The Friday Letter Archive

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Friday Letter 2013-07-12

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Friday Letter Office of the President

July 12

Dear Friends of the University of Idaho,

In my introductory “Friday Letter,” I highlighted our university’s distinctive place in American higher education. We are a national land-grant institution that is also the state’s founding, comprehensive, and constitutionally established university. This cluster of distinctions gives authentic, history-based meaning to our proclaimed “legacy of leading.”

A distinctive legacy connotes a high calling — and carries a profound responsibility. The University of Idaho is expected to be preeminent in shaping and shepherding Idaho’s progress in post-secondary education. Our leadership role includes enlisting the collaboration of sister institutions and eliciting the support of partners in the public and private sectors. 

These relationships enable us to lead with strength. From time to time in the “Friday Letter,” I will invite your attention to the power of such relationships. Today I focus on our long-standing alliance with the agricultural industry.

American agriculture leads the world – and feeds much of it.  Here in Idaho, agribusiness is our state’s largest single economic sector, accounting for 18 percent of total output. In 2012, for the third consecutive year, Idaho agriculture broke cash receipt and net income records. This success reflects hard work, sound business planning in a dynamic global economy, and strategic investments in science and technology.

These investments are the products of a partnership between industry and the academy.  In the last year alone, nearly $15 million has been committed by agricultural entities to the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. For example, theIdaho Barley Commission has finalized the details of a $1 million endowment for barley agronomy research that will benefit the nearly 1,500 barley producers statewide. To date, the Idaho Wheat Commission has invested nearly $4.5 million in our efforts to breed wheat and improve crop management practices. This includes the endowment of two faculty research professorships in January 2012.

Likewise, our partnership in furthering potato production, processing and storage has led the Idaho Potato Commission to donate more than $4 million to efforts like thwarting the zebra chip bacteria and other threats to potato crops.

Several of these commodity commissions have also joined with J.R. Simplot Company to help save our research stations in Parma and Tetonia, which had been marked for closure because of state education budget cuts. Recognizing the need for unbiased research and grassroots outreach to help Idaho growers continue to thrive in production and processing, Simplot has continued to invest in operations and research led by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences as a means to help Idaho growers thrive.

Our efforts in animal science also have been recognized with more than $1 million from the United Dairymen of Idaho and nearly $1 million from the Idaho Beef Council. These contributions help support efforts to improve breeding, herd management, beef production, food safety, and more. Forthcoming collaborations likely will include development of best practices in livestock operations efficiency and solutions for environmental issues, as well as exploration of potential energy sources that can be derived from livestock operations.    

Our generous partners know that investments in cooperation have made a critical difference between success and failure for agriculture across our state.  They also understand that such investments derive their long-term value from industry support for academic rigor and objective scientific inquiry. Progressive thinking has made Idaho one of the nation’s fastest developing states in agriculture, and has made the University of Idaho an engine of that growth.

Think about that when you sit down to your next meal. It’s a tangible illustration of our university’s legacy of leading.


Don Burnett 
Interim President

College of Graduate Studies Sees Jump in Applicants. As the University of Idaho is making plans for the fall semester, staff and faculty are making room for more graduate students. Fall admissions for graduate applications are up by 2 percent, along with a 4 percent increase in admitted students. International applicants have seen an increase by 10 percent. While graduate students come from almost 80 countries. Diversity graduate applicants are also up 29 percent. Both the College of Science and the College of Engineering have increased numbers of applications at both the master’s degree and doctoral degree level. The College of Art and Architecture has also seen a significant rise in applications and admits -- up 25 percent over last year in applications.

Research Project Explores Socioeconomic Aspects of Bioenergy Development. The Office of Community Partnerships is launching a research project to better understand the potential socioeconomic effects of using forest biomass to produce energy with a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The project’s goal is to determine the benefits and costs of participating in future liquid biofuel production by looking at existing forest biomass availability and community priorities. Researchers also will compare alternative scenarios for forest biomass use to better understand strategies to maximize benefits to their area economies and people. Read more.

UI Biologist Heads Summer Research to Increase Salmon, Trout and Lamprey. In an effort to boost stocks of steelhead trout, Chinook salmon and Pacific lamprey, a team of University of Idaho researchers will begin a three-faceted study in the coming months. A $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is supporting the work. Co-investigator Christopher Caudill is an assistant professor in the department of fish and wildlife sciences in Moscow. He said three related studies would be conducted on the Federal Columbia River Power System, the Snake River and on the Willamette River, all of which are affected by dams. The projects, which fall under a federal program launched in 1997, will include a blend of engineering ingenuity, fish telemetry and underwater acoustic camera monitors. Read more.

Educators Give to Help Future Educators In Perpetuity. Marilyn French ’62 and her husband, Carter, together have spent more than five decades educating youths. To continue their support of education in perpetuity, the Frenches have endowed a scholarship fund for students studying in the University of Idaho’s College of Education. “We think education is very important,” she said. The Marilyn and Carter French College of Education scholarship will provide approximately $1,000 each year to a student pursuing a degree in elementary education. The first scholarship will be awarded for the 2014-2015 school year. “The University of Idaho gave me the start in education,” Marilyn said. “Both my husband and I have earned a living in teaching.” Marilyn and Carter, a Washington State University graduate, believed it was the right choice to give back to her alma mater. Marilyn, originally from Lewiston, also has a family tie to the University. Her late brother, Richard Loeppky, PhD, also attended the University of Idaho and was inducted into the University’s Hall of Fame. For information on supporting the College of Education, please contact Twila Brown at (208) 885-6773