The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2016-05-13:
The World Needs Vandals

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May 13, 2016

Dear Friends,
This week and next, we celebrate the accomplishments of students across our state, as more than 1,500 Vandals cross the stage as graduates (link) . Each has contributed greatly to the vibrant cultural and academic climate of our university. We know that whether they’ve earned a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, these students are better prepared to live outstanding lives (link) . Our graduates today take their place in a proud history and a forward-looking mission, as alumni of Idaho’s leading, national research university.

Over the course of their UI experience, graduates took on new experiences, met difficult challenges and made the most of life-changing opportunities. They have practiced critical inquiry and opened their minds to new ideas. They have engaged in hands-on research, scholarly activity and creative work alongside professors and mentors who are leading their disciplines. Our students have also offered leadership and service that makes a difference and lives up to our ideals as Vandals.

I encourage you to visit our website to learn and share our graduates’ stories (link) . Among our graduates today is Kelly Christensen, who has used her time at UI to engage deeply with academic work, to learn about herself, and to discover her potential for life and work filled with purpose and inspiration. She’s currently finishing an undergraduate research project (link) that takes an interdisciplinary route to use math to understand and fight disease — fascinating work on the precipice of a promising career. Kelly is a student ambassador for the College of Science and she participates in UI Science Outreach, bringing the excitement of science to area elementary and middle school students. I’m proud of how she’s represented science and the University of Idaho to future scientists — and future Vandals.

Tomorrow we’ll also congratulate Joe Vandal on his graduation. Joe, our beloved mascot, is not actually walking across the stage, but the person who has brought him to life (link) for four years is. Behind the mask, you’ve seen College of Natural Resources graduate student Rob Gibson at countless events, celebrations and gatherings over the years, bringing energy and enthusiasm to our school. Also the drum major for the Vandal marching band, Rob helped stir life and passion for our institution. Rob epitomizes what it means to be a member of a tribe from the North, brave and bold.

Each of our graduates has a story of success — challenges met, obstacles overcome and aspirations realized. As I have been telling our graduates, that experience positions them to succeed (link) . Our global economy needs critical thinkers, innovators and risk takers. Employers need skilled, creative, diligent, conscientious people — and they look to our university to find them. Communities need leaders and volunteers, women and men committed to the public good.

In short, the world needs Vandals.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
Click above to watch a video about longtime Joe Vandal and UI graduate student Rob Gibson.


Walmart Foundation Supports Healthy Eating After-school Program

4-H Food Smart Families in Idaho, part of the University of Idaho Extension’s Eat Smart Idaho program, received financial nourishment from the Walmart Foundation to deliver the program to youth at the Caldwell Housing Authority’s Farmway Village. In a 2015 survey, 70 percent of Farmway Village residents indicated the need for after-school programming and 60 percent were interested in programs on healthy eating, cooking and physical activity. Food Smart Families responds to these needs. Directed by Maureen Toomey, UI Extension program specialist, Food Smart Families enlists 4-H Youth Development teen members to co-teach classes regarding healthy food choices, grocery budgeting, safe preparation and cooking strategies to children in grades four through 12. “If we get kids to have a voice, then they can influence the family eating and activity level,” Toomey said. “Kids making positive, healthy choices help their family members live longer, healthier lives.” For more information on partnering with UI, contact Casey Hanson at 208-885-7053 or (link) .

Vandals Win Fulbright Awards

Anthony St. Claire, a master’s student studying teaching English as a second language in the University of Idaho’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, is a finalist in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program (link) . St. Claire, from Coeur d’Alene, graduates from UI this month and will serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Senegal. UI alumna Anna Cantrell of Bruneau, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s in education, was also awarded a 2016-17 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant. Cantrell will spend a year in Nepal teaching at a rural Nepali government school. St. Claire and Cantrell are two of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens awarded Fulbrights for the 2016-17 academic year. Fulbright recipients are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields. Administered by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the Fulbright program designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges.

New Inductees to UI Hall of Fame

The University of Idaho Alumni Association will induct three new members into its Hall of Fame (link) at a luncheon today, May 13. John Ford Elsaesser, Jr., Mark Hedge and Brian Oswald will become the newest members of the Hall of Fame, which was created in 1962 to recognize living alumni who achieved national or international distinction through their accomplishments and leadership. “These gentlemen embody the value of an UI education,” said Kathy Barnard, executive director of Alumni Relations. “They have remained committed and loyal Vandals while becoming leaders in their respective fields. It is an honor to welcome them into our Hall of Fame.” Elsaesser received his Juris Doctor from the UI College of Law in 1977, developing a nationally recognized practice in bankruptcy law and serving as bankruptcy professor at UI for 10 years. Hedge grew up in St. Anthony and graduated from the College of Engineering in 1985 with a bachelor’s in civil engineering, co-founding Lochsa Engineering and working on unique projects including the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay and the Grand Canyon Skywalk. He has served on the UI Foundation Board of Directors. Brian Oswald, who received his doctorate from the College of Natural Resources in 1992, is an internationally recognized expert on fire ecology, management and silviculture, as well as a decorated teacher and mentor.
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