January 31, 2010

January Meeting of Texas Ombuds Will Highlight Bullying Issues

The Ombuds of Texas will meet February 10, 2010, at Marathon Oil in Houston. The meeting will feature two speakers from Marathon: Marla A. Moore, Senior Attorney Law-Human Resources will discuss “Legal Implications of Bullying”; and Gail B. Rogers, Adv. Senior Organizational Development Consultant, Human Resources-Organizational Development will speak on “Employee Relations Impact of Bullying.” The OOT website has a new section with information about the leadership team and structure and, for members, the minutes of prior meetings. (Ombuds of Texas.)

Related posts: Study Finds Workplace Bullying Widespread; Organizational Responses to Workplace Bullies; Workplace Bullying More Harmful than Sexual Harassment.

Florida Atlantic University Students Surveyed About Ombuds

The public university in Boca Raton surveyed its 27,000 students in 2009 regarding the available student services, including the 20 year old Ombuds Office. According to a recently released report on the survey, FAU students were remarkably unaware of or did use many services, including student health, psychological services, and the Ombuds Office. Less than 20% were aware of the Ombuds service. On the positive side, three-quarters of the students who were aware of the FAU Ombuds Office said the quality of service was good or excellent. (FAU Student Satisfaction Survey 2009 Results.)

Related posts: TSA Ombuds Surveys Visitor Satisfaction; Central Washington University Surveys Ombuds Users; University of South Carolina Starts Visitor Survey; University of Waterloo Ombuds Surveys Visitors.

Asian Ombudsman Association Unveils New Website

The organization for Classical Ombuds in Asia has updated its web presence at a new site. The new AOA website, which is still being completed, will offer news, job postings, blogs, links to social networking sites, and additional resources behind a members-only wall. The site boasts instantaneous translations into dozens of languages via Google Translate. The non-governmental, non-political, independent and professional body was established in 1996 and currently has 27 members from 17 countries. (Asian Ombudsman Association.)

January 29, 2010

Georgia State Appoints New Ombuds for Students and Staff

Kelley Alexander has been selected as the new Student and Staff Ombudsperson for GSU. Alexander has lived in Atlanta and worked in personnel and project management for over two decades, managing and coaching employees around resolving conflicts. For the last two years, she has been teaching courses with the Communications Department at Kennesaw State on “Communication and Conflict.” Alexander is a certified mediator with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution and a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution. She earned her Master's Degree in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, specializing in the role of the Ombuds, and her BA in English from Beloit College. (GSU Ombuds Office; InnerLight Solutions.)

Prior post: Job Posting.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Hires an Ombuds

In anticipation of a restored Ombuds program for students, the California State University has appointed Patricia Ponce as Associate Ombuds. Ponce has worked at Cal Poly for many years, working first in Student Affairs and then in Academic Affairs, and most recently serving as director of Summer Academic Programs and coordinator of the Science Youth Camp. She earned a bachelor's in social work, a master’s in counseling, and a doctorate in education from UCLA. (Cal Poly Report.)

Related post: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Promises to Restore Ombuds Program.

Conflict Coaching: Advising the Mediating Manager

Occasionally, Ombuds have the opportunity to coach individuals who are not a party to a conflict. Managers may want to resolve departmental issues without referring their employees to the Ombuds. Managers are not neutral and independent and therefore need to use techniques that are different than those used by Ombuds and Mediators. Tufts University professor Jeswald Salacuse has identified six bases of power for mediating managers:
  1. Rewards -- Managers have access to incentives for changed behavior;
  2. Coercion -- Managers can punish as well as reward;
  3. Expertise -- Managers often have greater knowledge and skills that are relevant to the conflicts;
  4. Legitimacy -- Managers in some organizations may have great power to implement a resolution;
  5. Relationships -- Managers often have preexisting relationships with the parties; and
  6. Coalitions and Networks -- Managers may be able to capitalize on existing social networks to gain support for resolutions.
Salacuse encourages managers to be aware of these leverage points when attempting to mediate. (Harvard PON Blog.)

January 28, 2010

Friday Poll: What was Your Path to an Ombuds Job?

There is no clear path to an Ombuds position. There are no established educational criteria or mandatory certification for Organizational Ombuds. Instead, many people seem to fall into the position from related jobs or from within the organization. This may be changing, for better or worse, with the emergence of Ombuds courses within conflict resolution degree programs and the prospect of a credible certification scheme. So, what was your job before you became an Ombuds (or, for those looking for a position, what is your current job)?

