The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2016-05-20:
Students at the Center of Our Academic Excellence

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May 20, 2016

Dear Friends,
Summer is a great time to celebrate the accomplishments of our students. We take pride in providing opportunities for student success through access to a comprehensive, high quality education. While I can’t highlight every deserving student, I want to mention a few whose achievements embody the excellence of our university (link) .

Vandals are leading the way in distinguished, national awards. This spring Alyssa Ertel, a third-year honors program student from Kennewick, Washington, earned a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship (link) . That award supports careers in science, mathematics and engineering. Alyssa, a student of chemical engineering and chemistry, is one of only 252 new Goldwater scholars nationwide this year. UI has had 11 students earn this award over the past decade.

UI also had numerous recipients this year of the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, a competitive scholarship given to only 2,700 recipients nationwide. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the scholarship supports international study and internship opportunities. In the fall, sophomores Emily and Jordan Kizer used their scholarships to live and learn in Peru. Samuel Hermann, a senior international studies major from Genesee, Idaho, participated in a research project in Senegal. This spring junior Clarisa Lopez, a clothing, textile and design major, went to France. Joshua Warnick from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, went to Morocco. We’ll have two more Gilman scholars this summer: William Juarez-Tapia, from Filer, Idaho, is going to China, and Lauren Hirsch from Fair Oaks, California, is bound for Russia. I’m excited about the academic and cultural opportunities they’ll experience, and the perspectives they’ll be able to share with their classmates when they return to UI.

We also applaud the work of Katey Huggler, a senior in wildlife resources from Priest River, Idaho, who earned a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a great step toward future study and an exciting career. Two Vandals have won Fulbright U.S. Student Awards (link) : Anna Cantrell, from Bruneau, Idaho, will travel to Nepal for an English teaching assistantship, and Anthony St. Claire of Coeur d’Alene will travel to Senegal for an English teaching assistantship.

Our University Honors Program (link) takes the lead in connecting students with many of these scholarships. Approximately 500 students, in all colleges and undergraduate majors, participate in the program. There are many opportunities for mentorship, peer support and involvement in everything from undergraduate research to volunteerism. The program is an invaluable part of the academic life of our research university.

These honors show the high caliber of students we have here at UI. We once again led the Northwest in the number of National Merit Scholars (link) who chose UI as freshmen, with 23 of Idaho’s 24 scholars. These students are in the top 1 percent of high school students and pass a rigorous course of tests to become National Merit finalists. In addition, we’ll be joined next fall by a new Gates Millennium Scholar, Enrique Gutierrez from Parma, Idaho. It is a point of pride that these talented students choose the University of Idaho to prepare them for life and work. They enhance the academic vitality of UI for all students on their way to further distinction in the paths they take as Vandals.

We also have many students who are accomplishing great things in other ways. That includes the many students who volunteer in their communities and through programs like our Alternative Service Breaks. It includes those who take leadership roles in student government and in fraternity and sorority life. It includes those who excel in scholarship and creative work. And it certainly includes the many students who have overcome challenges of all kinds and found their way forward through higher education at the state’s leading, national research university. I congratulate our students on their success, and wish them well in their future as graduates and as citizens.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben


Late Alumna, UI Extension Professional Honored

Lydia Clayton ’04, ’09 committed her life to producing food sustainably and educating others. As a student, she served as the manager for the Soil Stewards Farm and following graduation became a University of Idaho Extension educator in Lewiston. After her unexpected passing in August 2014, friends, family and community members, along with UI Extension and the Soil Stewards, donated funds to build a pole barn on the Soil Stewards Farm to honor Lydia’s short, but impactful life. The structure will be built this summer and will provide storage, along with a sheltered area for Extension classes. “This barn will serve as a way to honor Lydia’s life and passion, while providing a great benefit to our students and community,” said Barbara Petty, University of Idaho Extension interim director. Additional donations are being raised to support a Soil Stewards Farm manager internship in Lydia’s memory. For information on giving, contact Kim O’Neill, CALS assistant dean of advancement, at 208-885-8606 or (link) .

UI Part of Grant to Evaluate Health Care Model

A team of researchers led by the University of Idaho is embarking on a three-year, $2.9 million project (link) to evaluate an innovative model of health care being tested throughout Idaho. The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare (IDHW) awarded the contract after a competitive process. Researchers from UI, the Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program and Boise State University will evaluate the model test of the Statewide Healthcare Innovation Plan, or SHIP, to allow IDHW to make adjustments. The SHIP system supports transformation of primary care through coordinated teams of providers focused on individual patients’ needs. In 2016, 55 medical practices in Idaho adopted the program, which will expand to 165 practices over the next two years and include regional and statewide oversight and support.

Researchers Examine Evolution with NSF Support

University of Idaho faculty members in the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST) have been awarded $504,818 (link) this year in new competitive grants as part of the National Science Foundation’s BEACON Science and Technology Center on Evolution in Action. UI researchers have now been awarded more than $3.8 million through BEACON in the past seven years. IBEST is an interdisciplinary research group at UI focused on understanding the patterns and processes of evolution that occur over comparatively short periods of time.

Professor Wins NEH Support to Study Impact of Memorials

A University of Idaho writer and English faculty member will spend the summer exploring and analyzing National Park Service memorials across the West, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipends program (link) . Jennifer Ladino, an associate professor of English in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, will visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah and the San Juan Island National Historic Park in Washington as research for her scholarly book project, “Memorials Matter,” investigating how National Park Service memorials in the American West influence emotions about historical conflict and national identity. “The idea is to examine the natural and built environment in these places, to analyze how they affect tourists on an emotional level,” Ladino said. Ladino was the only 2016 NEH grant recipient from Idaho.
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