Interview with Dr. Monica Kerrigan, new Rowan University Ombuds

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Dr. Monica Kerrigan is the new Ombuds at Rowan University. The Whit caught up with Dr. Kerrigan in her office in James Hall for an interview about her new position.

Can you tell the readers a bit about your background, what you did before you were the Ombuds here at Rowan?

I’ve been at Rowan for eight years. I’m on the faculty here in the College of Education, in the department of Educational Services and Leadership. I’m still an associate professor in that program, so since Sept. 1, I have been serving also in the Ombuds role, and so that is a role I’m filling as a service commitment to the university. And preliminarily, I’ve agreed to fulfill that role for a two year period. So I’m still faculty, but I’m now also the university Ombuds.

And what exactly does the Ombuds do?

The Ombuds is designed to be an informal complaint-resolution position that is outside of any formal structures within the university. So it’s designed to sit outside of all of the formal processes you might think of going to. So visitors might reach out to the Ombuds at the very start, if they’re not sure where to go for help, if they need to talk an idea through, if they’re looking for a neutral party to brainstorm ideas with around ways of addressing a situation [on campus] themselves, and then to find appropriate channels through which to formally address any issues.

What are some things that you would like to address in your position here as the Ombuds?

I would like everyone, students, faculty, staff to know that Rowan University has an Ombuds and that the office is a resource to everyone. So I welcome individuals coming and making appointments to speak with me. Second, I  want everyone to know the role that an Ombuds plays in a process and I think one of the best ways of characterizing it that I’ve heard from folks outside of this institution as I’m learning to fulfill the role is that the Ombuds is an advocate for a fair process. The Ombuds isn’t an advocate for any specific individual or issue. And I think also making it clearer to folks in the Rowan community what avenues exist to get help and to resolve issues, and so that’s one of the goals I have is trying to connect with the various offices around the institution, so that we can make that process clearer. So maybe even the Ombuds isn’t as needed.

Do you foresee any potential drive to raise awareness of the availability of the Ombuds here on campus? For example, like speaking in front of SGA at one point?

I welcome ideas and I would be very happy to do that because I think it’s important that the community becomes aware that we have an Ombuds. I think that’s a great idea and I need to make that happen.

To learn more about the Office of the Ombuds, and to get in touch with Dr. Kerrigan, visit https://sites.rowan.edu/ombuds/.

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