The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2014-11-21

Please note: this is an archived email message and may not display as originally intended. Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.

Dear Friends,
As Idaho’s land-grant research university, we pursue research that pushes the frontiers of knowledge and makes a difference in people’s lives.
We humans have a natural curiosity. We want to understand our place in the universe. We intrinsically value knowledge and seek to acquire it. We also want to explore concrete ways of enhancing our lives, putting research to work improving health and well-being, economies, and communities.
Day in and day out, in classrooms, in laboratories, and in the field across Idaho and the world, we are leading the quest for knowledge, both basic and applied.
In one case, that search has again taken us to outer space. Jason Barnes, associate professor of physics at UI, is working with his students and researchers around the country to create dazzling new photographs of the vast methane seas on Titan, a moon of Saturn. Dr. Barnes’ work enhances our understanding of the solar system and helps open the possibility of landing a spacecraft on Titan someday.
Some research at UI happens closer to home. At a time when Idahoans use more water per capita than residents of any other state, Howard Neibling, an irrigation management engineer with the University of Idaho Extension at Kimberly, is pioneering efficient irrigation techniques for Idaho farms and ranches.
If you’ve been to the Magic Valley, you know how it earned its nickname — water management turned this dry plain into an agricultural oasis. Dr. Neibling’s award-winning research will help Idaho agriculture continue to work its magic, doing more with less to keep our fields — and the world’s stomachs — full.
Research isn’t just the domain of faculty and graduate students, of course. Undergraduate students at UI have an opportunity to participate in research or scholarly activity related to their majors. For example, this summer anthropology professor Mark Warner led a team of students on an archaeological excavation at the old “Surgeon’s Quarters” in Boise. Their discoveries will be used in an exhibit at the restored building — a vital record of the history of Western settlement in the state. 
I recall from my days as an undergraduate that it is often hard to see the impact of your research because you’re doing one small, though vital, part of a larger project. As an example, the archaeological work in Boise is of a scale that brings undergraduates into the research process. Students can see some results of their work almost immediately, but they are also part of something that contributes to a much larger body of knowledge.
Of course, any attempt to chronicle the research at the University of Idaho is bound to exclude many important projects. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching includes UI in the prestigious set of national universities classified as having “high research activity.” And though I regret that we cannot include a laundry list of the dynamic work, I urge you to read our annual research report to get a more complete picture of the scope and impact of our efforts in this area.
I am thrilled to be among such talented and driven faculty and student researchers as those found at University of Idaho. Whether exploring the remains of the old frontier of the West or venturing into the “final frontier,” every day our researchers are helping us better understand our world and how we can thrive in it. 

Chuck Staben portrait

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

P.S.: With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Mary Beth and I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday. If you’re looking for extra ideas for your table, consider the recipes from the dietetics students in Katie Miner’s class in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences. You can even peruse a catalog of historical recipes, some dating back to 1911. Enjoy!
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Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

Honoring a Leader, Teacher, Mentor and Friend 
Former College of Business and Economics dean and professor emeritus Jack Morris passed away unexpectedly in August at his home near New Meadows, Idaho. He was 66. The outpouring from former students and colleagues was tremendous. It is clear Jack touched many lives as an educator and leader. To honor the legacy that Jack left at the University of Idaho, his widow Linda established the Jack Morris CBE Scholarship Endowment. In addition, the Jack Morris Executive Speaker Series was named to honor his retirement in 2011. Jack stated at the time, “There is nothing more rewarding than touching someone’s life through higher education. I want to be remembered as Professor Morris, not as Dean Morris, because being a professor is one of the most noble professions there is.” If you would like to make a gift honoring Jack Morris, please contact Toni Broyles at or Chandra Ford at
CNR’s Dr. Karen Launchbaugh Named Professor of the Year
Karen Launchbaugh of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources has been named the 2014 U.S. Professor of the Year for the state of Idaho by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). The honor is given each year to one professor from each state and U.S. territory and is highly competitive. “Karen Launchbaugh exemplifies outstanding undergraduate teaching and mentoring. Her impact on every student to come through the program is obvious in the success our graduates find in the workplace,” said Kurt Pregitzer, dean of the College of Natural Resources. The U.S. Professor of the Year is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate instruction. Applications are accepted from any two- or four-year institution of higher education and can come from any discipline.

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