December 30, 2023

2023 Year in Review: The Big Story

All things considered, 2023 was a fairly uneventful year for the Ombuds profession. Practitioners have settled into the new, post-pandemic normal: handling most of their case work virtually. The lessons and strategies learned during the Black Lives Matter protests were deployed in response to conflicts related to the Israel Gaza war. Ombuds are watching the approach of Generative Artificial Intelligence (large language model chatbots) warily, but so far the impact has been minimal. For those who follow the Ombuds profession closely, there was one surprising and significant story this year: the rise of MWI as a robust provider of outsourced Ombuds services.

December 27, 2023

2023 Year in Review: Top Posts, Cheers/Jeers, and Courage

This is the second post reflecting on the past year. Here are the most viewed posts, highs and lows, and a story about an Ombuds meeting the challenge of her work.

December 26, 2023

TU Wien Introduces First Ombuds

Technische Universität Wien (also known as the Vienna University of Technology), the public research university in Austria, appointed Kurt Matyas and Vasiliki-Maria Archodoulaki as its first Ombuds in October 2023. Together, they assist 27,000 students with concerns about university life.

December 23, 2023

2023 Year in Review: Transitions

Every year, the Ombuds Blog attempts to recap the most important events from the profession. Traditionally, this begins with a survey of the people who retired and passed away, and a recap of new and closed programs. More qualitative posts will follow in the next week.

December 22, 2023

School of the Art Institute of Chicago Debuts Ombuds Program

Patrick Spence has been named the inaugural Ombudsperson for the private art school associated with the Art Institute of Chicago. He was appointed in March and a website for the service went online this week. In this new role, Spence provides services to faculty, staff, and students following IOA standards, and reports to SAIC's President.

December 20, 2023

Job Re-Posting: South Texas College

The public community college in McAllen, Texas has reopened its search for an Ombudsperson. (It remains unclear whether this search will replace or supplement the work of Erica R. Hansen and Michelle A. Miller, who have have served in the role for the past several years. The position serves all primarily students (31,000 enrolled across six campuses) and practices to IOA standards. The anticipated start date is now February 2, 2024.

December 19, 2023

Job Posting: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

ICANN, the nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases that undergird the Internet, is seeking its next Ombuds. (Herb Waye served in the role from July 2016 until earlier this year and Krista Papac was appointed as the Interim Ombuds on October 1, 2023.) The position reports directly to the ICANN board and generally follows IOA standards. However, in some cases, the Ombuds may initiate a formal investigation and make formal recommendations. Travel to international conferences and meetings is required.

Illinois State Legislator Introduces Bill to Mandate Ombuds for College Athletes

On December 4, 2023, Kambium "Kam" Buckner (D-26), a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, introduced a bill that would create a Student Bill of Rights for all postsecondary institutions in the state. The bill seeks to protect students from retaliation and hazing and, among other things, would require the creation of an Ombudsperson for student-athletes. The bill has only been filed and there have not yet been any hearings or votes.

December 18, 2023

Job Posting: International Civil Aviation Organization

ICAO, the UN agency that coordinates and develops international air navigation, is hiring an Ombudsperson. Reporting directly to the ICAO Secretary General, the position assists personnel, supervisors, and administrators with employment and workplace issues. The position will be for an initial two-year term and is based at the ICAO headquarters in Montreal. 

San Dieguito Public Schools to Launch Troubling Ombuds Program

The Board of Trustees for the San Dieguito Union High School District (the second best district in California) in northern San Diego County, approved the hiring of its first Director of Community Resolution & Outreach. The new position "acts as the district’s ombudsperson and is a designated neutral or impartial dispute resolution practitioner whose major function is to provide informal assistance to constituents of the district community, including students, employees, parents, and community members." Unfortunately, the job also has conflicting formal duties ensuring the district is complying with Title IX.

Mediate Offers Ombuds Forum Series will host a four-part series on conflict resolution, mediation, and the evolving role of Ombuds in various sectors. In the first session, tomorrow, participants will be discussing tips, responsibilities, and boundaries for Ombuds as they serve campuses when the world is at war. The program will not be recorded.

