The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2015-11-20:
The Way Forward for a Great Life

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November 20, 2015

Dear Friends,
Last week was a remarkable week for education in Idaho – for our K-12 schools, and for our higher education system. High school seniors across the state, and their parents, received letters of acceptance to Idaho public colleges and universities directly from the State Board of Education, a measure intended to smooth the transition to postsecondary education. The University of Idaho followed up by leading a statewide “Enroll Idaho” initiative, fanning out across Idaho to spread information and awareness about options for life after high school.

At Enroll Idaho on November 10, UI delivered a strong message about the value of going on to higher education to more than 420 students and 330 parents, from Boundary County in the north to Bear Lake County in the southeast and all points in between. I had the pleasure of returning to Grangeville to talk with high school seniors there and then visiting Coeur d’Alene that night.

You’ll find a lot of information about the value of postsecondary attainment in this video (link) we made for the event, but here’s a little bit of what we told people about going on to college: We know that a high-quality college education, the kind you find at UI, is transformative for people’s lives. To be clear, a college degree is not right for everyone. But for many, it is a critical ingredient in the recipe for a great life. Through higher education, students unlock the talent and creativity that inform a life of purpose and initiative. It’s an opportunity to make life-long friends, to see the world, and to grow as a leader.

Students who graduate from college emerge as critical thinkers and problem-solvers, qualities that are in-demand for employers, no matter what field you enter. The lifetime earnings difference among those who have a college degree and those who do not was recently estimated at $830,000 by the Federal Reserve (link) , a wide gap this is only getting wider. The great jobs of today and tomorrow increasingly demand a college degree and the skills and perspectives that come with it. Beyond financial stability, though, a well-paying job leads to increased well-being (link) in professional life, in personal satisfaction and in civic engagement. In short, doors open for college graduates – pathways to an exciting future.

Postsecondary education also unleashes a bright future for our state. A vibrant economy starts with an educated workforce, as our economy moves in a knowledge- and information-based direction. Those are the jobs that will build prosperity for our communities, and will provide opportunities for young people ready to start careers and families.

Taking the next steps toward college may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. I encourage students and families to examine resources about how to go to college (link) , as well as how to assess which institution (link) and which course of study (link) is right for them. UI is going to follow up the Enroll Idaho effort with outreach – FAFSA workshops, recruiting events and more – that help us reshape the college-going culture in our state. I encourage students and families to ask questions and explore. We’re here to listen and answer questions. The way forward for a great life may be closer than you think.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
P.S. I’ll return with the next Friday Letter on December 4. Continuing an annual tradition, our School of Family and Consumer Sciences students have put together a list of Vandal recipes (link) for Thanksgiving. Mary Beth served as a judge – a delicious honor, I’m sure. Try them out if you can next week while you’re with your family for the holiday. And on behalf of the entire Vandal family, Happy Thanksgiving!


Giving Supports Library First-floor Remodel

“We are proud to support all students with our gift to the University Library,” explained Dawn Wittman ’71. She and her husband, Dick ’70, made a gift to support the library’s first floor remodel. The $1.3 million project, scheduled for completion in spring 2016, addresses the demand for technology-rich, collaborative learning spaces. “The Wittmans’ gift recognizes the vital role the library plays in attracting and retaining students,” said Dean Lynn Baird. “Offering students quality learning environments with access to top-rate technology gives them a competitive edge in the workplace. We are very grateful to the Wittmans for their generosity.” Dawn, a member of the UI Library Advisory Board, retired as executive director of the Lewiston City Library in 2012 and was recognized as Idaho’s Librarian of the Year. Dick oversees Wittman Farms Inc. and Wittman Consulting. For information on giving to the University Library, contact Jim Zuba at (208) 885-4142 or (link) .

Sustainability Center’s Student-led Grant Recipients

The University of Idaho Sustainability Center has awarded grants totaling $10,000 to eight student-led sustainability projects. The center’s student-led grant program facilitates student engagement in building campus sustainability. This is the 10th year of the grant awards. Since its inception in 2006, the program has distributed more than $129,000 to increasing sustainability on campus and the community. The grants support initiative work in areas such as sustainable transportation, carbon neutrality and climate change. View a full list here (link) of the UISC grant recipients for 2015-16.

EPA Grant Supports High School Water Science

The University of Idaho is extending the Confluence Project, a program that helps North Idaho high schoolers learn scientific skills while studying water resource issues in their own communities, with a new grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The $91,000 environmental education grant (link) will help the university partner with teachers in Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Plummer, Moscow and St. Maries and more than 200 students. This year’s curriculum will include an increased focus on climate change, indigenous knowledge and agriculture. UI was one of just three groups in the Pacific Northwest that received a grant, with 48 applications submitted from EPA Region 10. Launched in 2013, the Confluence Project connects UI graduate students with regional teachers, students and community partners. The high school students learn about local watersheds challenges through projects such as measuring snowpack on Mount Spokane, learning about traditional ecological knowledge from Coeur d’Alene Tribal elders and monitoring river quality at Paradise Creek on the Palouse.

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