The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2016-02-12:
The Vandal Flag in Boise

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February 12, 2016

Dear Friends,
In “Beacon for Mountain and Plain,” historian Rafe Gibbs describes a mid-1870s effort to create a university in the Idaho Territory. In an address to the legislature, the governor noted that citizens, “inspired with a commendable zeal for the furtherance of the cause of education in our Territory, have inaugurated a movement for the establishment of a university at Boise City, to be called the University of Idaho.” History had other plans, though, and higher education had to wait until 1889, when the University of Idaho was established amid the rolling hills of the Palouse in beautiful Moscow.

Still, for more than a century the University of Idaho has maintained a robust presence in Boise and southwestern Idaho. An agricultural extension program was the first Vandal flag planted in the city in 1910. Exciting research, dynamic extension services and outstanding educational offerings have flourished in southwestern Idaho ever since.

UI-Boise offers educational opportunities (link) for students at all stages. Our VandaLink transfer program (link) , recently bolstered with an additional $185,000 in need-based support, creates a smooth pathway between area community colleges and UI four-year options. Students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in areas such as dietetics, education and psychology, or advanced degrees in engineering, fire ecology and management, bioregional planning and community design, and many more. Our new Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center, in the former Ada County Courthouse, is home to second- and third-year law options, with a first-year program planned for 2017.

Research is another piece of our statewide mission. At the UI Water Center, the Center for Ecohydraulics Research anchors a thematic commitment to the study of water, natural resources and the environment in Idaho and the west. The Integrated Design Lab helps design high-performance, energy efficient buildings, an important goal for 21st-century sustainability. Our Confucius Institute is expanding to Boise to offer Chinese language and cultural instruction, a boon for students and business leaders alike. Our James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research publishes policy briefs and other items (link) ; its recent “Life After High School” report has attracted notice to the challenges Idaho faces in achieving its postsecondary education goals. There are many other valuable programs and initiatives (link) , part of a commitment to exploring ideas that matter for Idaho.

The University’s research impact extends beyond Boise. In Caldwell, the Food Technology Center provides resources, space and expertise to facilitate entrepreneurial successes like Zacca Hummus (link) . The Parma Research and Extension Center assists agricultural producers with research on everything from plant pathology to soil sciences. (The public can taste fruits of this labor at Parma’s annual Fruit Field Day in August.) You’ll also find research excellence in the Twin Falls and Kimberly Research and Extension Centers and at the world-renowned Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station.

UI also contributes to entrepreneurship and innovation with involvement in projects such as Trailhead, a community-based nonprofit that helps startup organizations and businesses; Tech Help, which offers manufacturing support and is Idaho’s affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership; and the Boise Valley Economic Partnership, which works to bring new businesses to the area. Our regional center director, Mike Satz, joins other UI-Boise leaders in getting involved with community and educational organizations, including the Treasure Valley Education partnership, the Educate Idaho Network, the Idaho Nonprofit Association and special projects such as Neighbors United.

The Vandal flag is waving high and proud (link) in Boise and beyond. Nearly 16,000 Vandals in the area can attest to that. In the coming years, we’re going to keep leveraging our strengths as Idaho’s leading, national research university, and continue to grow our presence in Idaho’s political capital and economic center.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben


Vandal Valentines Share Their Stories

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the University of Idaho Alumni Facebook page will once again provide a space for couples to share their Vandal Love Story. Whitney ’08 and Kyle ’07 Westhoff were high school sweethearts who both enrolled at UI. During their time at the University of Idaho, their love for each other deepened. Married now for six years, they still call the Moscow campus their home away from home for their growing Vandal family. Fall in Moscow is something they both will always hold dear – the sound of Vandal football Saturday, the food, the colors, and the friendships. Though recent graduates, Whitney and Kyle have shown their support for Vandal student-athletes by making a gift to the Vandal Scholarship Fund each of the last six years. Read more Vandal Love Stories or share your own at (link) . For more information, contact James Brownson, director of annual giving, at (208) 885-5369 or (link) .

UI Scientist Helps Weigh Saturn’s Brightest Ring

A recent study from NASA's Cassini mission proves that, in the mysterious and beautiful rings of Saturn, appearances can be deceiving. Researchers led by University of Idaho assistant professor of physics Matthew Hedman “weighed” the central parts of Saturn’s most massive ring for the first time, and the results suggest the ring is much less massive than some researchers had expected. In their analysis (link) , Cassini scientists found surprisingly little correlation between how dense a ring might appear to be — in terms of its opacity and reflectiveness — and the amount of material it contains. The new results concern Saturn's B ring, the brightest and most opaque of Saturn's rings, and are consistent with previous studies that found similar results for Saturn's other main rings. Hedman and his colleagues came to their conclusion by examining fine-scale features of the rings using a new technique to analyze data gathered from Cassini as it peered through the rings toward Gamma Crucis, a bright, red giant star in the Southern Cross constellation. READ MORE (link)

Strong Job Market for Spring Graduates

University of Idaho graduates this May will walk across the stage into the best Idaho job market in 10 years. According to the Idaho Department of Labor (link) , “The stronger market will help [the state’s college graduates] find well-paying jobs more easily, but is also likely to affect the critical first 10 years of their careers, which is when the majority of lifetime earnings growth occurs.” A college degree continues to be critical for a stable financial future. “College graduates typically earn considerably more than other workers,” the department explains. “College graduates will likely earn higher pay fresh on the job than workers of all experience levels with no more than a high school diploma.” Among bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients, UI graduates earn higher beginning and mid-career salaries than graduates from any other institution in Idaho, competitive with other top schools region-wide, according to PayScale (link) . The Department of Labor notes that the highest demand continues to be for engineering and computer science majors, with rising demand for business majors, as well.

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