College and University Ombudspersons have been referred to as the “conscience of the university”, “canaries in the coal mine”, and a guide for students in a “sea of troubles”. Sometimes misunderstood, these unique offices assist their communities in resolving conflict and identifying systemic issues and trends while focusing on fair treatment. Ombuds offices are designed to be environments that adhere to the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice: confidentiality, informality, neutrality and independence. Ultimately, ombuds provide a brave space for individuals to discuss concerns, learn to navigate their environments, and build communication skills while being treated with compassion and empathy.

In this episode of Student Affairs Live, host Dr. Heather Shea discusses the important partnerships between Ombuds Offices and Student Affairs with three panelists, Drs. Shannon Burton, D. A. Graham, and Jennifer Schneider. Tune in live on Wednesday, November 20 at 1PM ET, or watch the archived video anytime after the episodes air.

Have a question for the panelists? Please email Heather at or tweet @heather_shea_ or @HigherEdLIve.

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Episode Host

Heather Shea

Heather Shea

Heather Shea's career in student affairs spans nearly two decades and five different campuses, and involves experience in many different functional areas including residence life, multicultural affairs, women’s centers, student activities, leadership development, and commuter/nontraditional student services–she identifies as a student affairs generalist. Heather is currently serving as the director of Women*s Student Services in the Division of Student Affairs at Michigan State University having just completed her Ph.D. in MSU's HALE (Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education) Program. She completed her master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Colorado State University in 2000. Connect with Heather on Twitter at @heather_shea_


Shannon Burton, Ph.D.

Shannon Lynn Burton, PhD became the University Ombudsperson at Michigan State University in July 2018 after serving previously as the Assistant University Ombudsperson and later Associate University Ombudsperson. In her role as University Ombudsperson, she seeks to make the office a touchpoint for building trust within the organization by creating a space where individuals can freely discuss their concerns in an environment that adheres to the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice: confidentiality, informality, neutrality and independence. Ultimately, her goal is to develop human capital in managing conflict and improve communication skills in line with the role and purpose of the ombuds office, as well as in line with the university’s mission. Shannon serves the broader professional community through her work as one of the IOA’s inaugural co-chairs for the Research and Assessment Committee and as Editor for the Journal of the IOA (JIOA). Previously, she served on the IOA Title IX Task Force. Additionally, Shannon is an active member of the Michigan Caucus of Educational Ombuds, as well as the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Ombuds Committee where she serves as the Editor for the Ombuds Edition of the Just Resolutions Newsletter.

Shannon earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education with a Specialization in Global Urban Studies from Michigan State University. She also has a Master of Science in Academic Advising (Kansas State University), a Master of Arts in Student Affairs Administration (Michigan State University), as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Russian Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Sociology, and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish (Grand Valley State University). In 2018, she also completed a graduate certificate in Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement (Kansas State University). 



D. A. Graham Ph.D., M.Div., MHR

Dr. D. A. Graham is The University of Kansas Ombudsperson.  D. A. the former Vice President, Global Integrity Leader at Nielsen in NYC; University Ombudsperson for Princeton University, San Diego State University and Former Director of Human Resources at The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. 

D. A. has more than 20 years of experience as a Master Facilitator and Mediator in the resolution of complaints, appeals and internal grievance processes for employee/employer issues. He has worked to resolve issues between parties through various types of mediation and communication processes. He has designed and taught numerous courses and workshops on communication, conflict engagement skills, diversity and accountability at multiple universities, corporate and nonprofit organizations. D. A. is a Certified Trainer, a Lecturer and Conflict Coach.


Jennifer Schneider, Ph.D.

Jennifer Smith Schneider has served as the student ombuds at the University of South Florida (USF) since 2015. She earned a bachelor degree from Flagler College and a master’s degree and PhD from USF, where she researched the self-perceived competence of new student affairs professionals. Jennifer has been trained as a mediator for the State of Florida and is a candidate for certification by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). She is active in both IOA and NASPA and has served in various volunteer leadership positions for both organizations.