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Stanford Report, April 26, 2000

Hiyama praised for her efficiency and 'aloha' spirit

Photo: Rod Searcey


When Elizabeth Hiyama was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, she came to work while receiving chemotherapy treatments.

"I think what has kept me here are my colleagues," she says.

Hiyama, an associate director of Residential Education, was on medical leave for 11 months. Her illness is in remission, but it took more than medical know-how to get her on the recovery track. She credits the presence of her co-workers for their contribution to her healing. "I absolutely believe they helped me get well," she says.

And many of these colleagues say Hiyama's influence has made them better workers, better people.

"Elizabeth is about people and people development," says Ann Porteus, associate director of Residential Education. "She continually seeks ways to provide professional development for her staff, empowering them to move on to other positions when they are ready to do so."

Others, such as Lowell Price, secretary of the Board of Trustees, laud Hiyama for her clarity of purpose: "She moves people and processes along to achieve the outcomes that are needed."

A native of Sacramento and 1974 Stanford graduate who has a bachelor's degree in English, Hiyama comes from a family of Berkeley alumni. She began her Stanford career in 1976 as a temporary office assistant in the central office of Residential Education. During the summer, she worked in the conference office of Housing and Dining Services. In 1979, Hiyama became director of administration for Residential Education, a position that evolved into her present one.

Hiyama's job is to ensure residence operations run smoothly in her areas of responsibility, which include financial management and human resources management. Her office also has responsibility for the residential computer clusters.

In the early days at her current job, Hiyama's office was "involved with everything," which included an art poster Residential Education had created in the 1970s on sexually transmitted diseases -- a task that now would be handled by health promotions support staff.

Hiyama is praised for her efficient manner and for her "aloha" spirit. The latter, a Hawaiian term that signifies love and welcome, is a quality she readily embraces as a way of life. "I believe in aloha -- I try to have that aloha spirit when I'm here." Hawaii and Japan are favorite places to visit, locales where it moves her to see so many people of Asian descent, like herself.

During the administration of President Donald Kennedy, she was a member of the University Committee on Minority Issues, which was established in the fall of 1987 and disbanded after issuing its March 1989 report.

"I would hope the university re-reads the UCMI report and implements it, especially the part on staff," Hiyama says.

She sees her work having an impact beyond Stanford. For example, she talks of experiencing "a residential moment" when reading Stanford magazine and exclaiming "Wow!" when learning of the post-Farm achievements of students -- those who perhaps learned to speak up while here.

"Each of us makes a difference, no matter what your job. You make a difference to the school, to the students -- and I believe the students will make a difference in the world." SR