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Seattle University seeks a diplomatic, engaging, and fair-minded leader to serve as its inaugural University Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson will support institutional efforts to offer a safe, neutral, informal, and confidential space for Seattle University faculty and staff to discuss and find solutions for workplace issues and concerns including attention to intercultural dynamics that impact communication, belonging, and thriving. The Ombudsperson is a member of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and has a critically important role in enhancing the University’s inclusion ecosystem that by helping our community members work together will foster a healthier, inclusive culture and work environment. This role is one of two leadership opportunities open in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that will play an important role in contributing to the University’s commitment to creating an inclusive and positive culture.
About Seattle University
Founded in 1891, Seattle University (SU) draws upon the Jesuit tradition of moral and intellectual development to educate critical thinkers and compassionate leaders. Located in the heart of a dynamic city and region and educating over 7000 students, SU strives to become one of the most innovative Jesuit and Catholic universities in the world in fulfillment of its mission to educate the whole person, provide professional formation and empower leaders for a just and humane world. The University Ombudsperson will play a key role in shaping institutional culture and will demonstrate capacity to lead and prioritize within the distinctive culture and needs of a higher education workplace and to communicate and deepen a strong sense of the University’s culture in accordance with our values and traditions as a Jesuit institution.
Seattle University offers 65 undergraduate programs, 31 graduate programs at both the masters and doctoral levels, and more than 30 certificate programs, granting degrees through eight schools and colleges: Arts and Science, Business and Economics, Education, Law, Nursing, Science and Engineering, Theology and Ministry, and New and Continuing Studies. Students are taught by outstanding, experienced faculty and the average class size is 18 students. Scholarship is enhanced by the work of specialized centers and institutes, including the award-winning Sundborg Center for Community Engagement, the Indigenous Peoples Institute, the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement, and the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability. Experience in teaching is fostered by the outstanding Centers for Faculty and Development and Digital Learning and Innovation.
Awards and high rankings for academic rigor, sustainability, and community engaged learning are among SU’s touchstones of excellence. SU has more than 90,000 alumni in 98 countries. Seventy percent remain in Washington after graduation, contributing to the state economy and talent pool.
In addition to rigorous and engaging academic programming, SU offers a host of programs and services to support, engage and educate its students. These programs and services include housing and residence life; academic and professional development resources including career engagement and education abroad; physical, emotional, and spiritual support such as Counseling and Psychological Services and Campus Ministry; student involvement opportunities such as intercollegiate athletics, recreational sports, community engagement, and student government; and communities of support, including the International Student Center, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Disability Services, and the Veterans and First Gen Outreach Center. Seattle University is included among top universities nationally in rankings by the US News and World Report, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, Forbes, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.
The distinctive quality of Seattle University’s academic programs and student experience attract diverse, talented, and motivated students who are committed to the institution’s mission and Jesuit values. Over 40 percent of SU’s students identify as persons of color and 10 percent are international students. To reduce financial barriers, SU awards financial assistance to 92 percent of undergraduates, 70 percent of graduate students, and 93 percent of law students. The University’s vibrant and inclusive campus environment and experiences foster engagement and community for its students, faculty, staff, and alumni. SU sponsors 20 intercollegiate sports at the NCAA Division I level. SU views athletics as a key component of the Jesuit philosophy of educating the whole person.
SU is committed to fostering a diverse and thriving university community within a supportive and respectful environment. SU believes that the diversity and lived experiences of the faculty, students, and staff are essential to their success in the University’s teaching, research, and service dimensions as a leading university with a global reach, and that diversity of perspectives is an integral part of institutional excellence.
The Seattle University Mission and Vision
Seattle University is dedicated to educating the whole person, to professional formation and to empowering leaders for a just and humane world. Their vision is to be one of the most innovative and progressive Jesuit and Catholic universities in the world, educating with excellence at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels with an emphasis on encouraging interdisciplinary approaches and employing Ignatian pedagogy. Goals include strengthening professional formation for all and enhancing the student experience. Please read the full strategic plan here: Reigniting Our Strategic Directions 2022-2027
With an imperative to Promote Inclusive Excellence in the original Strategic Directions document, the new plan amplifies the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the LIFT SU initiatives in the Inclusive Excellence Action Plan for Racial Equity and Antiracism. The Ombudsperson will have many opportunities to advance initiatives through both of these plans.
