There’s a new face on campus, and her job is to listen to complaints: Mariana Valdes-Fauli is the new assistant to the vice president for Student Affairs and will also serve as University Ombudsperson, the person to whom students can go to file school-related grievances relating to dorm issues, concerns about course grade or financial aid difficulties, among other things.
Valdes-Fauli serves as a mediator and uses open communication to solve problems. Whether a school or non-school matter is at hand, she said she will make every attempt to make recommendations to students regarding the best way to resolve a problem.
Valdes-Fauli wants to make clear exactly what her role is.
“The Ombudsperson is not to be mistaken with a counselor, though sometimes it is necessary to act as one when problems such as health issues or other personal problems are brought to my office,” Valdes-Fauli said.
Valdes-Fauli is a UF Law School graduate who previously worked in the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C., as the alternative dispute resolution person.
Since she arrived at UM, some of the issues brought to her have ranged from the common roommate problem to major health problems. As the Ombudsperson she can also answer any questions students may have concerning school policies.
“It is sometimes overwhelming for students to find themselves in such a big place,” Valdes-Fauli said. “With too many departments they don’t know where to go for help nor do they have the time.”
“We try to make everything much easier,” Valdes-Fauli said.
Despite the fact that her duties include helping students and trying to find the best possible solution, she admits that she is not above any departments and does not have the power to change policies or overrule any final decisions made by the University.
Although Valdes-Fauli has already started to help students, she admits she is still getting used to her new responsibilities.
“I’m still in the process of getting to know the University, especially all the departments and their staff,” Valdes-Fauli said. “It is necessary to know them well, because I’m required to work with all of them.”
Valdes-Fauli also mentioned the Troubleshooter Program, which allows students to speak with a qualified Troubleshooter staff member who can also offer assistance with disputes. The purpose of the Troubleshooter staff is to try and solve a problem without having to go through the Ombudsperson.
Students are strongly encouraged to see the proper academic or area troubleshooter administrator before requesting to see Valdes-Fauli.
During the process, a student’s rights will be considered along with those of the other party involved. Most cases are confidential.
Valdes-Fauli is looking forward to a productive year and wants to get the word out to students that she is a valuable resource on campus.
“I just want the students to know that I’m here to help them – it’s important for them to know that they have an advocate here,” Valdes-Fauli said.
For more information regarding the Ombudsperson and Troubleshooter programs, visit www.miami.edu/student-affairs/ombudsperson.
Vanessa Krause can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.