The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2015-10-23:
A Hero in All of Us

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October 23, 2015

Dear Friends,
This is a special time of year. On campus and across the state, we bundle up in Vandal gear, as the October days get chillier. In our arboretum, fall colors are on full display. Midterms have come and gone, to the relief and satisfaction of students and professors alike. Our Vandal football team, fresh off a hard-earned road victory, returns to the Kibbie Dome — just named one of the Top 10 football stadiums in the nation (link) by USA Today, by the way. It is Homecoming at the University of Idaho (link) .

This year’s Homecoming theme is “A Hero’s Homecoming.” It’s a special week where we come together to honor the heroes in our lives and focus on the hero in all of us. In keeping with this year’s theme and with long traditions, the week has been filled with festivities and service to others. Vandals participated in school spirit competitions and decorated downtown, UI offices and living spaces. Vandals have also been busy this week meeting needs in our local community. On Thursday, students collected food for local foodbanks, and supplies for a local violence and abuse prevention and support organization. They also organized and participated in UI’s annual blood drive, a time-honored tradition. Rafe Gibbs notes in “Beacon for Mountain and Plain,” a history of the University of Idaho, that campus blood drives started on behalf of wounded servicemen in the Korean War, and Vandal students “became nationally famous as blood-donating champions.”

I am glad that spirit of service (link) , these small acts of heroism, continues with today’s students. Tonight we’ll rally around the bonfire after the serpentine to crown this year’s Homecoming Royalty. These events are fun, but they’re also a lot of work to organize, so we should give thanks to the many student leaders who take their time to help create lasting memories we can all share.

Tomorrow, the Homecoming parade will pour through downtown Moscow, one of the best college towns in America. We are proud to have the four ROTC units on campus (link) — the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines — as our Grand Marshalls this year. Vandal ROTC members serve their university and their nation with commitment, courage and sacrifice. As we enjoy meeting friends at the tailgate or in the Fan Zone, and as we watch our Vandals compete on the gridiron, we can be grateful for our Grand Marshalls’ example of heroic service.

Many Vandals return to the Moscow campus during Homecoming. Our alumni set the example for current and future generations. Some have sons and daughters forging their own Vandal legacies. I look forward to renewing acquaintances and meeting new friends this week, saluting our heroes in the Armed Forces, and being reminded that there can be a hero in all of us.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben


Avista Gives Idaho Entrepreneurs a Boost

Avista Utilities has pledged $50,000 in matching support to the Idaho Entrepreneurs Gap Fund. The fund benefits business ideas for new technology and large-scale commercialization as well as small businesses and social start-ups. Idaho Entrepreneurs fosters an entrepreneurial culture and stimulates innovation at the university, while providing extensive learning opportunities for our students to participate in learning how to launch a business and how technology transfer takes place on campus. The Idaho Entrepreneurs Gap Fund was recently used to help two new local businesses, Altered Ego and MotoTrax. “Incentivizing startup businesses to stay in our region and state is important,” said Paul Kimmell with Avista. “Having this fund also encourages university faculty, staff and students to generate research and develop ideas that may have an ultimate application in the marketplace.” For more information on how to support Idaho Entrepreneurs, please contact Toni Broyles at (208) 885-2634 or (link) .

UI on Right Track for Environmental Research

The University of Idaho is prepared to help address America’s pressing needs in food, water and energy security, according to a faculty member who helped write the National Science Foundation’s new 10-year outlook for environmental research (link) . Lilian Alessa, a professor in UI’s College of Art and Architecture and the director for the recently formed UI Center for Resilient Communities (link) , is a member of this national advisory committee charged with developing the foundation’s report, called “America’s Future: Environmental Research and Education for a Thriving Century.” The report advocates for shifting the focus of environmental research toward resilience, well-being, stewardship and prosperity, and emphasizes the need to address environmental problems collaboratively, across disciplines and institutions. “If I analyze our strengths, not just at UI but across our state and region, I see several ways we can be extremely responsive to the content of the report,” Alessa said.

UI Nuclear Engineering Earns NRC Grant

The UI College of Engineering Nuclear Engineering program (link) has been awarded a $434,048 faculty development grant by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The UI College of Engineering Nuclear Engineering program is the cornerstone of the mission of University of Idaho in Idaho Falls. UI Idaho Falls administers graduate-level education and research programs addressing energy needs of the state and the nation in partnership with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), industry and other universities. “Nuclear energy in this country is entering a period of renaissance, and it will play an ever-important role in meeting the nation’s energy security and affordability needs,” said Vivek Utgikar, College of Engineering associate dean for Research and Economic Development. “This NRC grant will help us increase our science and engineering research, development and education activities at UIIF to help meet these vital needs by strengthening and expanding our capabilities in strategically important nuclear energy areas.” The grant is comprehensive and intended to strengthen the entire UI nuclear engineering program.

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