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At the Crossroads of Ombuds: A first-timer's experience at the IOA Conference

By Lana Smith-Hale, LCSW,
Assistant Ombuds, UC Santa Barbara,

As a self-proclaimed extrovert, I am still surprisingly nervous about going into a new space filled with colleagues I have never met. And as the only member of my team who attended the conference this year, I was nervously looking forward to what lay ahead. I am an Ombuds in Higher Education and am familiar with attending conferences in this sector; yet as an Ombuds with one year of experience, I felt the pressure with this experience to cement my belief if this was the right field for me. Spoiler alert- it is! Here are the three main takeaways I’d like to share from my time at IOA Indy:

  1. When I arrived late at night, I was surprised at the friendliness of fellow conference-goers that started right away. Even at 11 am, after a long day of travel, someone introduced themselves at the elevator and shared their excitement for elements of the conference. I was delighted to see the friendly face of Paul Sotoudeh whose warm welcome helped ease my worries that this was going to be a fun experience. From there, the friendliness of colleagues connecting was infectious. People were very eager to connect one person to another: "Have you met my friend from XYZ?" "You would love to talk to so-and-so from ABC". The accessibility, warmth, and down-to-earthness of meeting the giants in the field like Chuck Howard and Ellen Miller, to hearing Mary Rowe in sessions felt comfortable and kind. Having lunch with my IOA Mentor, Kathie Greenwood, in person was another big highlight. So be prepared, that even if you are not an extrovert and don't know many folks attending, you will be surrounded by friendly folks, eager to connect with old and new ombuddies alike.

  2. The conference structure involved keynotes and breakout sessions that included an effort to pump folks up for the challenging work we do and give hope in times that feel extra challenging globally. What makes the IOA conference unique in my opinion is the diversity of ideas, thoughts, professions, and education of attendees. I loved learning about different organizations that have ombuds (yay to the US Air Force Academy) and was inspired by many sessions that helped me think in new ways of how culture affects not only our participants’ experiences but my practice as an Ombuds (shout out to Neal Powless). I felt challenged and invigorated by this experience and that the conference's mission to inspire was done.

  3. Indiana’s motto is the “Crossroads of America”, and to me, this appropriately fits as being my first experience at my Crossroads as an Ombuds. The global attendees were a huge highlight and were so impressive to me. I delighted in the shared knowledge exchanged and efforts to understand the challenges faced by Ombuds around the world. I enjoyed Qinhui Jiang’s session but loved, even more, how folks lined up to share their connection to Kenya with him!

My experience at the 19th Annual IOA conference in Indiana was full of excitement, knowledge, and friendships - I hope to see you at the next one!

Reflections from #IOA2022: Randolph Scott

By  Randolph Scott, Interim Student Ombuds & Assistant Director of International Programs, University of West Florida


It was an honor to be selected as a recipient of the New & Aspiring Ombuds Scholarship for the 17th Annual IOA Conference. As a new Student Ombuds at the University of West Florida, attendance at the IOA Annual Conference was an incredibly valuable opportunity for me to learn more about the core functions and responsibilities I have as an Ombuds as well as the opportunities I have to make a positive impact on my campus.

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Reflections from #IOA2022: Madeline Kleinberg

By Madeline Kleinberg, Graduate Assistant, Office of the Ombudsperson Division of Academic & Student Affairs


As a graduate student still very new to the ombuds field, being able to attend the 2022 IOA Conference was such a valuable experience. The sessions I attended virtually allowed me to learn from the wealth of knowledge in the ombuds community. There seemed to be an abundance of interesting and thought-provoking sessions by a diverse group of ombuds professionals. My only experience in ombudsing has been limited to higher education, so it was eye-opening to gain insight into how broad the field is, and how impactful ombuds can be. I am looking forward to viewing some of the sessions that I was unable to attend live.

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Reflections from #IOA2022: Herschenia Brown

By Herschenia Brown, MBA, CIHC, ADR, Owner of In Agreement Dispute Resolution, LLC

The experience that I had at the IOA 17th Annual Conference – “Belonging Together Reimaged” was unmatched! As my very first time attending the conference, there was an incredible amount of comradery, knowledge, information, and tools that I now have under my belt while I explore my career trajectory as an ombuds. With so many sessions to choose from, along with the opportunity to revisit the recordings, there was no stone left unturned. Also, from the comments during the Q&A sessions, many participants were eager to communicate in the near future to explore more questions outside of a session’s timeframe.

I have two absolute favorites I would like to share:

  1. Being that my background is in financial operations, accounting, and reporting, my absolute favorite session was “D3 – Reimagining Ombuds Reporting: New Tools and Techniques for Better Data Collection”, hosted by Chuck Doran, Megan Winkeler, and Colin Rule. As an aspiring ombuds, I have learned of different tools that people use in their practices to make the reporting as efficient as possible. However, from what I gathered from the feedback from the attendees, not enough reporting tools have features that capture specific critical data with full security and encryption measures that are critical to the core of the ombuds role. This session mentioned some effective reporting tools with this functionality and more! If you didn’t get the opportunity to attend this session, then it is definitely worth checking out.

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