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Off the clock with Keohi Council of Student Affairs

As a mother of three, grandmother of eight, and someone who used to dance hula in performances with her dad and other relatives, it’s not surprising that Keohi Council’s guiding principle is the Hawaiian concept of ohana.

“Ohana is about family, community, the welcoming and inclusive spirit,” the Honolulu native says. “It’s a big part of why I came to UCOP.”

Council’s own 30-plus-year career took her from Cal State to Virginia Tech and UC Davis before she made a soft landing at UCOP, where her colleagues say she approaches her work with calm, caring and professionalism.

In fact, Council has spent a large part of her “free” time for the last seven years learning how to do her job better through the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), which offers education and leadership opportunities to administrative professionals worldwide.

She joined UCOP in 2009 and is now executive secretary to Student Affairs Vice President Judy Sakaki, whose career she had followed since the two first met at Cal State East Bay (then Cal State Hayward) in the early 1980s.

“One of the things that makes OP exciting and challenging is that you never know what each day will bring,” Sakaki says. “But Keohi has a calmness about her; she is a reliable, steady force, and that’s a very strong quality in the workplace.”

Council is this year’s president of IAAP’s TriCity chapter, serving Fremont, Union City and Newark. She spends several weeknights and about one weekend day each month organizing meetings, planning educational programs, writing articles, networking and keeping up her skills for IAAP certifications, of which she holds two. She has also qualified as a 2011–12 member of excellence, IAAP’s elite category for members who participate at the highest level.

“You work on a broad range of things – organizational skills, time management, office systems and technology applications like Word and Excel – and you have to recertify every five years,” Council explains. “When I took my first exam I already had 25 years of experience, but I still felt I had to study really hard.”

The IAAP provides unlimited opportunities for networking, mentoring and professional development, which not only add to Council’s skills but also her job maturity. “It puts her in a position where she is providing leadership,” Sakaki says.

As Sakaki’s executive secretary, Council provides support in the areas of student services, student financial support and undergraduate admissions, working closely with student affairs offices on all 10 campuses, the UC Staff Association and student policies governing such things as use of technology, privacy and safety issues.

Safety is an area that hits close to home: Council was at Virginia Tech, working as office manager for the Provost’s Office, when the April 16, 2007, shooting occurred across the walkway from her office. The deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, it ended in the deaths of five faculty and 28 students.

“The shooting put things in perspective for me,” Council says. “I was missing out on my grandchildren growing up and wanted to spend more time with my family.” So she moved back to California in late 2007, coming full circle when she joined Sakaki’s staff.

In her native language, her name — Keohiokalani — stands for eldest beloved child of the beautiful heavens. Handed down to her from her great grandmother and in turn to her daughter and two granddaughters, the name is a fitting one for this gentle and caring woman.

“So much is happening here at UCOP, and it’s important to keep the vice president up to date with the most current information,” Council says. “I try to bring a calming presence to the whole unit.”

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