University Of Michigan Ombuds Retires; Interim Appointed

Long-time Ombudsman for Students Robert B. Holmes will retire at the end of January and the University has announced that Tom Lehker will step in as Interim Ombudsman. Lehker has worked for the University of Michigan for 13 years and most recently was Senior Assistant Director for Campus Outreach in the Career Center. He earned his BA at Michigan and a Masters in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. Lehker has been working with Holmes in the Ombuds Office for the past year, to ensure a smooth transition.

Related post: Ombuds Prompts University of Michigan to Adopt Hardship Reimbursement Program.

IOA Announces Specialized Courses for Baltimore Training in March

In addition to basic Ombuds training in Baltimore during the first week of March, IOA is offering the following specialized courses:
  • Essential Interviewing and Questioning Skills for Ombudsmen (Mar. 4, 2010) -- taught by David Carver, PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Lee Twyman, MA, Rochester Institute of Technology; and
  • Group Facilitation (Mar. 5, 2010) -- taught by Wendy Friede, Friede Consulting Services.
Rates go up after next Friday. (IOA Spring 2010 Training Info.)

Update 1/28/10: Early registration and hotel deadlines have been extended to Wednesday, February 3.

Related post: IOA Spring Training for Ombuds In Baltimore.

Job Posting: United Nations Ombuds Office

The United Nations Office of the Ombudsman in New York is accepting applications for Senior Conflict Resolution System Officer. The position will be responsible for identifying systemic employment-related issues, handling complex cases, and working with regional Ombuds in peacekeeping areas. Applicants must have an advanced degree and ten years of professional experience. Second language fluency and knowledge of UN policies is also preferred. Applications are due January 5, 2010. (UN Jobs, vacancy no.: 10-OMB-OMBUDSMAN -423617-R-NEW YORK.)

January 27, 2010

Secretary of State Clinton Promises Ombuds for Foreign Service Workers

At a Town Hall for State Department employees marking their first anniversary, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about the status of the Ombudsman for Civil Service Employees.

MAJ. WALTER BRUCE: * * * I have one other issue, and that is ombudsman. I sent Pat [Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management] an email back in May of last year and I’ve known Pat for a long time and I know he supports everything that we possibly do *because it’s all in one accord. And I’m only concerned about what’s the status of the ombudsman program. That’s the guy or girl that’s supposed to be looking out for Civil Service employees. This is a Foreign Service organization. We got no doubts about that. But there should be an infrastructure in place that looks out for the interests and advances of those that we consider to be civil servants. (Applause.) I just wanted a status.

So, Madame Secretary, all I want to know is – and I’m sure Pat going to be able to tell me this – where we stand on it. (Laughter.) That’s all I have.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much and thanks for your many years of service to our country, first in the military and now here. We’re going to have that ombudsman, aren’t we, Pat? (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Madame Secretary, yes, the law requires that the ombudsman must be a member of the Senior Executive Service. We have no other choice; it’s written in the statute. So we are in the process in all this turnover of recruiting someone because we have to identify an SES position and recruit someone. That process is ongoing.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And there’s no pre-selection? (Laughter and applause.)


The Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual explains that Civil Service Ombuds serves as senior advisor to the Secretary of State and senior Department management, and as consultant for Civil Service employees. The position has been vacant for several years. (Department of State Sec. Clinton Remarks, Foreign Affairs Manual Vol. 1–Organization and Functions; see also, 22 U.S. Code 2664a; Office of Personnel Management, ADR Guide.)

Why Doesn't the Ethics Resource Center Acknowledge Ombuds?

ERC is one of the leading think tanks on organizational ethics and publishes the National Business Ethics Survey. The longitudinal study examines organizational ethics from the employee perspective and provides context for national trends. The 2009 NBES update reports that misconduct and pressure to cut corners at work are down, but that whistleblowing and retaliation is up. John Zinsser notes that while formal systems cannot support ethical cultures and protect whistleblowers, informal, confidential structures like Organizational Ombuds clearly can. So he wonders why the word 'Ombuds' doesn't even merit a mention in ERC's report. (Conflict Benefit Blog; 2009 NBES.)