December 15, 2023

Job Posting: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command

The major Army command that operates training programs for over half a million U.S. soldiers and other personnel is hiring its next Ombudsman. (It appears that the search will fill a position held by Anne Champney since 2019.) The position is located in Monterey, California and will last 13 months. The position serves the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and reports to the Chief of Staff's Office.

December 14, 2023

Call for Presenters: Centre for Informal Dispute Resolution

CIDR at Saint Paul University in Ottawa will host "The Ombuds: Foundations, Best Practices, and Development" on May 6-7, 2024. This international event will bring together practitioners and researchers in conflict resolution and the Ombuds field to discuss the evolution of Ombuds practice. The organizers, Brent Epperson (Ombuds at the University of Luxembourg and Assistant Professor at USP) and Jean-François Rioux (Associate Professor at USP) are soliciting proposals for speakers. 

December 13, 2023

Job Posting: Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA's Alternative Dispute Resolution Division in the Office of the Chief Counsel, Federal Emergency Management Agency is hiring an Associate Ombuds. This is a temporary, two-year position with FEMA's Cadre of On-call Response/Recovery Employee Program. In essence, the FEMA ADR Cadre serve as Organizational Ombuds for internal and external conflicts related to FEMA's disaster response. The positions are based in Washington, DC. Occasional non-emergency travel may be required and telework may be available.

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Debuts Ombuds Program

In August, Jude Gerrard was introduced as the first Ombudsperson for the public art university in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Gerrard reports to the University President and provides services to all members of the NSCAD community, a total population of over 1,000. According to a press release, "He will also play a leadership role in advancing inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) at NSCAD." 

December 11, 2023

IOA Posts Agenda for 2024 Annual Conference in Indianapolis

The International Ombuds Association has opened registration for its 19th annual conference. Traditionally, the event takes place in April. This year, the event is set for March 18-20, 2024 at the Marriott Indy Place in Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. 

IOA has also published details for the conference:

December 08, 2023

University of Colorado Denver Names Associate Ombuds

Lisa Nelson has been hired as the Associate Director of the University of Colorado Denver|Anschutz Ombuds Office. She joins Ombuds Director Melissa Connell and will provide services to faculty, staff, students, and trainees at CU Denver and its Anschutz Medical Campus.

December 07, 2023

IOA Confirms Two Ombuds for 2023-24

The International Ombuds Association has appointed Laura C. Smythe and Tyler Smith as Ombuds for its members. They will serve one year term starting November 2023 and follow Interim Association Ombuds Elaine Shaw, CO-OP, and Willem Kweens, CO-OP.

Ombuds Cases Trend Up in 2022-23 at University of Pennsylvania

After a 21% jump in 2021-22, the number of visitors to UPenn's Ombuds Office increased another 10% last year. The university's new Deputy Ombuds, Waged Jafer, reported that employment-related issues were the most common concerns (nearly 40%) and far outpaced academic-related issues (25%). Jafer and University Ombuds Jennifer A. Pinto-Martin urged people to "respect the opinions and beliefs of others in our campus community as the world presents us with global horrors and dissonance." (UPenn Almanac.)

December 04, 2023

OhioRISE Unveils Ombuds Program

Ohio's statewide, Medicaid behavioral health plan for children and youth has created an Ombuds Office. (Aetna administers the program for the state.) The Aetna OhioRISE Ombuds Office provides independent, confidential, impartial, and informal assistance to members, families, caregivers, providers, and community partners. It's new website references the IOA standards. Members of the Ombuds team are not identified on the website. (OhioRISE Ombuds.)

UC Davis Onboards New Ombuds

The Ombuds Office at the University of California Davis welcomes Jason Karim-Baker as a Senior Associate Ombuds. He will focus on the UC Davis Health campus and joins a team includes Director Lauren Bloom, CO-OP; Senior Associate Ombuds Lindsey Ensor, CO-OP; (recently promoted) Associate Ombuds Jenny Vaccari, CO-OP; Ombuds for Special Projects, Catherine Langlois, and Interim Assistant Ombuds, Kyra Coke Duffy.