This is an exciting time to join Seattle University under the new leadership of President Eduardo Peñalver who is nearing completion of his first year. Prior to being named Seattle University President, Peñalver served as the dean of Cornell University’s Law School from 2014 until 2021. Peñalver is a Rhodes Scholar and a professor of law who clerked for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Peñalver received his bachelor’s from Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1994 and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1999. As a Rhodes Scholar, he received his Master of Arts in Philosophy and Theology at Oriel College, Oxford.
In addition to Cornell Law School, Peñalver has held faculty appointments at Fordham Law School and the University of Chicago, where he was the John P. Wilson Professor of Law. He has also been a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale law schools. Peñalver’s work on property law has been published in scholarly law journals at Yale University, the University of Michigan, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is considered a leading voice in the “progressive property” movement, deriving many of his insights from Catholic social teaching.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) is led by the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Natasha Martin, and aims to promote inclusive excellence in the University’s teaching, research, and service dimensions. ODI’s mission is to foster an institutional culture where there is no dichotomy between the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion and the goals of educational quality and excellence.
The office embraces an intersectional framework for defining diversity in its broadest sense, including differences in gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, generational history, culture, socioeconomic class, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship status, political perspectives, geographic origin and neurodiversity and physical ability. In 2017, Natasha Martin was appointed as the inaugural Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion for Seattle University where she is a tenured member in the School of Law and has taught on numerous topics. In addition to her teaching and scholarly engagement, Vice President Martin is an active contributor and thought leader in many professional settings. A frequent presenter at national conferences, she is an engaged contributor to academic and community dialogues on diversity, equity, and inclusion matters. Dedicated to broad notions of inclusivity, Martin was appointed twice to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and was named to Lawyers of Color’s 50 Under 50 list of minority law professors making an impact in legal education in the 2014 Law School Diversity Issue. Vice President Martin was selected and recently completed the American Council of Education Fellows Program, a premiere higher education leadership development program.
For more information on Seattle University, please visit their website.
The University Ombudsperson at Seattle University comprises an integral dimension of the institution’s efforts to empower and enable an inclusive campus climate and culture. The Ombudsperson is a key leadership role focused on nurturing a positive environment that supports faculty and staff to contribute at their best in service of the University’s educational mission anchored in its Jesuit values. The Ombudsperson reports to the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, serving as a key dimension of promoting inclusive excellence at Seattle University. This role is one of two leadership opportunities, the other being the Assistant Vice President, Institutional Equity, open in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that will play an important role in contributing to the University’s commitment to creating an inclusive and positive culture.
The Ombudsperson has primary responsibility for serving faculty and staff by offering confidential, informal, constructive, and neutral dispute resolution services. The Ombudsperson is neither an advocate for any individual nor the University, but rather an advocate for fairness who provides information, advice, intervention, and mediation to ensure that all members of the University community receive fair and equitable treatment.
- Promote an inclusive and healthy campus climate and productive discourse by listening to members of the campus community and discussing their challenges or concerns in an informal, independent, impartial, and confidential manner.
- Coordinate with appropriate campus administrative offices to open avenues of communication and gather information about various policies and procedures.
- Advise members of the campus community on alternative courses of action for their issue and help pursue those options.
- Advance productive engagement across difference through intercultural communication and high-impact diversity, equity, and inclusion practice.
- Serve as a "liaison" between the person with the concern and the person with whom the conflict exists and will work through established University channels to assist in resolving problems, if requested.
- Manage the daily operation of the Office of the Ombudsperson.
- Brief and advise appropriate university leadership, including the President and Provost, about systematic trends and/or patterns and make recommendations to address those areas.
- Brief and advise appropriate administrators about systemic trends and/or patterns and make recommendations to address those areas.
- Provide conflict management to improve relationships between faculty, staff, and administration through a range of avenues including coaching, mediation, professional development, and skill-building to enhance the overall campus climate.
- Act in alignment with the University’s mission, vision, and values.
