Faculty and staff of Eastern Kentucky University now have a new avenue for dispute resolution and functional improvement.
Joan Beck, newly-named faculty/staff ombud, is available to mediate issues, investigate complaints and recommend resolutions in an informal, expedient manner.
“The ombud is a neutral, impartial, independent resource for dispute resolution and systems improvement,” Beck explained. “An ombud can … address conflict sooner, rather than later. In this way, my work will contribute to more effective and efficient workplaces and improved morale. That, in turn, reduces faculty and staff turnover, which improves the bottom line.”
Beck comes to the University with considerable experience in the field. From 2003 until 2010, she served as citizens’ advocate/ombudsman with Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. Since then, she has worked as a private consultant, facilitating strategic planning and conflict resolution workshops for non-profit groups. She was previously owner and managing attorney for a law firm in Wisconsin.
“For more than two decades, my professional focus has been constructive problem solving,” Beck said. “Ombudsmanship is richly rewarding work, focused on finding better ways to work together, better ways to collaborate and communicate, better systems to serve the constituency. My hope is to improve the work environment so that the students of Eastern are best served by the resources at hand.”
According to Dr. Nicola Mason and Dr. Paula Kopacz, who served as co-chairs of the search committee that selected Beck, faculty and staff need an independent, confidential, knowledgeable resource to consult over sensitive issues that they may feel uncomfortable raising with anyone else. Faculty and staff may wish to consult about such topics as procedures, institutional history, academic context, EKU practices and policies, definitions of terms, academic and intellectual ethical behavior, etc. An ombud will promote transparency, open communication and trust inherent within an institution that values shared governance.”
The ombud will serve faculty (all appointment types) and staff (full-time and part-time). All consultations will remain confidential. Only records of the number of clients and the number of hours worked will be maintained. With permission of the client, the ombud will report directly to the president those issues that would require his or her attention.
Beck earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and urban affairs from Marquette University and her juris doctorate from the St. Louis University School of Law. In addition, she is a rostered general mediator with the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts.
“This position will be a tremendous asset to both faculty and staff as the ombud serves as an advocate for our employees,” said EKU President Michael Benson. “Ms. Beck’s background and experience will prove especially beneficial, and we are delighted to welcome her to campus.”
Beck, whose office is in Commonwealth 1408, can be reached at 622-3475 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Monday-Wednesday and by appointment. “I am happy to come early or stay late to meet with people at their convenience,” she said. “Calling ahead is always a good idea, as I am often out and about on campus.”
A web site, ombud.eku.edu, is under development and will soon include an anonymous portal for lodging complaints.