The University of Idaho is comprised of many students, faculty and staff with stories to tell, and President Chuck Staben said those stories are important to the success of the university.
“Let’s tell our story to Idaho and the world,” Staben said. “Our progress has been, and will continue to be, a university-wide effort.”
Staben spoke to UI community members Friday afternoon at the 2017 State of the University Address. Attendees filled the International Ballroom of the Pitman Center and via live stream video to hear from Staben the progress of the strategic plan.
Addressing the complexities of the plan, Staben touched on four main goals — innovation, engagement, transformation and cultivation.
But, before he commented on UI’s current success and future goals, Staben addressed his affiliation with the University of New Mexico as one of the university’s five finalists for the president’s position there. On Nov. 2, UNM announced another candidate had been chosen for the position, meaning Staben would continue to reside at UI.
“I want to acknowledge the distraction I caused in the last couple weeks as a candidate at another institution,” Staben said. “This university is the work of many people — not one. Any distraction from our success and your hard work, I regret.”
Staben said he wanted to make sure the UI community had a common and thorough grasp of where university money comes from and where it is spent. He showed a graph explaining the five sources of income for UI: State funds, tuition and fees, research grants, sales and services and private gifts.
Staben said state funds have decreased nationally, especially in Idaho, over the last 20 years. But, he said he will continue to advocate for state funding.
“Both educating more students and generating more tuition revenues are critical to our success,” Staben said.
Like educating more students, an initiative everyone values is market-based compensation, Staben said. Nearly 80 percent of UI’s expenses pay the salaries and benefits of those who work for the university.
“When we talk about market-based compensation, we are growing that largest expense sector,” Staben said. “This investment in our people is key in our success.”
In regard to innovation, Staben said milestones such as the opening of the IRIC last January, the progress of the UI Regional Approaches to Climate Change program and the $30,000 grant received by Denise Bennett, an assistant professor in the school of journalism and mass media, for her work chronicling the lives of Idaho’s LGBTQ community are proof of success.
One of the ways the university assesses the progress of research is through annual expenditures reports.
“U of I has been on the upswing, reaching $102 million for 2016,” Staben said. “I will tell you that our fiscal year 2017 numbers are even higher — a new U of I record of $109.5 million in annual expenditures.”
This constitutes a 7 percent per year increase, Staben said, at a time when other universities see a decline. He said he hopes to increase research by approximately 50 percent to obtain R1 research status — colleges considered to have the highest research activity.
With the engagement initiative, Staben said enhancing enrollment in postsecondary education means taking innovative approaches. In conjunction with UI community-led projects, the university will continue to move forward with the state of Idaho’s Go On campaign and push for its own direct admissions program to bring more students to UI.
More students mean more scholarships, and Staben said more than $8 million fueled student scholarships in 2016.
“Fundraising is an important indicator in the enthusiasm of our progress,” Staben said.
As engagement and scholarships are on the rise, Staben said the administration’s focus on enrollment growth will remain at the forefront of the strategic plan.
Advising, one of the key services that will help this influx of students, will be conducted through the Starfish program — a centralized advising system.
“I know that those moves have caused some concern, but we must come together to work them out,” Staben said. “Students have been very interested in centralizing services and this tells me they see this as a positive move.”
The goals of cultivation and transformation mean enhancing programs and enhancing diversity for UI community members and future UI students with projects like the Transform Initiative, which Staben said will be unveiled with more information soon.
It will take each UI community member, Staben said, to reach the goals outlined in the strategic plan by 2025.
“I recognize that our plate is very full,” Staben said. “We have to stay focused on the internal progress we want to make.”
Hailey Stewart can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Hailey_ann97
For more information on the strategic plan or the annual report, click the link below or visit the University of Idaho website.