The Friday Letter Archive

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Friday Letter 2015-09-04:
How We Power the Future

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September 4, 2015

Dear Friends,
This week, we announced the chair of the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Endowed Chair in Power Engineering . Brian K. Johnson, a professor in the College of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering department, brings national recognition in the field, a track record of securing and completing exciting research, and a deep commitment to the success of students. This is a great choice for SEL’s first-ever endowed chair at a university, and we’re very grateful to have their vote of confidence in our excellence.

SEL has been a valued partner of UI for many years. A global leader in power technology, SEL employs more than 250 UI alumni out of 4,000 employees worldwide. They also offer internship opportunities, assist with student projects and research, sponsor College of Engineering programs, and participate in our annual Engineering Design Expo.

A $2 million gift from SEL makes this endowed chair possible. That generosity translates to income of about $90,000 per year, in perpetuity. Those funds provide partial salary support for the designated chair, as well as flexible funds to enhance graduate and undergraduate research, equipment, or other needs to move Professor Johnson’s work forward. SEL is a world-class company, and as we strive to be a world-class university, we’re glad to have a partner on the Palouse helping us achieve lofty goals.

UI engages with industry at many levels, relationships from which industries and our university both benefit. When we partner with industry, whether it’s through a new faculty or chair position, or through sponsored research, faculty and students find opportunities to work in real-world settings, identifying major problems. Similarly, internships lead to the acquisition of skills and often to great jobs. We sustain industry with a talent pipeline of graduates well-prepared to contribute to leading-edge organizations. Our research expertise allows us to address issues that affect industry and keep them strong for our state and our region.

During my presidency, we’ve remapped the way we engage with industry, especially in respect to our intellectual property (IP) agreements. It’s now easier for companies to benefit from intellectual property created during research projects they support. UI retains the right to publish research — a critical part of our university mission. Those changes first bore fruit with a research agreement with SEL, and UI has gone on to forge agreements with Idaho Power Company, with Avista Corporation and, now, just this August, with Micron Technology Inc.

These enhancements are new and robust, positioning us well for the future. They follow a historic pattern of UI engagement with industry. For more than 100 years we’ve worked with industries important to Idaho, including in fields like agriculture and natural resources, where research has contributed to new potato and wheat varieties, better agricultural and forestry practices, and improved training and know-how for industry and communities.

This week Dr. Schweitzer said something that sticks with me. As a freshman at Purdue, his Engineering 101 professor asked, “Why do you want to be an engineer?” He said becoming an engineer meant he could “take science, math and technology, and put them to work to improve the world.” He certainly has done that at SEL. It’s also what we do at UI across fields of research and scholarly activity — put concepts into action. We Vandals work on ideas that matter — a framework that you’ll be hearing more about in the future as we lay out a vision for UI in our strategic planning.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

A Witness to Changes Supports Futures of 4-H Students

Mary Jean Craig worked as an extension educator for the University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development for 30 years. It was her personal involvement with the 4-H program as a youth that sparked her interest in pursuing a career with the extension system. Like many faculty and staff at UI, Mary Jean sees firsthand the opportunities and inspiration received by both the student and teacher in academics. “I have seen lives changed through 4-H, one of the programs supported by the UI Extension system,” she said. A longtime donor to the 4-H Endowment Fund, Mary Jean decided to also include the fund in her estate plan. “I would like to see more opportunities for young people to gain a quality education, like the educations my son and daughter-in-law received at UI,” she said. To learn more about making a gift through your estate <[dead link]" >(link) , contact Sharon Morgan at 866-671-7041 or (link) .

UI Student Receives Prestigious Writing Internship

University of Idaho senior William Rigby has been selected as one of 15 recipients nationwide for a writing internship from the Phi Beta Kappa honors society. The internship period began in August and continues through December. “I am so honored to have received this internship and I am excited about this opportunity as I hope to become a reporter after college,” said Rigby, a native of Boise who is a French and public relations double major, with an emphasis in journalism. He is also an ambassador for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. He said he loves writing feature stories on music and concerts, focusing on the people involved and their stories. After graduation, Rigby hopes to pursue a career in public relations in the music industry or a job as a corresponding reporter.

UI Helps Improve Clothing for Wildland Firefighters

Clothing that can protect firefighters so they can protect the public is very much on the mind of University of Idaho clothing, textiles and design professor Sonya Meyer these days. Meyer, UI School of Family and Consumer Sciences director at Moscow, is part of a national project to review wildland firefighters’ clothing to find ways to improve its effectiveness, comfort and safety. The team’s project includes creation of clothing prototypes. The team will also study ways to give wildland firefighters better information about how to use and care for their protective clothing. The five-year project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in 2012.

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