Ombuds returns to upcoming TWS conference

Jen Sims will be in Louisville to work through any issues attendees may have at the conference

The Wildlife Society is welcoming back organizational ombuds Jen Sims to The Wildlife Society’s upcoming conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Last year, Sims joined TWS members in Spokane at the Society’s annual conference for the first time. She served as an independent, impartial, confidential resource for conference attendees to obtain information, seek guidance and discuss options for dealing with concerns they may experience or observe at the conference.

“I think for the first year, it was kind of the introduction, and I think it went really well,” said Sims, who owns her own consulting business called Making Talk Work, which focuses on conflict, coaching training and ombuds work. “I’ve done a couple of these, and I would say my reception from both staff and also the community was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had. I thought everybody was very open to it.”

Sims even noted one attendee, a state administrator, sharing that he wanted to use the ombuds idea as a model for handling conflicts at his work.

Sims has a breadth of experience in handling conflicts. She has provided conflict management and collaboration services as a consultant to a number of organizations in different industries for more than 20 years. She served as the Staff Ombuds Office for the University of Texas, an office she founded and directed for more than six years.

When Sims learned of the position opening at The Wildlife Society’s conference, she was particularly interested. “In my past life, I was a naturalist guide,” she said.

This year, Sims has similar goals and plans as last year. If there are any talks that might be contentious, Sims will make sure to show up to those particular events. She hopes word of mouth will also bring concerned attendees to her. “If there’s anything that needs to come out, I hope it does come out,” she said. Solutions could be as simple as making sure presenters are using microphones so people who are hard of hearing can better participate, making for a more inclusive conference.

Sims hopes her presence at the conference allows attendees to come away with the idea that there are informal ways to resolve conflict. She plans to apply skills of observation, deep listening, inquiry, sense making and assessment of patterns to uncover possible responses an attendee might consider. “It doesn’t have to be so adversarial,” she said.

At the conference, Sims can be reached at (432) 294-5673 or in Galt Holly Room (3rd Floor, West Tower).

Header Image: Ombuds Jen Sims will help conference attendees work through any issues that may arise at the conference. Credit: Ken Lund