The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2015-01-09

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Dear Friends,
I hope the New Year finds you well, having spent well-earned time with friends and loved ones. Mary Beth and I had a wonderful holiday in Idaho with our family, too. Having our children home reminded me of when they were young and we read books with them; maybe this experience and the author I’m about to quote resonates with you as well.
Our university has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, yet we are only getting started. As Dr. Seuss wisely said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the directions Vandals have chosen to take recently. A new working group of biology and statistics researchers called the Collaboratorium for Modeling Complex Problems, together with Associate Professor Marty Ytreberg of physics, has received a National Science Foundation grant. The grant enables this group to build models that study the evolutionary possibilities of the Ebola virus — timely research in the wake of the devastating epidemic in West Africa.
Research also has practical impacts closer to home, exemplified by the role of the Aquaculture Research Institute in the development of the Kootenai Tribe’s new burbot fishery, an exciting development for fisheries science, conservation and culture.
Our graduates have even had out of-this-world experiences. December 2014 graduate John Herrington had already been the first Native American in space, but back on Earth he charted a new course as the recipient of a doctoral degree in education. Mechanical engineering master’s graduate Sophie Milam traveled to Hawaii on a NASA mission to spend eight months in a dome that simulates conditions on Mars. Sophie was just named to Forbes magazine’s prestigious “30 Under 30 2015 in Science” list.
Even though every student can choose a direction, often students can find their footing with the mentorship of committed teachers at the University of Idaho. Professor Karen Launchbaugh, in the College of Natural Resources, was named the 2014 U.S. Professor of the Year for the state of Idaho in November. She was honored for making extra effort to get her students hands-on learning experiences.
Our School of Food Science Professor Greg Möller, recipient of the National USDA Excellence in Teaching Award given by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, was honored for his commitment to reaching students through digital education, a boon for students who aren’t always even in the same time zone.
I could go on and on, describing the excellence at Idaho’s leading national research university. And that’s just the point: We Vandals will go on for the next 125 years of excellence in classrooms and lecture halls, in laboratories and in fieldwork, in our athletic endeavors and in our communities. Some of that work will receive awards, but much of it will go quietly appreciated by students, lauded by colleagues in research, and applied to great effect in our communities and economy.
I am looking forward to the places we will go! 

Chuck Staben portrait

Go Vandals!

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

Support for Students in Potato Research and Industry
Thanks to a generous gift from Joe and Terri Guenthner, graduate students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) have a new scholarship opportunity. The Joe and Terri Guenthner Graduate Scholarship Endowment supports students focusing on potato research, or students who have family ties to the potato industry. “We hope this scholarship will encourage students to pursue careers in the potato industry, a major force in Idaho agriculture,” said Dean John Foltz. “CALS is committed to educating students and promoting research in this area through our Potato Program of Distinction, and the scholarship will help us achieve this.” This scholarship honors Joe’s 35 years as a faculty member working with potato research and extension in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. For more information on giving to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, contact Kim O’Neill, assistant dean of advancement at (425) 359-2411 or
Law Professor Receives Grant for Australia Water Research
University of Idaho College of Law Professor Barbara Cosens has been selected as a visiting professor with the ANZSOG—Goyder Institute Visiting Professors Program in association with Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, for part of the 2015 spring semester. The competitive selection process required Cosens’ proposal for research in Australia to focus on “addressing the public policy challenges of how finite resource use can effectively be managed through cooperation, with a priority focus on water policy and management.” University of Idaho Vice President of Research Jack McIver said, “Since it is rare for legal scholars to achieve funding through a National Science Foundation synthesis center, this award signifies both the stature of the investigator and the importance of her work.”
A Generous Gift That Pays You Back
The University of Idaho’s Stillinger Herbarium, the University of Washington’s Herbarium at the Burke Museum and Idaho State University’s Ray J. Davis Herbarium have partnered with High Country Apps to create the “Idaho Wildflowers” app, now available for iOS, Android and Kindle devices. The app includes profiles of more than 800 Idaho wildflower species, including close-up photographs and scientifically detailed, up-to-date descriptions of the species’ characteristics and known distributions. The app’s identification tool allows users to easily enter the characteristics of an unidentified flower and discover what species it is. The app taps into the vast knowledge generated by the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria, which brings together 32 regional herbaria to create an online database of more than 2.4 million plant specimens. “Idaho Wildflowers” puts that knowledge directly into people’s hands as they explore the state.

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