The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-09-15:
UI Stands Out in Rankings

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September 15, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions a person can make. We try to offer the best information possible about our institution’s combination of academic quality, affordability and unique opportunities. We think UI stands out on those measures; but of course, the president would say that. So third-party sources offer an entry point into objectively comparing institutions and understanding the value each offers.
This week saw the release of the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings, with UI the No. 90 “Top Public School” in the country. UI ranks No. 171 among national universities overall. Our business and engineering programs are singled out for their excellence.

When looking at rankings, I encourage students and families to look at how the methodology views factors like affordability and access, as well as the actual student experience educational quality, meaningful programs, service and scholarship and professional opportunities. How are outcomes such as graduation rates and alumni earnings considered? Does the ranking system match the institutional mission? For example, the U.S. News and World Report methodology rewards selectivity how many qualified students are turned away. That doesn’t reflect our priorities at UI. As a public institution, we want to offer all qualified students an opportunity to pursue their dreams. We are an excellent institution because we hold the door open.

UI stands out among its peers in the Washington Monthly rankings: We moved up 17 spots this year to No. 67 among national universities. We also made the “Best Bang for Your Buck” list for schools “doing the best jobs of helping non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices.” That emphasis on affordability and results speaks to the heart of our land-grant mission: You can afford to attend, you will graduate and you will succeed after school.
UI is also one of Money’s “Best Colleges for Your Money 2017” and its “Best College” in Idaho based on “educational quality, affordability and alumni success.” Money also weighed how well institutions help low-income students succeed on their way to the upper-middle class, basically how they “help students achieve the American dream.” We’re proud of that success and will continue to strive to make college an affordable reality for more students.
Money magazine has a high opinion of UI in part because it uses PayScale data to gauge alumni earnings. PayScale’s 2017 College Salary Report named UI the “Best 4-Year College” in Idaho. Our graduates earned higher mid-career salaries than graduates of any other institution in Idaho an annual average salary of $91,700. UI was the only Idaho institution to rank among the top 400 schools nationwide for graduate earnings, and we compare very well with peers among other national research universities.
Lastly, I hope students and families continue to use the federal government’s College Scorecard for objective data on key measures, among them average annual cost, graduation success and graduate earnings. Visit the University of Idaho’s listing, and you’ll see a simple black line representing the national average. For each measure, UI is on the correct side of the line below the national average for cost and above it for graduation rates and alumni earnings. The site has a tool to quickly build comparisons between institutions. Try it out I’m confident UI shines in those comparisons.
As I’ve said before, not all rankings are created equal. Consider the methodology behind rankings. Weigh your own priorities and interests. UI stands out as a superb value in higher education an excellent, national research university education at an affordable price that leads to a great life. Don’t take it from the president find out yourself.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

UI Academy of Engineers Supports Grand Challenge Scholars

The University of Idaho Academy of Engineers has collectively committed $63,000 to the College of Engineering’s Grand Challenge Scholars Program — a program dedicated to equipping a new generation of engineers to tackle 14 of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century — through its Academy of Engineers’ Priorities Endowment and annual gifts. The Academy of Engineers, founded in 2011, is a group of eminent engineers deeply connected to Idaho’s legacy of global engineering impact. On Oct. 26, 2017, a new class of Academy members will be inducted. In addition to funding support, Academy members serve as judges for the annual Grand Challenge Scholars Pitch Event — an opportunity for students in the program to win financial support for their project proposals. For more information on how to support the Grand Challenge Scholars Program contact Assistant Dean for Development Bobbi Hughes or call 208-885-5303.

UI-Led Team Receives $700K Grant to Study Antelope

Ryan Long, assistant professor in UI’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences, leads a team that has received a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue studying how body size impacts behavior and survival of native antelope in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Africa. The study will focus on three closely related antelopes that differ considerably in body size: bushbuck, nyala and kudu. In the wild, availability of resources such as food, water and shelter fluctuates constantly. Animals must adjust their behavior in response to changing environmental conditions in order to survive and reproduce. Data gathered during this project will help researchers understand how variation in body size limits animals’ ability to respond to changes in the environment, such as the availability of food or water. While the information gathered will be important for determining the best conservation and management practices in Gorongosa, it could also be useful for understanding North American species of varying sizes, such as deer, elk and moose.

UI Students among First INL Graduate Fellows

Two University of Idaho students, nuclear engineering majors Stephen Hancock and Emma Redfoot, have been selected among 11 fellows in the new Idaho National Laboratory Graduate Fellowship Program. Recipients of the competitive fellowships have their tuition and fees covered by their university during their first years of graduate school (years one to three) and their tuition and fees plus a $60,000 annual salary paid by INL during the last two years of their doctoral research performed at the lab. The program allows INL to integrate students into the laboratory and provides graduate fellows with work on significant projects that will help them fulfill their thesis research requirements. INL gains access to skilled staff, along with the opportunity to build long-term collaborations with universities, increase recruiting opportunities, and interact with a continuous pipeline of students interning and conducting research at the lab. Both the university and INL have the opportunity for joint publications and intellectual property. Graduate fellows were selected in degree fields that closely tie to INL’s three mission areas of innovative nuclear energy solutions, other clean energy options and critical infrastructure.