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Stanford Report, June 4, 2003

Chris Griffith, 'champion of graduate life,' receives Fidler award

Chris Griffith, associate dean of students and director of the Graduate Life Office, and acting dean of students, has been awarded the 2003 Margaret Ann Fidler Award for Distinguished Service in Student Affairs.

The award, first presented in 2001, recognizes individuals who demonstrate extraordinary integrity, dedication to student affairs and the mission of the university, and commitment to teamwork. Fidler, a former associate vice provost for student affairs who retired in 2001, was the first recipient of the award.

Griffith began working at Stanford in 1980 as manager of an office that assigned graduate students to residences. She was promoted to program director for single graduate students in 1985, became assistant director of graduate residences in 1988, and was named director of graduate residences in 1992. Griffith, who became associate dean of graduate student life in 1999, currently serves as acting dean of students. She plans to return to the Graduate Life Office when a dean of students is hired to succeed former Dean of Students Marc Wais, who left in March.

The award, presented by Gene Awakuni, vice provost for student affairs, cited Griffith's compassion, generosity and sensitivity, as well as her "resourcefulness and foresight in creating new initiatives that improve the lives of graduate students."

"Chris is a superstar, exclamation point," said Wais by telephone from New York University, where he is vice president of student affairs. "Students, faculty and staff form a unified chorus in singing her praises. I have been impressed with how she's earned the respect of students, working in messy, difficult situations," he said.

"[Griffith's] reputation precedes her," agreed Wendelin Wright, a graduate student in materials science and engineering, who said Griffith is known for her willingness to help out in whatever way is needed. "I organized a Fourth of July picnic last summer, and Chris helped me load the truck." At a May 22 dinner recognizing graduate student achievement, Griffith was presented with an album filled with accolades from students.

"Chris really has been a champion of graduate life and the improvement of the quality of life for graduate students," said Thom Massey, assistant director of the Graduate Life Office. "She's worked diligently to improve housing, but also toward issues that affect students viscerally, like child care and health care. She's embodied a sense of commitment to a constituency that really needs support."

Griffith said she's pleased about institutional achievements during her tenure including new graduate student housing and graduate student health care subsidies that were initiated in 2002. "I think we've actually done a pretty good job of addressing [graduate students'] needs," she said. She also is gratified by a surge of interest among graduate students in participating in programs in recent years, she said. "I think people do want to make a connection. There's been an increase in people wanting to feel like they belong to a community."

Griffith, who was a winner of an Amy J. Blue staff award in 1997, said she "shies away" from being singled out for her own achievement. "I have an incredible group of colleagues. Everything that happens here is because people work together."


Chris Griffith