Staff Ombudsperson


The appointment of a staff ombudsperson serves to improve morale and intra-college relations. This position will also address the issue of communication. The need to communicate effectively is important to all of us in our daily tasks. At times, the lack of communication itself leads to many problems. These problems can often be resolved by having a neutral and detached listener sit down with one or both parties involved to analyze a situation, to explain relevant University policies and procedures, to identify and explore options, and to recommend needed changes. This is where the staff ombudsperson is a very valuable resource for the college.

The staff ombudsperson provides, on a scheduled basis, a neutral, safe haven for staff to discuss on-the-job difficulties. Such an avenue for communication helps prevent misunderstandings from becoming road blocks to work production. Problems are heard and discussed; the goal is an amicable resolution. Where appropriate, a written summary of the issues are provided to the Human Resources Representative. The staff ombudsperson will have at least two years of University experience. Their name, office address and consultation hours will be included in the College Resource Guide.

Confidentiality and discretion are absolutely assured; please consider your Staff Ombudsperson as a safe, non-threatening environment to discuss your workplace issues.

Current Staff Ombudsperson

2018 - 20: Ron Nargi and Colleen Swetland

Ron NargiRon Nargi has been with Penn State for 19 years. He is an IT specialist in the EMS Energy Institute. Contact Ron to make an appointment. His office is C211 Coal Utilization Lab and his hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can also reach him by telephone at  (814) 863-7381 or by email Ron has offered to come to someone's office or even find a private conference room in their area should that be more convenient for someone seeking the services of the EMS Staff Ombudsperson.


Colleen SwetlandColleen Swetland is the assistant director of alumni relations and has been with Penn State for more than 30 years. Her regular office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. but will make herself available by appointment, outside that time frame to suit someone's needs. Colleen's office is located at 206 Deike Building or you can contact her by email or phone 814-863-4667.


Purpose of the Staff Ombudsperson

The role of the staff ombudsperson is to ensure that staff receives fair and equitable treatment within the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and the University system. The staff ombudsperson is neither an advocate for the staff nor an agent of the college or the University. Rather, the staff ombudsperson considers all sides of a question in an objective and impartial manner and then determines how best to bring about a non-adversarial solution utilizing counseling, negotiation and mediation. The staff ombudsperson will be a confidential, neutral third party who promptly and impartially assists in resolving problems that arise within the college through informal means. The role of the staff ombudsperson is non-binding.

Functions of the Staff Ombudsperson

The staff ombudsperson may provide information, direct those involved to the appropriate resources, and provide an informal means of problem resolution to individual staff who have problems, questions or complaints regarding the college. The staff ombudsperson may use mediation and/or other problem-solving techniques to facilitate communication and problem resolution between disputing parties. He/she is not empowered to change a policy or reverse a decision. However, he/she can offer recommendations for needed changes in relevant policy.

In an effort to represent the college commitment to fundamental fairness, the staff ombudsperson offers an independent, impartial, confidential resource to the staff. Confidentiality, neutrality and independence are three critical characteristics. The staff ombudsperson responds to each client according to the matter brought forward. Some contacts are for information only, some are to discuss options and seek advice, and some have serious complaints and issues which cannot be solved through regular channels.

The staff ombudsperson serves as an intermediary when necessary or as a mediator when disputing parties are deadlocked. He/she will explain and clarify college and University policies and procedures and urge both parties to follow these policies and procedures of the college and University. The staff ombudsperson recommends efforts to provide a healthier climate on all issues of concern to the staff, their work-place and their working conditions to the dean. The staff ombudsperson does not represent the client (staff) in any proceedings.


All matters brought to the staff ombudsperson are treated with strict confidentiality. Only with the permission of the client are others involved in the case. Likewise, revealing details of an individual's contacts with the office, or the contents of those contacts, to anyone outside the office are not done without the consent of the client.

There are no official records of client names, affiliations, or concerns. The discussions, issues, concerns or problems presented remain in strict confidence. If someone wishes for a complaint to go "on the record," the staff ombudsperson will refer that person to the appropriate office or person.

If intervention proves to be unsuccessful, and the parties proceed to a formal hearing, the staff ombudsperson  will not disclose any matter discussed with either party. All information received by the staff ombudsperson is confidential and any records created or received are not released. The staff ombudsperson will not testify or provide statements about cases in which he/she was involved to grievance or other committees.

If a client reposts a serious problem (i.e., theft, cheating, falsification of documents, mental health issues, alcoholism, etc.) but is unwilling to be part of any steps taken to address it, the staff ombudsperson will try to find a way to address the problem that is acceptable to the client, or that does not compromise the identity of the client.

Appointment and Requirements

The Staff Advisory Committee (SAC) will solicit nominations and volunteers from the staff. SAC will then submit a list of recommendations to the dean for selection and appointment of the staff ombudsperson. The term of office will be for (2) two years. The appointment may be renewed with the concurrence of all the parties involved. The staff ombudsperson must have an easily accessible private office. The staff ombudsperson becomes a member of the University and College Ombuds Association.