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Mitchell selected to lead Ombuds Office

June 23, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Kathy L. Mitchell, a longtime Western Michigan University staff member with experience in a number of campus departments, has been selected to head the WMU Ombuds Office.

Mitchell, WMU's director of field placements in the College of Education since 2004, was selected for the position following a campuswide search this spring. Her full-time appointment is effective July 1, and she will replace Dr. Thomas Bailey, who will step down at the end of June after serving in the position on a half-time basis since January 2007.

A university ombuds' role is to provide confidential advice and nonpartisan assistance in solving problems and resolving disputes. An ombuds is independent of the university's formal administrative structure and cannot impose solutions, but can identify options and strategies for resolution. The four guiding principles of an ombudsman are confidentiality, independence, neutrality and informality. WMU has the distinction of having one of the oldest such University offices in the nation. The WMU office was first established in 1970.

Dr. Gary Wegenke, dean of the College of Education, led the campus search committee that recommended Mitchell for the position. He says there were a number of very good candidates for the post, which requires knowledge of WMU and at least three years of experience at the University as well as good communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. Mitchell stood out, he says, because of her experience with University people at every level, her understanding of students and their concerns, and her commitment to examining all options when addressing problems.

"She has wonderful communication skills, she's always willing to talk with anyone and there is great integrity in what she says." Wegenke notes. "She's also a very positive person--a 'can-do' personality that is refreshing. She will stick with an issue until she gets results."

Mitchell began her WMU career in 1990 as a departmental secretary in the Department of Physics. Since then, she has served as an administrative assistant in science studies and an academic advisor in both environmental studies and education before moving to the field placement office in the College of Education.

She earned a bachelor's degree in family studies from WMU in 2002 and a master's degree in family life education in 2005. Since 2007, she has been working on a doctoral degree in higher education leadership.

Active in campus and community organizations, she is a member of the executive board of Kalamazoo Against Discrimination and a participant in the community's "Courage to Lead" retreat series. She is a member of WMU's Distinguished Service Award Committee as well as several College of Education initiatives, including the Academic and Professional Standards Committee and Professional Educators Board. She also is part of the college's award-winning School/University Partnership Team.

Mitchell is a member of the LGBT Student Service Advisory Board and in April 2006, she was honored with the College of Education's Esprit de Corps Award.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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