Taking a deep breath and enjoying the Idaho summer has more meaning this year. We endured many challenges in the two years I have served as president. We have righted a staggering deficit and shown we can thrive despite a global pandemic, among other things. But we are emerging stronger, braver and bolder – ready to build and grow in the places of greatest impact.
While our books are not yet closed for the past fiscal year, we again have made significant progress righting the university’s finances. We have also made investments of $6 million in student success initiatives, including scholarships and distance learning, and increased research activity. This is possible with the endowment funded with resources generated from leasing our steam plant. This work is paying significant dividends in recruiting students and faculty and hiring our new Vice Provost for Distance Learning Ken Udas. While our research expenditures will be down slightly due to the pandemic, our pipeline of new research grants is bursting at the seams. In plain language, our faculty researchers are killing it. Our students are benefitting as well. Unlike most national universities, nearly two-thirds of our undergraduates participate in cutting-edge research. Even more unusual, our undergraduates publish. Recently, nine undergraduate students from a single lab published two articles in peer-reviewed journals. You can just feel the momentum these investments unleashed.
Our alumni, faculty and friends are believers in our mission and are investing in our future and that of our hard-working students. While we are still finalizing the numbers, we expect to close the fiscal year with record-breaking fundraising significantly exceeding $50 million.
Our statewide footprint separates the University of Idaho from other institutions in our state. We serve every corner, every citizen and every qualified student wanting a Vandal education. We are present in Idaho’s communities, giving back, joining together, and providing value and Vandal Pride to every corner of the state and beyond.
The physical presence of the U of I is important. It is important to our brand, to awareness and to impact. That is why I am excited about three recent investments that expand our presence, improve our outreach and build community.
Idaho is not easy to traverse. Air travel within the state has been challenging, at best. That is why collaboration with Alaska Air and the development of a direct flight between Moscow and Boise is so exciting. The flight, offered five days a week, improves access for our Vandals and their families. It also makes it easier to engage with government and industry. The three-year guarantee the U of I put forth ensures Alaska Air will make a profit as they build these flights – but we have little doubt our Vandal Family will use the flight to come home for events such as the fall’s VandalFest, when we celebrate Homecoming and the opening of the uniquely beautiful ICCU Arena.
We are expanding beyond our campus in Moscow and supporting the artistic endeavors of our students, faculty and community through the intended purchase of the Moscow Police Station. The city is building a new station and the current station is perfectly situated on Highway 95, in downtown Moscow, to allow the U of I to connect with those passing through and those enjoying all that downtown has to offer. The investment in owned-space allows us to redefine the Prichard Art Gallery, focusing more closely on our students and local artists. We will also be opening a VandalStore in the building, facing the highway. We are working through the purchasing process and final plans to refurbish the space.
In Boise, we had the opportunity to invest in our law students and better meet the growing demand for legal education in the state. Through the generous partnership of Vandal alumnus Jeff Stoddard, we will lease the property at 501 Front Street and transition our Boise-based law program from the former Ada County Courthouse to the new property – which was designed and built as an educational facility. This, coupled with remodeling efforts at the Menard Law Building in Moscow, shows our commitment to this fundamental part of the educational offerings at the University of Idaho.
We have much to celebrate this summer as we look ahead to the future of our University of Idaho. We have accomplished much and have been recognized as the best value of any public university in the West, evidence that we are indeed a university on the rise.