The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-02-10:
Opportunities for Women's Leadership

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February 10, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
The University of Idaho is committed to strengthening our culture of opportunity. In March, Mary Beth will join Noel Schultz, professor of electrical engineering and first lady at neighboring Washington State University, and a number of other academic women leaders, for a panel presentation at our biennial Women’s Leadership Conference. This year’s theme is “Leaned On While Leaning In: Valuing Women’s Invisible Labor.” Organized in partnership with WSU and Lewis-Clark State College, the conference is one of many valuable resources UI has on our campus and as part of statewide and national efforts to promote women’s leadership in the academy and beyond.
The Women’s Center on campus in Moscow is one of the longest-running, continuously operated campus-based women’s centers in the country. It offers a strong base of support and advocacy for women students, staff and faculty. Director Lysa Salsbury guides the Women’s Center in leading campus education and outreach on women’s and gender issues, serving as a valuable resource for interdisciplinary engagement and activism, and connecting with the community. The center’s annual production of “The Vagina Monologues” opens today, Feb. 10, and raises critical funding for Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse.
Athena is another important internal resource at UI, as our professional association for women, with membership open to all employees. The organization facilitates mentoring, networking, engagement and leadership. A variety of activities include monthly socials, brown bag programs and Women of the Year awards. Athena, led by co-presidents Erin Chapman and Lisa Salsbury, also helps with the Women’s Leadership Conference and partners with the American Council on Education (ACE) to facilitate other professional opportunities for UI women.
I have recently been proud to join ACE on the “Moving the Needle: Advancing Women in Higher Education Leadership” campaign. The project aims at increasing representation of women in higher education senior leadership. ACE also is building a statewide collaboration with Idaho higher education institutions. I congratulate and thank professor Vanessa Sielert, in our Lionel Hampton School of Music and College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, for her leadership in re-energizing this valuable network.
Professional opportunity is a pipeline. At the University of Idaho, I want to ensure that we are seeing our people through all parts of the pipeline, especially as they move toward senior leadership. For faculty and staff members looking for more development opportunities, I encourage them to get involved at the upcoming Women’s Leadership Conference. Our working, learning and living environments are all better served when the work of all our Vandal family members is visible, and when all contributions are valued.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

Alumni Fund New College of Science Endowment

Earl and Carol Bennett committed $25,000 to fund a new endowment that supports strategic initiatives in the College of Science. “Carol and I established the endowment simply as 'payback' for a great education and for helping us become who we are,” Earl says. “We are also concerned about the low percentage of Idaho kids going to college and want to help increase these numbers.” Both Vandals, Earl ’74 earned his doctorate in geology, and Carol ‘72 ’74 ’76 ’94 earned her bachelor’s and master’s in both family and consumer sciences and education. Carol recently retired as coordinator of student services at Walla Walla Community College’s Clarkston campus. Earl is dean emeritus of the College of Science and served as state geologist of Idaho prior to his retirement. For more information about giving to the College of Science, contact Eric Bennett at 208-885-9106 or

UI Theatre Arts Student Wins National Award

University of Idaho Theatre Arts student Keely Wright-Ogren of Orange City, Iowa, has been selected as the national winner of the 2017 Robert E. Cohen Sound Achievement Award. The award is part of the U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology’s (USITT) prestigious Awards for Young Designers and Technicians in the Performing Arts. The award recognizes Wright-Ogren for her excellence and creative application of sound in the performing arts. While pursuing her master of fine arts in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, she has been active in the USITT student chapter and has designed sound for several productions including UI’s productions of “Medea: Her Story” and “The Little Prince,” as well as the Lewiston Civic Theatre’s “The Night of the Iguana.” “Keely’s a natural talent,” said Ann Hoste, chair of UI Theatre Arts. “She weaves together individual ‘sounds’ to create these seamless soundscapes that are deeply evocative but never intrusive. She’s also an incredibly generous artist, always willing to share her expertise with others.”

Why Wildfires Become Disasters

University of Idaho researchers and their international partners have conducted an unprecedented global study that establishes where mega-wildfires occur and why they become disasters. The team includes assistant professor Crystal Kolden and associate professor Alistair Smith in the UI College of Natural Resources Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences; John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in the UI College of Science Department of Geography; and researchers from the University of Tasmania in Australia and South Dakota State University. The research team analyzed 23 million wildfire events around the globe that occurred from 2002-2013. From this database, they focused on the top 478 most intense fire events. Of these, the team found that approximately 30 percent were disastrous fires for humans. The study concludes that there is an urgent need for communities to become more resilient in the face of wildfire. Some of this work will require a cultural shift in the way people think about investing in fire preparedness.