The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) seeks its first organizational Ombudsperson to foster a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist community of belonging for its students, faculty, and staff. This is an on-site and in-person role, and the anticipated start date is January/February 2023.

The Position


SAIC’s inaugural Ombudsperson will provide neutral, informal, independent, and confidential conflict resolution services to the School’s constituencies through a restorative practice lens. The Ombudsperson reports to the Office of the President for administrative and budgetary purposes, and in a manner that is independent of ordinary line and staff structure. This ensures that the Ombudsperson will use independent judgment, in accordance with the office’s charter, regarding whether to become involved in a matter and what steps to undertake regarding each matter. Guided by the International Ombudsman Association’s (IOA) current Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, they will engage in consultation, conflict assessment and analysis, conflict coaching, mediation, and facilitation to encourage amenable parties to reach mutually agreeable solutions to concerns between or among individual or groups wherever possible. Further, they will develop, design, deliver, and evaluate a range of training programs regarding mediation, negotiation, and other related skill sets to promote constructive communication, conflict resolution, and collaborative problem solving within an art and design school context.

This new role extends SAIC’s strategic commitment to actively support and advance diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and anti-racism within the School. Through culturally responsive services and practices, the Ombudsperson will provide a discrete space for students, faculty, and staff to share issues and explore early resolution options to avoid escalation of conflicts and empower individuals to find self-directed solutions to problems. Additionally, the Ombudsperson will confidentially advise the President and other DEI staff on overall and emerging trends and will develop a process for sharing general statistics and information about the usage of the Ombudsperson’s services with the School community while maintaining the confidentiality of the office.


A bachelor’s degree and four years of professional experience in conflict resolution are required. The successful candidate will be expected to hold or obtain CO-OP certification from the International Ombudsman Association or equivalent.

The search committee is also prioritizing the following as highly desired skills and traits for the Ombudsperson:

  • Experience in providing two-party and group facilitation
  • The ability to communicate effectively with students, faculty, and staff confidentially on sensitive topics and maintain an emotionally resilient and compassionate style
  • Familiarity with quantitative data analysis
  • Alignment with SAIC’s commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable institution


This is an inaugural position at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The creation of the Ombudsperson role at SAIC was one of the initiatives adopted in the Anti-Racism Committee’s Spring 2021 report. The establishment of the position is one of seven action items within the report that are specifically focused on how members of the SAIC community care for one another and expanding the capacity for inclusivity when people join the School community and throughout their tenure at SAIC.


SAIC’s inaugural Ombudsperson must commit to a comprehensive culture of collaboration/partnering and clear and transparent communication across the School’s downtown and Homan Square locations. The Ombudsperson will be expected to show a clear and active commitment to building strong, healthy, and transparent relationships as a foundation of the office, and strong communication and accountability will be essential to ensuring success. The Ombudsperson will interact with a wide variety of stakeholders including students, faculty, administration, departments, and community members, so it will be crucial that the new Ombudsperson proactively reach out across each of these areas to build and nurture relationships that foster ongoing positive interactions. These connections are essential to assess the real needs of constituents, provide credible and responsive services and programs for the campus, and ensure that the office of the Ombudsperson is known for its alignment with the IOA pillars of confidentiality, neutrality, independence, and informality.

There are several aspects of the role of Ombudsperson, as articulated by SAIC stakeholders, in which the successful candidate will need to be prepared to lead. These include the following:

  • Create a comprehensive and broadly inclusive communication and outreach plan to introduce the Ombudsperson to the SAIC community, including a web presence and supporting digital and print collateral.
  • Quickly connect and engage with the various leaders and offices that comprise SAIC’s diversity, equity, and inclusion infrastructure, including but not limited to, the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Academic Affairs; Multicultural Affairs staff; Director of Title IX; and International Affairs colleagues.
  • Prioritize and take active steps to comprehensively learn SAIC’s unique culture, including the nuances of a world-renown art and design school’s curriculum and approach to the mentoring and education of artists and designers.
  • Develop strong knowledge of SAIC’s administrative structure and bureaucracy; the full range of conflict resolution services and programs currently in place; and all policies and procedures which guide and impact the work, participation, and experiences of community members.
  • Work with the appropriate stakeholders to craft a proposed charter for the Office of the Ombudsperson, seek feedback, and shepherd the process of formal adoption of the charter.
  • Develop a framework for an annual report that disseminates information on the activities of the office while respecting confidentiality and anonymity.


