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Ombudsperson & Chief Culture Officer

Headshot of Leah OcchialiniThe Office of the Ombudsperson is a unique place where HCC faculty and staff can talk confidentially and "off the record" about any campus concern, issue, or conflict. The Ombuds works with visitors in a variety of ways to help them understand their options and resolve their concerns. The Ombudsperson works to foster a culture in which differences can be resolved through respectful communication and fair process.

The Office of the Ombudsperson operates pursuant to a Charter Agreement with Holyoke Community College and the International Ombudsman Association Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. Ombuds services are confidential*, neutral, informal, and independent.

* The exception to confidentiality is if there is an imminent threat of serious harm, or a Title IX disclosure requiring reporting.


To support the interests, rights, and privileges of faculty and staff at all levels of college operations and programs, and to promote a safe, respectful, and productive working and learning environment. The Ombudsperson is designated by the college to function as a confidential, neutral, independent, and informal resource to assist faculty and staff. They work with individuals and groups to (1) explore and assist them in determining options to help resolve conflicts, problematic issues, and concerns, and (2) to bring systemic concerns to the attention of the college by reporting confidential aggregate trends and statistics. The Ombudsperson follows the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, and performs duties as defined under the Holyoke Community College Ombudsperson Office Charter Agreement.

issues you may want to explore
  • Interpersonal conflict with another faculty or staff member
  • Interpersonal conflict with a student
  • Disagreement or impasse within a group
  • Clarification about rights and policies
  • Dynamics between a supervisor and supervisee
  • Planning an important meeting or roll-out of a new policy
  • Conflict of interest or ethical dilemma
  • Cultural misunderstanding
  • Hiring, firing, promotion, or position change for yourself or someone else
  • Navigating the restructuring of a department
  • Gaining/practicing communication skills
  • Gaining/practicing conflict resolution skills
  • Gaining/practicing management skills
  • Borrow a book from the Ombuds book collection

No employment issue is too big or too small. Not sure if your concern is appropriate for the Ombuds office? Make an appointment!

what the ombuds does
  • Discusses your concerns and help you clarify issues
  • Provides one-on-one communication and conflict resolution coaching
  • Provides information about, and referrals to, other campus resources
  • Provides information about HCC policies and procedures
  • Explores resolution and negotiation strategies
  • Offers mediations to two or more people
  • Facilitates group meetings
  • Conducts informal information gatherings on your behalf
  • Offers skill-building workshops
  • Tracks trends on campus and reports aggregate statistics
  • Recommends institutional improvements
what the ombuds does not do
  • Offer legal advice or testify in legal proceedings
  • Provide psychological counseling
  • Advocate on behalf of individuals, groups, or causes
  • Participate in or gather evidence for grievance procedures
  • Revise, rescind, or mandate college policies
  • Make binding decisions
  • Recommend or enforce discipline
  • Put the institution on legal notice
  • Create or maintain records that name individuals
  • Maintain confidentiality if there is imminent threat of serious harm or a Title IX disclosure requiring reporting
how to make appointments

Appointments with the Ombudsperson are usually scheduled to last 45 minutes, though they can be scheduled for more or less time in order to accommodate your schedule. Meetings are usually held in the Ombuds office (MRB 119), but can be held in another location of your choosing. Appointments outside of regular business hours (including mornings, nights, and weekends) are available by request and can be either by phone or in-person. Please contact the Ombudsperson at 413.552.2825 or to request an appointment. It is up to you how many details you'd like to share about your situation when you request an appointment, and none are required. If you're not sure whether the issue is something usually handled by the Ombudsperson, you are encouraged to make an appointment and explore all your options with the Ombudsperson during your first meeting.

what to expect during an appointment

During your first consultation, the Ombudsperson will go over the standards of practice with you to be sure you understand the role of the Ombudsperson and the limits to confidentiality. The Ombuds will answer any questions you have about their role and/or the process. Then you'll have a chance to talk through the issue that brought you to the office. The Ombuds may have clarifying questions, or may request that you expand on something you've said, but her most important function in the beginning is to listen to you without judgment.

Once the issues are clarified, the Ombuds will work with you to identify relevant college policies or procedures, and to find options to help you navigate the problem. You and the Ombuds together will decide on the best approach and next steps. The Ombuds will not impose solutions or take any action without your permission. The Ombuds will also request your permission to follow up with you after your initial meeting.

When your matter is concluded, the Ombuds will confidentially destroy any personal notes the Ombuds may have taken. All other records, if any, shall be retained confidentially in accordance with the Commonwealth's Statewide Record Retention Schedule. Some people come to the office for one visit; others may schedule multiple visits depending on the issues and their choice for resolution options. It is also common for people to speak with the Ombuds and return later after having considered all their options. There is no issue too big or too small, and all HCC faculty and staff should feel welcome to contact the Ombudsperson and access Ombuds services.

chief culture officer

  • To foster a strong campus culture and climate grounded in the college's mission to Educate. Inspire. Connect.
  • To instill the college's values of Innovation, Collaboration, Kindness, Inclusion and Trust into all aspects of the student and employee experience at HCC.

The CCO leads the college's campus-wide efforts to create a culture of civility and belonging that encourages, celebrates, and supports employees, resulting in an exceptional student experience.

The CCO works to:

  1. Lead campus wide efforts to manage change, ensure consistent standards, and serve as a change agent in the areas of climate/culture
  2. Act as a liaison between individuals or groups and the campus administrative structure as needed
  3. Function as a sensor within the campus community to identify problems or trends that affect significant parts of the community or the entire campus
  4. Develop strategies to implement new practices and expectations regarding civility, culture, and inclusion
  5. Make creative recommendations for systemic change to the administration.

Any HCC faculty or staff member should feel free to schedule an appointment with the Chief Culture Officer.

The CCO commonly meets with people to hear their views on:

  • Current campus climate/culture
  • The climate/culture of an office or department
  • How to make the campus a better place to work
  • A new campus policy or procedure
  • An upcoming initiative and/or event hosted by the CCO
  • An previous initiative and/or event hosted by the CCO
  • Help or clarification with filling out a CCO Climate Survey
  • Partnering with another office or department on a campus-wide initiative

Lea Occhialini

Ombudsperson and Chief Culture Officer

Office of the President

Marieb 119

413.552.2825 (Tel)