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Employee Ombuds Officer - Office of Ombuds

Apply now Job no: 493498
Work type: EAP - Executive, Administrative, Professional
Location: Allendale
Categories: Inclusion & Equity

Summary: Grand Valley State University is creating the Office of the Employee Ombuds and seeks to hire its first employee Ombuds to support faculty and staff. Reporting to the President, the Employee Ombuds Officer is a designated neutral and impartial third party whose major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to constituents of the university’s community, which includes staff, faculty, and/or administrators.

Responsibilities – Essential Functions:


The Ombuds function is independent of existing administrative structures and reports to the President’s Office. The Ombuds does not accept notice on behalf of the university. While maintaining the confidentiality of communications with inquirers, the Ombuds makes periodic reports to the university community and regular reports to the president and executive associate to the president. Based on anonymous aggregated data, these reports highlight trends in the reporting of issues or concerns, identify patterns or problem areas in existing policies and practices, may recommend revisions and improvements, and may assess the climate of the campus.

Critical Skills and Characteristics

Communication and Problem-Solving Skills. An Ombuds should have outstanding communication skills and be able to communicate effectively with individuals at all levels of the organization, as well as with individuals from diverse backgrounds. It is imperative that the Ombuds has excellent problem-solving skills and is able to gather information, analyze it and, as necessary, help the inquirer develop appropriate options and actions.

Decision-Making/Strategic Thinking Skills. An Ombuds should be aware of how all decisions might impact the inquirer, as well as other stakeholders and the university. An Ombuds should know how to proceed with issues, and help the inquirer assess who should be involved and at what stage.

Conflict Resolution Skills. An essential element of the Ombuds’ role is that of facilitating the resolution of the conflict between parties. It is important that the Ombuds have a thorough understanding of what leads to conflict, the nature of the conflict, and methods of resolution. The skills used to assist inquirers to resolve their conflicts include:

  • helping people learn how to deal with the matter directly if they wish to do so
  • serving as a facilitator between the parties via shuttle diplomacy
  • informally bringing the parties together and serving as a facilitator or mediator
  • approaching the conflict issue generically within the larger environment (especially when the inquirer is afraid of retaliation)
  • influencing systems change which could obviate the individual problem
  • creative solutions to the matter outside of existing university policy and structures

The Ombuds counsels and coaches inquirers on ways to develop effective work relationships, particularly building on engaged and inclusive workplace priorities and practices. This position advises individuals about grievance and reporting procedures and attempts to resolve disputes informally before entering into formal grievance channels. The Ombuds will also have the ability to help the inquirer determine which conflict resolution method would be appropriate for the specific situation. This requires close partnership with university support services in the Division of Inclusion and Equity, Division of Legal, Compliance, and Risk Management, Human Resources Office, Department of Public Safety, and others.

Organizational Knowledge and Networking Skills. An Ombuds should be knowledgeable about a university/higher education, its structure, culture, policies, and practices. The Ombuds should have excellent networking skills, understand and participate in collaboration with others, and be able to establish and maintain broad contacts throughout the organization.


Skills to Advance Inclusion and Equity. The Ombuds should be sensitive to dealing with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures and have demonstrated experience with cultural competency. The Ombuds should be open and objective and seek to understand issues from multiple perspectives. The Ombuds should be innovative in developing options that are responsive to differing needs. In management of the Office of the Ombuds, the Ombuds should create a culture of inclusion and space where all members of the community can be their full, authentic selves.

Composure and Presentation Skills. An Ombuds should have strong presentation skills and should be able to organize and communicate information to groups of varying size and hierarchical levels in the organization.

Integrity. An Ombuds should have a reputation for integrity and for dealing fairly, effectively, and in a timely fashion with all constituents. An Ombuds should not be risk-averse and should understand that this position may, on occasion, challenge even the highest levels of the administration in an effort to foster fair and just practices.

Essential Functions

Dispute Resolution, Consultation, and Referral

  • Provide impartial and confidential conflict resolution services to members of the campus community who are aggrieved or concerned about an issue.
  • Remain independent, neutral, and impartial, and exercise good judgment.
  • Assist inquirers in obtaining and providing relevant information regarding university policies and procedures.
  • Assist inquirers in clarifying issues and generating options for resolution.
  • Facilitate the inquirer’s assessment of the pros and cons of possible options.
  • If direct action by the Ombudsman is an appropriate option, obtain the inquirer’s agreement and permission before proceeding.
  • If necessary, and while maintaining confidentiality, engage in informal information gathering in order to better understand an issue from all perspectives.
  • Consult with unit heads and appropriate individuals to develop cooperative strategies for resolving concerns and complaints.
  • With the inquirer’s permission, consult with all parties to clarify and analyze problems, focus discussions, and develop a mutually satisfactory process for resolution.
  • When appropriate, facilitate group meetings, use shuttle diplomacy, or negotiation skills to facilitate communication among parties in conflict.
  • Encourage flexible administrative practices to maximize the institution’s ability to meet the needs of all members of the campus community equitably.
  • Whenever possible and appropriate, provide inquirer with referrals to other resources, such as university support services in the Division of Inclusion and Equity, Division of Legal, Compliance, and Risk Management, Human Resources Office, Department of Public Safety, and others.
  • Follow up with inquirers as appropriate to determine the outcome and further need of assistance.

