Skip to main content

Ken Hsu wins 2022 Amy J. Blue Award

The director of the Graduate Life Office is recognized for his leadership and unwavering commitment to the lives of Stanford students.

The first time Ken Hsu set foot on the Stanford campus was in 1996 when he attended his brother’s commencement ceremony.

Ken Hsu (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“I remember thinking ‘Wow, this place is really beautiful,’ and feeling that he was lucky to be in a place like this,” Hsu recalled.

A few years later, Hsu landed a job as an undergraduate residence dean at Stanford. Since then, he has held various positions within the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs and supported thousands of Stanford students. For his contributions to Stanford and his commitment to student life, Hsu is one of this year’s winners of the Amy J. Blue Award, which recognizes Stanford staff members for their exceptional service and dedication to the university, support for their colleagues, and passion for their work.

Susan Taylor, finance manager in the Department of Economics, and May-Ling Kuo Gonzales, director of alumni relations at Stanford Law School, are the other two 2022 winners. President Marc Tessier-Lavigne will present the awards at a public ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, at 3:30 p.m. at Lagunita Court. All are welcome to attend.

Coming to Stanford

Hsu has had a long path to Stanford. He was born in Taipei, Taiwan, to refugee parents who fled mainland China in 1949 at the end of the communist revolution.

“As the U.S. moved to normalize its relationship with mainland China, my parents were scared of what the communist government might do with Taiwan and those who escaped there from the mainland, so they thought it would be better to come to the States,” Hsu said.

In 1976, the family settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Those early years were difficult for the non-English speaking immigrant family, but Hsu said the struggle to acculturate taught him the value of service and inclusion.

Hsu attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he studied psychology and social work. After graduating, he started his career in mental health as a clinical social worker in an inpatient psychiatric unit. He also served on the crisis intervention unit of Dane County Mental Health Center before returning to the University of Wisconsin to work as a clinician in the Counseling and Consultation Services department, where he was later appointed clinical director. By 2000, his siblings and parents were living in the Bay Area, so Hsu decided to look into student affairs opportunities here. After landing a job with Residential Education at Stanford, Hsu and his wife relocated.

“I got my start at Stanford as the residence dean at Wilbur and Stern halls, working mostly with freshmen and sophomores and supporting the resident assistants, resident fellows, and other staff of those residences,” he said.

A few years later, he became the assistant dean of the Graduate Life Office (GLO), and later, associate dean of students in GLO. In 2019, he served as interim associate vice provost and dean of students.

Today, he is the assistant vice provost and director of GLO, where he oversees a team charged with supporting more than 9,400 graduate and professional students and their families through services like crisis response, consultation and case management, and programs such as New Graduate Student Orientation (NGSO), and the Graduate Student Programming Board (GSPB). GLO also provides consultation and support to faculty and student services staff from academic departments who work with graduate students.

Hsu and his colleagues have mentored and trained thousands of graduate students to serve as Community Associates (CAs) who facilitate community building and wellbeing in the residences. Hsu also advocates for graduate students at the institutional level, bringing forth their issues and needs for consideration in the university’s decisions.

A lighthouse in a storm

Hsu’s colleagues describe him as a calm, reassuring, competent, and kind presence for Stanford students and their families at their most trying times and when they’re faced with the most complex issues. And students called him essential to the success of Stanford’s graduate community.

“Ken Hsu is a caring, honest, and kind man whose existence makes Stanford a supportive and fun place for graduate students,” wrote one student who nominated Hsu for the award. “He is the most powerful force that holds the entire graduate student community together.”

His colleagues also hailed his leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the pandemic is a storm, Ken is a lighthouse,” one nominator wrote. “He has been our reliable beacon helping us navigate the most turbulent and relentless seas. He is the essence of what partnership looks like in Student Affairs.”

Christine Gibo, the assistant dean of students and associate director of GLO, praised Hsu for his guidance as their team took on new roles during the pandemic to safeguard the health and wellness of graduate students.

“Ken’s leadership and support of students during this time has been unwavering, empathetic, and compassionate, ensuring the best care for the student community,” she said. “His work to enhance the lives of graduate students while also caring for those that support students inspires my work and the work of his colleagues. Every day at Stanford, he makes us better as a community.”

Amy J. Blue Award

Amy J. Blue was a long-time Stanford employee who held numerous positions at the university in the 1970s and 1980s, including associate vice president for administrative services and facilities. Blue died of brain cancer in Palo Alto in 1988. Following her death, an endowment fund was created to honor her legacy by awarding Amy J. Blue Awards to outstanding Stanford staff. Since 1991, 106 Stanford employees have received the award.

More information about the award, including the nomination and selection process, is available here.