MIT Marks Half Century of Mary Rowe's Service

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is celebrating fifty years of service by adjunct professor and former Ombuds, Mary Rowe. In 1973, she became the institute's first "Special Assistant to the President" (a role that evolved into the Ombuds) and coined the term "micro-inequities." She continues to study and write about the profession. (MIT Sloan Newsletter.)

December 01, 2023

Job Posting: Utah Valley University

The public university in Orem is seeking its next Assistant Director - Conflict Resolution/Ombudsman. The search will fill a position recently vacated by Talatou Abdoulaye, who served in the role for the past five years. The full-time position is located in the Students Rights & Accountability department and serves a student population of about 37,000. The position generally practices to IOA standards.

November 30, 2023

Job Posting: Cal Poly Pomona

California State Polytechnic University in Pomona is hiring a Director of Conflict Resolution Services and University Ombuds. The position will lead the development of a new program for students, faculty, and staff as "part of the newly created organizational unit of People, Culture, and Institutional Affairs." The position reports directly to the university's president. (Cal Poly Pomona's last Ombuds, Lavada Austin, retired in 2020 after nearly a decade in the role.)

November 29, 2023

Call for Papers and Posters: ENOHE 2024 Conference

The European Network of Ombuds in Higher Education seeks presenters for its 19th annual conference at Universidade da Beira Interior in Covilhã, Portugal, on June 12-14, 2024. Proposals are due by January 10, 2024. 

Full details from ENOHE: 

Utah Valley University to Pilot Faculty Ombuds Program

The public university in Orem has opened an internal search for its first Faculty Ombuds. Located within UVU's Academic Affairs, the new program will serve nearly 3,000 faculty members, beginning next semester. (The search will not fill the Student Ombuds position recently vacated by the inauguralTalatou Abdoulaye, who recently moved to the public school system in Eugene, Oregon.)

November 28, 2023

Job Posting: University of Miami

The University Miami/UHealth Department of Faculty Affairs is seeking an Associate Ombudsperson. The full-time position reports to the Ombudsperson, Helen Bramlett, as the initial point of contact for visitors and "plays an important administrative role in the Office." Among other duties, the Associate Ombuds will work to increase awareness of the office at the undergraduate medical education, graduate medical education, graduate, postdoctoral and faculty levels. 

Auburn University Names First Associate Ombuds

Dona Yarbrough has been hired as the first Associate Ombuds at Auburn. She will will report to Auburn University Ombuds, Kevin Coonrod, CO-OP, and provide services to all campus stakeholders, including faculty, staff, and students. Yarbrough comes to the position from Emory University, where she has worked since 2008, most recently as the part-time Student Ombuds and Special Assistant to the Dean of the Graduate School. 

November 27, 2023

European Ombuds & Mediators Group Restarts

Last month, the European Ombuds & Mediators Group convened for its first meeting in almost four years. The in-person meeting took place in Munich and the IOA Board of Directors joined for the morning session. The group was established in about 2005 by Steve Cordery and Willem Kweens. Now, Jutta Reitmeier (Regional Ombudsman for Europe & CIS for Mars, Inc.) and Diana Vermeul (Respectful Workplace Advisor for the World Bank Group, and Consulting Ombudsperson) have stepped up to manage the group as co-chairs.

After Cal Poly Humboldt Spurns Offer from Ombuds, Student Issue Goes Public

The California State Polytechnic University Arcata has a housing crisis. Many students, unable to afford rent in the small town, have been living in campers, vans, and other vehicles in a campus parking lot. When the university decided to begin enforcing a ban on overnight parking the week before Thanksgiving, the students turned to the University Ombuds to seek a meeting with administrators. According to an email from the Ombuds, the administrators refused to meet. Now, the local issue has been picked up by the mainstream media, including the Los Angeles Times. (LA Times, via Yahoo; Lumberjack; Reddit.)

