The Friday Letter Archive

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Friday Letter 2016-02-26:
Jazz Fest Opens Pathways for Students

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February 26, 2016

Dear Friends,
This week marks the 49th anniversary of the University of Idaho’s acclaimed Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival (link) , an example of Vandal excellence in arts and culture and educational outreach. This signature UI event highlights some of the strengths of our university: our ability to bring culture and community together, our commitment to outreach and engagement with young people, and our opportunities for students to learn and excel through an experience they’d find no place else. It’s an exciting time filled with nearly 100 student-artist workshops, some 400 student performances and entertainment from leading lights of the music world.

The workshop and seminars over the course of the week give K-12 and UI students a chance to study with accomplished professionals, receiving mentorship and hands-on instruction. Secondary students visiting us this week also experience the college environment and have the opportunity to picture themselves succeeding at the University of Idaho. Not all of them will be music majors, of course, but we hope this experience opens up their idea of how accessible a college education is and how they can and should succeed in it.

This year the Jazz Fest experience has also come directly to high schools across the region through our Jazz in Schools (link) program. More than 8,000 students in dozens of schools participate in the program. It’s an outreach program that only a university of our reach and mission can and or would attempt, and of which we can all be justly proud. Those students in our small towns and larger cities are gaining a window into a uniquely American art form. Jazz is about improvisation and collaboration — as music, it perfectly embodies the “Pathways to Discovery” theme. Those lessons go well beyond music, of course, and can be applied to a wide range of endeavors both academic and personal.

This year we’re excited to welcome a diverse array of professional performers (link) to the Palouse, including many Grammy winners. It’s a broad range of music, from jazz funk to big band, to swing, to blues and more. Already this week we’ve seen our talented performers from UI join nationally recognized musicians for two nights of concerts. This weekend will bring another two nights of exciting music from well-known performers — I hope you’ll join Mary Beth and me in attending these events. We enjoy the buzz of activity in the Moscow community around this special week.

The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival is a remarkable, multifaceted event. I want to thank the faculty and staff members, students, and volunteers who make it possible year after year. We have a passionate and committed advisory board and other alumni who care about this festival and appreciate both the music and the opportunity to showcase our university.

The past half-century of music festivals offers us a heritage and history that we can draw from to invigorate the festival in coming years. The Jazz Fest has enriched our community and opened up new pathways for students for many years now — I look forward to the festival to come this weekend, and to the bright future we’ll discover together.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben


Avista Kick-Starts Endowment for Grand Challenges Engineering Scholars

The University of Idaho College of Engineering and Avista Corporation have launched a unique endowment to support UI Grand Challenges Scholars Program students — a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century. Avista established a $25,000 endowment to recognize and honor alumnus Don F. Kopczynski (link) , a member of the UI Academy of Engineers and retired vice president of Avista Corporation. The endowment will support scholarships and activities related to the program. “Funding and volunteer mentoring from the private sector will play a critical role in the success of the Grand Challenges Scholars Program,” said Jim Ritter, president of the UI Academy of Engineers, who is leading the campaign to build industry and alumni support for the initiative. For more information about the UI Grand Challenges Scholars Program, contact Mary Lee Ryba at (208) 755-4916 or (link) .

Research Explores Nanotechnology-Based Explosives Sensor

University of Idaho physics professor David McIlroy will dig into the details of nanotechnology-based explosives detection with a three-year, $408,000 grant from the Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research. The explosives sensor McIlroy has developed incorporates nanosprings — telephone-cord shaped coils of silica 500 times thinner than a human hair — which McIlroy invented. McIlroy’s new project will focus on defining and understanding the underlying factors that make the sensor work, which opens the door to designing a more robust and reliable sensor. He will work with two graduate students and two undergraduate summer researchers. McIlroy’s sensor design uses xenon light bulbs — which cost just a few dollars and are commonly used in items such as overhead projectors — coated with nanosprings and a material that reacts with certain chemicals used to make explosives. The bulb provides heat to activate the reactive material, while the nanosprings provide a huge amount of surface area in a small space, allowing the sensor to react to extremely low concentrations of chemicals. READ MORE (link)

UI Rec Center Named One of the Best in the Country

The Campus Recreation Center (link) at the University of Idaho was recently named among the top 20 most luxurious campus rec centers (link) in the nation. Factors that inform UI’s No. 18 nationwide ranking include a “superb” wellness program with personal trainers, an “extensive” intramural program, and the center’s climbing wall with 6,000 square feet of space. Other noted options for outdoor experiences include kayaking and white-water rafting, skiing and snowshoeing. Access to the Campus Recreation Center is free for full-time students. College Rank also describes that at UI’s Campus Recreation Center, “Students can access superior outdoor training, backcountry classes and take advantage of Iconic Idaho classes.” The Iconic Idaho trips (link) are part of the Outdoor Programs at UI, and provide overnight outdoor trips to distinctive and off-the-beaten-path Idaho locations and clinics for Vandals of all experience levels.

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