IOA 2024 Attendee Experience

What to Expect at Conference

Every year, members of the International Ombuds Association, colleagues, and friends collaborate and meet at the IOA Annual Conference. This year, the Conference Committee has built an event with plenty of opportunities to connect, meet, strengthen, and create friendships within the IOA community.

Early Morning Activities | Research Café | Ombuds StoriesDinner with an Expert | Common ReadingOmbudSing | CommUnity | Networking


We have already started matching up Ombuddies for the conference. If you filled out the form and have not received an Ombuddy yet, we may be missing your name/email, so please fill out the form again so we can get you connected. Even if you don’t have an assigned Ombuddy by the start of the conference, please feel free to visit the Ombuds Lounge at any time throughout the conference to connect with others!

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday | 6:30 - 7:00 AM

Early Morning Activities: Up early? Want to relieve some stress before a long day of conference sessions? 

Run, Pilates, "Community Singing"

Monday | 3:30 - 4:00 PM | Ombuds Lounge

IOA Research Café

Please join members of the Research and Assessment Committee for IOA’s first Research Café! A research café brings the ombuds community together to create space to exchange research ideas, get peer feedback for an idea that they may have, and build potential research collaborations in a friendly and low stake setting.  Not only does this allow ombuds to connect with others interested in research, but also allows them to share their research journey – whether they have done research before or are just beginning.


Monday | 6:30 - 7:15 PM | Ombuds Lounge

Ombuds Stories 

Hear stories from practicing ombuds that will provide five glimpses into the personal journeys that delineate the boundaries of the ombuds profession and epitomize the range of experiences we all bring to our work.

Monday 7:15 PM | Meet in the Ombuds Lounge

Dinner with an Expert

Dinner with an expert is a great opportunity to connect with others at the IOA Annual Conference in a smaller group. It takes place on Monday, March 18 and participants can choose to join a group of 4-6 people and discuss a particular topic of interest together. The group will depart from the Ombuds Lounge at 7:15 PM unless otherwise noted. Please review the available slots below and sign up with your name and onsite contact information. All participants are responsible for their dining expenses.

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Freedom of Expression in Campus Discussions with Natalie Fleurry at Nada

Come prepared to discuss Freedom of Expression principles and challenges facing campuses today. Differentiating between issues related to the First Amendment, freedom of expression, and academic freedom and how freedom of speech differs for public versus private universities are potential topics for discussion. The group will also discuss approaches for ombuds when students, faculty, and/or staff raise freedom of expression concerns with an ombuds office.

The IndyOmbuds 100 with Reese Ramos at Izzy's

Indianapolis is home to a number of car racing events. In the spirit of those race car drivers obsessed with winning, we’ll explore over-dinner marketing techniques that can propel our Ombuds Offices across the checkered flag as we help our offices go from obscurity to widely known in our institutions. We’ll specifically explore: Branding our Office; Creating an Empowering Identity and; Some Successful Marketing & Outreach Techniques.

Developing Relationships Across the Organization with Sarah Klaper at Weber Grill

The main route to effectiveness as an ombuds is through building relationships and trust throughout the organization. This dinner will include examples of when relationship development has made all the difference in the outcome of a situation; an interactive discussion about both balancing relationship development and impartiality, as well as strategies for developing relationships. Learning outcomes: Learn strategies for developing relationships across the organization; Refine participants’ understanding of the SoPs regarding impartiality in developing organizational relationships; Develop a better understanding of the importance of relationship development.

Transforming Visitor Conversations from a DEIB Lens with Michael Herrington and Jeff Witt at The Eagle

This conversation will focus on tools, behaviors and strategies that support and encourage effective dialogue for ombuds visitors from a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) lens. We will be discussing tools, techniques and practices that have been effective with our visitors.

Working at an Organization with More than One Ombuds with Scott B. Cantor at Buca de Beppo

Some organizations have more than one ombuds, especially if it is a large organization.  There are opportunities and challenges for such ombuds departments.  We will discuss these opportunities and challenges and hope to gain insights from hearing about each other’s experiences.

Writing/Publishing with Merry Brown at Spoke and Steele

Join us for an evening of engaging discussions over a delightful meal, focusing on the intricacies of writing and publishing. Whether you're seeking guidance to start, finish, or publish your work, this dinner group promises valuable insights and lively conversation. Learning Outcomes: Gain practical strategies.

Do "Races" Exist? with Jennifer Swann at PF. Chang's

Stratification by race is prevalent in the US. We are continuously bombarded by images and stories of people predicated by their racial class. But are those classifications real? Where do they come from and why do they persist? Join me for a discussion of race and racism as social constructs as we unpack the science it is so loosely "based" on. Our conversation will draw from Graves and Goodman's "Racism, not Race" which is recommended but not required for our discussion.

