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'Miracle worker' Lisa Sickorez wins Marsh O'Neill staff award

BY MICHAEL PEÑA

Lisa Sickorez, financial manager for the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), will receive the annual Marsh O'Neill staff award on Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the Faculty Club for her outstanding support and dedication to the center's directors and scholars.

Sickorez, a Stanford employee since 1993, was enthusiastically nominated by the center's co-directors and professors. CISAC, part of the Stanford Institute for International Studies, conducts research and training pertaining to international security.

As financial manager, Sickorez performs essential behind-the-scenes duties, such as moving grant proposals through the university process, ensuring funds are properly spent once they are received and participating in general strategic planning.

The award, presented by the Office of the Dean of Research and Graduate Policy, honors staff who have made exceptional and enduring contributions to Stanford's research enterprise. Those who nominated Sickorez described several ways in which she applies a rare combination of quickness, accuracy and creativity to her job.

When a senior scholar last summer reported that he hoped to research the effects of arms buildup in India and Pakistan, Sickorez suggested applying for a grant from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation she had recently read about. The foundation has a similar focus, and Sickorez knew that CISAC had not tapped the organization for several years.

Another time, center co-director Scott Sagan met with a potential donor in New York who unexpectedly proposed phasing in funding over 10 years—necessitating some quick number crunching to reassess immediate financial needs.

Before the lunch meeting ended, Sickorez had faxed from her office in Encina Hall the adjusted amounts, clearly outlined in a chart for Sagan and his host to read.

"This is a dedicated staff member who can work miracles very promptly and efficiently," Sagan said. "The breadth of her interest and skills are quite stunning, and she combines them in a way that are, in my experience, highly unusual."

Sickorez came to the university as a research administrator in the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics, a program in the Department of Economics. She has held her current position at CISAC since 1998.

Part of her job, she says, is keeping abreast of potential funding sources, which she does through her "voracious" reading and online searches—using keywords gleaned from research proposals. But her position also meshes well with her personal interest in current events and politics.

"I am very interested in the research that goes on at the center," she said. "It's intellectually stimulating; it's current events."

Indeed. The center's scholars include former Secretary of Defense William Perry, also a professor of management science and engineering, and Stephen Stedman, a senior fellow at the center who is currently on leave to direct research for United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Sickorez may see the center's heavy hitters only occasionally, but she says she feels like she plays an essential role at the center. She collaborates often with the various directors and says they are generous in their expressions of gratitude.

"It's a wonderful place to work," Sickorez said. "The center doesn't have much of a strict hierarchy."

Sickorez was chosen from among 21 nominees who work in the university's various academic units, central administration and Medical School. She will receive a $3,000 certificate and a plaque. Each nominee will receive a congratulatory letter from the Office of the Dean of Research and Graduate Policy.

The award is named after Marshall O'Neill, former associate director of the W. W. Hansen Laboratories, who became the first recipient upon retirement in 1990. The Nov. 16 reception for the award winner begins at 4 p.m.; friends and colleagues are invited.