New ombudsperson program available to assist graduate students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three faculty members have been selected to serve as the inaugural ombudspersons for the new Graduate Student Ombudsperson Program.

The Graduate Student Ombudsperson Program was developed by the Graduate Student and Faculty Issues committee of the Graduate Council with strong support from the Graduate School in response to a clear need identified by graduate students to have an ombudsperson program dedicated to their needs. The program will complement the University Faculty Ombudsperson Program that serves Penn State faculty.

The goal of the Graduate Student Ombudsperson Program is to provide graduate students with a neutral, informal, impartial and confidential resource to discuss problems and issues, and to raise questions and concerns. The ultimate objective of the program is to enhance communication, identify resources and options, and clarify possible misunderstandings to help settle issues without escalation.

The three inaugural ombudspersons are:

  • Duncan K.H. Fong, professor of marketing, Smeal College of Business and affiliated professor of statistics, Eberly College of Science;
  • Deb Kerstetter, professor emerita, recreation, park, and tourism management, College of Health and Human Development; and
  • Patrick Lee Plaisance, Don W. Davis Professor in ethics, Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, and affiliate faculty, Rock Ethics Institute.

The ombudspersons provide a safe environment for graduate students to discuss issues and concerns. They are committed to help analyze the concern, clarify possible misunderstandings, define and evaluate options, identify and explain relevant University policies, and assist in resolving issues informally. The ombudsperson does not formally advocate for the student or any individual point of view, but instead works to promote a fair process for all. The ombudspersons serve all graduate students at Penn State and graduate students on any campus are welcome to contact any of the three ombudspersons.

More information about the program, including how to contact the ombudspersons, is available at