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.