The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2016-04-08:
International Experiences at UI

Please note: this is an archived email message and may not display as originally intended. Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.

April 8, 2016

Dear Friends,
You’ve heard me mention the “Friendship Families” program at the University of Idaho, something Mary Beth and I have gotten involved with over the past two years. We’ve come to know students from overseas who have chosen UI as the right place to pursue a transformative education. The Friendship Families program has helped us get to know talented individual students, but also learn more about the international experience at UI.

One such student is Pavan Penkey, a master’s student in electrical engineering. Pavan is the president of the Indian Students' Association (link) , a group of students and faculty members interested in celebrating and sharing Indian culture. This month I hope the UI community joins me in attending their annual India Night celebration. With great food, music and attire, this is quite an experience, one that can be fun and enriching for all students and faculty and staff.

India Night showcases a particular culture, but it is also a great example of the vibrancy that international students from 80 countries around the world bring to our campus and our community. They are drawn to UI by our reputation for excellence. Growing up and studying as an undergraduate in India, Pavan knew little about Idaho and less about UI, but a mentor knew of the excellence of Professor Brian Johnson in our College of Engineering, and recommended our institution. That’s the kind of word-of-mouth that we can be very proud of — the kind that travels over oceans and continents. We want to tell the world: This is a place where you can succeed, and where you can find a globally competitive academic experience.

The reputation is well-earned. One of our distinguished guests at India Night this year is Dayaldas Meshri, a doctoral recipient in chemical engineering who went on to found a successful chemical research company. (I’ll just say that if you use a cellphone, you use this company’s products.) We’re fortunate to have alumni like Dr. Meshri stay involved at UI, and come back to share their experience and perspectives. They are proof of how a Vandal education makes our country and our world a better place.

Our global connections offer a number of different programmatic opportunities. The Indian Student Association is one of many international student organizations that contribute to a rich campus culture. Our Confucius Institute (link) is expanding cultural and language instruction across Idaho. Our Martin Institute (link) offers programs on international themes and events like this week’s Borah Symposium, (link) as well as degree paths for students in interested in international work. (All three of the latter examples are housed in our College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences.) UI students can travel and explore interests through Study Abroad programs organized by our International Programs Office (link) .

There are many doors that UI hold open to the world. These are programs of depth and caliber only found at Idaho’s leading, national research university. As we continue to find new areas of growth and build upon current success, our reputation will continue to grow here and abroad.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben


A Lifetime of Giving

Ken ’68 and Jane Reagan have been avid supporters of Vandal Athletics for more than 40 years. In fact, there has been only one year since 1968 where the Reagans have not attended a football game. Ken’s passion for his alma mater stem from his experience as a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and the lifelong friends he created there. These 30-year football season ticket holders have actively advocated for and financially supported UI since 1977, including donating to nearly every athletic expansion project. Currently, Ken is a member of the Vandal Scholarship Fund and the Quarterbacks Club. “We would like to graciously thank Ken and Jane Reagan for their continued support of the University of Idaho and Vandal Athletics,” said Suzy Stride, associate director of development for the Vandal Scholarship Fund. The Reagans have three children, including two daughters and sons-in-law who graduated from UI. For information on supporting the Vandal Scholarship Fund, contact Suzy Stride at 208-334-2087 or (link) .

UI Junior Receives Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

A University of Idaho engineering and science student has been selected to receive a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship (link) through the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. UI’s award recipient is Alyssa Ertel, a third-year Honors program student from Kennewick, Washington, majoring in chemical engineering in the College of Engineering and chemistry in the College of Science. Ertel is also president of UI’s Society of Women Engineers Chapter, and a member of the DeVlieg Innovation design team, which will present at the Engineering Design EXPO at the end of April. “Becoming a Goldwater Scholar became a dream of mine when I realized that I could make a difference through research,” Ertel said. “It’s truly an honor, and I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by faculty members and peers that encouraged and inspired me to achieve my goals.” For the 2016-17 academic year, the scholarships are being awarded to 252 students, selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of more than 1,150 nominees nationwide. The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board, up to $7,500 per year.

UI Wins at Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge

University of Idaho students showed off their business plans during the annual Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge competition in Boise last week. About 20 students from the College of Business and Economics' Idaho Entrepreneurs program participated in the competition, which showcases ideas and pitches from 75 new venture teams from colleges and universities across Idaho. UI had seven teams in the final round and the students collectively won $40,000, more than any other school (link) . “All of our entrepreneurs performed at a high level,” said George Tanner, director of Idaho Entrepreneurs. “Their pitches were good, their plans were well-developed and the Vandal spirit once again energized this competition. We dominated the categories we entered and I am very proud of their performance.” Among other awards, a UI student team won first place in the Healthy Living category with a wearable technology prototype that offers an “electrocution solution” for utility workers and electricians; first runner-up and the “Best Pitch” prize in the Agriculture Technology category with an innovative pump solution for wildland firefighters; and second place in Technology for a safety wakeboard/ski handle.

Month of Innovation Celebrates Excellence at UI

The University of Idaho celebrates the creative and scholarly achievements of its faculty, staff and students with a “Month of Innovation” (link) this April. The month begins on Saturday, April 9, 2016, with TEDxUIdaho. The Office of Undergraduate Research hosts its first university-wide Undergraduate Research Symposium on Monday, April 11. The College of Graduate Studies has two events — its annual Innovation Showcase on April 14, highlighting research and scholarship from students across all disciplines, and a new Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. The College of Business and Economics’ 2016 Idaho Pitch and Business Plan Competition, held April 29-30, allows UI students to present their business plans and practice their presentation skills while competing for thousands in prize money to support their idea. At the College of Engineering’s annual Engineering Design EXPO April 29, about 500 K-12 and community college students from around the region will attend EXPO’s Extended Experience program, where they’ll be able to experience life at UI first-hand. The EXPO features more than 60 teams of UI students presenting their capstone projects, as well as a special presentation by honorary chair and keynote speaker Tom Mueller, a UI alumnus and co-founder of SpaceX.

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