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University’s New Ombuds Office Gives Space to Student Concerns
Sept. 5, 2019
Dr. Diego Garcia Theodore, assistant vice president for student affairs, talks to sophomore Flower Mwangi about the services the University’s new Student Ombuds Office provides.
University of Texas at Dallas students who need a safe place to share their concerns, seek advice, or raise questions or complaints about their college experience will find a welcome ear at the new Student Ombuds Office.
The new office is designed to be an impartial, independent and informal resource for students. Unlike the University’s Office of Community Standards and Conduct, which enforces policies and investigates conduct violations, the Student Ombuds Office provides coaching and resources to give students strategies, options and tools so they can resolve their issues themselves.
The office, which opened on the first day of fall classes, is headed by Dr. Diego Garcia Theodore, assistant vice president for student affairs and former senior director of the International Center.
Students can contact the office by email ([email protected]) or by phone (972-883-6968). Walk-in visits are also welcome at the Student Services Building Addition (SSA 14.120).
“We want to provide a confidential space where students can feel empowered to share any conflicts or complaints about their college experience,” Garcia Theodore said. “If we can address their problems, we can retain these students.”
The office is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. All discussions are confidential except where there is an imminent risk of harm or as required by law or University policy.
In addition to helping students, the office will be a lens for University leaders to learn about the sources of student concerns and to understand where institutional policies and processes may be unclear. It also will help identify and defuse conflicts before they escalate.
“Oftentimes, students find it difficult to navigate the policy bureaucracy on a college campus, and they are not aware of the resources available to resolve their issues,” said Dr. Gene Fitch, vice president for student affairs. “It is the role of the ombuds to do just that. They direct and guide students to resources and empower them to find solutions to the issues they may encounter.”
The Student Ombuds Office at UT Dallas is the fifth in The University of Texas System.
Garcia Theodore, who began his 20-year career in higher education as an advisor, said he feels like he’s coming full circle to a job he loves.
“I very much enjoyed working with students and being a mentor and advisor, allowing them to express their concerns, helping troubleshoot and then pointing them to the right resources,” he said. “If I can help make their academic career successful, it sets them up for a more enjoyable time on campus. I often tell students, ‘Your college years go by so fast. Make sure you enjoy yourselves while you’re here.’”