The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2015-01-30

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Dear Friends,

On Monday, I went before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) of the Idaho Legislature to discuss our university’s mission, activities and budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year. The governor has issued budget recommendations that would bolster many critical areas in our university’s work for student success, for important research and for outreach and engagement.
The governor’s top budget priority, one I share, is ensuring salary competitiveness for our hardworking faculty and staff by issuing a 3 percent, merit-based CEC (“change in employee compensation”). It is no secret that salaries at our institution have fallen behind our peer institutions, and turnover among our faculty and staff is a disruptive force. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: You can’t buy loyalty, buy you can lose it — even Vandal loyalty. Salary competitiveness helps us recruit and retain the talented people who make our university excellent.
In our higher education funding model, funding for salaries is split between the state and our institution’s local sources of revenue. So a 3 percent CEC does create a funding obligation on our end — about $1.6 million. Were there an alternative revenue source to meet that funding need, we would be able to hold the line on student tuition and preserve access to a transformative University of Idaho education.
A number of other requests represent a strong investment in programs that impact our students and our state:
  • Funding for the Student Employee Readiness program (about $520,000) and programs that support the State Board’s “Complete College Idaho” initiative (about $560,000) provide high-impact ways of helping students progress through their educations on-time, gain experiences with research and internships, and navigate career options for after college.

  • Support of UI’s Agricultural Research and Extension Service (ARES) via a requested $1.5 million increase would help ARES continue to take a leading role in the success of Idaho agriculture, the largest sector of Idaho’s economy.

  • Funding for expanded capacity of the WWAMI program (about $670,000) is a step toward addressing a dramatic physician shortage in our state, especially in rural areas, by making sure Idaho residents have access to the top-ranked University of Washington medical school through UI. This funding would add five new seats (for a total of 35) and offer continued support to previously funded seats, helping progress toward the State Board’s goal of 40 seats.

  • We are completing renovations on the Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center, and the governor has recommended $250,000 in what is effectively rent. The former Ada County Courthouse will be the home of our rapidly growing second- and third year law programs in Boise, and a welcome presence for the University of Idaho on the capital mall landscape.

  • Support of the Forest Utilization Research program (about $220,000) is a recognition by the governor of the need to support a critical industry in our state and conduct important research to address challenges posed by wildfire and invasive species.
These recommendations provide a significant investment in our university’s excellence, and we appreciate the governor’s support of the university’s needs.
Budget setting is a complex discussion between our institution, the governor, the State Board of Education and the legislature, as we partner together to achieve our shared goals for students and the state. That process will unwind over the next days, weeks and months. I’ll continue to communicate with our partners, and to share with you the news on our priorities and requests as it develops. 

Chuck Staben portrait

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

Stock Gift Creates Permanent Endowment to Support Dean’s Excellence Fund
Linda ’62 ’65 and Bob ’64 Parkinson, of Jerome, Idaho, recently used securities they have held for decades to create a permanent endowment to support the dean of the College of Engineering. The Linda and Bob Parkinson Dean’s Excellence Fund Endowment will provide much-needed support and a permanent revenue stream for programs within the College of Engineering to enhance student experiences and an ever-increasing list of priorities and needs.
“As the world evolves and we are faced with new technological challenges, it is critical for the College of Engineering to adapt and continue to enhance our programs.  This permanent endowment provides the flexibility for future deans to support students in new ways, spearhead new areas of faculty research, and keep our college in the forefront of engineering education in this country,” said Dean Larry Stauffer.
For more information on giving to the College of Engineering, contact the college development team at 208-885-5201 or
Dean Mantle-Bromley Appointed to Deans for Impact Board
The University of Idaho announced that Cori Mantle-Bromley, dean of the College of Education, has been appointed to the Deans for Impact board of directors. This newly founded national organization includes 18 deans from colleges of education and other teacher-preparation programs from across the country who are working together to improve student learning and other outcomes. The member deans work together to collectively train 15,000 teachers every year.
“UI’s interest in joining Deans for Impact comes from a strong commitment to improve and adapt educator-training through a collaborative, outcome-focused effort and to add Idaho’s perspective to national conversations,” said Mantle-Bromley. “We will all get better if our decisions are data-driven, and we must be transparent in our efforts to produce the very best teachers possible.”
Studying the History of Moving Mountains
Elizabeth Cassel loves mountains — and her research is unearthing the history of a mountain range lost to time. Cassel, an assistant professor in the University of Idaho Department of Geological Sciences, and her students study an ancient Nevadan mountain range that dwarfed today’s Sierra Nevada, but gradually disappeared as a result of shifting tectonic plates. Cassel’s work was recently published in the journal Geology and featured in Scientific American.
The research is significant because it nails down when the mountains existed: about 20 to 50 million years ago. “We’re not the first people to say we think this area was higher than it is today, but we are the first to give absolute numbers, and determine when it was high,” Cassell says. 

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