April 28, 2008
Dear Friend of Idaho State University:
From time to time it re-energizes us to be reminded of the important purpose of our work at Idaho State University. Who better to do that than students.
I was heartened myself not long ago when I read a comment by Danielle Perez, one of our nuclear engineering students. She and several other ISU engineering undergraduates described to the news media in Idaho Falls the value of their role in Idaho National Laboratory research involving the Advanced Test Reactor.
"I've learned so much over the last couple of years in this collaboration with the national laboratory," Danielle told reporters at ISU's Thermal Fluids Laboratory. "I think it's great for an undergraduate to work on a project like this."
I found her observation important enough to share with you here, in my first weekly letter to friends of Idaho State University.
Danielle is correct. Being directly involved in front-line scholarship as an undergraduate enriches learning immeasurably, because often a professor acts only as a mentor, while students do the research. Yet scholarship is a vital component of a great university in other key ways. Support that Idaho State University receives for research from entities like the National Science Foundation, for example, brings millions of dollars into the local and state economies.
Status as a recognized research university—Idaho State University is a Carnegie-rated research university, an important achievement—raises its national and international profile. That, in turn, bolsters new graduates' employment prospects and adds prestige to the degrees held by alumni.
These important benefits come at a cost, however, for the competition is intense indeed in the marketplace for faculty whose scholarship and creative activity are renowned. I consider it an investment.
At Idaho State University, we've been proud to see headlines in recent days that acknowledge the work of our faculty.
For example, the psychology department's Maria Wong, Ph.D., and her co-researchers at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, will be continuing studies that show a relationship between sleep problems in children ages 3 to 5, and substance abuse later in life. The focus now is on people in their early and mid 20s. History department chair Laura Woodworth-Ney, Ph.D., has just published her third book, "Women in the American West." Her nationally recognized scholarship spotlights how women have played significant roles in the development of the western United States. Dr. Woodworth-Ney, by the way, is herself a fourth-generation Idahoan whose grandparents were immigrant homesteaders.
Who knows? As the nation and the world turn to Idaho State University's scholars for solutions to such challenges as climate change and energy supplies, a nuclear engineer named Danielle Perez just might become one of tomorrow's "women of the West."
Arthur C. Vailas, Ph.D.
President, Idaho State University