The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-05-12:
Celebrating Our Vandal Graduates

Please note: this is an archived email message and may not display as originally intended. Some images, links, and functionality may be broken or out of date.

Friday Letter
May 12, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
One of the great privileges of being president is getting to connect with our students. At UI commencements across the state this spring, I have had the chance to congratulate our talented and hard-working Vandals. This spring, UI has added nearly 1,500 graduates to our Vandal family.
Among those graduates are Reinaldo Gil Zambrano, Robert Stewart and Aly Mendiola:
One brisk Saturday last October, I sat at the wheel of a small steamroller. Graduate student Reinaldo Gil Zambrano — who will receive his Master of Fine Arts on Saturday — put together a printmaking showcase that had artists from UI and several regional universities taking large, inked wood blocks, stretching colorful tapestry across them, and adhering the print with a steamroller. The resulting beautiful and unique artwork was a special exhibit of the talent and creativity of our Vandals. Our Vandal family includes students from nearly 80 countries, including Reinaldo, a native of Venezuela. Check out the video about Reinaldo’s project at the bottom of the page, and join me in wishing him well as he steams his way to new challenges in the art world.
In April, I had the chance to visit our Engineering Design Expo. Surveying the seniors’ capstone projects, I connected with computer science graduate Robert Stewart, one of many engineering students whose Vandal experience is a springboard to exciting career opportunities. Now 19 years old, Robert had designed and launched his first app on the Apple App Store by age 11. At UI, the National Merit Scholar has helped our team prepare for the DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge, interned at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and at Apple, and is on his way to a job opportunity with Apple. I have no doubt we’ll see more from Robert, maybe without knowing it, as we use our phones or another life-changing piece of technology.
Let me give you one more example of the interesting paths our students take. I haven’t personally met graduating senior Aly Mendiola, but her Vandal experience represents another important side of UI life. A sociology major from Boise, Aly has demonstrated a strong commitment to volunteering in the community. She’s worked extensively with a local food bank and through the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action. I’m glad this dedicated Vandal is going to stay in state as she goes to graduate school on her path to a career that emphasizes serving others.
Whether they are graduating in art, engineering, social work, or any number of disciplines from law to landscape architecture, I’m impressed every spring by the spirit and skills of our Vandal graduates. Thank you to the many alumni and friends who have supported our graduates on their way to success. We can all look forward to what they accomplish next.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
P.S.: The Friday Letter will take a summer hiatus and return next August. See you then!
President Staben learns the art of wood block carving ahead of a printmaking demonstration with a steamroller, part of a graduate student project.

Idaho Cattle Foundation Supports Efforts in Salmon

Since 2013, the Idaho Cattle Foundation has contributed nearly $100,000 in support of animal science at the University of Idaho. Last month, the Idaho Cattle Foundation recommended $65,950 be awarded to support work in beef nutrition and rangeland science across the state. One $20,000 grant will kick off up to $500,000 in matching support from both the Auen Foundation and the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. This pivotal funding will build an education center at the Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center in Salmon, housing a much-needed large classroom, as well as lab and conference space. “The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is thankful for the continued relationship and support from the Idaho Cattle Foundation,” said Michael Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). “These contributions allow us to broaden the impact of our research efforts across the state.” For more information on giving to CALS, contact Eric Billings at 208-885-4038 or

Vandal Athletics and Women's Center Join Anti-violence Program

The University of Idaho Women’s Center and Vandal Athletics are coming together to join a yearlong initiative to engage male student-athletes, coaches and administrators as leaders in the fight against sexual assault and violence on college campuses. The program is funded through a three-year U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) grant the Women’s Center received in fall 2016. UI joins 13 other campuses that are participants in the Healthy Masculinity Campus Athletics Project (HMCAP), funded through the DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women Campus Technical Assistance and Resource Project. As part of the initiative, UI representatives from across campus will attend an intensive three-day training this summer emphasizing athletics’ leadership on social justice issues, and how male student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators can model the prosocial norms of healthy masculinity to foster healthier and safer campuses. UI will begin implementing the Healthy Masculinity curriculum this fall, as well as develop an action plan that addresses both prevention and response strategies.

Brave and Boldly Going

This week, the spring issue of Here We Have Idaho magazine began hitting mailboxes across the country. This issue takes readers on a journey through the solar system, highlighting the ways that UI researchers, students and alumni are leaving their mark on the stars. From expanding the industry exploring space to finally reaching Mars to understanding the origins of the universe, space has truly become the Vandal frontier. Check out all the stories and flip through the digital edition at