Stephanie D. Preston named to faculty ombuds position

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A longtime professor with experience as a unit-level faculty ombuds is now serving as a University of Michigan faculty ombuds under the Office of the Provost.

Stephanie D. Preston, professor of psychology, began the part-time appointment Jan. 1. She filled the vacancy created when Robert Ortega stepped down to take an associate dean position with the School of Social Work.

Photo of Stephanie Preston
Stephanie Preston

The Office of the University Faculty Ombuds is a confidential, impartial, informal and independent resource for faculty members who need information and assistance, with a focus on helping resolve academic and administrative concerns and disputes.

“Faculty can be distressed or distracted by a range of situations that are hard to address through formal channels,” Preston said. “Ombuds are an excellent, confidential resource that helps faculty chart a path forward, using positive and effective solutions.”

Ombuds receive faculty complaints and concerns and work to resolve them in a fair, equitable and expeditious manner. They can review matters, launch informal inquiries, request relevant documents, offer options for resolution, make referrals and help to resolve disputes.

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In addition, ombuds can recommend constructive changes to university policies or procedures that generate conflicts or concerns.

Provost Laurie McCauley said the existence of the ombuds reflects some of the university’s most sacred institutional priorities: a commitment to collegiality, professionalism and the mandate to resolve disputes in good faith.

“Stephanie Preston has earned her reputation for combining emotional savvy with institutional knowledge,” McCauley said. “She has consistently demonstrated a multidimensional approach to conflict resolution, research-based psychological insight, and an empathetic spirit. We are fortunate she will be taking on this vital role.”

The Office of the University Faculty Ombuds has two ombuds: Preston and Michèle Hannoosh, professor of French, who has been in the role since 2018.

Preston joined U-M in 2005 as an assistant professor of psychology. She became an associate professor in 2012 and a full professor in 2018.

In addition to the university faculty ombuds, U-M has unit-level ombuds at schools and colleges who help resolve disputes and act as a resource for information. Preston served as the faculty ombuds for LSA from 2019-21.

“As a former LSA ombuds, Stephanie Preston brings real experience to the post,” Hannoosh said. “Her research focusing on the place of emotion is directly relevant to the ombuds’ work, and she has demonstrated that she has the skills and temperament required for an ombuds: patience and empathy, the ability to listen and to consider all sides, the capacity to find solutions to problems, and a deep knowledge of university processes, policies and structures.”

The Office of the Provost worked with the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs in the search for the new university faculty ombuds.

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