Student ombudsman position created

GVL / Sara Carte
Takellia Garrett, head of the student Ombuds, works in her office on Oct. 21.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte Takellia Garrett, head of the student Ombuds, works in her office on Oct. 21.

Taylor Fussman

As college students, it can be difficult to balance a busy class schedule, homework, a job and any other additional responsibilities while still trying to manage interpersonal relationships and solve conflicts that may arise without outside assistance.

With the newly established student ombuds position on Grand Valley State University’s campus, students have an additional resource for getting help with handling challenging situations in their lives.

Ombuds, shot for ombudsman, is a Swedish word meaning responsible. The GVSU student ombuds will serve as a neutral party to help students talk through situations without giving them all of the answers.

Some common problems brought to the student ombuds include disciplinary concerns, academic concerns, workplace issues, interpersonal communications and so forth.

Takeelia Garrett is filling the roll of student ombuds for the position’s pilot year at GVSU.

“Students can benefit because this person is a private person they can speak with about their problems or concerns,” Garrett said.

Garrett is the assistant director of housing and residence life, a first-generation college student and a Laker student twice over. Along with the title of student ombuds, she is currently a doctoral student at EMU in the educational leadership program.

Garrett has an extensive list of credentials and experiences that qualify her to serve this new role including a master’s degree in the college of student affairs leadership program, training as a mediator and training through conflict resolution and experience working in student conduct on the housing level and through the dean of students office.

As the student ombuds, Garrett will personally assist others with problem-solving to minimize conflict, coach students on how to have difficult conversations, refer students to appropriate campus services and resources to further address any issues, listen impartially and provide unbiased feedback, encourage as well as empower students to seek out solutions to problems and concerns they have. She will also recommend changes to current policies and procedures based on trends she sees.

However, this resource will not provide legal advice, advocate for individuals or take sides, offer psychological counseling, change policies or academic and administrative decisions, conduct formal investigations or write formal investigative reports.

While concerns falling under a Title IX issue, discrimination of sex in schools or issues of self-harm must be officially reported by the student ombuds, other conflicts a student is facing will remain confidential.

Garrett said she will not be taking sides in a situation, but she will provide a resource for the students to work through their problems and will be able to keep the conversations they have private.

“I am a pretty easy person to speak with and think that the ombuds role is a great addition to GVSU,” Garrett said. “Sometimes you just need someone to have a conversation with to work out problems.”

In order to reach Garrett to discuss the student ombuds position or to get assistance, email her at [email protected] or visit her office in the Student Services building on the Allendale Campus.