January 26, 2010

Latest ENOHE Newsletter Traces Evolution of Campus Ombuds

The second 2009 newsletter from the European Network for Ombudsmen in Higher Education for 2009 is now available online. It features articles on:
  • Global, National, Local: News on Discussing the Higher Education Ombudsman;
  • An Editorial by ENOHE Founder Josef Leidenfrost;
  • ENOHE 2010 Joint Conference in Vienna with the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons;
  • The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education and Student Rights (Högskoleverket);
  • The REDDU (Network of Defenders, Attorneys and Ombudsmen of University Rights) Conference September 2009;
  • The OIAHE (Office of Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, England and Wales) Annual Report 2008;
  • Training Ombudsmen: Identifying Needs, Curricula to be Developed;
  • An interview with International Ombudsman Institute Secretary General
  • is the Austrian ombudsman Peter Kostelka on the IOI's move to Vienna;
  • The First Ombudsman’s Office at a European Union Programme National Agency;
  • A summary of the 2009 ENOHE Conference in Hamburg; and
  • Perspectives on the Bolgna Process from a student and professor.
The feature article is "The Campus Ombudsman," by Tim Birtwistle, a Professor of Law and Policy of Higher Education at Leeds Law School. Birtwistle traces the global evolution of Ombuds at colleges and universities. He concludes that a range of Ombuds models are viable and effective. Most significantly, he asserts that, "if the modern campus ombud is to engage in [dispute resolution] using tools such as mediation ... then it must maintain its independence." (ENOHE 2009/2 Newsletter.)

Related posts: ENOHE Latest Newsletter (Feb 2009); Canadian and European Higher Ed Ombuds Will Convene in Vienna.

University of Pennsylvania Ombuds Reports Uptick in Cases Prompted by Funding Shortfalls

John C. Keene, the outgoing University Ombudsman for UPenn, reported that the overall number of visitors to his office remained constant last year at 201. Most of these were related to employment procedures and nearly half o the visitors were staff. In addition, Keene said that the data indicated a marked increase in complainants from the School of Veterinary Medicine, which incurred a substantial reduction in financial support because of the state’s budget deficit. (UPenn Almanac.)

Prior posts: University of Pennsylvania Ombuds Issues Annual Report; University of Pennsylvania Appoints Ombuds.

Report May End Australian Proposal for National Student Ombuds

A report by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council may signal the end of a nine-year push for a national student Ombuds program. The ALTC study concluded that a national ombudsman would not necessarily address the core issue that problems raised by students "should be dealt with earlier and fairly." In addition, the authors pointed out that a third of Australia's universities have student ombudsmen. (The Australian.)

Related posts: Survey Finds Students Do Not Trust Australian University Ombuds; Study Finds Principals are Worst School Bullies.

January 25, 2010

Harvard Medical School Appoints New Ombuds

Melissa Brodrick is the new Ombudsperson for the Harvard Medical School, Dental School, and School of Public Health. For the past 25 years, Brodrick has been a mediator, facilitator and trainer in Boston. She is an instructor for The Boston Consortium, an associate of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and a national trainer and mediator for the U.S. Postal Service REDRESS Program. She has also served as executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Mediation Programs and Practitioners, education cochair of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution, and executive board member of the National Association for Community Mediation.

Brobrick also has ties to to Harvard University. She has been a lecturer at Simmons Graduate School of Social Work and has been a faculty member of the Harvard School of Public Health Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Leadership for eight years. In addition, she earned MEd from Harvard University after a BA from Amherst College. She succeeds Linda Wilcox who established the Harvard Medical School Ombuds Office in 1991. (HMS Ombuds Office; Boston Consortium Bio.)

Prior post: Job Posting.

Update 2/1/10: Harvard School of Public Health Announcement.

January 22, 2010

Ombuds as Solution to the Financial Meltdown

John Zinsser, an experienced Ombuds practitioner and consultant, also writes the Conflict Benefit Blog. His latest post asserts that Organizational Ombuds are an effective tool to provide oversight and improvement for the financial services sector.
Programs designed to current ombuds profession standards could be fully operational in the investment community in a matter of months, providing significant cost savings, superior creative problem-solving, and expanded communications — the essential attributes for financial firms to overcome the current macro and micro challenges they face. As these improvements become visible to investors, along with the heightened compliance and increased transparency brought about by ombuds activity, the essential process of rebuilding trust in the financial services community via accountability, in the largest sense of the word, can begin.

