Office of the Ombuds
The position of an ombuds is to provide a resource to improve the ways we interact and share our community. In line with our Humanics philosophy, we strive for balance in all aspects of our engagement in the Springfield College community. Access to an ombuds can support that balance. Amy Sereday is the first-ever ombuds at Springfield College. A self-described conflict resolution practitioner, Sereday brings years of experience as an ombuds and mediator (see About Amy Sereday section below for more information).
The Office of the Ombuds is built upon four pillars: independence, impartiality, informality, and confidentiality. The ombuds assists individuals and groups on campus through voluntary consultation and providing information, guidance, and assistance in developing options to address conflicts or concerns. The ombuds aims to build trust, enhance relationships, and improve communication within the Springfield College community. Together we can continue to foster a culture that values kindness, integrity, and inclusivity.
One of the many goals of ombuds services is to promote a conflict-responsive community. Conflict is an opportunity; a sign that something needs to change. Imagine a pebble in your shoe. If left there, you could really hurt yourself. But the pain we feel is a signal to stop and take the pebble out of your shoe, and you can go back to walking, running, and enjoying life without pain. When we think about conflict this way it becomes a positive opportunity. But just like that pebble, conflict can be very uncomfortable! We often avoid conflict because we don’t know how best to move through it. This is where the Office of the Ombuds can help, as a safe, confidential space to talk about and resolve conflict.
The Four Pillars
The Springfield College Office of the Ombuds adheres to the standards of practice of the International Ombudsman Association through its four pillars.
Independence. The ombuds operates independently from other organizational entities and holds no other position within the organization that might give rise to an actual or perceived conflict of interest.
Impartiality. The ombuds advocates for fair and equitable processes but remains unaligned with any individual.
Confidentiality*. The ombuds does not disclose any information brought to its office without the permission of the individual who has confided in the office. *The only exception to this commitment to confidentiality is in the event that the ombuds learns of an imminent risk of serious harm to any person (self or other), or to the safety of the College community, and there is no other reasonable option but to disclose the confidence.
Informality. The ombuds serves as an off-the-record resource, and has no authority to make binding decisions, mandate policies, conduct formal investigations, or adjudicate issues for the organization.
About Amy Sereday
A peacemaker and problem-solver by nature, it’s no surprise Amy Sereday found a career as a conflict resolution practitioner. Conflict may be a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be destructive. Sereday is guided by the belief that conflict can be a good thing - if we view it as an opportunity to make life better.
As a mediator and paralegal, Sereday has helped countless individuals resolve and prevent disputes. Prior to joining Springfield College, she served as the faculty and staff ombuds at Connecticut College. In addition to serving as our College ombuds, she teaches in the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University.
Sereday holds a Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University, a post-baccalaureate certificate in Legal Studies from the University of Hartford, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Western Connecticut State University. She has earned the designation of Certified Organizational Ombuds Practitioner from the International Ombuds Association.
What is the role of an ombuds?
To provide informal problem-solving assistance in a safe and confidential* environment.
To serve as an empathetic sounding board and aid in the resolution of conflicts, issues, and disputes.
To offer conflict and leadership coaching, and facilitate dialogue.
When should I visit an ombuds?
At any time! It is never too early to visit an ombuds. If you have a concern on campus and are unsure where to turn, the ombuds can help you talk it through and find your next steps. Want to learn strategies to prevent conflict before it arises? The ombuds can help with that, too!
What types of issues can the ombuds help with?
An ombuds can help in myriad ways, but here are a few examples:
- Conflict with a student, professor, co-worker, or supervisor
- Struggling with work/life balance
- Questioning a College policy or procedure
- Facing an ethical dilemma
- Help finding resources
- Incivility or bullying on campus
- Help giving or receiving feedback
- Group or team issues
What can I expect from my visit with an ombuds?
During your first visit, the ombuds will spend time with you, to listen and gain a full understanding of your concerns. You will discuss what options have been explored so far, and brainstorm new options together. The ombuds will help you to determine what your next steps might be. This may include referring you to a formal process, such as bringing your complaint to a dean or Human Resources, or filing a grievance. The ombuds most often advises strategies to solve the problem on your own, however, mediation may also be suggested.
The ombuds may need to conduct some informal inquiries, such as researching College policies or disciplinary procedures.
The ombuds will continue to offer support and you may need or want to return for multiple visits. The ombuds may check in with you periodically to make sure that things are improving, or that everyone is following through with mediated agreements.