The Friday Letter Archive

A collection of the president's weekly messages to the Vandal family


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Friday Letter 2014-03-14

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March 14, 2014

Dear Friends,

Discovery is a part of any new job, and one area I've learned about quickly is Vandal Athletics. 
Athletics is one of the most visible activities at a university. Boosters and fans follow their teams with great excitement; yet critics often express concern about whether athletics has a place in the university. What many forget is that the student athlete experience and their success is the factor on which we should focus. And, that is why I’ve been excited to see the success of so many Vandal athlete-scholars in the last two weeks, both in competition and in the classroom.
On the field, the men’s indoor track and field team captured the WAC championship and the women took third place. Our women’s swim and dive team broke 13 school records and took eight events to earn second place in the WAC championship. In fact, swimmer Jamie Sterbis qualified for the NCAA national championship. Our team also secured the titles for best dive coach, best diver and best swimmer. And, the women’s tennis team’s latest win placed them 51st in the nation.
Other honors have just come in for both the men and women’s basketball teams. Women’s coach Jon Newlee earned the WAC Coach of the Year Award, and junior Stacey Barr was named WAC Player of the Year.  For the men, senior Stephen Madison earned first-team all-WAC honors and there’s an indication the men’s team is beginning to peak. As an athlete, one always wants to excel against great competition, and we see that our Vandals are doing that.
As a fan, it’s a delight to watch our teams excel. Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive in time to see all these events, but I did see the women’s basketball team take the WAC season championship. This week they’ve taken their game to the courts in Las Vegas for the post-season tourney. Beating Chicago State 84-43 to earn a place in the semi-finals. They’ll play again today at noon PST, and we hope their wins will again take them the to NCAA tournament. The men's team has also moved into the semi-finals with a 73-70 win over Kansas City. The men will play today at 6 p.m. PST. I hope you will join me in cheering both teams on, even at a distance.
On the academic side, the team has already secured one national ranking. Senior Alyssa Charlston was named an Academic All American and placed on the Division I Second Team. Previously she earned three Academic All-WAC nods and national third team honors as a sophomore. She’s just one of our many exceptional athlete-scholars. Runner Hannah Kiser was also recently named as a Capital One Academic All-America honoree -- her second such award.
Vandal scholarship athletes, as is true of Division I athletes in general, graduate at a higher rate than non-athletes and have higher GPAs. Athletics also plays an important part in our mission to develop the whole person for future success. Most athletes learn to successfully juggle the demands of athletics and academics. Kudos to the many students, athletes and non-athletes, who juggle multiple demands and succeed. 
Go get ‘em Vandals!


Chuck Staben

Here's The Latest News From The University Of Idaho
'Big-STEM' Computer Among Tops In Nation. When Big-STEM goes fully online this summer, it will be one of the most powerful computers of its kind in the United States thanks to grants from the National Science Foundation and Murdock Charitable Trust. Big-STEM’s power lies in its incredible amount of memory. When it’s complete, Big-STEM will have eight terabytes of memory -- 4,000 times the memory of the average home computer. While other types of supercomputers can handle huge amounts of data, Big-STEM’s big memory allows it to address problems that involve massive interactions among data, such as detailed simulations and models of complicated systems. Read more.

Law School Jumps In National Ranking. The College of Law jumped 16 spots in the newest U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings. The report analyzed more than 200 law programs, and the UI climbed to 118 -- the seventh highest gain out of all law schools. This noteworthy jump in the ranks caps a year’s worth of significant achievements for the College of Law. Read more.
See More News And Features.

Minks Share Vandal Opportunity With Geology Students. To honor their family’s relationship with the University of Idaho, Leland “Roy” ’71 and Mary ’75 Mink recently established a scholarship for students studying hydrology, hydrogeology or other water-related areas in the Department of Geological Sciences. In addition to each earning advanced degrees from Idaho, two of the Mink’s children are Vandal alumni. “We treasure U of I memories as students and as parents of students,” said the Minks. “We are pleased to be able, in a small way, to participate in helping to bring an education within reach for U of I geoscience students.” Roy is the principal with Mink GeoHydro, Inc., a private geothermal consulting company. He currently serves on the board of directors for U.S. Geothermal, the Geothermal Resource Council and the College of Science Advisory Board. He previously served as Geothermal Program Director with the U.S. Department of Energy and as director of the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute at the University of Idaho. After teaching in Washington, Nevada, and Idaho, Mary served as the educational director at the Appaloosa Museum in Moscow. She currently is a member of the Gritman Hospital Auxiliary and is secretary for Cave Bay Community Services. For more information about giving to the College of Science, contact Eric Bennett at (208) 885-9106 or