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Education / Graduate Education / Current Students / Ombudspersons Program


SMD Ombudspersons for Graduate Students, Postdoctoral Appointees, and Preparatory Program Trainees*

While graduate, postdoctoral, and pre-graduate study are exciting and intellectually stimulating times in a trainee’s career, occasionally problems arise. There are many people to whom trainees can turn for advice when facing problems: faculty advisor(s), committee members, graduate program director, department chair, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs. However, sometimes trainees may feel unable to approach any of these people for help, and this is when a trainee should turn to the Ombudsperson.

There are three ombudspersons available:

Each of these ombudspersons is a faculty member who can provide confidential, neutral, independent, and informal advice to help trainees address their concerns.

The Ombudspersons provide a resource for and information about institutional policies, act as facilitators to help trainees resolve their problems and connecting trainees with those who can help, accompany the trainee in discussions of problems or issues with faculty or administrators, and act as an informal mediator between the trainee and faculty or administrators. The Ombudspersons can also help to effect positive change by providing feedback on patterns of problems and complaints to appropriate administrators.

Trainees can contact any of the three Ombudspersons for general questions. Discussions with the Ombudspersons can be through phone or in-person.


Discussions with the Ombudsperson will normally operate under a rule of confidentiality. It should be understood, however, that if a problem disclosed to the Ombudsperson involves a violation of law or University policy, the Ombudsperson may be required to disclose the problem to the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs and the Office of Counsel.


The Ombudsperson considers the interests and concerns of all parties to disputes, with the goal of achieving appropriate and fair outcomes. The Ombudsperson does not participate in any formal grievance process.


The Ombudsperson is independent of the academic administration and only reports on patterns of problems to administrative officers in order to effect positive change for trainees.


The Ombudsperson helps to identify formal and informal avenues for resolving conflicts, and works with trainees to determine the appropriate response for their situation.

Alternatives to the SMD Ombudspersons

If a trainee is not comfortable taking their concerns to any of the people noted above, they may also contact the University Intercessor.

* “Graduate students” refers to matriculated PhD, Master’s and certificate program students; visiting graduate students, and matriculated or non-matriculated students enrolled in SMD graduate courses/lab. “Postdoctoral Appointees” includes Postdoctoral Associates, Postdoctoral Fellows, and Visiting Postdoctoral Fellows. “Preparatory Program Trainees” includes SMD Summer Scholars, PREP trainees, SCRC Summer Students, and Unpaid Academic Interns/Shadows.