New University Of Idaho President Talks About The Future, Funding And Guns On Campus

May 20, 2014

Chuck Staben is the University of Idaho's 18th president.
Credit University of Idaho

Chuck Staben started his new job as president of the University of Idaho in March. Staben came to Moscow from the University of South Dakota where he was a provost. Before that, he was a vice president at the University of Kentucky, and before that, he was a researcher and biology teacher.

Staben spoke with reporter Adam Cotterell about the future of the University of Idaho and his own future there. Here are some highlights from their conversation.

“I plan to be here for approximately 10 years.”

Staben is only the 18th president in the U of I’s 125 year history, but he’s the fourth president in the last dozen years. Finding someone who would see the job as more than a spring board for bigger things was a major concern for the committee that chose Staben.  

“I’m here to set down some roots and to move the university forward and I think that’s going to take a significant period of time,” Staben says. “I hope that the University of Idaho and the people of Idaho want me to be here for a long time, but certainly I want to be here for a long time. I’m really pleased to be here and I plan to be here for approximately 10 years. I just had my 56th birthday and I think I have about another nine, 10 years in me.”

Guns on campus

Earlier this year Idaho’s Legislature passed a law to allow people with concealed carry permits to take guns on college campuses. That was opposed by all the state’s college and university presidents, including the interim president at the U of I.

“I really don’t see that the guns on campus bill will significantly change life on our campus,” Staben says. “We are confident that we can continue to assure the safety of our campus which is fundamentally a very safe place to go to school or to work. Our implementation plan is not fully developed, yet I do not think this will cost us a great deal of money because I don’t think it’s an enormous change on our campus. I do know there will be some costs.”

Goals

“I’d like to see us grow enrollment and offer the value, the great education we have offered students, offer it to a few more students,” Staben says. He recently told the Coeur d’Alene Press he wants to take enrollment on the Moscow campus from about 11,000 to 15,000 over the next several years, and that the university has hired someone to help institute a more aggressive enrollment strategy.

“Ensure that the University continues to have a very high impact throughout the state,” is Staben’s second goal. “We are the state’s major statewide, national research university and we can have a big impact on the state in that role.”

Challenge

“We find ourselves as public universities in somewhat static state support, that’s sort  of a fact of life,” Staben says. “So we have to generate resources to continue to do what we do very well. And at the same time we need to ensure that our public has access to what we offer, that students aren’t excluded from having an education because of increased costs.”

Pitch to lawmakers next year for increased state funding

“To maintain the economy of the state, to maintain individual wage competitiveness, one must have an investment in higher education,” Staben says. “The University of Idaho especially has shown a very good return on investment for its graduates. That was for example, studied by PayScale.com. But we have other evidence that our students do extremely well after graduation. It’s a good investment on their part and it’s a good investment on the state’s part.”

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