Jennifer Sims Selected As the First Staff Ombuds Officer at The University of Texas at Austin

Jennifer Graf Sims, associate ombuds for Bridgepoint Education in San Diego, Calif., has been selected as the first staff ombuds officer for The University of Texas at Austin. The appointment will be effective July 20.

Jennifer Graf Sims
Jennifer Graf SimsPhoto: Marsha Miller

William Powers Jr., president of the university, said Sims is "an excellent choice for UT's first staff ombuds officer.

"She has extensive experience in dispute resolution and will serve as a strong independent advocate for our staff. The Staff Council has made an ombuds officer a priority, and I believe this position will benefit our staff and the university as a whole."

Sims, who will work from an office in the Bridgeway Building, 2616 Wichita Street, while a more permanent space is being prepared in Walter Webb Hall, said she is excited to become a part of The University of Texas at Austin community.

"I can see there is support and understanding for what an ombuds officer is and what that person can do for the community," she said.

Sims received her bachelor of science in psychology and bachelor of arts in anthropology degrees from the University of Illinois and her master of arts in community and cultural psychology degree from the University of Hawaii. Prior to becoming associate ombuds for Bridgepoint Education, she was ombuds officer at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, Honolulu, where she also was a lecturer in the psychology department.

Ben Bond, former chair of the Staff Council who chaired the organization during the selection process, said Sims has extensive experience in her field and he is delighted that she was selected as the university's first staff ombuds officer.

"Her expertise in training, mediating and facilitating will be a welcome resource to staff and departments across campus," Bond said. "Employees will love her positive energy and interpersonal warmth as she helps them troubleshoot work-related issues. She is the exact person this campus needs to set the standard as this new office opens. I believe Jennifer will make this the best university ombuds office in the country.

"In addition, I thank President Powers for creating this immensely helpful resource for all UT Austin staff," Bond said. "The Staff Council worked hard on its recommendation to the president, and we are grateful that he chose to implement it. Adding the new staff ombuds will make The University of Texas at Austin a better place to work for everyone."

In his March 31, 2010 "Tower Talk" online message to the university community, Powers said he was aware of university community interest in a staff ombuds and remained "open-minded" to the idea. He said he had asked Bond to review the subject and make a recommendation. Powers also noted that in January the Staff Council had created an ad hoc committee, chaired by Staff Council Representative Jennifer L. Smith of the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan, to study the staff grievance process and the role of an ombudsperson and present a final report in May.

The committee, on May 20, presented its report to the Staff Council, which approved a recommendation "that the president's office implement the addition of an Office of the Staff Ombudsperson beginning in the fall of 2010."