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University and College Ombudsman Association (UCOA) , 1970 - 2013


Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

Mary P. Rowe was Special Assistant to the President and Ombudsperson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1973 to 2014. Her position was called Special Assistant for Women and Work when she started at MIT in February 1973 and she reported directly to MIT President Jerome Wiesner and MIT Chancellor Paul Gray. Later, the title became simply Special Assistant, and with Clarence G. Williams, who filled an analogous position as Special Assistant (starting as Special Assistant for Minority Affairs), the two formally became the first ombudspersons at MIT when MIT President Paul Gray established the Ombuds Office in 1980.

The Mary Rowe personal archives (MC 709) is closely tied to the MIT Institute Archives administrative collection AC 232 which contains administrative records of MIT and consulting work, publications, and presentations created by Mary Rowe in her position as Special Assistant to the President from 1973 to 2014.

Any researcher interested in research about issues of conflict management, discrimination, gender roles, gender equity, alternative dispute resolution, sexual harassment, the organizational ombuds profession and its effect on the workplace, and other workplace issues over a forty year period from the 1970s to 2000s, should consult and use both collections. With ongoing support from MIT, Mary Rowe was a consultant and speaker at academic, non-profit, international, and corporate institutions, and a writer, teacher, and a leader in the development of a broader ombuds profession. The organizational ombudsperson task was “to provide confidential and informal assistance to managers and employees [and others] on work-related concerns.”

The bulk of collection MC-0709 dates from the 1980s and 1990s and is comprised of records from the Corporate Ombudsman Association (later in 1992, The Ombudsman Association) and the University and College Ombudsman Association. The Corporate Ombudsman Association (COA) had its first meeting at MIT in 1982. Mary Rowe was a co-founder and then its first president when it was formally organized in 1984. Some records of the Corporate Ombudsman Association (COA) are found in boxes 5-11, 35 and 36. and some records of the organization after its reconfiguration to The Ombudsman Association (TOA) are found in boxes 12-25 and 36-38.

Other ombuds organizations are represented in the collection. Materials include files about annual conferences and are useful to show the evolving nature of the profession and highlight work place issues that emerged at specific times. There is information of an informal academic group, the California Caucus of College and University Ombudsman. The Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR), and the East Coast Area Ombuds Group which has met regularly at MIT are also represented. Some records of the University and College Ombudsman Association (UCOA) are found in boxes 1-4, and 35. Some records of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) -- formed after the merger of UCOA and TOA -- are found in box 26. Membership directories of these organizations show the breadth of interest and representation in the ombuds profession.

Materials in the collection document practices of persons holding ombuds positions in all types of organizations including government, academic, corporate, multi-national, international, and non-profit organizations. There is information on important initiatives to address shared issues including effectiveness of organizational ombuds, ethics, the Standards of Practice as they affect “privileged” communication, and the need for shield laws. The “Crystal Ball” files show the landscape of ombuds work, illuminating the effort to collect and share “new issues" and potential issues of the future. Surveys of members, programs of annual conferences, and articles by various practitioners show the development of the organizational ombuds profession from its beginning through its first decades. There are a number of training materials. Teaching cases covering specialized topics can be found in box 22. The Ombudsman Association offered a series of comprehensive courses, Ombudsman 101, 202, and 303. Mary Rowe collaborated with others in teaching these and other courses offered by TOA. Course materials can be found in boxes 22, 23, 24, 37 and 38. Materials in boxes 27-30 were transferred together. They provide an overview of Organizational Ombuds history, including bibliographies, directories, reports of surveys, seminal articles on the development of the ombuds profession, and important articles on confidentiality issues in the practice of the ombuds profession.

Articles by various ombuds association members can be found throughout the collection. Mary Rowe has written a number of articles about diversity, gender roles in families, discrimination, harassment, mentoring, and the work and usefulness of organizational ombuds. Many of her publications are together in boxes 31 to 34.


  • Creation: 1970 - 2013


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open.

Digital Access Note

Some parts of this collection are available online: Links to specific online digital items are found within their entry in this finding aid. Portions of certain digitized files are not available online at the request of the creator.

Biographical / Historical

The University and College Ombudsman Association (UCOA) was incorporated October 24, 1984, in the State of Illinois.


From the Collection: 13.7 Cubic Feet (38 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US