Policy Analysis and Feedback

  • Serve as a campus resource for officials in formulating or modifying policy and procedures, raising issues that might surface as a result of a gap between the stated goals of the institution and actual practice.
  • Act as a liaison between individuals or groups and the campus administrative structure, serving as a communicator or informal facilitator, as appropriate, and providing upward feedback.
  • Function as a sensor within the campus community to identify problems or trends that affect the entire campus or significant parts of the community; if appropriate, recommend creative ways to address these concerns.
  • Provide early warning of new areas of organizational concern, upward feedback, critical analysis of systemic needs for improvement, and make systems change recommendations.
  • Have authority to raise issues, while preserving the confidentiality of communications with inquirers that may arise as a result of discrepancies between stated goals and objectives of the University and actual practice.

Establish/Maintain Office of the Employee Ombuds

  • Coordinate expansion of university services with the Office of the Student Ombuds.
  • Supervise office staff, as necessary. Formulate, manage, and monitor the overall goals, direction, programs, and budget of the office.
  • Ensure that the integrity of the office is maintained by all office staff through independence, fair process, neutrality, impartiality, confidentiality, and timely attention to the resolution of issues while treating people with dignity and respect.
  • Provide ongoing education and communication about the office’s role to all potential inquirers as well as to campus leadership.
  • Design and conduct training programs for the campus community in dispute/conflict resolution, negotiation skills and theory, civility, and related topics.
  • Maintain active membership in relevant professional associations.

Required Qualifications and Education:

  • A bachelor’s degree. At least five years of experience and demonstrated success in conflict resolution and mediation or demonstrated equivalent experience or training.
  • Demonstrated skills in problem-solving, analysis, and conflict resolution, including the fortitude to address the highest levels of the institution.
  • Professional experience directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the position including experience with analysis of legal documents and policy documents. 
  • Demonstrated knowledge of professional Ombuds standards, codes of ethics, procedures, and principles and techniques for informal inquiries.
  • The ability to communicate effectively and respectfully with individuals from diverse backgrounds and with diverse groups of individuals throughout the university community. A demonstrated commitment to the university’s values for diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice.
  • Demonstrated ability to exercise independent judgment and prudence in dealing with sensitive, confidential matters and remain non-judgmental.

Preferred Qualifications and Education:

  • Three to five years of college/university work experience, especially in employee/labor relations, counseling, or a related area, with demonstrated understanding of principles of university shared governance, academic freedom, and the institutional complexities of a large university.
  • Professional experience in management, supervision, and organizational development. 
  • Successful completion of a mediation certificate program, in particular, completion of (or a commitment to completion of) the IOA Ombudsman Professional Development Courses or certification by Board of Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioners.
  • Experience designing and conducting training programs in conflict resolution, negotiation skills, and theory, civil discourse, or other related topics.
  • Demonstrated ability to understand liability and risk issues of a large, complex organization, including sexual and gender-based harassment, whistleblower laws and policies, discrimination, and other compliance-related issues.

Salary: Commensurate with experience

Department/Division:  Office of the Employee Ombuds/Central Administration

Campus: Main office will be in Allendale, MI and perch space available on other campuses

How To Apply: Apply online at and select "Apply now".  Please include a cover letter and resume. The cover letter should address how the applicant’s experiences and skill set to match the duties and responsibilities of this position; describes your philosophy regarding your role as the Employee Ombuds Officer; and, particularly challenges and opportunities for founding the Employee Ombuds Office at a large public university.

The online application will allow you to attach these documents electronically. On the application, you will be required to provide names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses for three professional references. Applicants selected for interviews will be required to submit official transcripts prior to the interview. If you need assistance, call Human Resources at 616-331-2215.

Application Deadline: This position will serve an increasingly diverse community. Candidates who share our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity, and who have the ability to build understanding and resolve conflict across cultural and other differences are particularly encouraged to apply. The finalist for this position is required to complete a background check. To ensure full consideration, applications should be received by December 7, 2020; this position will remain open until filled.

Grand Valley State University does not discriminate against students, faculty or staff in any of its employment practices or in its educational programs or activities. Grand Valley State University is guided by values for inclusiveness and community which are integral to our mission to educate students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies, and to enrich the community through excellent teaching, active scholarship, and public service. The University is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution. It encourages diversity and provides equal opportunity in education, employment, all of its programs, and the use of its facilities. Members of the University community, including candidates for employment or admissions, and visitors or guests, have the right to be free from acts of harassment and discrimination, which are prohibited if they discriminate or harass on the basis of age, color, disability, familial status, height, marital status, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, veteran or active duty military status or weight. In addition, Grand Valley is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to ensure that none of its education programs and activities discriminate on the basis of sex/gender. Sex includes sex stereotypes, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and pregnancy or parenting status. The Office for Title IX and Institutional Equity serves as a resource for the GVSU community and assists individuals who may have been impacted by discrimination or harassment in connecting with resources, imposes measures that protect or support access to programs and activities, and oversees the university’s grievance process for allegations of discrimination and harassment. Inquiries regarding the application of Title IX may be referred to Theresa Rowland, Title IX Coordinator, 4015 Zumberge Hall,, (616) 331-9530.

The University will provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. See TDD Callers: Call Michigan Relay Center at 711 (in State) or 1-800-833-7833 (out of State)

To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. Must have the physical stamina to work long hours and/or more than 5 days per week. The requirements listed are representative of the knowledge, skill and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. The information contained in this job description is for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended by the ADA Amendment Act (2008), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other applicable federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. GVSU will provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request.

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