Together with our faculty, staff members play a critical role in furthering the mission of Washington University. In recognition of that role and as part of the University’s commitment to diversity, the University created the Office of the Ombuds for staff. The office was established to provide an outlet for staff to raise concerns that might not be voiced in other settings and to facilitate the collection of general information about the patterns of concerns.
Jessica Kuchta-Miller was named the first staff ombudsperson in the fall of 2015. The Office of the Ombuds for Staff provides confidential, impartial, informal, and independent conflict resolution and problem-solving assistance to all university employees. Jessica reports to Hank Webber, the Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration. The Office of the Ombuds offers a private place for staff to talk about their work, raise issues, review options, explore resources and consider next steps to manage and address their concerns. While she neither represents individuals who come to the Office of the Ombuds nor the University, Jessica is an advocate for fair treatment and equitable processes.
Jessica views the purpose of the office as four-fold:
- To facilitate interpersonal disputes between colleagues, between direct reports and their supervisors as well as between those in the administration and others at the university
- To help staff navigate the bureaucracy of a large, decentralized system and understand University policies, practices and procedures
- To illuminate—or bring to light—any patterns of conduct or trends on campus that hinder employee engagement and
- To educate and be part of a conflict wellness culture that promotes the healthy, constructive engagement of conflict across campus.
Prior to WashU, Jessica served as the associate ombuds at the University of Colorado Boulder where she worked with students, staff and faculty. Before that Jessica managed a court-ordered, divorce mediation program affiliated with Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota and advised several community dispute resolution programs throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. She has a background in counseling psychology, law, mediation, and education. When she works with those who visit her office, she often incorporates the learnings and skills from each of these disciplines, including active, empathetic listening, perspective taking, and creative problem solving. She values self-determination and believes in the need for relentless flexibility. Given the background and experiences she brings to the role, she describes herself as an empathetic problem solver who facilitates the construction of meaning within a community of learners.
People come to the Office of the Ombuds for different reasons. Some come because they want someone to just listen. Others come because they need help thinking through a difficult situation and others need information to determine their next step. No matter the reason, Jessica hopes that people feel comfortable coming to talk with her about any issues for which they may be concerned, knowing that what they share will be held in confidence. There are no issues too big or too small.
To schedule a confidential consultation, please call 314-379-8110.
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