If her Hawaiian pictures and soft streaming island tunes don’t put those who sit in her office at ease, her laid-back attitude will certainly do the trick.  As director of the School of Social Sciences’ personnel office for the past 13 years, Cindy Sasso’s good natured personality and positive outlook have been paramount to her success in what can sometimes be a difficult role.  She is being recognized this year for her efforts with the UCI Alumni Association Lauds & Laurels Staff Achievement Award. 

“Cindy has a gift for befriending individuals in situations where they are receiving good news as well as in those less usual situations where they may not,” says Barbara Dosher, social sciences dean.  For the school’s 140 faculty, Sasso is responsible for delivering the positive or sometimes unpleasant news surrounding faculty merit, salaries and promotions. For the school’s 89 person staff, she is oftentimes the first person new employees encounter and, once on board, the one they seek out for guidance and counsel if issues arise. 

In all instances, her role requires extensive knowledge of complex human resources practices and university policies – areas in which Sasso has become an expert, says her supervisor, social sciences assistant dean Dave Leinen.  He notes, however, that her human touch is what sets her apart from her peers. 

“Cindy is entrusted with facilitating a process that has an immediate and substantial impact on the lives of many people,” he says.  “In that, the truly important skills that she possesses cannot be taught or referenced in a policy or procedures manual, they exist in her character – and she represents all the qualities that exemplify the University of California.”

Since she arrived on campus in 1986, Sasso has worked in the School of Social Sciences, having moved up the staff ranks from department assistant in political science to several posts in the personnel office before landing the job of director in 1997. 

To her, the school is family – one in which she has played a large role in hiring. 

“In the 23 and a half years I’ve been at UCI, I can say that I’ve really had the time of my life.  Social sciences has stood by me through some of the more difficult times in my life and never held me back when I wanted to push forward.  We’re like a family, and though quirky at times, it’s a family I cherish.”

Beyond the school, Sasso is noted for her “candor, sense of humor, and ability to think outside the box in order to easily identify new approaches or solutions,” says Patricia Price, assistant vice chancellor of academic personnel.  “Cindy represents the highest quality of staff one could hope to have in any organization.”

While many may find her dual roles as advice-giver and rule-enforcer stressful, she finds deep satisfaction in the challenge of balancing the two and treating everyone with mutual respect.  She adds, somewhat jokingly, that her regular lunchtime jogging sessions at the athletic fields outside Crawford Hall and frequent getaways to Hawaii, her favorite vacation spot, also help in managing any stress that comes with the job. 

Those within the school view Sasso with equal regard and respect, having watched her grow professionally within the school while persevering through personal hardships including her husband’s multiple deployments to the Middle East with the U.S. Marine Corps and her own battle with bladder cancer. 

“Cindy didn’t let any of her personal circumstances impact anyone else in the school which is as much a tribute to her skills, perseverance and work ethic as it is to her enduring loyalty to the school, the university, and most importantly to all of us who are dependent upon her,” says Mark Petracca, political science associate professor and department chair. 

“She is a role model for staff and faculty within the school; an excellent example of someone highly devoted to the campus, the importance of creating a sense of community and the compassionate treatment of individuals in the workplace.”

Join the School of Social Sciences and UC Irvine in celebrating Sasso’s honor at the 2010 UCI Alumni Association Lauds and Laurels Banquet Thursday, May 13 at the Fairmont Newport Beach.  Further banquet details are available online at http://www.alumni.uci.edu/how_to_get_involved/lauds_and_laurels.html.

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