Judi Segall starts as ombudsperson

Brings years of conflict resolution expertise to the position

On Sept. 2, Judi Segall was welcomed in as MIT’s newest ombudsperson. In her new role, she will serve as a confidential resource to the MIT community by helping visitors attempt to constructively and peacefully resolve conflicts.

Segall, with her years of experience in conflict management, hopes to assist members of the MIT community manage their problems in a way that supports what she described as MIT’s culture of innovation and collaboration.

The Ombuds Office attempts to resolve conflicts without going through an adversarial system. According to Segall, by avoiding formal complaints, the Ombuds Office helps individuals work through problems so that they are not at legal odds with another person.

When distraught visitors come to Segall, she said she often says, “In an interpersonal conflict, you own the problem, but you also own the solution.” She tries to help her visitors see the variety of possible solutions and consider both the short-term and long-term consequences. Based on her past experiences, Segall claims that when her visitors realize they are in control, they give themselves the opportunities to make decisions from a more logical perspective.

Segall served as director of the Stony Brook Ombuds Office for 17 years. She also taught graduate student seminars on conflict management and leadership development.

She was president of the University and College Ombuds Association as well as the Ombuds Association before they merged to become the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). She served as the inaugural president of the IOA in 2006.

Segall said her strongest impression of MIT is the community’s dedication to change the world. In her five weeks here, she said she has met people throughout the Institute in order to inform herself about the community’s culture and operations. She says she has been “continuously impressed by the openness of continued learning on campus,” and greatly appreciates “the harmonization of the arts within the MIT culture.”

While Segall is not teaching for the 2014-2015 academic year, it remains a possibility in the near future.

MIT’s Ombuds Office is located in 10-213. The Ombuds Office sees a large number of students over the year, including a significant number of graduate students, as well as postdoctoral scholars and faculty members.

According to the MIT Ombuds, they are able to direct individuals to more resources when necessary. The Ombuds Office is also independent of any other organization on campus, and is therefore able to guide visitors through problems impartially. The Ombuds report to President L. Rafael Reif, and may reach out to certain individuals or groups to allow them to resolve conflicts without a public audience.