NIU’s ombudsperson aims to provide unbiased support for students


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The goal of the position is to help students and staff with a variety of issues, whether personal or professional.

By Eddie Drinkwine

DeKALB — This July, NIU recruited a new ombudsperson, Sandra Cox, with the goal to provide NIU with unbiased and impartial guidance.

An ombudsperson is an official who is hired to advise and guide anyone who comes to them. Although it is a similar job to counseling, the professions differ in one major way: an ombudsperson will take a neutral and unbiased standpoint when it comes to complaints and issues.

“My role really is to help everyone on campus who may be having some kind of challenging experience and navigate them to a positive resolution,” Cox said. “I am the informal approach, the components for us (ombuds office) are that we are independent, informal, impartial and confidential.”

The Office of the Ombudsperson is different from most departments here at NIU. The ombuds office’s goal is to help both students and staff with a variety of issues, whether it’s personal or professional.

“The great part about the ombuds office is that it really is a place where we see all kinds of things,” Cox said. “If you’re just having a challenge and you’re not sure what to do, we’re a great office to contact. We can connect you to any resource that’s not us, but most of the time it’s something we can help with. We don’t have a specific thing we help with; we are there to listen first and then we help you or find people who can help you.”

Cox has been working at NIU since July of this year. This isn’t her first time working at a university, she worked at Eastern Illinois University for 18 years and at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for eight years. Cox also has experience as a counselor; she has been both a student counselor and an employee counselor.

“I’ve helped students and employees from the mental health perspective, so there are very similar skills to that (in being an ombudsperson),” Cox said. “You are helping people to utilize the skills and resources they already have and you’re also trying to be a source of information. The main difference is that in counseling, you tend to be more of an advocate for the individuals that you are seeing, whereas in the ombuds role you’re an impartial party for both sides.”

Cox said she is still settling in here at NIU but has found the campus to be a refreshing new workplace.

“There are a lot of things that I like about NIU,” Cox said. “I have found it to be a warm and engaging culture. The people are so far the greatest strength that I’ve seen. Whether that is students or employees, everyone seems to be so committed to what they are doing.”

As NIU’s ombudsperson, Cox said she is serving students and staff and trying her best to have a positive impact on their lives. Cox said she has found her new position to be fulfilling and is ready to see what else it will bring.

“What has always drawn me in is being able to help people navigate their lives in a positive way,” Cox said. “For me to have any kind of impact on people’s life experiences and make them more positive, whether that be personally or in the workplace, is really meaningful.”

For more information about the ombuds office visit the Office of the Ombudsperson website or send an email to [email protected].