The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2016-02-19:
Our Home in Idaho Falls and Southeastern Idaho

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February 19, 2016

Dear Friends,
In the early 1950s, the first lights powered by nuclear technology flickered to life in the desert of southeastern Idaho. The region has grown and thrived ever since, and the University of Idaho has played a key role in that development. In Idaho Falls and southeastern Idaho (link) , UI carries out an ambitious and exciting research agenda, in partnership with organizations such as the Idaho National Laboratory and others. We also provide an array of educational opportunities, especially advanced education, and engage with communities through our Extension network.

The Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) (link) is a unique facility in Idaho Falls, promoting research that seeks solutions for renewable energy and training the next generation of experts. In partnership with the Idaho National Laboratory, UI is a leader among four institutions that come together to offer timely and innovative research, education and policy resources that have impact and benefits for our state. For example, the competitive Frontier for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) (link) grant examines the feasibility of establishing a geothermal laboratory in Idaho — a potentially very valuable resource for the entire region’s energy future. The Food, Water and Energy (FEW) nexus is also an important upcoming area of research, looking at the criticality of those resources in a changing world.

In most of these endeavors, the Idaho National Laboratory is a key player. The INL is a research and economic success story in the high plains of southeastern Idaho, and UI is proud to be an active partner in their efforts. Nuclear engineering is central to the work at UI-Idaho Falls. Rich Christensen joined UI in September as the director of nuclear engineering. With decades of experience at Ohio State University, Christensen and his team are fostering collaboration and responsiveness to industry needs, as they study everything from small nuclear reactors, to heat exchange, to the safety of nuclear systems and hybrid nuclear systems. We also serve the needs of the workforce in the region, including INL, offering their employees (and others) bachelor’s degrees in industrial technology and environmental science and master’s and doctoral-level education in multiple engineering and science-related disciplines.

Computer science is an area of excellence in southeastern Idaho. We have outstanding faculty in this area, including joint appointments with INL, who are seeing the needs of industry firsthand and are able to bring that perspective to students. New faculty member Michael Haney’s background in cybersecurity enables research collaboration with INL employees and gives students the best possible training they’ll need to take to employers, helping industry stay ahead of the game in this critical space.

We’re lucky to have the leadership of Executive Officer Marc Skinner at UI-Idaho Falls. Marc had previously worked at UI before serving as a faculty member and administrator at BYU-Idaho. He rejoined the Vandal family last summer, having forged great connections in the community and an understanding of the region’s educational offerings and needs. He’s involved with regional economic development, and recognizes how fast-growing and dynamic the region is — and how UI can serve that continued success. I’m excited about seeing the direction he’s able to take our research and education.

Lastly, I want to highlight our community engagement in southeastern Idaho. Through Extension, UI meets community needs in places like the Fort Hall Reservation, developing leaders there and across the region through programs such as 4-H. This is the often unseen work that is part of everyday life in town after town. We also recently hosted a community concert in Idaho Falls with the Lionel Hampton School of Music’s Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble and Idaho Brass Quintet. More than 500 people, including area high school students, attended the concert.

We’re proud to have an impact on the fabric of communities. UI employees don’t just have a passion for the land-grant mission of service to Idaho. We are community leaders, volunteers and dedicated citizens — wherever we are in this great state.

Idaho is our campus, we often say at UI. It is also our home. And we are proud to do all we can for the success of Idaho — our state, our home.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben


The Famous Kathleens Help Generations of Students

Kathleen Bailey Irwin ’37 and her daughter, Kay (Kathleen) Irwin Rowley ’63, ’87, are a generous mother and daughter team. Similar in so many ways, Irwin and Rowley both love playing the organ, earned degrees in education from UI and have chosen to financially support their alma mater. “The UI helped us grow and mature to make practical decisions on our journeys through life,” Rowley said. “We wish to help others on their journeys.” In fact, 101-year-old Irwin has been helping generations of Idaho students on their journeys through 42 years of loyal support, beginning with a $10 gift in 1970. In the decades since, Irwin has given regularly to the annual fund and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Together, Irwin and Rowley created an endowed scholarship in the College of Education in 2002, and in 2015, they donated vintage clothing to the Leila Old Historic Costume Collection. Most recently, Rowley has decided to honor her mother by naming a space after both Kathleens in the renovated College of Education building. Read more about the “Famous Kathleens” and their journey on the Loyal Donor website (link) .

Idaho Agriculture Bolstered by Foltz Appointment

Idaho’s agriculture initiatives are receiving additional attention this spring as former College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) Term Dean John C. Foltz moves into a new position as assistant to the president for agricultural initiatives (link) . Newly appointed CALS Dean Michael Parella, former chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and associate dean of Agricultural Sciences at the University of California, Davis, started at UI on Feb. 1. In his new position, Foltz is working in collaboration with Parella and Jack McIver, vice president for Research and Economic Development, to lead statewide initiatives, including the Western Initiative for the Dairy Environment (WIDE), a large-scale research center focused on Idaho’s beef and dairy industry. The university has explored such a center in the Magic Valley of south-central Idaho for more than a decade. “Being able to maintain the momentum for Idaho agriculture is vitally important to the industry, our citizens and our students,” Foltz said. READ MORE (link)

UI Hemingway Festival Offers Packed Schedule

The University of Idaho English department will take literary fun and creative writing education across the Moscow community with this year’s seventh annual Hemingway Festival, March 2-5, 2016. This year’s festival celebrates Ernest Hemingway’s love of Cuba, the recently reinvigorated U.S.-Cuba political relationship and the 65th anniversary of Hemingway’s writing of “The Old Man and the Sea.” In addition to readings from students in UI’s Creative Writing MFA program, local authors and UI faculty, this year’s festival includes the announcement of the winner of the first Hemingway Festival High School Writing Contest and the winner of the Cuba Journal Internship on Thursday, March 3, as well as writing workshops at Moscow High School on Friday, March 4. The signature event of the festival is “A Moveable Feast: Havana Nights (link) ,” the six-course, Cuban-inspired menu, Cuban music, dance performances by the UI Ballroom Dance Team and door prizes. The festival also celebrates the recipient of this year’s PEN/Hemingway Award, Arna Bontemps Hemenway, who received the award for his collection of shorts stories, “Elegy on Kinderklavier.” MORE DETAILS (link)

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