Zinsser is a thoughtful, diligent and well-connected advocate for Organizational Ombuds. Hopefully his suggestions will find a receptive audience among the policymakers that are already considering remedies for the financial crisis. (Conflict Benefit Blog.)

Related posts: Altman Weil Endorses Ombuds Programs for Large Law Firms; House Passes Bill to Create Two New Federal Ombuds Programs.

Next President at Youngstown State University May be Former Ombuds

Two of the four finalists in the presidential search at the Ohio research university have experience with Organizational Ombuds programs. Cynthia Anderson, the current Vice President for Student Affairs at YSU, helped establish the Ombuds office in 2004. Cheryl J. Norton, currently the President of Southern Connecticut State University, served as the Ombuds Officer for Metropolitan State College of Denver in 1991-1992 (a program that is now defunct). A third candidate, Aaron Podolefsky, has a certificates in conflict resolution and has studied mediators in New Guinea. A decision is expected this spring. (YSU Presidential Search Resources.)

Related post: Ombuds Responsible for Campus Hand Sanitizers.

University of Texas President Promises to Address Calls for Staff Ombuds

For the first time UT Austin President Bill Powers has acknowledged publicly the long-standing staff request for an Ombuds program. He promises to say more soon. Staff, however, remain skeptical. (Tower Talk.)

Related post: University of Texas Staff Set Ombuds as Top Priority.

January 21, 2010

New Ombuds Blog Feature: The Friday Poll

I'm trying out a new feature: an interactive poll located in the right-hand column. The plan is to change the question every Friday. This week's question: Will you buy Charles Howard's new book, "The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations-A Legal Guide"?

Let me know what you think about this new feature in the comments section.

Profile of Georgia Tech Staff Ombuds

Last year, the Georgia Institute of Technology consolidated its faculty, staff and graduate student Ombuds programs. The faculty/staff newsletter recently profiled John Schultz, who serves classified university staff. Schultz started as an employee relations coordinator at GT in June of 1998 and moved into the Ombuds Office in January 2006. He came into the position with five years of experience as an ombudsman at Rockwell International’s Tactical Systems Division. Schultz said that the GT Ombuds Office handled about 165 cases from June 2008 through August 2009, mostly staff-related. In addition to his work as an Ombuds, Schultz is a court-appointed mediator and serves as a member of the University System of Georgia chancellor’s advisory group for all alternative dispute resolution issues. (The Whistle.)

Related posts: Georgia Tech Consolidates Ombuds Offices; New Website for Consolidated Ombuds at Georgia Tech.

Job Posting: Baptist Health South Florida

The five-hospital network based in Jacksonville is hiring a Director of Corporate Employee Relations/Corporate Ombudsman to work in Coral Gables. It appears that this may be a new position -- there is no indication of an existing Ombuds program on any of the BHSF websites. The position provides support to employees and consults administrators to promote positive employee relations. A bachelors degree in a relevant field is required. A masters degree, HR experience and corporate experience are preferred. No closing date or salary indicated. (BHSF Job Posting via Indeed.)

Food for Thought: Orangutan Mediator

Japanese primatologists observing a group of captive orangutans at the Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo have seen one organutan mediating a conflict two other, fighting orangutans.
Over 13 days of observations, another much older female called Chappy, thought to be 34 years old, became repeatedly aggressive toward Kiki, either chasing or physically attacking her on 28 separate occasions. During 19 of these interactions, another orangutan intervened, physically stepping between the two squabbling apes to separate them. Most of the time the peacemaker was an elder female orangutan called Gypsy, who is thought to be 51 years old.

Researchers suspect that the behavior is learned because these orangutans, who are loners in the wild, have been forced to live together. (BBC News, via Boing Boing.)

January 20, 2010

IOA Annual Conference Marks Fifth Anniversary With Promise of Rebirth, Rebuild and Respond

It has been five years since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the formation of the International Ombudsman Association. The annual IOA conference in New Orleans, April 7-10, 2010, draws on this coincidence and envisions a bright future. A preliminary agenda for the event promises a rich array of programs for Organizational Ombuds:

