As a confidential, independent, and impartial third-party, the Ombuds supports PhD Students and Postdocs in a number of ways, depending on your preferences and what’s appropriate in a given situation.
The Ombuds can listen to your concerns and ask clarifying questions to help you organize your thoughts, identify and classify the issues you are looking to address and articulate what you would like to see happen.
After getting a sense of your concerns, the Ombuds can talk through some of the potential options for addressing them. The Ombuds can help you think about what may be the pros and cons of different approaches and can help you fully think through t he potential outcomes of each option to support you in your decision-making.
The Ombuds can help you think through how you wish to move forward in addressing a concern you have raised. Maybe you aren’t sure how to have a difficult conversation with a peer or with a mentor. The ombuds has experience coaching visitors on how to approach difficult conversations in ways that are clear, effective, and most likely to be heard.
Confidential Information Gathering
Sometimes there’s a need for an impartial person to confidentially gather more information than may be easily accessible to a PhD student or postdoc. The Ombuds, without breaching confidentiality, can often source this type of information to aid those who visit the Ombuds Office (“visitors”) in determining their next steps.
Explanation of University Policies/Procedure
The Ombuds can support PhD students and postdocs by helping to explain relevant policies and procedures and how they might apply to a given situation.
Refer to Internal or External Resources
The Ombuds can serve as a liaison for visitors to get connected to appropriate university or external resources that might be helpful to them as they work to address a concern about their life, work, or study at Johns Hopkins.
Sometimes it’s helpful to have a trained facilitator to support a group in discussing a difficult or complex topic in a way that’s impartial, respectful, effective, and efficient. With joint agreement from all participants, the Ombuds can provide informal group facilitation.
Informal Conflict Mediation
When two or more people are experiencing a conflict or misunderstanding and aren’t sure how to make progress resolving it, the Ombuds can informally mediate that concern, if both parties voluntarily agree. If participants reach an agreement as to how they’d like to resolve the issue, the Ombuds can help them in drafting an informal agreement, or they can choose to resolve things with a verbal understanding.
When parties to a conflict are unable or unwilling to communicate directly with one another or be in the same room, it can sometimes be appropriate for the Ombuds to engage in shuttle diplomacy, which involves speaking to each person individually and relaying information that each party has given permission to disclose, with the goal of reaching resolution on a given area of concern.
Elevating Problematic Trends/Systemic Issues
The Ombuds can be a channel for PhD students and postdocs to raise concerns that may need to be addressed through systematic change. The Ombuds is able to confidentially aggregate suggestions, concerns, and input to identify and elevate to university leadership problematic trends or systemic issues relevant to PhD and postdoc programs or experiences across JHU. The Ombuds takes care to provide this type of upward feedback in a way that ensures the confidentiality of visitors to the office.