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Follmer to serve as University’s first graduate student ombudsperson

Kayla Follmer

As part of the University’s larger Academic Transformation efforts and increased focus on student success, the Office of the Provost has appointed Kayla Follmer to serve as the University’s first graduate student ombudsperson for the 2023-24 academic year. 

Follmer, associate professor of management in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, will begin her three-year term in fall 2023. She was selected by an internal, University-wide search committee this spring with representatives from the WVU Office for Graduate Education and Life and the Provost’s Office. 

“Our graduate students play a critical role in the life of our institution and we continue to identify ways to ensure their ongoing success,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said. “We are so grateful to Professor Follmer for stepping into this role to provide our students confidential and independent conflict resolution and support they need.”

The graduate student ombudsperson is a part-time position, approximately 10 hours per week or 25% FTE, and a designated neutral and impartial dispute-resolution practitioner whose major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to all graduate students in the University community. Follmer will be available for both in-person and virtual meetings.

Like her faculty ombudsperson counterpart, Follmer reports to Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Culture Melissa Latimer.

Serving as a designated neutral, the GSO is neither an advocate for any individual nor an advocate for the organization, but rather is an advocate for fairness. The GSO acts as a source of information and referral, aids in answering a student’s questions, and assists in the resolution of concerns and critical situations. In considering any given instance or concern, the point of view of all parties that might be involved are taken into account. The GSO office supplements — but does not replace — the University’s existing resources for formal conflict resolution.

“I’m honored to be the first graduate student ombudsperson,” Follmer said. “It is incredible to work for an institution that continues to invest resources in the well-being and success of its graduate students.” 

Follmer joined the Chambers College in 2019 and has also been serving as the PhD Coordinator for the Department of Management since 2021. She earned her doctoral degree in industrial organizational psychology from Penn State University, and her research is focused on diversity in the workplace with specific interest in understanding the work experiences of employees with mental illness. Follmer’s research aims to identify organizational interventions that increase workplace inclusivity for all individuals as well as minimize the likelihood of serious consequences associated with mental illness, such as suicidal thoughts and behaviors. 

Additional details about Follmer’s available meeting hours and location will be shared early in the fall semester when she will begin taking appointments. She will maintain her faculty position at the Chambers College and serve in this new role in a part-time capacity.