George Mason University Hosts Regional Ombuds Meeting

Om October 20, 2023, GMU's University Ombudsperson, Kimberly Davidson, hosted a meeting of Academic Ombuds from around the region. Most of the attendees were from the higher education sector, but there were a few other practitioners who participated. A news item about the gathering also revealed that GMU formally adopted an Ombuds Charter one year ago, in October 2022. (GMU News, GMU Ombuds Charter.)

November 24, 2023

Job Posting: European Southern Observatory

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere has reopened its search for an Ombuds, a position established by Camilo Azcarate in 2019. Although ESO is headquartered near Munich, the position is primarily based in Santiago, with frequent visits to various observatories in Chile and at least three months per year in Munich.

November 22, 2023

Eugene School District 4J Selects First Ombuds

Talatou A. Maiga has been appointed the first Ombuds for the public school district in Western Oregon. He comes to the position after serving as the first full-time Ombudsperson at Utah Valley University since 2017. In this new position, Maiga will establish an Ombuds program for over 16,000 enrolled K-12 students and their families, district employees, and community members. He is expected to practice to IOA standards and report to the district superintendent.

November 21, 2023

Prince William County Schools Ombuds Shares 2023 Report

In her fourth annual report as the PWCS Ombudsman, Monique Bookstein says that cases rose 54% in the 2022-23 school year. Overall, there has been an 89% increase in visitors since she established the program in 2019. Employees made up over 78% of visitors. Bookstein uses the IOA's Uniform Reporting Categories to classify her case issues. (PWCS Ombuds 2023 Report.)

San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis Continues Ombuds Program

Susan Kolodny has served as the Ombudsperson for the psychoanalytic research, training, and education facility for the past two years. Last month, the SFCO Board of Trustees accepted her offer to stay on for up to a year.

November 17, 2023

ENOHE Webinar to Examine Data Management for Ombuds

On December 4, 2024, the European Network of Ombuds in Higher Education will offer a webinar on data management software for Ombuds Offices, with insights from three Student Ombuds at the University of Beira Interior: Afonso Gomes; Miguel Manteigueiro; and Pedro Inácio.

November 16, 2023

Job Posting: Department of the Interior

The Department of the Interior's Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution ("CADR") is hiring an Organizational Ombuds for a four-year appointment in Arlington, Virginia. The position will join a team of Organizational Ombuds, including: Sigal Shoham; Tahirih Varner; Mary Chavez Rudolph; and Vikram Kapoor. The position is eligible for telework and travel of up to 25% may be required.

American Economic Association Remakes Ombuds Program

AEA, the leading professional society for economists, has contracted with MWI for a revamped Ombuds program. The association initially opted for a Classical Ombuds model in 2019 and Leto Copely served in the role until recently. (Notably, AEA's president specifically reassured members that information obtained by Copely would not be transferred to the new MWI Ombuds.) The contract with MWI explicitly adopts IOA standards. The move brings AEA in line with most professional associations in the U.S., who have opted to follow NASEM's recommendation for Ombuds. 

November 14, 2023

Job Posting: Concordia University

The public university in Montreal is hiring a full-time Associate Ombudsperson for a parental leave replacement contract until February 14, 2025. The position will report to Concordia's Ombudsperson, Amy Fish. The search will fill a position held by Dorothée Beaupré-Bernier. Nicole Marie Macoretta served as the prior Interim Associate Ombuds for a little over a year.

Staff Ombuds at Eindhoven University of Technology Offers First Report

In her first report as the Ombudsperson for Staff at Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Anna Soedira says that she handled 88 matters from December 2021 through June 2023. Visitor data is similar to other Dutch universities, although the overall number of visitors was slightly lower. According to an article in the campus newspaper, "She is highly critical of many social safety aspects: incidents shouldn’t just lead to good intentions, but to actual change." The public report will be presented to the University Council next month. (TU/e Ombuds Report; TU/e Cursor.)

