A lawyer with experience in higher education and helping people to advocate for themselves is the new ombudsperson at NIU.
Sarah Klaper, who grew up in Wheaton in a family of educators and lives in St. Charles, promises to maintain the on-campus relationships and reputation fostered by her predecessor, Tim Griffin.
She also plans to build upon that foundation.
“NIU has a really active and dedicated population of students, faculty and staff, and that has inspired me to be here,” Klaper said. “The idea of working with all of these different groups to resolve conflict, and to work toward policies that prevent these conflicts from happening, fits my background and interests exactly.”
The Office of the Ombudsperson offers a safe place for any member of the university community to discuss university-related issues or conflicts in a confidential manner.
Klaper and her staff listen to the concerns brought by visitors, provide information about university policies and procedures, help visitors to assess their situations and suggest options that might help them to resolve the matters.
“All of my past experience in higher education and as a community lawyer lends itself to this position,” she said.
“My career outside of the classroom has been dedicated to helping others to identify the core of their concerns, and then determining the systems, policies, and procedures available that will provide them with the best resolution to their issues. I basically help others to know where they fit in the bigger picture, and how they can be most effective with their goals.”
She comes to NIU from DePaul University in Chicago, where she had worked in the College of Law since 2006.
As an instructor, she taught courses in school law, legal analysis, state and local government and more. She also was an active member of faculty committees, including the Center for Public Interest Law, and supervised student-teaching assistants, researchers and interns.
During Klaper’s years as a community lawyer with the Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, where she worked from 2002 to 2006, she provided legal services regarding local government issues.
She created coalitions and collaborated with a variety of groups and individuals to resolve client conflicts with local government with a focus on providing clients with the tools to resolve their own problems. She also developed and marketed public education programs on open government.
“We were advocates for the community and for citizen participation in government,” she said.
Klaper also is a frequent speaker at conferences and workshops, most recently presenting on “The Eye-Roll Heard ’Round the World: Protecting Citizens’ Free Speech and Petition Rights in Accessing Local Government.”
The attorney – she earned her juris doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1997, and owned a Naperville-based practice from 2000 to 2002 – hopes to teach some classes at NIU after she has established her office within the campus community.
For more information on the Office of the Ombudsman, call (815) 753-1414, email [email protected] or visit Room 601 of the Holmes Student Center.
Members of the campus community also are invited to meet Klaper and her staff at an open house, scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, in the office.