Human Biology staff member wins Arnice Streit award

Lia Cacciari

Lia Cacciari

Student services officer Lia Cacciari received this year's Arnice P. Streit Service of Excellence Award for her work in assisting hundreds of human biology majors and streamlining the advising process. Richard Saller, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, presented the award to Cacciari at a staff recognition luncheon last month.

An engraved plaque and $3,000 have been awarded to one longstanding staff member every year since 1987 in honor of Arnice P. Streit, a former associate dean of finance who served Stanford with excellence for 27 years. The award recognizes outstanding administrative contributions by a non-academic staff member in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Cacciari began as a secretary in the Human Biology Program in 1997 and became student services officer the next year. She manages student advisers and personally keeps track of approximately 600 students, including roughly 200 who graduate each year. Letters for Cacciari's nomination were full of praise describing her contributions to the students.

The Human Biology major demands responsibility from its students along with the completion of many steps, such as declaring the major, completing an internship and ensuring graduation, human biology Professor Russell D. Fernald said in nominating Cacciari. Fernald is a former director of the program.

"Lia invented all the steps and put them into place, reducing what was once a pretty jumbled process into one that runs like clockwork. And she does this by herself," Fernald said.

"I help them navigate through the whole process of getting familiar with their course choices and the bigger picture," Cacciari said. Students know they have a place to go to, and a person available to them to get their questions answered, she said. "I think they feel comfortable knowing that my door is always open. They can just drop in when they need to."

Students also visit her office to "pour out their hearts" or stop for a short talk on the Quad, Fernald said. Accessibility and being available is what underlies being successful with the students, according to Cacciari.

Cacciari knows how to tackle each difficult situation in a personal, yet professional manner. "She has an uncanny and essential ability to remain calm in the face of panicked students and sometimes parents," Fernald said.

She has made her mark on students' lives and on the office staff. "Lia Cacciari works tirelessly at her duties but always greets people with a smile and 'How can I help you?' attitude," said past Streit Award recipient Linda Barghi in her nominating letter for Cacciari.

Carol Boggs, director of the program and a teaching professor of biology, considers Cacciari a "cornerstone" for the office. She has created many streamlined innovations for the record system, including an inventory of unusual courses that fulfill major requirements, Boggs wrote in her nomination. Students are now more aware of their options to meet requisites and they can be sure that each course counts toward completing the major.

Students understand just how valuable Cacciari is. On Commencement day, no graduating senior in the Human Biology Program remains seated when Cacciari's name is announced, Fernald said. "They jump to their feet and chant 'Li-a, Li-a, Li-a' in high volume to thank her for being a central and critical part of their education."

When asked how she felt about receiving the award, Cacciari said, "I'm still in shock. I really didn't expect it. It was indeed a great honor."

Christine Blackman is a writing intern at the Stanford News Service.