Merlynette Griffin has held many job titles at NIU, but each position had one thing in common – the need to counsel students and others with whom she worked. That knack for providing guidance and compassion will come in very useful in her new job as the interim ombudsperson. She takes over the position Aug. 1.
“I like working with students in challenging situations and helping them solve problems,” Griffin says. “I am excited to serve in this role where I can engage with all populations across the university and offer my expertise in managing difficult conversations. “
The job of ombudsperson will provide opportunities for her to use all of those skills. The office provides confidential and informal assistance for resolving university-related concerns, independent of the university’s formal administrative structure, and considers all sides of an issue in a neutral manner. The office annually assists nearly 1,000 individuals– students, faculty and staff – trying to address the unique concerns of each. The office also provides input into the development of policies and procedures to help make the institution as responsive as possible to the needs of its constituents.
Griffin arrived at NIU as a student in 1998, entering as a first-generation student through the CHANCE program and earning an undergraduate degree in general studies. In subsequent years, she completed two master’s degrees, one in public health and a second in education, with a focus on clinical mental health counseling.
She began working for the university in 2008 as a counselor in the CHANCE program and later joined the staff at Health and Enhancement (later known as Wellness Promotion). In 2016, she moved to the College of Health and Human Sciences, where she served as an academic counselor in the nursing program before becoming the academic advising coordinator for that program in 2017.
That breadth of experience will help Griffin in her new role, she believes.
“Having existing collaborative relationships across campus will help me get the answers that those who reach out to the ombudsperson’s office are seeking,” Griffin says. “My goal is to help those I work with to feel heard and supported.”
Griffin, who lives with her family in Sycamore, got an early start on the job by introducing herself to students at last Friday’s Huskie Hustle event.