The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2015-08-21:
An American Dream Institution

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August 21, 2015

Dear Friends,

Today young men and women from all over the world begin their educational journeys as Vandals. At Convocation this morning, our faculty and staff members gather to welcome our incoming freshmen and transfer students. We applaud them for making a momentous decision: By attending UI, they’ve taken a crucial step in achieving their American Dream.

The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and upward social mobility for children and families – achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. Over and over again, in the lives of countless students and their families, that dream matures at the University of Idaho. Together with our faculty and staff, I am inspired to work at UI because we help build the future and continue the American Dream (link) . Our incoming students will unlock their potential, discover new interests and absorb different perspectives – building blocks for a personally satisfying and financially stable life.

UI, like other leading, national research universities, provides those building blocks in a very special way. Universities like ours provide real-world research and scholarly experience for students as well as instruction by faculty on the leading edge of their disciplines. The young men and women in the Convocation crowd this morning will have a chance to work directly alongside professors who are recognized experts in their fields. Maybe they’ll help rediscover a piece of Idaho’s heritage (link) on an archaeology project. Maybe they’ll unlock the key to understanding the next Ebola epidemic (link) . They will all grow as individuals, become experts in their fields, and acquire transferable skills to innovate throughout their lives.

Students pursue those transformative experiences as part of a diverse cohort of students from around the world. At Convocation this morning, students sit beside colleagues from every state in the nation, and from more than 70 countries around the world. Students from big cities study with students from small towns and family farms. A student from Brazil or Saudi Arabia can exchange ideas and forge lifelong friendships with a student from Boise, or Idaho Falls, or Seattle. Students emerge from UI prepared not just with career skills, but with the global understandings they need to compete and collaborate in the 21st century.

We’ll share these ideas with our students this morning. We’ll also share what they can look forward to after graduation, the success with which so many of our alumni, friends and supporters are already familiar. You read the stories, you hear it from your friends, and you experience it in your own life – Vandal alumni do great things. Whether it’s exploring the final frontier (link) of space, reaching lofty heights in public service (link) or creating a stronger future for agriculture , Vandals make the world better.

As we begin this exciting new year, I encourage our alumni to be involved at UI. Join an advisory board, or engage with the alumni association (link) . Reach out to a college or department – or our Career Center (link) – and see how your company or organization can engage students at UI. Talk to young people still making decisions for their future about what your college experience meant to you. Our Vandal family is so important to the success of our university. It’s one key place where we distinguish ourselves from other universities. As Paul Joyce, Dean of Science, puts it, UI is “big enough to matter, and small enough to care.” That care shines through brightly in the passion and commitment of our alumni.

We have big challenges ahead of us. I’m eager to watch this class of freshmen embrace the opportunities inherent in those challenges, and I look forward to seeing them achieve their American Dream through a Vandal education.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

Scholarship Supports International Engineering Opportunities
The College of Engineering is grateful to Daniella and Andy Emerson ’97 for providing perpetual support of students through the newly created Emerson International Engineering Scholarship Endowment. Inspired by his own study abroad experience as a student, Andy wanted to provide international leadership opportunities that will prepare students to compete globally and inspire a passion necessary to take on 21st-century challenges. “Our alumni, faculty and corporate partners understand that engineering graduates with international experiences are in demand,” said Dean Stauffer. “For our graduates to become engineering leaders in their fields, it will require a deep understanding and appreciation for how different societies and industries operate around the world.” Andy is the president of MH Solutions, a provider of engineered material handling systems for mining and heavy industry, and serves on the UI Foundation board of directors. For more information on giving to the College of Engineering (link) , contact Mary Lee Ryba at (208) 755-4916 or (link) .
SEL Gives $2 Million to Establish Endowed Chair
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. (SEL) has donated $2 million to the University of Idaho College of Engineering to create an endowed chair position in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Chair in Power Engineering” establishes a highly honored academic position that will attract and support distinguished faculty in the field of power engineering and further the college’s mission of excellence in fundamental engineering education with real-world applications. SEL invents, designs and builds digital products and systems that protect power grids around the world. This technology prevents blackouts and enables customers to improve power system reliability, safety and cost. An endowed chair is a distinguished university professorship that is used to attract a preeminent scholar in a specific academic field, in this case power engineering. The enhanced financial support and prestige generated by the endowment will dramatically fuel future innovation in electric power research and teaching.
UI Leads National Project to Combat Potato Nematodes
The University of Idaho will lead a $3.2 million project to combat microscopic worms that threaten potato production. The project, which focuses on the pale cyst nematode and golden nematode, relies on university, federal and industry efforts. These nematodes can reduce potato production by up to 80 percent by infecting the plant’s roots, draining energy that would otherwise create tubers. One of the nematode’s worst qualities for farmers is that its cysts or egg clusters can survive up to 30 years in the soil. The $3.2 million grant from the USDA Food Security Challenge Area program is one of only three projects funded nationally this year. The project's research and extension team of eighteen scientists includes six UI faculty members in the areas of nematology, plant pathology, plant molecular biology, Extension, and agricultural economics.

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