Vandals are resilient, and because of that, the future is bright for the University of Idaho.
Thanks to hard work, ingenuity and adaptability by all sectors of the Vandal Family, we’ve been able to deliver on our mission of teaching, research, discovery and service throughout the past year. We created $1.1 billion in economic impact for our state and graduated the largest spring class in five years. And we accomplished all of it in spite of significant budget challenges and the difficulties surrounding COVID-19.
I take pride in the work we’ve accomplished to improve student access by more than doubling the number of students who will benefit from the need-based Vandal Promise scholarship. About 50 Vandals will be able to study at this top 6% public university thanks to generous support of the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health and our alumni and friends.
I’m inspired by the ways U of I faculty and staff are fulfilling our research mission. Consider our partnerships that strengthen cybersecurity defenses. Contemplate the impact of our industry collaborations that will result in the construction of the nation's largest research dairy to answer vital questions for the state’s dairy industry – the third largest in the nation. Reflect on our role in a worldwide effort to send a lander to Saturn's largest moon that will expand our understanding of the universe. We can all take pride in how this innovation has contributed to the Idaho economy and beyond.
And I’m excited about the new and creative ways we’ve been able to tell the university’s story over this past year. Thanks to generous private support, we embarked on a marketing effort around the state and region that includes bus wraps, billboards, digital media and two television spots showcasing the University of Idaho’s commitment to the state. We will begin to see grain bins, barns and other locations displaying Vandal colors as soon as this summer.
A college degree makes us all healthier, wealthier and wiser – that’s the message we’ve spread to high school students across the state this year through the Enroll Idaho tour program. A Vandal education provides a transformative experience that’s an investment in future generations.
The difficulties surrounding COVID-19 this spring only strengthen our resolve. Our recruiters have been working the admitted pool on a student-by-student basis while ensuring current students return. While our admitted pool of candidates is up substantially year over year, the pandemic has slowed enrollments. It is not yet clear if students are simply delaying enrolling or deferring until spring or next fall. It’s on all of us to be ambassadors for this institution and to sell these future Vandals on the power of a University of Idaho degree.
We’re also on track to have in-person UIdaho Bound recruitment events June 26 and July 17, in line with Gov. Brad Little’s Rebound Idaho plan, followed by an Aug. 1 Commencement Ceremony to properly recognize the Class of 2020. Those are among the initial steps toward relaunching a safe but engaging campus experience that includes in-person fall classes. We plan to be fully open, but with modified protocols. We are putting together plans to support a safe classroom environment and developing the ability to deliver classroom instruction live and through simulcast, providing students a variety of safe learning options.
My belief in the strength of our Vandal community has been reaffirmed repeatedly over the past year. We’ve weathered pandemics before in our 130-year history; we will weather this one as well. And once we do, we will refocus on our strategic pillars (Student Success, Research and Telling Our Story). I am optimistic and excited about what we will create together.