Pre-Conference Full-Day Courses
  • John Buck ― “Dynamic Governance: Addressing Conflicts Inherent in Organizational Structure”
  • Roger Schwartz ― “Developing Your Facilitation Mindset and Skill Set”
Pre-Conference Half-Day Courses
  • David Talbot, Tim Griffin ― IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics: Understanding the Core Principles of an Organizational Ombudsman Practice”
  • Kerry Egdorf ― “Talking About Fairness in the Workplace: Making Fairness Explicit in Training, Coaching, and Policy Discussions”
  • Lauren Bloom ― “Therapeutic Skills for the Ombuds: A Family Systems Approach”
  • Nancy Erbe, Carolyn Noorbakhsh ― “Change Agent: Ombudsmen's Contribution to Organizational Value”
First Day of General Conference (Rebirth)
  • Dr. Michael Martin, Chancellor of Louisiana State University ― Welcome Remarks
  • André Marin, Ombudsman of Ontario, Past President of FCO and North American Regional VP of IOI ― Keynote Speaker
  • Chuck L. Howard, Esq., Partner, Shipman & Goodwin LLP ― General Session Remarks
Second Day of General Conference (Rebuild)
Third Day of General Conference (Respond)
  • Robert C. Bordone, JD, Professor and Director, Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program ― Keynote Speaker
Discounted registration deadline is March 5. (IOA 2010 Conference Info.)

January 19, 2010

ABA Publishes First Book About Organizational Ombuds

The first-ever book devoted exclusively to Organizational Ombuds issues will be published this week by the American Bar Association, "The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations-A Legal Guide." Written by Charles Howard, the book aims to be an essential resource for Ombuds and those who interact with them, including in-house counsel, corporate executives, university administrators, compliance officers, and human resources personnel. Howard chronicles the evolution of Organizational Ombuds and explains why demographic, technological, and globalization changes have made the role important for organizations today.

Howard is a partner with the Connecticut law firm of Shipman & Goowdin LLP and has a national practice representing corporate, research facility, university Ombuds. Recognized as a leading advocate for Ombuds, he has spoken at several IOA conferences and authored many articles about the Ombuds field. (
ABA Webstore; Shipman & Goodwin Profile; Avvo Profile.)

January 18, 2010

Ashford University Opens Ombuds Office

The private, for-profit coeducational liberal arts university owned by Bridgepoint Education has established an Office of the Ombudsman for its campus and online communities. Michael Kilpatrick helped develop the program for Ashford and serves as the Ombuds. Kilpatrick recently earned his Masters degree from the Werner Institute for Negotiation & Dispute Resolution at Creighton Law School. He also received a Masters of Theology at the University of Oxford and a BS Western State University College in San Diego. He is an experienced mediator and has worked as an Ombuds for other entities. (Ashford University Ombuds Office; Werner Institute Newsletter.)

Kilpatrick would seem to be due credit for ensuring the new office conforms to best practices for Organizational Ombuds. Before the program was created, a job posting indicated that the Ashford Ombuds would report to the Vice President of Compliance and would be responsible for investigating student complaints. Now, the Ombuds reports directly to the President of the University and adheres to the IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

Prior post: Non-Conforming Job Postings: Jackson Community College and Ashford University.

Organization of News Ombudsmen Director Argues for 'Cyberombudsmen'

Jeffrey Dvorkin, the Executive Director of ONO and a former NPR Ombuds, observes that declining revenues for traditional media has lead many news organizations to fire their Ombuds. At the same time, more internet media critics have become potent and proactive advocates for the public. In his latest blog post, Dvorkin argues that these two vital elements should join to create "Cyberombudsmen."
The old model of the ombudsman as the solitary, experienced and somewhat distant newsroom figure needs to change. The way to make this work is to engage our younger journalistic colleagues who bring new skills and fresh perspectives and who can be the next generation of "cyberombudsmen." Combining their talents with the experience of the seasoned ombudsmen will create this urgently needed agency of digital democracy.
(Now the Details.)

Dvorkin's argument has relevance for Ombuds in other fields. Although Ombuds are uniquely positioned and qualified to advise their organizations, the rapidly evolving virtual community cannot be ignored. Ombuds would be wise to keep connected to internet critics who have different perspectives and resources.

Related posts: Ombuds Not Exempt From Influence of Internet; More Thoughts on the Decline of News Ombuds; Organization of News Ombudsmen Appoints First Executive Director; Higher Ed Ombuds Are Embracing Social Media.

January 17, 2010

IOA Announces First Winner of Student Writing Competition

The International Ombudsman Association has announced that Andrew Larratt-Smith, a student at UCLA Law School and the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University, has won the first annual student writing competition for his paper, "An Ethical Privilege: The Case for a Statutory Privilege for the Organizational Ombuds." Larratt-Smith will receive a cash award of $2,500 and has been invited to the IOA Annual Conference in April 2010 to discuss his paper.

