The Friday Letter Archive

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


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Friday Letter 2017-10-13:
A Century of Natural Resources Excellence

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October 13, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
This year marks the 100th anniversary of our College of Natural Resources (CNR). The anniversary is an opportunity to take pride in 100 years of excellence in education, research and statewide outreach. But while we celebrate our past accomplishments, we are also looking toward the future of this vital piece of our land-grant research university mission.
The college is a leader in natural resources education in the West, recently recognized among the top 5 percent of natural resource and conservation colleges. The college partners with industry on educational programs that prepare students to emerge with their degree armed with hands-on experience in their fields. The state’s forests, rangelands and waterways have been well-served by generations of highly skilled and motivated Vandals. We’re happy to welcome many of them back to Moscow this weekend to celebrate “100 Years of Leadership.”
Research and scholarship are also CNR strengths. Vital research and outreach through the Forest Utilization Research (FUR) Programs includes the Policy Analysis Group, which provides analysis on natural resource issues; our Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research, a global leader in native plant regeneration education and research; the UI Experimental Forest, which provides a working forest classroom; and the UI Rangeland Center collaboration between CNR and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, which uses science to find long-term solutions for managing rangelands. Through the college, UI provides unbiased research that helps deliver effective private and public management of our natural resources.
CNR is also an arm for UI’s outreach mission. One needs look no further than the McCall Outdoor Science School at our McCall Field Campus. To date, over 30,000 K-12 students have now gone through the program, an immersive experience that equips students with a new understanding of ecology and the exciting world of scientific exploration. Those STEM experiences engage curiosity and build character — they can be truly life-changing.
Lastly, CNR has a special connection to our Idaho Arena project. Right now in the United States, we have the potential for a breakthrough in mass timber construction – projects that extensively use one or more kinds of engineered wood. Idaho, and the University of Idaho, are positioned to be leaders in this fast-emerging industry, with the arena a milestone in its development. Using mass-timber construction means opportunities for the college to engage partners, to train students in a real-world project, and to study research questions. Before we ever score a basket in the arena, we’ll already have won a major victory in research and economic development in a potentially game-changing Idaho industry.
That’s an exciting future for UI, and a piece of it belongs to the College of Natural Resources. We appreciate the leadership role of the college throughout a century of teaching, innovation and statewide engagement. Here’s looking forward to the next century.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
CNR 100th Anniversary
Celebrating a century of leadership at the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources.

Legacy of Student Enrichment Honored in Perpetuity

Mention the name “Fred Johnson” in the College of Natural Resources (CNR), and what happens next is quite remarkable: Smiles grow wider, quickly spreading, and people recount anecdotes of how Fred transformed their lives and the lives of those around him. Such is the legacy of this CNR professor, who devoted 38 years to sharing his tremendous enthusiasm for teaching with thousands of students. A strong proponent of experiential education and “real life” applications of learning, Fred and his family spent much of their time on the McCall Field Campus; to many, “Fred Johnson” and “summer camp” are synonymous. Fred’s legacy of great teaching lives on through the Fred Johnson Endowment for Teaching Excellence in Forest Resources, which recently reached $60,000 thanks to recent gifts by the Johnson family and fellow supporters. Fred’s advice to students: “Find something you love to do, then do it with passion.” For more information about this endowment or other opportunities to support CNR, contact Jennifer Farnum at 208-885-5145 or

A Window to the Outside World

First published in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News: Hexian Xue, a professor of Chinese at the University of Idaho, believes learning Chinese really isn't as hard as Americans might think. "When students attend the first few classes, to be honest, they do not have the confidence to learn the Chinese language well," Xue said. "But step by step, day by day, for at least some of the students, they become comfortable to say, 'Chinese is not as hard as I assumed.'" Xue, who teaches multiple levels of Chinese as well as a cultural course on Chinese cinema, is a co-director of the UI's Confucius Institute. The institute's goal is to spread knowledge about the Chinese language and culture. "As you know, the English language and the Chinese language are two very different languages. The pronunciation is different, the spelling is different and the grammar is different," Xue (pronounced sh UH eh) said. "There has been, for a very long time, an assumption among the people, particularly among the community around us, that it is very hard to acquire the language." To combat this assumption, the Confucius Institute holds community Chinese language classes in Moscow, Coeur d'Alene and Boise. In Moscow, the classes consist of two levels of Mandarin, each only $50 for the fall, and a Chinese calligraphy class at only $25. They're held Monday through Thursday in the Moscow Chamber of Commerce office. READ MORE

High-tech Sunglasses Entertain Vandal Fans

It’s the start of a classic marching band performance during halftime of a University of Idaho football game: The whistle blows, drums sound, the color guard twirls its flags and horns bellow. Members of the Vandal Marching Band begin moving into formation. They form the iconic letter ‘I,’ set their sunglasses down on the field, and the props begin flashing in a dizzying display of lights. When the band members go on to form the Vandals script, the ‘I’ is still illuminated in the middle of the turf. The crowd erupts in cheers at the unanticipated light show, and then sings along as the UI fight song resonates throughout the Kibbie Dome. This innovative performance is the product of a partnership between the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and UI’s marching band — an effort that began in 2012 when Bob Rinker, associate professor of computer science, and Athletic Band Director Spencer Martin met at the behest of student Josh Armstrong. READ MORE