studies aimed at improving disease treatment. “Each project applies creative and transformative approaches to solving major human health-related problems,” said Ginger Carney, dean of the U of I College of Science. “This grant addresses one of the world’s great health challenges, and we are glad to play a role in helping people around the globe,” said Michael Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

U of I Rangeland Research Receives $1.28 Million in USDA Grants

GPS-collared cattle will soon roam ranches in southern Idaho and northeastern Oregon in an effort to better understand grazing patterns on large rangeland landscapes. The project, called “Deploying CERT” (Climate Engine Rangeland Tool), is led by University of Idaho researchers and is one of two related projects selected to receive a total of $1.28 million in grant funding by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services’ Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program. The second U of I-led project engages the Rangelands Partnership, a collaborative of rangeland professionals and librarians in 19 states, to improve access to rangeland management information and literature through a national grazing land information system. By pairing satellite imagery with technology to track cows and field estimates of forage, the CERT project aims to create a new management tool to assist private ranchers and public land managers.

Prichard Art Gallery Exhibit Explores Suppressed Queer Culture in Vintage Photography

Artists Garth Amundson and Pierre Gour explore how historical photos suppressed queer culture in an exhibit that began Thursday, Aug. 9, at the University of Idaho Prichard Art Gallery. In several of the exhibit’s installations, Amundson and Gour manipulate vintage photos by removing subjects’ faces or eyes. They invite viewers to project themselves into the images to consider their own gender construction. “Studio portraits and commercial images, with their cleanliness and idyllic conventions, present a likeness of ourselves as we wish to be seen, flattening away the murkiness of life,” said Roger Rowley, Prichard Art Gallery director. “Garth and Pierre use the lens of their current moment and circumstances to imagine what other ideas might be teased from these photos.” The exhibit, “Whipping It Up: A Collaborative Alchemy,” runs Aug. 9 through Oct. 6, 2018. An artist lecture, free and open to the public, is 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23, in TLC 040 on U of I’s Moscow campus. An opening reception is from 5-7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 24, at the gallery.

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