In 2014, I came to the University of Idaho with a belief in the unique power of land-grant universities to change lives and improve the world. As I approach the end of my presidency in June, that belief is only stronger. UI has built on its legacy with a forward-looking vision and practical steps to make an impact for our state, its citizens and its communities.
Over the past half-decade, we’ve enhanced access to a high-quality education, changing processes to streamline admissions and supporting critical scholarship investments. Bringing more students to college remains a practical, economic and moral imperative for the state of Idaho. Every student should have a chance to see how far their talent can take them.
We’ve also worked hard to improve the student experience and student outcomes. We’re meeting statewide needs with innovative curricula such as a four-year computer science degree in Coeur d’Alene, a new medical sciences degree and more robust online options. The Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program has doubled in size, expanded facilities, and centered curriculum in Idaho. Our law program in Boise now offers a full three-year juris doctorate.
The numbers bear out the emphasis on student success: Last fall we raised our graduation rates by 5 percent, and we maintained a retention rate of more than 80 percent. Some 90 percent of Vandal undergraduates have a job or plans for continued study at graduation, and Vandal alumni are leaders in early and mid-career earnings. We’re producing well-rounded, dynamic people who change our world.
We’re also producing results through our research enterprise. Annual research expenditures have increased nearly 20 percent over five years, to a record $111.6 million in FY18. Our work is highly relevant in traditional and emerging fields, and students are highly involved. We’re also serving industry more effectively, collaborating with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Micron Inc., the Idaho Wheat Commission, Limagrain Cereal Seeds and others.
UI’s statewide reach continues to grow. We’ve laid the groundwork for a world-class research dairy in the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment; acquired the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center; and begun rangeland studies at Rinker Rock Creek Ranch in Sun Valley. We’re building new facilities for potato germplasm development, aquaculture research, and medical training, as well as the long-awaited ICCU Arena project.
The past five years have not been without challenges. Issues from a complicated budget picture to our athletics conference affiliation to leadership changes have forced us to make hard choices. But as an institution, where we’ve had challenges, we’ve risen to meet them. I know UI is well-positioned for continued success.
Since 1889, our land-grant research university has existed to serve Idaho, a beautiful state with unlimited potential. It’s been the highest honor of my professional life to lead that mission. I thank our alumni, our students, our faculty and staff, and our partners in government, industry and communities. Even as I step aside as president, I join you in optimism for the work to come.
Chuck Staben is the 18th president of the University of Idaho. His contract as president expires June 15.