Prior post:
First Annual IOA Student Writing Competition.

January 10, 2010

IOA Spring Training for Ombuds In Baltimore

The International Ombudsman Association will offer basic and advanced training in Baltimore, Maryland March 1 through 5, 2010. "Ombudsman 101," A 2½-day introductory program for new Ombuds or those seeking information about the organizational Ombuds role will be taught March 1-3. "Ombudsman 101 Plus," a special half-day program for organizations and entrepreneurs who want to get started is taught on the afternoon of March 3. Specialized courses are due to be offered March 4 and 5, but have not yet been announced. Priority registration closes January 29. (IOA Spring 2010 Training Info.)

January 08, 2010

American Philosophical Association Ombuds Reports No Cases

In 2008, the APA established an Ombudsperson for Nondiscrimination to serve as a resource for its 9,500 members with complaints of discrimination. Laurie Shrage, PhD, a Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Women's Studies Department at Florida International University was appointed to a three-year term. However, according to one blogger, Shrage has yet to receive a single concern as the APA Ombuds. The anonymous blogger speculates that APA members simply aren't aware of know there is an Ombuds. (APA Ombuds Description; Shrage FIU Page; Feminist Philosophers Blog.)

Related post: Ombuds Endorsed for American Psychological Association.

New Book Details How Classical Ombuds Handle Investigations

Gareth Jones is the author of a recent guide to investigations based on his experience as the Director of the Special Ombudsman Response Team for the Ontario Ombudsman's Office. Conducting Administrative, Oversight & Ombudsman Investigations illustrates principles of excellent investigation in a range of settings. Mike Reddy reviewed the book for the British and Irish Ombudsman Association's newsletter last month and said, "this book is an excellent practical guide to investigatory processes and makes a first rate training tool." (Canada Law Book; BIOA "Ombudsman" Review, reprinted with permission.)

N.B. Although Organizational Ombuds eschew formal investigations, they share the same objective of surfacing systemic issues. Moreover, this book is one of the few that offers an insight into the workings of any kind of Ombuds office.

ACR Launches Job Board

The Association for Conflict Resolution has created a Job Board for the conflict resolution industry. ACR says that it will post opportunities that can’t be found on larger job board websites. Postings already include Ombuds positions. (ACR Job Board via ACR Update.)

Related post: ACR Seeks Ombuds Bloggers.

January 07, 2010

CoFO Elects Officers

At its fall meeting on November 18, 2009, the Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen announced the results of its Executive Committee elections:

  • Chairperson -– Wendy Kamenshine (Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman Office)
  • Vice Chairperson -– Sarah Zeigler (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
  • Secretary -– Jim Sheldon (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency)
  • Coordinator -– Joyce DeMoss (Transportation Security Administration)
As the new Chair, Kamenshine thanked her successor, Michael Turpenoff (Department of Education), for his work on behalf of CoFO. The minutes from the meeting reflect continued coordination with USOA and advocacy on behalf of Federal Ombuds programs. Attendees also supported surveying members to determine whether their focus was on external or internal or internal constituents. CoFO will convene again later this month. (CoFO Meeting Minutes, 11/18/09.)

Zeigler and DeMoss are also active in IOA. (IOA 2008 Conf. Speaker Bios.)

Prior posts: COFO Sets Conference Agenda; CoFO Continues Work on Thorny Issues Facing Government Ombuds.

US News & World Report Expects Strong Growth for Mediation Field

The American newsmagazine expects the alternative dispute resolution field to grow at an above-average pace over the next decade. According to a recent article, "Employment in arbitration, mediation, and conciliation is expected to expand by 1,400 jobs, or 14 percent, between 2008 and 2018—a growth rate above the average for all occupations." The article also observes there is a no clear educational path, training regimen or certification scheme for the field. (US News & World Report via ACR Update.)

Related post: "Best Careers" Include Mediators.

