For Heidi Marisol López, finance assistant and graduate fellowships coordinator at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, working at the center has been a dream come true.

Heidi Marisol Lopez meets with colleagues

Heidi Marisol Lopez meets with colleagues at CCSRE. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

López, who immigrated to California from Guatemala when she was 11 and first in her family to graduate from a four-year college, said that she identifies with the center’s commitment to advance racial equity and justice – on campus and in the world.

“I’m happy to be supporting the center’s work, which I can relate to as a minority,” said López who recently won a 2019 Amy J. Blue Award.

“I also enjoy learning about different cultures and feel lucky to be exposed to such interesting research. I owe my happiness and success to my family, co-workers, and to the graduate students and faculty I’ve met at CCSRE.”

López first learned about CCSRE through a family friend, the late Dorothy Steele, former executive director of the center and an inspirational role model for her growing up.

López said her thoughts immediately turned to Steele when she won the award, which honors Stanford employees who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

“I think Dorothy would have appreciated me winning the award,” said Lopez.

Before landing a full-time job at CCSRE in 2007, López worked part-time at the center.

López first started working on the Farm in 2000 as a part-time summer worker. After graduating in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hiram College in Ohio, she held a series of part-time and full-time jobs at Stanford with CCSRE, the Math Department and the Psychology Department, Religious Studies, African and African American Studies and Jewish Studies.

“I was thrilled to be working full-time at CCSRE because this is where I wanted to work all along,” said López, whose office is located in the Main Quad.

López is one of three employees named Amy J. Blue Award winners. The other recipients are Laura Dominguez Chan, dean of career education and director of career communities at Stanford Career Education, and Mary-Peck Peters, a head teacher at Bing Nursery School.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne will present the awards at an April 30 ceremony for the winners and their families, friends and colleagues. The event will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the courtyard of Lagunita Court, located at 325 Santa Teresa Street.

Commitment “profound and palpable”

In nominating López for the award, Jennifer DeVere Brody, faculty director of CCSRE described her as “resourceful, engaged and exceptionally caring” about the center’s work.

Heidi Marisol López

Heidi Marisol López is one of three Amy J. Blue award winners for 2019. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“She regularly presents a positive attitude and excels at identifying and solving problems – all with an eye toward improving everyone’s experience,” said Brody, a professor of theater and performance studies.  “Heidi’s commitment to her colleagues and to guests is profound and palpable. We have, over the years, seen a number of staff changes in which her expertise has been essential to maintaining a high standard of excellence in our unit.”

Daniel Murray, executive director of CCSRE, described Lopez as a patient and supportive colleague who has trained many of the center’s staff on a wide range of systems – from finances to information technology.

“She was always my first stop for information or to bounce ideas off of when working out the details of a new program idea or troubleshooting a challenging problem,” he wrote.

Murray said López finds ways to build a strong community among the center’s graduate fellows – from arranging the space to developing special programs.

“When former fellows return, Heidi’s office is their first stop for a hello and a hug – a testament to her impact on their experience in the program,” he wrote.

Heart and soul of the center

Rigoberto Marquéz, associate director of academic programs and community engaged learning at CCSRE, described López as the “heart and soul” of the center.

“All the photos you see on our website were taken by Heidi, who volunteers to take photos at our events,” he wrote. “The photos are a testament to her ability to capture so much of the warmth surrounding our community of students and scholars that would not be possible without her.”

Paula Moya, director of the Research Institute of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, said Lopez handles the needs of the institute with alacrity and aplomb.

Moya, a professor of English, described López as “a funny and engaging colleague” who is also “an intelligent interlocutor” for graduate students and faculty alike.

“An interested and generous listener, Heidi cares deeply about the issues under discussion at the center,” she wrote. “Although she is never the first person to ask a question at a presentation, or even the second or third, she always listens carefully and then, when space allows poses to the speaker a genuine question – often one that comes from her own experience – that pushes them to consider their projects from a somewhat different angle.”

Summing up her praise, Moya wrote: “Heidi López is, quite simply, a joy to work with.”

The awards were established in memory of Amy J. Blue, an associate vice president for administrative services and facilities who died of brain cancer in May 1988. The awards are accompanied by a $4,000 cash prize.