Ombuds Services is a community resource that, according to the Ombuds website, helps resolve university-related issues in a “confidential, informal, impartial, independent manner for the students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members with a university-related concern seeking assistance with resolving problems, disputes, or complaints.”
Twillea Evans-Carthen is the director of the Ombuds Services who took the time to be interviewed about her role.
Q: Why did you become an officer?
A: Well, for the most part, it was a great opportunity for a career change for me after being in HR (Human Resources) for 34 years. Understanding an organization Ombudsman based on my background of understanding the system policies and procedures, campus policies and truly having a clear understanding of state and federal employment laws, I just thought I could help people a little differently. Understanding employee labor relations, it would help me to help people in a safe space to really explore options for them to make a decision that would be helpful to them, making a change… I do my best to help them help themselves.
Q: As a child, did you imagine yourself doing this job?
A: No, because it wasn’t until 2004 that I learned about Ombudsman. It’s the Swedish term that is gender neutral and I didn’t understand that there are different types of Ombudsman: the classical Ombudsman, for instance, advocates for causes and investigates. Whereas the organizational Ombudsman does not. While very similar to the classical, with the exception that when it comes to understanding the international Ombudsman association, it truly ties into this particular program.
Q: In your own terms what should students know about Ombuds?
A: What they need to know, is that I offer a safe space that is separate from having a conversation with their parents with university-related issues, associated with faculty staff, their peers, and to help them explore options on how they can resolve relationship issues for instance. Sometimes people have concerns about bullying and at the same time I go through the standards of principles and that’s what they need to be aware of. I’m not the person that’s going to take that information and share it with others. If they feel that they are in a hostile learning environment and they don’t know what to do, then they would come to see me as well.
Q: Where do these problems you have to address arise from?
A: We come from different cultures, different backgrounds, people are all different. Sometimes people assume they are being disrespected because they come from the United States and some people come from other parts of the world that, that was just a way of life. It’s important to communicate with people to minimize the conflict. Relationships are important to people. So it’s okay to not be right all the time.
Q: Lastly, is there anything else you would like students to know?
A: To come visit me. I would like them to just stop by and say “Hi.” I try to create a comforting environment, like if they were at home talking to a family member who’s helping them explore options.