Tracey Brant, formerly assistant ombudsman at Cornell, has been appointed ombudsperson as Dartmouth reestablishes the office, this time in a full-time capacity. She began the role on Sept. 6.
The ombuds office provides independent, impartial, confidential, and informal support to Dartmouth staff, faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and professional and graduate students in the resolution of matters that arise in the academic and/or workplace environment.
“It’s critical to this institution that members of the community have the ability to seek advice about conflicts and other workplace issues in a neutral setting,” says President Philip J. Hanlon ’77. “Tracey Brant brings the right mix of experience, empathy, discretion, and sound judgement to the role, and I’m delighted that she has joined us.”
“My hope in reestablishing this essential office at Dartmouth is that the community will come to experience the ombudsperson as a trusted and valuable presence,” says Brant.
As ombudsperson, Brant will be a resource for those seeking informal means of conflict resolution. Community members may consult with her about any question, concern, or conflict related to Dartmouth, including advice on when and how to pursue formal channels at the College, if needed.
“My ombuds practice is informed by my training as a life coach,” she says. “I’m intensely curious and not tied to a particular outcome. Conflict is a normal part of life, yet it doesn’t have to be disorienting or overwhelming. Often an issue is complicated by seemingly unrelated circumstances and concerns, and it can be helpful to have someone to guide and support us in seeing a bigger picture as clearly as possible.”
Brant joined the Cornell ombuds office in 2019 after 11 years as the director of the Kessler Fellows Program at Cornell’s College of Engineering—an entrepreneurship program for which she provided coaching and support to student entrepreneurs. Among other honors, she received the President’s Award for Employee Excellence at Cornell in 2018.
In addition to holding certification from the International Ombuds Association and from the International Coach Federation, Brant is skilled at helping people begin the conversation about the end of their pet’s life.
“The idea is to start conversations before they’re needed, so people are better prepared when the time comes,” she says. “Talking now helps us better prepare, guides our decisions, decreases and eases suffering, and helps avoid unresolved grief. It also leads the way to living a more fulfilled and joyful life right now.”
Brant says helping others become comfortable in the domain of loss and grief “is an important part of my ombuds practice. I have found that my ability to normalize the voice of grief—which includes expressing the range of emotions that accompany loss—has been a gift in my work.”
She majored in animal science as an undergraduate at Cornell and went on to earn a master’s of public policy at Tufts University.
Dartmouth last had a dedicated ombuds office in 2017. In 2018, President Hanlon accepted the recommendation of an internal committee not to fill the vacant position, which was then part-time, but instead to shift its responsibilities to the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, Title IX, and the third-party provider of Dartmouth’s Faculty/Employee Assistance Program.
But the advocacy of graduate students, faculty, and staff revealed the need for a full-time, independent ombudsperson. Dartmouth opened the search for a new ombudsperson in fall 2021. The position reports to the president.
“Reestablishing the office was a direct result of a proposal by members of the Dartmouth community who came together in recognition that reinstating the ombuds office is a necessity for maintaining a safe, collaborative, and inclusive environment at Dartmouth,” Brant says. “The College heard that call and committed to reestablishing the office. This passion, effort, and understanding, as well as meeting so many enthusiastic people during the interview process, is what drew me to the position.”
Of the role of the ombudsperson, Brant says, “As an independent and confidential resource there are lots of things an ombudsperson can do, and things we can’t. One of the greatest benefits of speaking with an ombudsperson is that we are off-the-record support. Speaking with a Dartmouth ombudsperson is not the same as speaking to Dartmouth College. An ombudsperson doesn’t accept formal complaints on behalf of Dartmouth, conduct official investigations, keep formal records, or provide or share visit information to anyone without express permission. This creates a private and confidential space for visitors to speak openly about concerns and explore different options toward resolution.”
While the office does not yet have a permanent physical location, Brant, who is working out of a temporary office on campus, will soon be available for in-person or Zoom consultations. Her first step: “a learning tour to begin to understand the College community, policies and procedures, and current campus culture,” she says.
Brant can be reached at Ombuds@dartmouth.edu or 603-646-8132.
The search committee for the ombudsperson role was chaired by Senior Vice President and Senior Diversity Officer Shontay Delalue.
“I extend my gratitude to Shontay Delalue and to the other members of the search committee for their terrific work in this process,” Hanlon says.
In addition to Delalue the committee included:
- Eva Childers, Guarini ’22, former Graduate Student Council president
- William Eidtson, assistant professor of medical education at the Geisel School of Medicine
- Samuel Levey, associate dean of arts and humanities
- Chloe Poston, associate vice president for strategic initiatives in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity
- Cindy Rosalbo, senior associate director of the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning
- Marion Simpson, executive director in the Office of the President