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Article Profiles Role of Higher Ed Ombuds as Workplace Conflict Experts

The article was written by Neil H. Katz, Katherine J. Sosa, and Linda N. Kovack at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale.

An article published simultaneously by the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association and the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds examine the work of Ombuds and other conflict resolution experts. The article was written by Neil H. Katz, Katherine J. Sosa, and Linda N. Kovack at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale.

Eleven campuses were surveyed by the authors: East Carolina University; Kennesaw University; Lehigh University; Marquette University; North Carolina State University; Northeast Ohio Medical University; Stony Brook – The State University of New York; University of California Santa Barbara; University of Minnesota; University of Missouri Kansas City; University of South Florida System Ombuds; and University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.

Here is the abstract:

Higher education institutions navigate a number challenges, but managing interpersonal workplace dynamics is critical for the success of any university. This article highlights a growing trend to enhance administrative capacity through the implementation of conflict resolution specialists that address employee issues, provide educational outreach within the university system, and serve a systemic review function that helps administrators understand employee trends and issues. Eleven universities were profiled and the research illustrates how universities pragmatically designed a fit for such a role, what the ombuds and conflict resolution directors’ top functions were, and the value created by their work. The top three employee issues identified affirm the need for informal conflict resolution channels because they exemplify typical workplace conflicts rooted in evaluative relationships and its accompanying emotions, and therefore do not meet the standard criteria for more formal and right-based grievance procedures traditionally employed by Human Resources and legal departments. The purpose of ombuds and specialists also appeared to be more in alignment with the universities’ stated values and a way to demonstrate commitment to the quality of work-life for its employees. The authors conclude that expanding the evaluation methods would help make the business case for the use and expansion of conflict resolution options, especially for organizational ombuds.

Neil H. Katz is a senior professor and recent chair of the Graduate Conflict Resolution Studies Program at Nova Southeastern University. Katherine J. Sosa is adjunct professor in Cooperative Negotiations at Syracuse University and a PhD at Nova. Linda N. Kovack is a dual concentration doctoral candidate at Nova in Crisis Management and Organization, School and Healthcare Conflict Resolution. Katz was an author of the recent ACUS Federal Ombuds study and he co-authored a paper with Kovack about higher ed ADR programs for students.

The paper is the first published simultaneously by Cal Caucus and IOA. It also marks a move by Cal Caucus to a piecemeal publication schedule for its journal articles. Meanwhile, JIOA has moved its current-year articles behind the members-only paywall.  (CCCUO JournalJIOA.)


James Melamed, J.D.

Jim Melamed co-founded in 1996 along with John Helie and served as CEO of through June 2020 (25 years).  Jim is currently Board Chair and General Counsel for Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc. (RIS), home to,, and other leading dispute resolution sites. During Jim's 25-year tenure,… MORE >

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