From staff reports
Two staff members return to their roots and two others take the helm as interims with Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl's appointment of Laura Myers to head the Office for Institutional Equity and Merle Graybill to handle ombudsman duties.
Office for Institutional Equity
Myers will serve as interim director of the Office for Institutional Equity for one year, effective Aug. 1. A faculty member in the College of Business and an attorney, Myers will step down from her teaching duties for the year to devote full-time attention to the position.
Myers said she accepted the challenge because of her strong belief in the important role Institutional Equity plays.
"Ohio University's success depends upon providing a supportive learning environment for students and a safe, respectful and equitable workplace for all employees," she said. "It is Institutional Equity's charge to make sure that both goals are met."
Myers hopes to strengthen the "climate of respect" for the many different qualities and abilities of the people who make up Ohio University.
Myers is an instructor in the Department of Management Systems and teaches in the executive and professional MBA programs. Her areas of specialization include conflict management, alternative dispute resolution and administrative law. She has worked as legal counsel for the Athens County court-appointed special advocates/guardian ad litem program and as an attorney in private practice.
Myers holds a law degree from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, a master's in organizational communication from Ohio University and a bachelor's in interpersonal communication from Ohio University's Honors Tutorial College.
Katherine Ziff, who has served for a year as interim director, stepped down Tuesday to accept a position as an elementary school counselor with Athens City Schools. Ziff became interim director in July 2007, replacing Bill Smith, who served in that capacity for close to 30 years. Prior to taking the role, she served for six years as an associate ombudsman at Ohio University.
"The university has benefitted tremendously from the integrity and hard work that Katherine has put into her responsibilities both as interim director of Institutional Equity and as an associate ombudsman," Krendl said. "As the interim director, she helped to realign staff responsibilities and put into place a series of expectations and procedures that have significantly influenced the effectiveness of the office. As an associate ombudsman, she was respected and appreciated by faculty, students and staff."
A former school counselor with a doctorate in counselor education from Ohio University, Ziff said the counseling position in the local public schools will give her the chance to pursue work she enjoys while providing time for her family and other interests.
She knows she is leaving the office in capable hands.
"Laura's training and experience as an attorney and her work as a faculty member at Ohio University are ideally suited to the needs of the Office for Institutional Equity," Ziff said. "All who meet her will be impressed with her ability to listen thoughtfully and with her manner of treating everyone with dignity."
The Office for Institutional Equity's mission is to foster "a respectful and inclusive environment at Ohio University." The office is responsible for overseeing the university's adherence to state and federal laws and Ohio University's own policies on affirmative action, disability, discrimination and harassment. Institutional Equity provides training for staff, faculty and students; offers advice to individuals concerned about affirmative action, equal opportunity and campus climate issues; and conducts workplace reviews.
Office of the Ombudsman
Graybill will serve as interim university ombudsman for one year, effective Tuesday. Currently director of Campus-Community Engagement in the College of Education, she brings significant knowledge of the university and well-rounded experience with staff, students, faculty and the community to the role, which is returning to its former title of ombudsman.
She holds a master's in educational administration from Ohio University and a bachelor's in psychology from Union Institute and University in Cincinnati. She also is licensed by the state of Ohio as a social worker.
For more than 20 years, Graybill was in private practice as a curriculum consultant and trainer in the areas of adult education, diversity, leadership, conflict resolution and management. In the College of Education, she was an adviser, director of student services and associate dean of students.
Mickey Hart, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center, has worked with Graybill throughout his tenure at Ohio University.
"I cannot think of a more qualified person to serve as our ombudsman," he said. "Much of her career has been related to the work of an ombudsman -- communication, conflict resolution, mutual understanding and enhancing the campus culture. Her skills and passions fit very nicely with the mission of the Office of the Ombudsman, and she will serve the university well in this capacity."
Graybill is excited about her new role.
"I am committed to the success of our institution and believe that what we are capable of achieving depends upon the well-being of university community members and our capacity for functioning as a community," she said. "The ombudsman's role is by definition well-suited to support individuals and to improve our community."
Elizabeth Graham, who has served as the university ombudsman for six years, returns to her position as a professor in the School of Communication Studies. During her time in the position, she saw a steady growth in the number and type of individuals who sought counseling and help with problem-solving through the office.
Krendl noted the dedication Graham brought to the role.
"Beth was an important resource for all of our campuses. She helped faculty, staff and students find ways to resolve conflicts and concerns that arose out of their academic pursuits or their work environment," Krendl said. "She listened and counseled with the goal of improving the campus climate."
Reporting directly to the executive vice president and provost, the university ombudsman functions independently of existing administrative structures. An advocate for fairness, the ombudsman acts a source of information and referral, aids in answering questions and assists in the resolution of concerns and critical situations. The appointee also prepares composite reports for the university community that document trends in grievances and concerns, identify patterns or problem areas in university policies and practices, and assess the overall climate of the institution.
"The university ombudsman started to come on the scene in the late 1960s in response to significant changes taking place on many campuses," said Ann Fidler, interim associate provost for strategic initiatives, who has looked into trends in the field. "Traditionally at many institutions, the ombudsman was a faculty member, but as issues in the field become more complex, there is an increasing push for full-time professional ombudsman whose education and experience focus on mediation and dispute resolution."
The ombudsman's office at Ohio University was established in 1970, and those who have filled the role have done so on a part-time basis and come from the faculty ranks. Krendl said she will use the year ahead to determine if the professional model is a good fit for the university, but she also is sensitive to faculty concerns about making the switch.
"I have had conversations with faculty and with members of Faculty Senate on the issue," she said. "They understand the advantages of having a full-time professional in the ombudsman's office, but have suggested that keeping a tenured faculty member involved at some level is also important. They have urged me to consider continuing a part-time faculty appointment in the office. This matter is on the agenda for the upcoming academic year."