Coeur d'Alene Newsletter
From the desk of Charles Buck
Eight years ago when I started with University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene, I asked a couple of key questions: “Can a university outreach center become vital to our community and region?” Or, more practically, “If the center were not here, would the community miss it?” Simple but heady questions we should be asking regularly.
We can point to many great successes over the years:
- We initiated the CDA 2030 Visioning project, still shaping the direction of greater Coeur d’Alene after six years.
- We launched Gizmo-CDA, the Coeur d’Alene Makerspace that has served many thousands of ‘makers’ of all ages over the last five years. Now relocated to North Idaho College, Gizmo is a sturdy and well-traveled bridge between institutions.
- When the National Science Foundation funding for the Confluence Project program expired, our Community Water Resource Center (CWRC) stepped in to continue the important work of connecting high school students to authentic environmental science research. Last month nearly 500 high school students presented their year-long research efforts at the Youth Water Summit, organized by the CWRC (see intern Toni’s experience below).
- Three years ago, regional legislators recognized diverse U of I Coeur d’Alene efforts to grow regional awareness and expertise in technology. They spearheaded a recurring state allocation that established a local Computer Science bachelor’s degree program.
I could go on (and on, and on… believe me!).
In spite of these successes though, I am not confident that most citizens in North Idaho would answer those two simple questions in the affirmative. A particularly sobering observation is that higher education attainment in North Idaho is not increasing. The state Board of Education has proposed a target of 60 percent of Idaho young adults with a post-secondary degree or certificate. Fewer than six in 10 area high school students even begin post-secondary education within two years of leaving high school. Clearly we will not hit the State Board target if we do not increase the number of students who opt to ‘go on.’
Collectively, our North Idaho communities are doing a good job recruiting companies that bring high-paying, clean jobs. A majority of these jobs require a college degree. Collectively, we must change the narrative around post-secondary education so U of I and other local institutions can provide a modern, well-trained workforce in support of this new economy. Booming economies across the nation support the results of nearly every scientific study in this space; more education attracts high tech companies, leads to substantially higher pay, promotes civic involvement, and provides higher levels of happiness (yes, this is measurable!).
We will work to increase the post-secondary education attainment rate, and you can help. Simply advocate for higher education in our communities. Talk to your legislators, other elected officials, local school principals, teachers and counselors about promoting ‘going on’ for more education after high school. Most importantly, talk to young people. Encourage them to start early with U of I dual credit courses in high school, like our Computational Thinking and Problem Solving course. Encourage them also to achieve the goal of a bachelor’s degree or higher that will better prepare them for the jobs of the future (preferably from U of I). The cost of a college education is going up, but U of I remains very affordable. The average student debt of U of I grads is $25K, but earners with a bachelor’s degree make on average about $20K more a year than those with an associate’s degree and $31K more annually than high school graduates.
More education continues to be a smart investment. If we can broaden the conversation on this topic, we can count on better recognition of the importance of the university in our communities. We welcome your participation and support.
Thanks for reading and be sure to send along any suggestions or questions!
“Life — both personal and professional – is about making human connections and treating each moment as an opportunity, even if it isn’t going as planned,” said U of I Coeur d’Alene commencement speaker and local columnist Sholeh Patrick. Her message emphasized the importance of embracing uncertainty and giving your all, no matter how small or insignificant a job may seem. Patrick spoke to 33 graduates and hundreds of family, friends and supporters during the May 6 commencement held on the campus of North Idaho College.
Sunfish and SURF
Two Coeur d’Alene computer science students earned spots as Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) with the U of I Office of Undergraduate Research. Seniors Amanda Ward and Devin Driggs are conducting research on the new underwater robot, Sunfish. The U of I Center for Ecohydraulics Research in Boise built a sensor pod that will help Sunfish understand its environment. Ward and Driggs are testing the robot in the pool at 360 Fitness and in Lake Coeur d’Alene. They intend to make Sunfish an autonomous instrument to assist other departments in water research.
Summer began with a series of Re-Charge events for Inspire Idaho. The U of I Coeur d’Alene Inspire team visited participants in Boise, Idaho Falls and Rexburg. During these stops, we invited current team members to continue their app development journey with new learners interested in the Swift curriculum. Our goal for the Re-Charge events is to provide the necessary support for learners to succeed in app development and beyond. For more information about the program, visit inspireidaho.com.
Vandal Day at Silverwood Theme Park
Join fellow Vandals from around the region for a day of fun and sun at Silverwood Theme Park on Thursday, June 25. Adult tickets are $28 for admission only or $45 for admission, a Pepsi drink wristband and dinner. RSVP online through Eventbrite or call the Office of Alumni Relations at 208-885-6154. Tickets will be available for pickup by 10 a.m. July 25 at the Vandal tent outside the entrance to Silverwood. Make sure to wear your Vandal gear!
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