Working with Visitors whose Beliefs Conflict Our Own with Bathabile Mthombeni at Modita

Our discussion will cover developing strategies for working with visitors whose beliefs contradict our own. In today's sociopolitical climate, Ombuds practitioners are more likely than ever to encounter visitors asking for help solving problems or achieving goals that contradict their own. For example, in the Higher Ed setting, a student might object to a professor's requirement that students in the classroom use their classmates' preferred gender pronouns and want the Ombuds' guidance about how to get that requirement overruled. What happens when the Ombuds believes that the student's request is uncivil and discriminatory and would perpetuate harm?

For learning outcomes the participants would learn how to set intentions and remain curious in the conversation, how to manage the urge to argue, and how to self-regulate from a nervous system perspective.

Reporting/reporting Categories with Lily Xu and Jacqueline Villafane at The Old Spaghetti Factory

Let’s get together over a meal and talk about reporting and reporting categories at your organization and learn from each other.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Understanding and discussion around customizing the IOA Uniform Reporting Categories - making them user-friendly
  2. Learning from each other on presenting data outside of Annual Reports – presenting data when the numbers are low and making an impact with reporting.
  3. Lessons learned from report sharing.

Monday |  9:00 -10:30 PM

OmbudSing Group Sing-Along

Whether you’re a shower or freeway singer or sing professionally when you’re not ombudsing, we look forward to having you join us for a night of song! Dana Hinojosa and Chuck Doran will host and provide lyrics and guitar accompaniment for your favorite songs from the past 60 years! All you need to bring is your voice and love of music! (Music lovers who don’t sing are also welcome to attend.)

Interest Form

Tuesday, March 19 - 9:00-10:30 PM

Karaoke night

Party it up with karaoke with your ombuddies on the last night of the conference! You can pick any song and do it with a friend – no need to worry about how you sound, just come have fun with friends and enjoy music. Feel free to join in on the late-night fun even if you don’t plan to sing!

Tuesday, March 19 - 10:30 AM -12:30 PM

Headshot Lounge

Back by popular demand, the headshot lounge will be open on Tuesday from 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Stop in for a new professional headshot complimentary of IOA!

Wednesday, March 20 - 11:15 AM -11:45 AM

IOA Common Reading Experience

Please join members of the Research and Assessment Committee for IOA’s first Research Café! A research café brings the ombuds community together to create space to exchange research ideas, get peer feedback for an idea that they may have, and build potential research collaborations in a friendly and low-stake setting.  Not only does this allow ombuds to connect with others interested in research, but also allows them to share their research journey – whether they have done research before or are just beginning.

This year’s article is “The Visitor Experience and Standards of Alignment Audit” written by Martha Patrick, University Ombudsperson and Director of Ombuds Services at the University of Massachusetts – Boston.  This article discusses a self-assessment framework and process designed specifically for ombuds programs. The audit is grounded in the customer-focused service improvement principles of Jan Carlzon and draws from the theories of learning organizations developed by Chris Argyris and Peter Senge. The audit takes participants through a series of stages and exercises with two primary goals: understanding and improving our visitors’ experience and increasing our fidelity to our professional and operational standards. The audit process is designed to be iterative and its insights to provide data needed for continual improvement. Read the article. There will also be summaries of the article available at the conference for those who would like to participate in the conversation but did not get the opportunity to read ahead of time. 


Wednesday, March 20 - 11:45 AM -12:00 PM (during the closing ceremony)

Ombsemble performance

End the conference at the closing ceremony singing alongside your ombuddies to a version of “I Can See Clearly Now” from the perspective of our visitors. We will sing together every morning of the conference as an early bird activity to practice and start off the day with the positivity of singing!

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Further the Conversation on the IOA CommUnity

In addition the in-person conversations and events at the conference we invite you to share your experience on the IOA Online CommUnity. Join a discussion, start a conversation about a session topic, and dive deeper into the subject matters that most relate to your ombuds experience. 

Also, post about your experience on the social media platform of your choice. Tag IOA in your posts to share your conference experience with the greater IOA community.

Learn more about the Online CommUnity 


The IOA Conference provides a platform for conversation and relationship-building. Check out a few of the ways you can better connect with your fellow conference attendees.

Ombuds Lounge: Stop by the Ombuds Lounge to recharge your devices and your spirits. We will have board games, a four-person escape room, and plenty of space to send emails or catch up with new and old friends.