The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-03-10:
Our New Medical Sciences Degree

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Friday Letter
March 10, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
Health care is an important part of our lives and our economy. The University of Idaho is doing its part to train more physicians and prepare students for a wide variety of health-sector careers. Those are areas of critical need for our state and region. Our capacity to deliver those opportunities recently received a boost when the State Board of Education approved a new Bachelor of Science in medical sciences in UI's College of Science.
Medical education is a pipeline that begins in a key way with the transition to postsecondary education. We wanted to clarify the pathway for high school students to plan for a career as a physician. Often a “pre-med” track supplies coursework necessary for medical school qualification within an existing major, such as biology, chemistry or physics. This is actually the somewhat circuitous route my family Mary Beth and our three children took to medical school. A medical sciences degree packages those medical school prerequisites within a clearly defined major, with all the benefits of focused advising, waypoints and recognition from medical schools as a stamp of readiness.
Importantly, this new curriculum is appropriate not just for future physicians, but for careers across the burgeoning health care sector. Health care is 20 percent of our nation’s economy, and whether you are a medical writer, health care administrator, lawyer, allied health professional or any other related profession, there are great employment opportunities for rewarding careers that impact health and well-being. According to analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care professions can expect 29 percent growth in the next seven years, adding millions of new jobs with high median annual salaries. Those careers can now be launched with a medical sciences degree from the University of Idaho.
Without adding new administrative capacity or funding needs, we have created a strong program that will attract students. We project approximately 50 initial enrollments, a 75-student overall enrollment, and then at least 45 graduates per year. Whether they are going on to jobs in health care in our rural communities or in our growing urban areas, or taking another step with advancement to medical school, students are going to be well-prepared to shape the future — theirs and ours.
Last year we followed up on important curricular changes to the Idaho WWAMI program — Idaho’s public medical school, providing access to one of the best medical educations in the country — with growth in the number of slots available to Idahoans in that program. We are moving forward with renovation of our WWAMI facility in Moscow, and looking at ways to increase the number of residencies in Idaho. This medical sciences undergraduate program, for future physicians and health care professionals of all kinds, builds on that success and innovation.
I’ve seen firsthand the rigor of medical education, as Mary Beth completed her degree, and now my two sons are taking on medical school and our daughter is completing coursework with plans to apply. It takes a lot of commitment to eventually be in a position to make a difference in people’s lives through medicine. I appreciate the State Board’s recognition that this medical science education degree can more effectively bring students into that pipeline and succeed. This medical sciences degree offers the right prescription for our state’s future.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

Micron Invests in Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program

A generous gift by Micron will support engineering student research and innovation. This past fall, the University of Idaho College of Engineering kicked-off the Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP), a national initiative launched by the National Academy of Engineers (NAE) designed to prepare students for solving society’s “grand challenges.” The NAE identified 14 “Grand Challenges of the 21st Century” challenges such as securing cyberspace, providing access to clean water and reverse-engineering the brain. College of Engineering Dean Larry Stauffer joined 122 schools nationwide in a commitment to graduating 20 Grand Challenge Scholars per year over the next 10 years. Micron’s support helps students progress through the program and their engineering degree. “This is a great opportunity for Micron to be part of the national movement to change the paradigm in engineering education across the country,” said Vishal Saxena, UI Micron Endowed Professor in Microelectronics. “We are in step with the National Academy’s motivation and vision to prepare engineers to be world changers. The GCSP will pilot innovative educational approaches that will eventually become the mainstream educational paradigm for all engineering students.” For information on supporting the Grand Challenges Scholars Program, contact Mary Lee Ryba at 208-755-4916 or

Ginger Carney Appointed Dean of UI College of Science

Ginger Carney has been named dean of the College of Science, as well as full professor of biology, effective Aug. 14, 2017. Carney holds a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in genetics from University of Georgia, which was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral genetics at Oregon State University. Her published research includes topics in molecular genetics and physiological mechanisms that regulate animal behavior. Carney joins UI from Texas A&M University, where she is a faculty member in biology and associate dean for assessment and college climate. Carney is a member of the Interdisciplinary Faculty of Neuroscience and Faculty of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and has won numerous awards. She was named an SEC Academic Leadership Development Program (SEC-ALDP) Fellow for 2015-2016. She serves on grant review panels for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Health (NIH), and also serves as an ad hoc reviewer for NSF, NIH and numerous journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, PLoS Biology, the Journal of Insect Physiology, Evolution, and Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Six Home Games Highlight 2017 Football Schedule 

The 2017 University of Idaho football schedule include six games at the Kibbie Dome with a Thursday, Aug. 31, game against Big Sky Conference opponent Sacramento State launching the season. The 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl champion Vandals have games against five other 2016 bowl teams as well as a first-time opponent (Coastal Carolina) and one (Missouri) they haven't played since 1963. In addition to their opener on a Thursday night, they have one other Thursday game at Troy on Nov. 2. That contest will be on ESPNU. “I'm very excited to have six home games next year,” said coach Paul Petrino, who led the Vandals to one of the most remarkable two-year turnarounds in the NCAA the past two seasons. “We have our first two games at home, which is very exciting.” The Vandals begin preparation for the 2017 season when spring ball opens March 24 with a 3:30 p.m. practice. The annual Silver and Gold game is April 28 at 6 p.m. Renewal information packets for current season ticket holders will be mailed in mid-March. New season tickets can be reserved online, at the Kibbie Dome Ticket Office or by calling 208-885-6466. Single-game tickets go on sale online at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 29, and in the office or on the phone at 9 a.m. Monday, July 31.

Professor Receives Top Kennedy Center Honor

Professor Kelly Quinnett, head of performance at UI Theatre Arts, was awarded the Golden Medallion, considered one of the greatest honors in theater education, during the Region 7 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in Denver, Colorado, in February. The award recognizes Quinnett for her extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theater and for her significant dedication, artistry and enthusiasm toward the development of KCACTF. It was one of 16 awards given to UI faculty and students during the annual festival. Quinnett has been involved with the festival for more than 25 years and has held several positions including respondent, Irene Ryan auditor, vice chair of Region 7, chair of Region 7 and as chair curating the festival with nationally acclaimed guest artists and performances. During the weeklong Region 7 event, more than 50 UI students joined colleges and universities from across the west, competing for scholarships and awards in performance and design, and participating in workshops and seminars in new methods and techniques in theater.