The ideal candidate will offer the following key skills, experiences, and competencies:
Communication and Diplomacy
Actively listens to understand and considers problems in their wider organizational and external contexts. Probes to identify key issues, acting with neutrality and objectivity, separating fact from opinion. The Ombudsperson seeks feedback and acts upon it, identifies patterns and acts upon trends across data and experiences. The Ombudsperson understands and appreciates the dynamics of engagement and workplace dynamics and deploys intercultural fluency in communication and problem solving. The Ombudsperson can communicate complex issues in a concise and straightforward manner and is proactive about using plain language that is clear and easy to understand. The Ombudsperson communicates using a balance between directness and diplomacy and presents information that is evidence based and clear about options and next steps.
Open Minded, Credible, and Transparent
The Ombudsperson is fair, sincere, and acts with integrity in all their relationships setting high personal standards and lives their values by leading by example. Through their work they make the service accessible to all faculty and staff and contribute to a positive organizational culture where people feel heard, seen, and respected. They present information with positivity, and in a way that fosters genuine understanding and use relevant comparisons to explain complex concepts. They serve as an influential and credible campus leader and resource.
Conflict Management, Mediation, and Problem-Solving Skills
The Ombudsperson is able to distill complex problems into manageable parts and apply sound reasoning to reach logical decisions. Gathers information and organizes information efficiently and skilled at drawing reasonable conclusions with incomplete or complicated data. Provides impartial, balanced, objective, and constructive feedback and counsel to create a platform for problem solving and conflict resolution. The Ombudsperson is aware of how decisions are affected by unconscious bias and openly interrogates decision-making processes to minimize its impact.
Approachable and Collaborative
The Ombudsperson develops strong working relationships and networks and can work effectively in a team sharing their knowledge. They are inclusive and treat others with respect and dignity while seeing things from other people’s perspectives, recognizing and accounting for barriers they might face. The Ombudsperson quickly builds trust and rapport with individuals across the campus and can deliver difficult messages with tact and sensitivity.
Commitment to the Values of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
The Ombudsperson demonstrates their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity and can work with a wide range of constituents with diplomacy and tact. They facilitate a work environment that encourages knowledge of, respect for, and development of skills to engage productively across a range of differences including with those of other cultures, backgrounds, or experiences. Embodying the highest ethical standards and with a high level of emotional intelligence, the Ombudsperson will have a deep passion for the scope of the work that their position entails.
Candidates with a range of professional experiences will be considered, although ideal candidates will have demonstrated experience and success in the following areas:
- Strong undergraduate academic credentials, a minimum of a master’s in conflict/dispute resolution, counseling, education, psychology, pre-law, or a related field and work experience that requires excellent verbal and written communication skills, including the ability to communicate effectively in a culturally sensitive and fluent manner with individuals from diverse backgrounds; obtaining and maintaining the trust and confidence of constituents at all organizational levels; and remaining impartial when meeting with individuals dealing with sensitive, complex, and confidential circumstances.
- Strong leadership, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills with the ability to gather and analyze information and assist the inquirer in developing appropriate options and actions.
- Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as strong intercultural communication capability.
- Certified in dispute resolution or be willing to undergo certification.
- Excellent written and oral communication skills with the ability to communicate effectively with individuals at all levels of the university and with individuals of various cultures and backgrounds.
- Personal traits of a high level of integrity, team orientation, professionalism, and trustworthiness.
- Knowledge of university structure, culture, policies, and practices or experience in similarly complex environments.
- A leadership style that emphasizes partnership, collaboration, and facilitation.
- Ability to maintain confidentiality and use sound judgment in sharing information, consistent with the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association.
Preferred candidates will have:
- Experience in dispute resolution.
- Experience in an ombudsperson role in higher education.
- Experience with establishing a new office, providing leadership and vision, and setting goals.
- Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner certification from the International Ombudsman Association or equivalent.
Compensation & Benefits
Salary is competitive and commensurate with this position’s scope, stature, and level of responsibility.
Beth Schaefer, Euris Belle, and Alyssa Perez Leal of Koya Partners/Diversified Search Group have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.
Koya Partners is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals living with disabilities. If you are a qualified individual living with a disability and need assistance expressing interest online, please email NonprofitSearchOps@divsearch.com. If you are selected for an interview, you will receive additional information regarding how to request an accommodation for the interview process.
About Koya Partners
Koya Partners, a part of Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.
For more information about Koya Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.