The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2015-03-20

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 Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.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,
For many students, Spring Break is a time for rest and relaxation. But nearly 100 Vandal students have been taking a different kind of break from their studies this week. Fanned out in communities across Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Montana and Oregon, they’ve been volunteering through the university’s Alternative Service Break (ASB) program.

Alternative Service Breaks are opportunities for students — from freshman to graduate level — to get involved in positive, collaboration-centered extracurricular activities. Students broaden their social groups and engage with people they might not otherwise have met. A student from rural Idaho might work together on a project with a student from the East Coast, or from South America, or from Africa.

While working with fellow students, ASB participants gain insight about communities from outside their world experience. Each ASB group partners with a local organization with a proven track record of sustainable impact: a rescue mission in Boise, conservation-focused groups in the Pacific Northwest, an organization that provides no-cost repairs for seniors in need in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example. This mission of partnership ensures that change is meaningful and long-lasting; it also lets students get to know and learn from community members, whom they work alongside.

Alternative Service Break students are also developing leadership skills. Student coordinators take on the lion’s share of trip planning, and student leaders of each of the nine separate ASB groups this spring have worked with partner organizations in communities, planned trip details and communicated with their groups. In a program by students, for students and led by students, ASB participants gain practical skills with real-world applications.

These are experiences that our Vandal students seek out on their own. The program strives to make the trips affordable, including through a pool of need-based support, as the two-week national and international trips in ASB’s winter program, for instance, cannot help but be a financial stretch for many students.

I’m very proud of our ASB students. They represent our university with pride, and with the passion for service that all Vandals aspire to. They are the leaders, not just of tomorrow, but of today.

So if you see some tanned, enthusiastic students next week, remember, they may not have come straight from the beach. They may have been building a house out in the sun, or clearing a trail or helping a senior in need. And they are heading right back to their schoolwork, their student organizations and their many other commitments. They’ll have earned a little rest — not that they’ll take it.


Chuck Staben portrait

Go Vandals!

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

Vandal Entrepreneurs Excel at Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge
When the closing bell rang at the awards ceremony for the March 4-7 Zions Bank Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge in Boise, aspiring entrepreneurs from the University of Idaho had claimed three of the top five prizes. A UI student group won the top prize package, worth $70,000, for their patent-pending snow bike design product, MotoTrax. Other UI groups finished in third and fifth place (TimeStage and TriBiz, respectively). Collectively the winning groups received $85,000 in seed money for entrepreneurial projects. Culminating with the Business Plan Competition, the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge includes workshops and other events that provide opportunities for mentoring, feedback and advice from investors and business professionals. “It was an incredible showing by our Vandal students,” said George Tanner, VIEW director and instructor for entrepreneurship in UI’s College of Business and Economics. “All our students brought back greater insight, confidence and business acumen – we can all be proud of their accomplishments, and grateful for Zions Bank’s big investment in Idaho entrepreneurs.”
UI Hires New Provost and Executive Vice President
The University of Idaho has appointed John M. Wiencek, Ph.D., to the position of Provost and Executive Vice President effective June 1, 2015. Wiencek will serve as the university’s chief academic officer, directly responsible for the general direction of all academic programs, endeavors and instructional services on the Moscow campus as well as the university’s statewide academic, outreach and research initiatives. He will be responsible for leading the university’s strategic planning and accreditation development and implementation, and for coordinating the activities of the vice presidents and other members of the senior administration to support UI’s mission. “I am delighted that John is joining the University of Idaho community,” said Chuck Staben, president of the University of Idaho. “He is an experienced and talented administrator who will be a strong leader for our academic programs and will help build on our university’s excellence as we take on challenges and embrace future opportunities.”
UI Hires Executive Officer, Southeast Region
The University of Idaho has appointed Marc T. Skinner to the position of executive officer of the southeast region. As executive officer, Skinner will provide administrative leadership of UI’s Idaho Falls center; act as a catalyst to support academic programs, faculty and staff in southeast Idaho; and collaborate with the Idaho National Laboratory, local industry and other university partners. His appointment is effective May 4, 2015. “I am thrilled to join the University of Idaho family as executive officer of the southeast region,” Skinner said. “The Idaho Falls center has an important role to play in meeting the strategic goals of the university. UI offers an educational product that has respect throughout the state, nation and world. I look forward to taking an active role in the collaborative effort required to meet the educational needs of the people of Idaho, particularly in this growing region of the state.”

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