Students don’t cuddle up with the WSU Student Handbook very often. Most professors aren’t keen on diving into the faculty manual, especially after a long day on campus.
These documents provide important guide points for navigating WSU and dealing with situations that arise. Thankfully, there are other, more personable resources to help, including the Office of the University Ombudsman. It exists to help protect the interests, rights, and privileges of students, staff and faculty.
Tena Old and Max Kirk are WSU’s ombudsmen, serving as neutral partners to listen to concerns, explain policies, procedures, and point advisees to other resources, if necessary. The ombudsmen maintain confidentiality and their charge is to objectively help solve problems for students, faculty, and staff at all levels.
It can be a challenging job at times, but Tena and Max are up to the task.
“What we can do as ombudsmen is help individuals understand the university’s processes, the resources available to them and how those resources can help,” says Old, who has served as ombudsman since 2011.
Old’s background is on the staff/administrative professional side. Her new colleague Kirk, who started in the ombudsman office this month, is an associate professor in the School of Design and Construction. He received training through the International Ombudsman Association and is excited to fulfill an important role at WSU.
“I had a conversation with (late president) Elson Floyd several years ago and I told him our university needed a great communicator,” Kirk says. “A lot of faculty members have a difficult time understanding their relationship to the rest of the university. It’s a complex place with a lot of rules and regulations and helping people understand those really intrigued me.”
Last year, WSU’s Office of the Ombudsman handled 270 cases from individuals across the WSU system. Old says her role evolves based on the needs of the people she’s serving.
“Lots of times, people just need to come in and talk,” she says. “They may not feel like they can talk to co-workers or their supervisor and we can listen to their issues, brainstorm with them and help them find solutions. We can help them navigate the system. Not all universities have ombudsmen and it’s really a wonderful resource.”
Beyond Pullman, the Office of the Ombudsman is available to WSU’s urban campuses, extension offices and Global Campus students, faculty and staff. In addition to Old and Kirk, principal assistant Janet Herrlinger can also provide assistance to those in need during regular business hours.
Visit the Office of the Ombudsman in Wilson-Short Hall, Room 2, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (509) 335-1195.