Jessica Kuchta-Miller, JD, a certified organizational ombudsman practitioner with extensive experience in dispute resolution, mediation, conflict coaching and training, has been named to the new position of staff ombudsperson at Washington University in St. Louis, announced Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration.
Kuchta-Miller comes to Washington University from the University of Colorado Boulder, where she was associate university ombuds. Her appointment is effective Sept. 14.
In this role, Kuchta-Miller will serve as a confidential, impartial, informal and independent resource for university staff members to discuss concerns or disputes that arise in the workplace.
Webber noted that the university has had part-time ombudspersons for faculty and students for a number of years, but has not had a similar resource for staff.
“Upon reflection and at the urging of several groups, we decided to add a staff ombudsperson to ensure that we are providing equal resources to all members of our community,” Webber said.
“As the staff ombuds, Jessica will work with HR, our existing faculty and student ombuds, and other departments across our campuses to provide confidential and impartial support and resources to university staff,” Webber said. “I am thrilled that Jessica will be joining us and have no doubt she will be a great addition to the university.”
Kuchta-Miller has more than 16 years of experience in mediation, coaching, conflict management and skills-based training, including 13 years within higher education.
Most recently, as associate ombuds at the University of Colorado Boulder, she helped faculty, staff and students identify and evaluate options for managing and/or resolving interpersonal disputes and university-related problems.
Sharing concerns in confidence
“I am excited to be joining the Washington University community and am eager to get to know and engage with university staff,” she said.
“Ordinarily, people don’t visit an ombuds because things are going well,” she said. “They typically visit an ombuds either because of an interpersonal dispute with someone such as a co-worker or supervisor or because they have encountered administrative roadblocks as they’ve attempted to navigate university processes.”
Kuchta-Miller hopes that as staff members learn more about her office and role as the staff ombudsperson, “that people can feel safe coming to me to share their concerns, knowing that what they say will be held in confidence.”
Prior to joining the University of Colorado Boulder’s Ombuds Office, Kuchta-Miller worked for 11 years at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn.
At Hamline, she taught as an adjunct clinical instructor for the law school’s Mediation Clinic, where she developed curriculum and supervised and coached law student mediators in area conciliation and housing courts.
She also served for five years as a project administrator for Hamline’s nationally ranked Dispute Resolution Institute and Mediation Center.
During her time at Hamline, she was appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Ethics Board whose purpose is to promote the ethical use of alternative dispute resolution in the state courts.
An active member of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), which is the largest professional organization of organizational ombudsman practitioners in the world, Kuchta-Miller serves on IOA’s Ad Hoc Title IX Response Task Force and its Membership Categories Task Force.
A licensed attorney and a qualified neutral, she has presented at numerous conferences and seminars and has trained hundreds of individuals in mediation, negotiation, conflict resolution and communication skills.
In 2006, she received the Dispute Resolution Center’s A.M. “Sandy” Keith Award for the Advancement of Constructive Conflict Resolution in Minnesota.
Kuchta-Miller earned a juris doctor, cum laude, from Hamline University’s School of Law, along with a 14-credit certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
She also earned a master of arts in counseling psychology from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and a bachelor of arts degree in sociology, with highest honors, from South Dakota State University.
She is pursuing a doctor of education from Hamline, which is expected in 2016.
Kuchta-Miller will have an office at both the Medical Campus and the Danforth Campus. The Medical Campus office location is still to be determined; the Danforth Campus office will be in Seigle Hall, room 443.
To contact Kuchta-Miller, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 314-379-8110.