The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2014-10-23

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Dear Friends,
Most mornings I start my day by walking through the main entrance to our iconic Administration Building. On the north wall in the great arched entryway is a small historical marker, one you may have seen yourself. The inscription reads: “Erected by the Commonwealth of Idaho for the training of her future citizens to their highest usefulness in private life and public service.”
Those words represent the state’s commitment to a robust investment in public education, as well as the university’s promise to students.
Student success is at the heart of our mission at the University of Idaho. It is vital to future prosperity — for our students, for our state and for our world.
The University of Idaho is working to meet the state’s goals for an educated citizenry. The Idaho State Board of Education, our institution’s Board of Regents, has established the Complete College Idaho initiative, with a goal of 60 percent of state residents ages 25 to 34 having attained a degree or certificate by 2020.
For individuals, this goal is critical. We know how important a well-paying job is to lifelong success. The average college graduate earns $800,000 more over a lifetime than an individual without a degree, according to a study by the Federal Reserve. And while money still can’t buy you happiness, a well-paying job is a major factor in how many self-report as “thriving.” College graduates don’t just earn more — they are often happier, more engaged citizens.
Recently, the Social Mobility Index released a list of higher education institutions that succeed in helping disadvantaged citizens climb the economic ladder, measuring affordability, the background of students, graduation rates and graduate earnings. Our institution ranked No. 21 nationwide, joining institutions such as the University of California-Berkeley and UCLA in the top 25.
This semester, 36 percent of our students will be of the first generation in their families to go to college. An affordable, high-quality education means they are in a great position for a rewarding career, an effort we will support to our utmost. Our university is truly an engine for social mobility.
It is no secret that students graduate into an increasingly global economy, where a highly skilled workforce is needed to propel innovation and industry. More and better-paying jobs in technology, agriculture and other growing sectors mean healthier communities and brighter tomorrows for future generations.
The University of Idaho is doing its part to provide the workforce essential for our state — a talent pipeline for industry, but also a prosperity pipeline for individuals, families and communities.
However — and you may spot this as a now-common refrain of mine — we can do more. We can be better.
To help achieve the state’s 60 percent goal, and to reach more students with a transformative experience, we have to work hard. We must grow enrollment. At 77 percent, our freshman retention rate is strong, matching the national average for institutions like ours, but it can be stronger. We must also continue aligning our curricula to the demands of the economy.
We will get there. The challenges are great, but so are the opportunities. Daily, the graduates of the University of Idaho see returns on the investment in their education. As an institution, we strive to increase the state’s return on investment in its future, one student at a time.

Chuck Staben portrait


Chuck Staben
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Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

New Leader for National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology
The University of Idaho College of Engineering announced Tuesday the selection of civil engineering professor Ahmed Abdel-Rahim as the permanent director of the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT). Abdel-Rahim has been serving as interim director since the spring and has been an active NIATT researcher since 2000.
“Ahmed brings a rare combination of excellent research credentials and discerning leadership skills to the NIATT directorship,” said Jon Van Gerpen, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering. “I have been impressed with his problem-solving skills and willingness to collaborate.”
Abdel-Rahim’s research focuses on traffic operation and controls, transportation systems, modeling, highway design and traffic safety, and, most recently, security and survivability of transportation infrastructure.
Award-Winning UI Tree Nursery Featured for Forest Products Week
As part of Idaho Forest Products Week festivities, the new Tom and Teita Reveley Nursery Facility at the University of Idaho Pitkin Nursery will be offering tours, educational activities for school children and information about Idaho’s forests and wood products from 3-6 p.m. today.
The open house event, co-sponsored by the College of Natural Resources and the Idaho Forest Products Commission, is free and open to the public. Kids' activities will take place from 3-4:30 p.m. Nursery tours will begin at 3:30 p.m. and run every 30 minutes. Light appetizers will be served and prize drawings will take place all afternoon.
Ritters Establish Engineering Scholarship Endowment
The College of Engineering is grateful to Susan and Jim Ritter ’68, ’71 for committing to provide perpetual support of students through the establishment of the James H. Ritter Family Engineering Scholarship Endowment. “This donation allows us to continue a strong relationship with the University of Idaho, encourage the education of future engineers, and provide an educational experience that is unique and innovative,” said Jim, a 2014 inductee into the university’s Academy of Engineers.
“These permanent funds allow our engineering students to have an exceptional, well-rounded learning experience,” said Dean Larry Stauffer. “Without financial aid, students are not always able to put in that added energy and focus into their academics, or participate in extracurricular activities and internships.”
Jim is the retired President, Chairman/CEO of Aviation Manufacturing Group LLC and currently works with the Boise Angel Alliance to help fund start-ups. For more information on giving to the College of Engineering, contact Mary Lee Ryba at 208-755-4916 or

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