Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Halmos College of Arts and Sciences - Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Neil Katz

Second Advisor

Ismael Muvingi

Third Advisor

Urszula Strawinska-Zanko


ADR, Change, Conflict Resolution, Ombuds, Soft Power, University


This research focuses on identifying successful approaches used by university ombuds offices to enact change regarding dispute resolution options within their academic institute. The field of Ombuds has grown steadily in North America since the 1970s and is widely used by private industry, academia, and government organizations to deploy alternative dispute resolution techniques, an often cheaper and more successful means of conflict resolution compared to the traditional litigious approach. Identifying how ombuds approach promoting change requires understanding the dispute resolution system and the conditions that produce conflict. Based on interviews with 10 current university ombuds officers from a variety of higher education institutions, this explorative qualitative study presents data to answer three main research questions: How do University Ombuds approach change agency within their institution? What specific actions do ombuds take to promote change? How do University Ombuds approach different sub-organizations when attempting to drive change within their institutions? Methods of analysis included an ontological system mapping process and utilizes multi-tier coding to induce themes that address the research questions and provide a holistic understanding of how ombuds approach dispute resolution change agency. Results identified the utility of positional authority and soft power to provide conflict resolution alternatives and highlights various tools ombuds use to serve as change agents within their organizations.