The inaugural Ombudsperson will work directly with President Tenny to identify specific quantitative and qualitative measures of success and their timetables upon joining SAIC.

In the short term, the Ombudsperson’s success will be measured by the degree to which they have learned SAIC’s student, faculty, and staff cultures; worked closely with the President to clearly define the Ombudsperson’s neutral, confidential, independent, and informal role; built relationships with key constituents, and become broadly recognized as a trusted and credible member of the community.

In the longer term, success will be measured through a carefully constructed assessment and accountability system that may include an annual report, periodic campus surveys, a peer review, and/or an advisory committee.

Institution & Location


For more than 150 years, SAIC has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers, and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program consistently ranking among the top four graduate fine arts programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities.

One of the country’s largest accredited independent schools of art and design, SAIC enrolls approximately 3,550 talented and socially engaged students, with roughly 2,800 undergraduate students and 750 graduate students, 27.6 percent of whom self-identify as a student of color. International students, representing 79 countries, comprise 30 percent of the student population. Guided, supported, and mentored by 172 full-time and 584 part-time faculty members, SAIC students have the freedom to take risks and create the bold ideas that transform Chicago and the world—as seen through notable alumni and faculty such as Michelle Grabner, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave, and LeRoy Neiman.

Mission and vision statements

Core Values

Strategic Initiatives


During the 2018-19 academic year, seven action groups, each comprised of full- and part-time faculty, staff, and students, were formed to work on each of the seven initiatives of NEXT. Those initiatives are:

  • Increase affordability and value
  • Enhance belonging
  • Continue to cultivate diversity and inclusion
  • Reimagine use and scheduling of time to reinvigorate learning
  • Facilitate new forms of interdisciplinarity
  • Support all faculty in teaching and learning
  • Build continuity towards life after art school

To read the entire strategic plan please see here.


SAIC’s primary purpose is to cultivate a campus designed to encourage the discovery and development of significant ideas and images. The School is, therefore, committed to assembling a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff and to nurturing and creating an environment in which those different perspectives and backgrounds can be heard, valued, and utilized.

Read more about SAIC’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and commitments here.


Elissa Tenny – President

Elissa Tenny was named President in July 2016, becoming the 15th executive and first woman to lead the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in its more than 150-year history. A career-long proponent of art and design education and the liberal arts, Tenny is an advocate of interdisciplinary practice; diversity, equity, and inclusion in college and throughout society; and the global citizenship role artists, designers, and scholars fulfill, influencing the world at large.

While at SAIC, Tenny has had broad responsibility for overseeing the School’s world-renowned academic programs, strategic direction, and operations across all facets of the Institution. During her tenure, the School completed its first-ever major fundraising campaign at 110 percent of its goal. She implemented one strategic plan—which increased student support, developed diversity initiatives, and created organizational efficiencies—and initiated another, NEXT, which is ongoing. Opportunities for research have increased under Tenny’s leadership, and she personally served as principal investigator for Spencer Foundation-funded research projects involving six Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) schools. Throughout, she has remained a leader in the field, having contributed to AICAD and National Association of Schools of Art and Design conferences, delivered the keynote address at the 40th anniversary celebration for The New School’s School of Media Studies, been named a notable woman in both education and as an executive by Crain’s Chicago Business, and ranked sixth on Newcity’s list of Chicago notables, “Art 50 2017: Who Makes Art Work.”

President’s Cabinet



Benefits Overview

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers the following benefits, among others, to qualified employees.

  • Generous paid time off
  • Paid holidays (up to 14 days)
  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Generous parental, caregiver, and medical leave benefits
  • Competitive retirement plan (up to 9% matching contribution)
  • Tuition remission and Tuition Exchange Program
  • Great employee discounts
  • Complimentary general admission to participating cultural institutions

To learn about the full range of benefits offered at SAIC, please see here.

Application & Nomination

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has retained the services of Spelman Johnson, a leading national executive search firm, to assist with leading this search. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position and details about the status of the search may be emailed to Michel R. Frendian, senior consultant, at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email

COVID Vaccination Requirement

All SAIC employees must complete an attestation and provide proof of their vaccination and booster status or request a medical or religious exemption within the first week of employment.

 Visit the School of the Art Institute of Chicago website at

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is an equal opportunity, equal access employer fully committed to achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace.