About Our Office

History of the Ombuds Office at Mount Holyoke College

The Office of the Ombuds/Ombudsperson was opened in 1988 with the mission to assist the Mount Holyoke College Community in achieving mutual respect and understanding through informal conflict resolution and striving to ensure that all members of the College Community receive fair and equitable treatment within the College system.

The Mount Holyoke Ombudsperson is a trained and certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner (CO-OP), operating the Ombuds Office in accordance with the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics established by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA).The International Ombudsman Association (IOA) is the largest international association of professional organizational Ombudsmen practitioners in the world, representing more than 500 members from the United States and across the globe. IOA was officially formed in July 2005 following the merger of the University and College Ombuds Association (UCOA) and The Ombudsman Association (TOA).

The IOA is dedicated to excellence in the practice of Ombudsman work. The IOA Code of Ethics provides a common set of professional ethical principles to which members adhere in their organizational Ombudsman practice.

History of the word Ombudsman

Ombudsman is from Swedish, a Germanic language in the same family as English, and man in Swedish corresponds to our word man. Ombud means “commissioner, agent,” coming from Old Norse umbodh, “charge, commission, administration by a delegacy,” umbodh being made up of um, “regarding,” and bodh, “command.”

In Old Norse an umbodhsmadhr was a “trusty manager, commissary.” In Swedish an ombudsman was a deputy who looked after the interests and legal affairs of a group such as a trade union or business. In 1809 the office of riksdagens justitieombudsman was created to act as an agent of justice, that is, to see after the interests of justice in affairs between the government and its citizens. This office of ombudsman and the word ombudsman have been adopted elsewhere, as in individual states in the United States.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.