University of Missouri–St. Louis Confirms and Expands Ombuds

After a one-year test period with Marlo Goldstein Hode as its first Staff Ombuds, USML will now offer Ombuds services to its faculty. Hode is now the Director of Conflict Resolution and Mediation Services. "Working in collaboration with Human Resources and Academic Affairs to ensure mediation services align and integrate with campus policies, she will continue to offer many of the same services as the ombuds program, including both individual conflict coaching and group facilitation, but expand the scope of these services – which are now available to both faculty and staff." (UMSL Blog.)

November 13, 2023

Job Posting: Illinois State University

The large public university in Central Illinois is hiring a full-time Ombudsperson. It appears that this will be a new position for ISU, which has had a Ombudsperson Council comprised of three collateral duty Ombuds since about 2010. (Current members of the Ombudsperson Council are appointed to three-year terms: Joe Goodman, Professor of Management; Quanisha Kumi-Darfour, Associate Director of Student Relations; and Ryan Brown, Associate Dean and Professor of Education.) It is not clear whether the new Ombuds will replace or supplement the Council's work. The new Ombuds will serve nearly 30,000 faculty, staff, and students on the urban campus.

Job Posting: Providence College

The private Catholic university in Rhode Island is seeking its first Faculty Ombuds. The full-time position will create a program to serve over 350 faculty members adhering to IOA standards. The job is not expected to start until 2024. 

University of Toronto Scarborough Reappoints Ombuds

In July 2023, Emma Thacker was named UTSC's Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council & Ombuds Officer. She follows Cindy Ferencz Hammond in the position, which has two roles and a dual reporting structure. As the Assistant Secretary, Thacker supports the campus's Governing Council on policies, precedents, and procedures. As Ombuds Officer, she reports to the University Ombudsperson, Bruce Kidd, and serves as a primary contact for faculty, staff and students seeking assistance from the Office of the Ombudsperson.

November 10, 2023

Job Posting: SOS Children's Villages, Lebanon

The Austria-based international development organization for children is hiring a National Ombuds to be based in Lebanon. As part of a team of Ombuds, the position will report to a Regional Ombuds (to be named soon). The initial appointment will be for twelve months.

Job Posting: City of Philadelphia

Philadelphia is hiring an Assistant Employee Ombudsperson. The new position will report to the inaugural Employee Ombudsperson, Shakeya Foreman. The full-time position will be responsible for case management, data collection, and administrative tasks. The work will be hybrid with some in-office days.

Job Posting: Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

The state agency headquartered in Austin is hiring an Employee Ombudsman. This is a hybrid/remote position with aspects of both Organizational and Classical Ombuds work. In addition to providing conflict management and dispute resolution services, the position also: "Conducts analysis of workplace situations by interviewing employees, conducting investigations, and fact finding. Prepares final decisions or reports and provides findings to appropriate chain of command or Human Resources." Travel may be required.

November 09, 2023

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Launches Ombuds Office

Scott C. Williamson
has been named the inaugural Ombuds for LPTS, a seminary in Kentucky affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Williamson will serve all members of the 170 year old seminary, including about 130 students. A Charter for the office states that the Ombuds will practice to IOA standards, although there is no confidentiality for sexual misconduct covered by Title IX. The LPTS Ombuds is a part-time position that reports to the Seminary President. 

November 07, 2023

Job Posting: U.S. Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is growing the Ombuds program and is hiring an Associate Ombuds. The full-time position will be based either in the Washington, D.C. metro area (Suitland, MD) or in the Louisville metro area (Jeffersonville, Indiana). The position will report to the Census Bureau Ombuds, Bill Maurer, CO-OP, and join two Associate Ombuds, Julie Smith and Chris Vermillion. Occasional travel may be required and telework may also be possible. Relocation expenses may be paid.

UC Santa Barbara Selects an Ombuds

In April of this year, Lana Smith-Hale joined the Office of the Ombuds at the University of California Santa Barbara as an Assistant Ombuds. She follows Lise Prisarojn in the position and joins Campus Ombuds, Caroline Adams, and Associate Ombuds, David Rasch and Don Lubach. Smith-Hale is responsible for undergraduate student cases and programming, office administration, and managing the UCSB Ombuds Instagram account.