The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-04-28:
Engineering a Great Future with Hands-on Learning

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April 28, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
A couple weeks ago I visited our Clean Snowmobile Team in their shop. This unique student group based in our College of Engineering recently returned from the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The students built a snowmobile modified for efficiency, decibel level and performance, completing a challenging 100-mile Endurance Run and coming home to Idaho with awards for Best Value and Best Acceleration. It’s one of the many exciting student-led projects you’ll find at our annual Engineering Design Expo.
The longest-running student engineering expo of its kind in the Northwest, the Engineering Design Expo showcases the outstanding innovation and hands-on design work of our College of Engineering students. More than 275 University of Idaho engineering students participate with 40 technical presentations and 60 booth presentations. It’s a chance for graduating seniors to show off their capstone projects in this hands-on degree program. Judges drawn from the ranks of important regional employers offer constructive criticism and feedback, and students also gain a sense of that connection to rewarding careers.
The Expo brings the Vandal engineering students of the future to campus. More than 500 K-12 students and students from North Idaho College and the College of Western Idaho will see firsthand what an exciting and practical educational experience looks like. Students are taking on innovative and thought-provoking work in everything from 3D metal printing to downtown Boise infrastructure to high-altitude balloon launches to flywheel energy storage. The applications for engineering are nearly limitless. I can’t wait for our prospective students to see the work and start imagining their projects as Vandals.
Engineering has long been a strength at the University of Idaho. We’ve gained a prominent reputation among our peers, among nationally known companies, and among up-and-coming organizations and ventures. UI was an early adopter and is now one of more than 100 institutions nationwide taking part in the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Scholars Program, focusing on important areas, including one in which UI is very strong, cybersecurity. At Expo this year we have the honor of welcoming Brent Stacey, a strategic advisor for the Idaho National Laboratory’s National and Homeland Security mission. This is an up-close window into the complex and vital task of protecting our energy infrastructure, in part through assuring cybersecurity.
Whether they want to build a better snowmobile check out the video below to see some of that work in action, and think about joining up with the team, even if you’re not an engineering student or work in energy or water or any number of rewarding pursuits, Vandal engineers are in demand. They’ll be on the front lines of creating a sustainable, secure, healthier world we all can enjoy.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
President Chuck Staben visits with the award-winning Clean Snowmobile Team for a hands-on look at one of UI's great educational experiences.

Engineering Alumni Provide Opportunities for Idaho Youth

Jan ’81 and Dale ’80 Welch have generously included the University of Idaho in their estate plan by designating a gift in three parts. The Jan and Dale Welch College of Engineering Scholarship will provide opportunities for high school graduates pursuing undergraduate engineering degrees. The Welches also provided resources for critical facility and equipment upgrades within the Department of Civil Engineering. The third portion goes to the Vandal Scholarship Fund and Athletics. Both from Boise, Jan and Dale met while pursuing degrees in Civil Engineering. Jan is now President of Stapley Engineering and Dale is former Engineering Leader for Idaho Power. With daughters Laura ’10 and Lise ’18 joining them in the Vandal family, Jan and Dale have been well served by their UI education and are passionate about supporting Idahoans interested in engineering careers. The College of Engineering is proud and grateful to claim Jan and Dale Welch as valued alumni and, with this estate gift, members of the Heritage Society. For more information about supporting the College of Engineering, contact Stacy Rauch at 208-885-7978 or

1,482 Students Statewide Eligible to Graduate from UI

Approximately 1,482 University of Idaho students statewide are eligible for graduation this spring, earning a combined 1,551 degrees, including 1,119 bachelor’s degrees, 85 law degrees, 33 doctorate degrees, 13 specialist degrees and 301 master’s degrees. (Some UI students will have earned multiple degrees.) This year's commencement brings the university's all-time total to 117,335 graduates and 125,567 degrees. Approximately 1,291 students, eligible for 1,360 degrees, will graduate from the Moscow campus. Moscow graduates have applied for 1,050 bachelor’s degrees, 60 law degrees, 28 doctorate degrees, four specialist degrees and 218 master’s degrees. This year’s commencement combines the ceremonies for the university and the College of Law. Guests unable to visit Moscow may watch the ceremony online at

Students graduating from the University of Idaho Boise and Twin Falls centers are eligible for 75 degrees this spring. The commencement speaker for the combined Boise and Twin Falls commencement is Meg Carlson, president and CEO of Prosperity Organic Foods and 1976 graduate from the University of Idaho. Seventy-eight graduating students are eligible to receive a combined 78 degrees this spring at the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene. The Coeur d’Alene commencement ceremony will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 8, at the Schuler Performing Arts Center in Boswell Hall at North Idaho College. The commencement speaker is Dr. James Robson, owner of Avondale Dental and a 1969 graduate of UI. Twenty-seven graduating students are eligible to receive a combined 27 degrees this spring at the University of Idaho, Idaho Falls. The guest speaker for the ceremony is Rick Aman, Ph.D., president of Eastern Idaho Technical College.

Broadcaster and Alumna Offers Moscow Commencement Keynote

This year’s keynote speaker for UI’s Spring 2017 Commencement in Moscow is Marilyn Denis, a 1980 graduate of UI’s School of Journalism and Mass Media and one of the top broadcast journalists in Canada. Denis is the recipient of three Gemini Awards, given by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, and was awarded The Rosalie Award, honoring Canadian women who have paved the way for others in radio broadcasting; she was presented with the Allan Waters Broadcast Lifetime Achievement Award presented at Canadian Music Week’s annual Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards, the first time a female broadcaster will receive the prestigious award. Denis also will receive an honorary doctorate from the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. She was surprised with the honor during a live-taping of the Canadian daytime series, “The Marilyn Denis Show,” in February on CTV. Other honorees at this year’s ceremony include honorary degree recipient Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne will receive an honorary Doctor of Administrative Services. Hall of Fame inductees include Roger Contor ’53 and John Norbury ’83.