About the Ombudsperson

The Graduate Student Ombudsperson is responsible for providing independent, confidential*, informal and impartial assistance to graduate students on matters affecting their graduate education.

The Graduate Student Ombudsperson Office is a safe place to voice your concerns, talk through and evaluate your circumstances, organize your thoughts and identify your options, or get a second opinion.  It can be a good first step in considering a situation if you are not sure how to proceed or where to turn to for advice.

The Ombudsperson Office provides assistance through informal means only and does not duplicate formal University processes and procedures. However, the office may provide information about and referrals to other appropriate offices or services.

* Please note that there are limits to the confidentiality of the Ombudsperson, as described below.

Contact the Ombudsperson

Ralph Swenson
Graduate Student Ombudsperson

To contact the ombudsperson, send an email to Rachel Norris, Student Success Coordinator: rknorris@uvm.edu. Include either your preferred email address or a phone number (and first name) through which Mr. Swenson can contact you. Do not include any information about the nature of your reason for contacting the ombudsperson. Rachel Norris will relay your contact information to Mr. Swenson, who will reach out to you to discuss the matter by phone.

Mailing Address:
University of Vermont Graduate Student Ombudsperson
330 Waterman Building
Burlington, Vermont 05405-0160

About the Ombudsperson:
Ombudsperson Ralph Swenson handled Graduate Admissions and student affairs at UVM for many years before retiring in 2014.  During that time he worked with students, faculty, and others across campus to address and resolve student concerns.  He also served the University as Chair of the Staff Grievance Hearing Panel and by conducting investigations in matters of harassment and discrimination.  Swenson holds AB and JD degrees.


Standards of Practice


The Ombudsperson holds communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence and does not disclose confidential communications unless: 1. the University Ombudsperson is a witness to a crime or learns of a Clery-reportable crime; 2. the Ombudsperson learns of discriminatory harassment or sexual misconduct involving a UVM-affiliate; 3. there appears to be imminent threat of serious harm; 4. the Office is required to release information by law, including legal subpoena (valid court order); or 5. the student gives the Ombudsperson permission to do so.

The Ombudsperson maintains no formal case files, and takes all reasonable steps to protect records from inspection by all other persons.  Informal notes taken in the course of consideration of a matter are destroyed at its conclusion, unless preservation is otherwise required by law.  In addition, the Ombudsperson will not disclose whether or not you contacted the Office without your permission to do so. This promise of confidentiality ensures that you are safe in contacting the Office.

If a problem is eventually taken to a formal grievance process, the Ombudsperson will not testify for or against anyone in that process, aside from the limits on confidentiality listed above.


The Graduate College Ombudsperson is a designated neutral party and approaches each case impartially and without prejudice. The Ombudsperson Office is committed to fairness, equity, and the humane treatment of all parties.


The Graduate College Ombudsperson Office is funded by the Graduate College but is independent of that office.  The Ombudsperson reports summary information about Office activities that is not individually identifiable to the Graduate Dean, for example numbers of contacts and types of situations considered, and may bring general suggestions regarding changes in policies and procedures.