The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2016-04-22:
New Opportunities To Build a Stronger Idaho

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April 22, 2016

Dear Friends,
As Idaho’s statewide research institution (link) , the University of Idaho is in a special position to be responsive to the economic aspirations of our state. We live and work in a complex economy that includes vibrant agricultural, natural resources, technology and health care sectors. UI leverages expertise and resources to create a stronger Idaho for students, for employees, and for businesses who want to succeed with innovation and excellence.

Computer science is an area of strength at our university. We’re partnering with North Idaho College to allow students to transition from NIC to a four-year computer science degree (link) at UI Coeur d’Alene. Cybersecurity, software development and computer engineering are critical in the technology sector and across industries. This program is an important investment being made by our legislature in the workforce needs of our state, and we will carry it out effectively. For North Idaho, this transfer option follows on the creation of the Cybersecurity Operations and Training Center in Post Falls (link) . Funded with an Idaho Department of Labor grant, the new center will train up to 350 people, including those currently in the workforce, in the next few years.

Our faculty at the College of Engineering’s Center for Secure and Dependable Systems, led by Jim Alves-Foss, can attest to cybersecurity’s importance. Alves-Foss and his teammate Jia Song, a research assistant professor (link) , are competing in the DARPA Grand Cyber Challenge, having already bested some of the top experts and institutions in the world on their way to the finals later this year, with a $2 million grand prize at stake. We are proud to lead with expertise in this field.

In southeastern Idaho (link) , we have historically worked closely with the Idaho National Laboratory to train their workforce. We train employees and others toward bachelor’s degrees in industrial technology, environmental science and advanced degrees in STEM fields. Cybersecurity is an important component of this work, too. We also partner with INL to conduct research in everything from nuclear engineering to geothermal energy – research that will fuel growth and opportunity.

Lastly, I want to point out new work serving the agricultural teaching and research component of our land-grant mission for Idaho. Last week in Moscow, Idaho State Board of Education members heard a presentation about our Western Initiative for the Dairy Environment, (link) a developing initiative that will support dairy production and processing in Idaho. Our state is third in the nation in dairy production, and the industry represents 30 percent of our agricultural economy. We have an opportunity to support a critical industry, but also to ensure a stable and sustainable supply of protein for our world.

We are a comprehensive university, and each of our academic and research functions engage directly and indirectly with the workforce and economic needs of our state. We will continue to look for opportunities to serve our state and the students who are our future employees, entrepreneurs and community leaders — in our farm fields, in our business offices and behind our computer screens.

I invite you to watch the video below, from our 2016 Research Report, to see more of our research impact for Idaho and the world.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
Click the photo above to watch a video from UI's 2016 Research Report (link) .


Celebrating 115 Years of CALS

Combining their commitment to the agriculture industry and appreciation of UI’s land-grant mission, the Food Producers of Idaho have offered a matching gift of $7,500 during the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ first-ever “Match Day” on April 26th. The goal to raise $15,000 in 36 hours will recognize Michael P. Parrella as the 15th dean in the 115 years of the college. “We are confident that Dean Parrella will provide excellent leadership for CALS, and we are excited to work with him for the benefit of Idaho’s agriculture industry,” said President Wyatt Prescott. “We challenge alumni, faculty, staff and students to join the Food Producers of Idaho in meeting the goal of the Dean’s Excellence Fund.” The Food Producers of Idaho is comprised of numerous commodity, farm and agribusiness organizations united to communicate, educate and advocate on behalf of the agriculture industry in Idaho. Follow the CALS Facebook page (link) for Match Day updates or contact Kim O’Neill, CALS assistant dean of advancement, at 208-885-8606 or (link) .

Five Teams Earn Vandal Ideas Project Grants

Proposals for neural modeling for brain research, enhancing education in a digital world, integrating evolution principles into video game design, improving scientific research through statistics, and uniting art and science rose to the top of a diverse field of projects to win the University of Idaho’s inaugural Vandal Ideas Project (VIP) grants (link) . Five teams of scholars and researchers from across colleges and disciplines have been awarded grants of between $40,000 and $80,000 through VIP, a competitive, university-wide grant program aimed at stimulating new research, creativity and scholarship. The VIP committee reviewed proposals with an eye for those that seemed most innovative, feasible and likely either to have a lasting impact within the university or to position UI to have an impact on a topic of regional or national relevance. President Chuck Staben made final decisions, based on committee recommendations. “We are excited and honored to invest in these projects that leap beyond the traditional boundaries of academia to create new knowledge, advance groundbreaking ideas and provide tangible benefits to our students, state and world,” Staben said. “These projects capture the spirit of creativity and innovation the University of Idaho seeks to foster.”

UI Theater Returns to Russia for Summer Study

University of Idaho faculty and 20 students within the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences will travel to Moscow, Russia (link) , this summer to study at the world famous Moscow Art Theatre. During the visit, the group will see close to 20 performances, as well as tour famous museums and cultural sights in Moscow and the surrounding area. In addition to training and studying Russian theater and culture, UI assistant professor Matt Foss and students will perform a site-specific production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” at the Moscow Art Theatre. The performance is funded by the Vandal Theatre Lab, a grant-funded initiative helping to create student and outreach focused work. The Moscow Art Theatre was the home of world-famous actor and director Konstantin Stanislavsky, premiered and made famous many works of Anton Chekhov, and maintains a tradition of modern actor training. The June trip is a collaboration between UI Theatre Arts, the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
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