This morning brought a proud moment for Vandals as University of Idaho President M. Duane Nellis and ASUI President Samantha Perez presented to the Idaho House Education Committee.
President Nellis began his presentation by reflecting on a proud moment in Vandal history, the Morrill Act, which was responsible for the creation of land-grant institutions 150 years ago. Nellis told the committee that he would share information about UI, the “important statewide network that benefits the state each day,” before beginning a well-received presentation.
Nellis’ speech touched on several of UI’s innovative programs and the proud graduates who contribute to our state through our judicial system, the business or medical communities, or more.
“It’s not just about us,” Nellis said, turning his focus towards the state as a whole, “but about higher education in general.”
He noted that for every $1 the state legislature spends on higher education at the University of Idaho, the state sees a $9 return. One of the primary ways UI demonstrates this is through its research efforts. Nellis noted that he takes “great pride” in the amount of research done at the university. As an example of the 70 percent of undergraduates who participate in research, he cited a recent project where engineering majors created a device now used by airplane giant Boeing.
Outreach and public service is another point of pride for many Vandals, including President Nellis. UI students performed more than 150,000 hours of community service last year through days of service, class projects, alternative service breaks and more.
“What a profound difference that’s making in our Idaho communities,” Nellis said.
Nellis then moved on to three of his focus areas: retention, graduation rates and research. He reported that UI students are exceeding in all three areas. The rate of UI freshman who return for their sophomore year is 80 percent, and our graduation rates are almost twice that of other institutions in the state. UI research expenditures are almost $100 million, or 73 percent of the total spent by the state.
“Our bottom line is that this research touches every aspect of our state,” Nellis said. “We’re above many of our peers nationally, and we’re very proud of that.”
Nellis closed his presentation by touching on the $30 million in budget cuts that have affected the university. As many Vandals know, most of the UI faculty haven’t had raises in four or more years.
“We’re doing more with less,” Nellis said.
The questions, comments and praise that followed his presentation by Idaho representatives were all positive.
“Thank you for that stimulating and exciting report,” Vice Chairman Shirley said. “I’m excited by the programs you provide.”
Perez was able to give a short report to the committee before they headed upstairs. She explained why, as a high school senior, she decided why the University of Idaho was right for her, citing UI signature programs like ASB (alternative service break) and opportunities in student government.
“It truly is the Vandal family,” Perez said.
We are now off to the University of Idaho, Boise campus, also known as the Idaho Water Center, to meet the rest of our student representatives for a tour of the facilities.