The Friday Letter Archive

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Friday Letter 2017-10-20:
Important Public Conversations at U of I

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Oct. 20, 2017
Letter from the President
Dear Friends,
The University of Idaho, as a public university, is dedicated to serving and strengthening our shared discourse. That commitment takes many forms and directions, offering many opportunities for engagement and enrichment. It has been an exciting couple of weeks in U of I efforts to strengthen our public dialogue.
Next Monday we’ll have a lecture from Carol Tavris, co-author of this year’s Common Read selection, “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me),” which describes the concept and the dangers of cognitive dissonance, the roles of self-justification in that behavior, and approaches to getting past that. The Common Read unites our university community, including our first-year students, in an intellectual exercise that sets a tone for engagement and inquiry. This year the new Vandal Book Club adopted “Mistakes Were Made” as its first book, a nice extension of this program to our alumni. I hope they’ve shared the interest and enthusiasm in this book that our campus community has shown.
This week we were honored to have Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi at our annual Borah Symposium. Ebadi, the first woman to hold the post of chief magistrate of a court in Tehran, Iran, before the Islamic Revolution, has been a strong voice for human rights and justice in the years following the revolution. Her keynote was a highlight in a robust program that also included presentations by Professor LeRoy Ashby and Scott Shapiro.
Finally, a little over a week ago our annual Sherman J. Bellwood Lecture brought Professor Anita Hill to Boise and to Moscow. Many people may remember her launch into the public spotlight at the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for now-Justice Clarence Thomas. We were proud to host such a thoughtful and spirited examination of the role of evidence and accountability in policy, especially as it applies to issues such as civil rights and harassment.
Exploring ideas, policies and controversies in the public sphere is part of U of I’s commitment to helping our society understand the past, engage with the issues of the day and take on the challenges of tomorrow. Programs such as our Common Read, Borah Symposium and Bellwood Lecture provoke thought, spark dialogue and encourage new perspectives while promoting shared understanding. Engaging in these kind of programs, we grow as citizens and leaders. We develop a fuller appreciation for the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.
Chuck Staben
Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben

St. Alphonsus Supports Idaho WWAMI Program

St. Alphonsus Health System has generously pledged $250,000 in support of the Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program’s building renovation project. “Supporting the Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program is critical to the entire medical industry in Idaho,” said Dr. Rodney Reider, president and CEO of St. Alphonsus’ Health System. “It is important in retaining physicians in Idaho with direct experience in the state who will eventually go on to practice in vital capacities, including primary care in rural areas.” The one-story medical school renovation will increase necessary space and state-of-the-art technologies for clinical faculty and students — emphasizing growth and investment in the University of Idaho’s research enterprise while enhancing education and patient care. For more information on supporting the Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program, contact Jim Zuba at 208-885-4142 or

CNR Professor Recognized for Research

University of Idaho Distinguished Professor Lisette Waits was awarded the prestigious Jean'ne M. Shreeve NSF EPSCoR Research Excellence Award this fall for her internationally recognized research in molecular ecology. Idaho’s National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, known as Idaho EPSCoR, selects researchers from UI, Boise State University or Idaho State University each year to receive the award named for longtime U of I chemist and former Idaho EPSCoR Director Jean’ne Shreeve. Waits is the head of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences in the College of Natural Resources and leader of the Fishery Resources and Wildlife Resources programs. Her research focusing on conservation genetics and molecular ecology spans four continents, and includes collaborators from North America, Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. “I am extremely honored and humbled to receive an award named for Dr. Shreeve, who is an amazing role model and trailblazer for female scientists,” Waits said. “I am also very thankful for the EPSCoR funding I have received that really helped launch my career as a new faculty member. I am very appreciative of the individuals who nominated me and provided support letters."

Playing Out Final FBS Season, Idaho Doesn't Want to Go Quietly

From Sports Illustrated: Last month, Idaho receiver Jacob Sannon stopped by the Wal-Mart Supercenter near campus to run a post-practice errand. As he and a friend from the school’s soccer team made their way through the store, they paused in the television section, where every TV was tuned to the same program: a replay of the Vandals’ December appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, a 61–50 win over Colorado State. Sannon, a fifth-year senior, was incredulous as he watched his second touchdown of the day, a 16-yard catch in the game’s third quarter, unfold on dozens of screens. “It’s six months since our bowl game, and they’ve still got it on the TV,” he recalls, still amazed 48 hours later. After playing on one-win teams in 2013 and ’14 and missing almost all of ’15 with an injury, last season was sweet redemption for Sannon, a Florida native of Haitian descent who had never seen snow until Idaho lured him to campus with his only scholarship offer. Finally healthy, he had 303 receiving yards for a Vandals team that tied a program record with nine wins and brought home the school’s first bowl victory in seven seasons. The turnaround Sannon had signed up for four years before was well on its way. This fall, Sannon is Idaho’s leading receiver, and he has one last chance to make a mark before he runs out of eligibility—and his team is run out of FBS ball. Read more.

U of I Receives Pollution Prevention Award

On Oct.16, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) honored the University of Idaho for its achievements in preventing pollution. Representatives from DEQ presented university officials with the agency’s “Pollution Prevention (P2) Champion” honor. Every September, in observation of Pollution Prevention month, DEQ recognizes Idaho businesses and organizations who stand out as state leaders in pollution prevention. This is the first time U of I has qualified for the award in its history. “As a respected research institution, we hope that others can learn from the University of Idaho’s efforts and follow their lead to reduce their impact to the environment,” said Ben Jarvis, DEQ’s pollution prevention coordinator. U of I qualified for the DEQ recognition by demonstrating with documentable results how it incorporates pollution prevention into its daily operations by reducing raw materials or toxic materials purchased, hazardous or solid waste generated, water, energy or fuel used or air pollutants emitted.

U of I Society of Women Engineers Promotes the Field

National trends related to women in engineering are grim — far fewer women are entering the profession than men; women engineers hold significantly fewer senior level and executive positions in the field; and women leave the occupation at much higher rates. But a group of women engineering students at the University of Idaho is trying to bust these statistics. The students are part of U of I’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), a nationwide organization that performs K-12 and college outreach, along with professional development in the workforce to help women achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders. SWE members have the chance to network with other women in the field, attend leadership conferences, learn about internship opportunities and go on industry tours. Today, Oct. 20, 2017, UI-SWE will work to inspire a younger generation of potential innovators during U of I’s Women in Engineering Day, when up to 80 female high school students from Idaho and Washington visit UI to learn more about the discipline. Read more.