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Staff Spotlight: Lori Cottle

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Photo of Lori Cottle

January 29, 2015

If you were a student in the MS&E department during the past few decades, you are probably very familiar with Director of Student and Academic Services Lori Cottle.

If you didn’t work with her directly, she still influenced your academic experience through behind-the-scenes activity.

On the job

Although her wide-ranging job responsibilities include graduate admissions, advising and degree tracking, payments for fellowships and assistantships, and working with the faculty to schedule classes, Cottle views her true role as “helping everyone to accomplish their goals.” This includes guiding students to finish the program, even when facing personal or financial obstacles.

“I will sit down with students and help them figure out how they can pull it off,” said Cottle. “I can think of one student, in particular, who felt no hope that he could actually do it, until we worked out a plan together. It was very satisfying to watch him receive his degree.”

That kind of dedication and obvious love for her job has made Cottle popular with students and faculty alike. Students often tell her how much they appreciate her work. The fact that so many alumni sought her out at the recent reunion in October is a testament to her lasting impact.

“I work hard and juggle numerous demands. But all of that pales in comparison to the sense of accomplishment I experience each day,“ said Cottle.

In helping faculty, she takes tasks such as course scheduling just as seriously as her work with students. In her mind, she’s not just putting a calendar together. She’s providing a framework to help faculty share their personal academic interests with the next generation of scholars.

“I find it inspiring to watch the way so many MS&E professors truly put students first,” said Cottle. “The achievements and scholarly advances of the MS&E department are a collaboration between faculty, staff, and students, always with the well-being of students at the center.”

Continuing the Stanford heritage

Lori Cottle and her family have a long history with both Stanford and Palo Alto. Her great-great-grandparents came to the area in the early 1900s. Her mother worked in Student Services at the Stanford Law and Medical Schools. After growing up in Palo Alto, Cottle attended Kenyon College in Ohio, returning after graduation to take a position at Stanford Law School. After leaving for a couple years to live in Louisiana while her husband finished his degree, she returned again to Palo Alto to accept a position as a Student Services administrator with MS&E (then called the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, or IEEM). She was promoted to manager in 1995.

Cottle and her husband live in Palo Alto and have two grown kids. In her free time, she likes to bake and enjoys swimming and walking.

Saying 'no' is hard to do

When pressed to name favorite students or alumni with especially interesting fields of study, Cottle declines to answer, saying it is impossible for her to play favorites among the many she has worked with over the years. Her only regret on the job is that MS&E has to turn away so many deserving applicants.

“The number of applicants has dramatically increased over the years. We have to restrict the size of the program to ensure that the people here get the best experience possible. One of the hardest parts of my job is saying no to prospective students we don’t have room for.”

Improving student services

Among the students who do affiliate with the department, there are some clear, trending areas of interest. Demand for computational social science is on the rise, along with analytics in the financial and operations fields, and there is a continuing demand for courses in technology and engineering management.

In terms of enhanced student services, MS&E plans to hire additional personnel to work with students on their careers. The department wants to form even more mentoring relationships between alumni and graduating students, as well as establish relationships with companies to enhance the department’s corporate affiliates program.

“Alumni will start hearing from us soon about those initiatives,” she said. “We’d like to get them involved.”

Over thirty years of dedication

More than three decades in the same job may seem like a long time, but according to Cottle, “I’ve really enjoyed working with the students and faculty. The time has flown.”

If you’re in the area, Cottle invites you to stop and say hello. Or drop her an email at to let her know how you’re doing.

“We’re always happy when former students visit,” said Cottle. That is, if you can catch her without a student in her office.

Written by Rachel Street.

Staff stories & voices