January 06, 2010

Profile of Columbia Ombuds

Marsha Wagner, the Columbia University Ombuds Officer, is featured in the current issue of her campus newsletter. Wagner has worked at Columbia for 31 years and helped establish the Ombuds Office in 1991. Before becoming the Ombuds, Wagner taught classical Chinese literature and was director of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. She says that the best part of her job is helping people move through an issue. “It is wonderful to observe two people who have had a serious misunderstanding come together to talk through their differences and end with a conciliatory handshake.” Every year, Wagner and Associate Ombuds Officer Bathabile Mthombeni handle about 600 new cases. Wagner also reveals she is a quilter and gardener. (Columbia Record.)

Wagner is recognized as a leader in the Ombuds field and has been actively involved in UCOA and IOA. She speaks often at regional and annual meetings. Most recently, she has lead the effort to establish an optional certification program for practitioners.

Related posts: Ombuds to Speak at ACR Regional Conference in New York; Where Are All the Women Who Mediate?; List of Leading Dispute Resolution Processes Omits Ombuds; Directors Appointed to Ombuds Certification Board.

Advising Visitors Stuck in Their Job

Organizational Ombuds routinely counsel employees unhappy about some aspect of their work. Options for resolution generally range from doing nothing to quitting. Most of the more attractive options lie between and include informal and formal attempts to address the causes of dissatisfaction. In many cases, the employee stays in their position. An article in the US News & World Report summarizes some tactics for those who decide to try and cope in an unpleasant job.
  • Figure out what's changed -- examine the reason for dissatisfaction as a first step toward changing the situation;
  • Start a research project -- alter your routine to see whether changes have a positive effect;
  • Start with gratitude -- recognize the benefits of your position;
  • Look around the office -- connect with coworkers to make positive changes;
  • Help colleagues with three things -- give feedback to alleviate feelings of anonymity, irrelevance, and lack of success.
(US News & World Report.)

Related posts: Deciding Whether to Quit; Study: Complaining Makes it Worse; The Power of Nice; Working Happily With Colleagues; Advice for Visitors Who Need to Get Along With Their Bosses.

January 05, 2010

Newark Schools Ombuds Program is Up and Running

In October 2009, Nancy Deering was appointed as the first Ombudsman for the Newark Public Schools, a district comprising about 40,000 students and 7,500 staff. District Superintendent Dr. Clifford Janey said, “Ms. Deering is an outstanding professional with more than two decades of experience managing the kinds of collaborative partnerships between management and staff and management and community that are sorely needed in the district. I believe she will work well with the team we have put together.”

Previously, Deering was an Ombuds for Merrill Lynch. She earned her BA in Communications from Rutgers University and a a masters’ degree in Organizational Development from the University of Phoenix. Deering has been an active member of IOA, including service on the 2007-2008 Conference Oversight Committee. (Newark Public Schools Press Release, Newsletter; IOA 2008 Annual Report.)

Prior posts: Newark Public Schools Hiring First Ombuds; Job Posting.

Princeton Ombuds Offers Online Conflict Coaching Tool

Bill Warters at the Campus-ADR Tech Blog notes that the Princeton University Ombuds has updated the website:
A feature of special interest is the Online Conflict Management Coach tutorial. The flash-based tutorial explains some key concepts about conflict ... and then walks the viewer through a series of questions about a current conflict you may be involved in. Based on your responses, a recommendation of a strategy is provided, along with some tips on how that strategy might be carried out effectively. The viewer is introduced to the various conflict management styles and the potential pros and cons of each. The "online coach" tool appears to be free for use by folks both on and off campus, providing a great resource to promote self-reflection or to prepare for a shared conversation about handling a difficult situation.
(Campus-ADR Tech Blog; Princeton Ombuds Office.)

Related post: Princeton Ombuds to Head World Bank Mediation Office.

The original version of this post mistakenly indicated that the Online Management Coach tutorial was created by the current Princeton Ombuds, DA Graham. In fact, the tool was developed and launched by Camilo Azcarate before he moved to the World Bank. I apologize for this error.

January 04, 2010

Job Posting: FDA Tobacco Center

The FDA is hiring an Ombuds for the newly created Center for Tobacco Products. The position reports to the Center's Director in Rockville, MD and is responsible for developing an ADR program and supervising third party neutrals. This appears to be unlike most other FDA Center Ombuds positions that are primarily for external constituents. One or more positions may be filled. Applications for the GS-15 job are due by January 11, 2010. (Federal Government Jobs, USA Jobs, Job Ann. No.: CK-305837-FH; NY Times.)

Related post: FDA Drug Evaluation Ombuds Issues Annual Report; 2007 FDA Job Posting.