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A spirit that is not afraid

​Ombuds Office helps develop conflict management skills

The Ombuds Office at Auburn helps guide and provide conflict resolutions skills to the Auburn community.

Kevin Coonrod, Auburn ombudsperson, said the services are offered to several different people.

“The Ombuds Office assists members of the Auburn University community to navigate through difficult situations encountered at the University,” Coonrod said. “Our services are available to all students, staff, A & P members and faculty.”

The office refers its visitors to the services considered most helpful, according to Coonrod.

“We offer conflict resolution services and guidance on University policies,” Coonrod said. “Moreover, we refer our office visitors to helpful resources and provide upward feedback of non-confidential trend information to relevant administrators that may assist in developing change.”

Coonrod personally handles most of the conflicts.

“Conflict resolution work takes the majority of my time,” Coonrod said. “Depending on the case, I coach individuals in handling adverse situations on their own, mediate disputes with all parties at the table and provide educational services for persons dealing with conflict.”

Coonrod said one of his favorite parts of his job is working on various different types of cases.

“One of the reasons I love my work is the panoply of issues and people that come to my office,” Coonrod said. “For example, I have helped students understand academic honesty and academic grievance processes, the Code of Student Conduct, facilitated conversations with individuals and groups that wished to get along better or resolve a dispute and prepared students to have difficult but productive conversations with professors.”

Coonrod's job in conflict resolution isn't to tell people what to do, but rather to suggest ways to approach situations and teach them how to deal with personal conflict in their own way.

“In addition, I have helped students advocate for themselves by assisting them craft and polish letters requesting something from others,” Coonrod said. “I don’t resolve anything myself, however I help the persons I am working with fashion their own resolution to their problem.”

The process of developing people's personal techniques to dealing with conflict is creative, according to Coonrod.

“My purpose is to help my office visitors help themselves, and I know that creative ideas and solutions devised by the individuals involved are almost always the best resolutions to their particular situation,” Coonrod said.

Aside from offering advice, the office also acts as a mediation service.

“I educate and coach people who are at odds with difficult persons or situations," Coonrod said. "Also, I mediate disputes when all parties agree to go through a voluntary dispute resolution process.”

Coonrod said he loves helping people deal with heavy situations.

“Helping a person develop the skills and confidence to deal with a weighty problem is by far the most gratifying aspect of my role as University ombudsperson,” Coonrod said.

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The work visitors do in the office has a lasting effect that will continue to help them deal with conflicting situations in the future, according to Coonrod.

“Empowering one’s self to work through a challenging obstacle will not only make that person’s life better at present, but the experience will continue to provide benefits as she or he continues to build their personal pathway,” Coonrod said.

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