Content Skip to content.
San Diego State University

Office of the Ombudsman

About the Ombudsman’s Office

What does “Ombudsman” mean?

The word "ombudsman" originated in Scandinavia and means "representative of the people."  In Sweden, there were government officials appointed to receive and investigate complaints made by individuals against abuses or capricious acts of public officials (Webster’s Dictionary).  This term has also come to be used for the individuals who investigate student complaints and act as neutral mediators to try to reach fair solutions for the parties involved. 

The ombudsman position was originally created in Sweden in 1809.  The Swedish Parliament appointed an ombudsman to resolve difficult problems in the absence of the country’s abducted king.  In the U.S. and Canada, ombuds programs have been created to assist citizens, consumers, employees  and students who wish to address concerns about administrative actions or lack of action.  The ombuds function is utilized in state and local governments, nursing homes, the media, colleges and universities, industry, prisons, and agencies of the federal government.  (Ombuds history excerpted from the University and College Ombuds Association handbook).

History of the Ombudsman at SDSU

The Office of the Ombudsman at SDSU was established in 1968, just two years after Eastern Montana College became the first educational institution in the United States to appoint an ombudsperson.  In 1967, Michigan State University had become the first major U.S. University to implement and ombuds office.  During the late 1960's and early 1970's, a number of universities established ombuds programs in an attempt to respond to demands for a neutral, confidential, and "safe" place to discuss concerns and voice complaints.  It is now estimated that more than 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada have implemented ombuds offices. 

The Office of the ombudsman belongs to the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) and operates in accordance with IOA’s Standards of Practice and Statement of Ethical Principles. 

How many Ombudsmen are there?

At SDSU, there is one Ombudsman.  The Office of the Ombudsman occasionally calls on the assistance of a Volunteer Ombudsman, who is retired faculty or staff who have been trained in mediating student complaints.

Our Staff

photo of Marit BessesenMarit Bessesen

Marit Bessesen is currently the Ombudsman at San Diego State University. Marit protects the rights and interests of students, affords relief, and restores harmony in difficult situations. She guides students with a complaint through normal and/or official channels for redress and acts as a mediator in the resolution of conflict. Marit advises students of their rights and delineates procedures to be followed in filing a grievance with the Student Grievance Committee and assists the complainant with the presentation of materials. She conducts investigations with tact, diplomacy and discretion, respecting the individual's right to privacy and protecting the individual against retribution. Marit also recognizes complaints which lack merit and tactfully advises the student accordingly.

Marit is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where she earned a B.A. Degree in English Education in 2000. Marit taught high school and middle school Language Arts before attending Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, where she achieved a Master's of Arts Degree in Human Development.  During this time she served congruently as an advisor for Career Services at Winona State University.

Marit has served as the Ombudsman at SDSU since 2008. She is an active member of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) and adheres to the IOA's Standards of Practice (PDF). She is also a member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and completed training at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego. Her work with these organizations allows her to stay on top of current issues and emerging trends to more effectively serve the students, faculty and staff at SDSU.

photo of Karla RamirezKarla Ramirez
Administrative Support Coordinator

Karla is the Administrative Support Coordinator and often, the initial point of contact in the Office of the Ombudsman. She started working as a student assistant for the office in 1998 while completing her degree at SDSU and has since continued working as a staff member of the campus community. Karla obtained a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's of Arts degree in Postsecondary Educational Leadership with a Specialization in Student Affairs from San Diego State University in 2001 and 2009 respectively.

She enjoys working with the students, faculty, and staff, that every day contact the Ombudsman’s Office in hopes of seeking assistance, be directed to the right department on campus, or just need to “vent” away their frustration.

Karla also serves as the Student Grievance Committee Secretary.

Who does the Office of the Ombudsman report to?

Our office is in the Student Affairs division, and reports to the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs. However, this does not change the fact that we are an independent office that maintains confidentiality and neutrality.