Volunteer Spotlight: Shannon Lynn Burton – Research and Assessment Committee

By Tiffany Chen, Eastern Michigan University 
IOA Volunteer Coordination Committee

The IOA has always been both a passion and volunteer driven organization. We as part of the Volunteer Coordination Committee, but also IOA, would like to recognize the efforts of our volunteers that keep everything running. It is through our collective efforts that our organization has been able to develop and grow to what it is right now and more importantly what it will become in the future.

This Spotlight Post is to not only recognize some of our fellow IOA members, but also to make a shout-out to their amazing team that helps consistently push research for our work as ombuds on the edge and in the forefront.

We would like to introduce Shannon Lynn Burton from the Research and Assessment Committee for recognition.

Shannon Lynn Burton, Research and Assessment Committee  

What is the Research and Assessment Committee?

The purpose of this committee is to enhance our practice through filling the research and assessment gap. The committee will also support research and assessment to promote excellence in Organizational Ombuds (OO) professional development, to study ombuds practices with the intent not only to understand what ombuds do, but also over time to improve practice (knowledge and skills) of experienced and new ombudspersons based on research findings. 

- Research and Assessment Committee

About Shannon

Shannon is the Chair of the Research and Assessment (RA) Committee and Editor for the Journal for the International Ombudsman Association (JIOA). Outside of IOA, she serves as the University Ombudsperson at Michigan State University and Co-Ombuds for the American Educational Research Association (AERA). She also teaches as an Adjunct Professor of Management at Aquinas College.

Inspirations as a Volunteer 

I have been the University Ombudsperson at Michigan State University since July of 2018, but prior to that, I served as Assistant Ombudsperson and later Associate Ombudsperson at MSU. The MSU Office of the University Ombudsperson primarily works with students. We have a rather large case load, 2018 to 2019 we had over 1000 visitors to the office. We address a wide range of issues in the office - and this is what influenced my interest in research and assessment. I had the recognition that there was not much information out there about the Ombuds role and what they do. When I looked at IOA at that time, there were not any initiatives underway to develop the research skills of the Ombuds community - so I proposed to the Board that we create a Research and Assessment Committee.

The committee wants to strengthen the foundations of the field in an effort to “provide and promote and protect the Ombuds role”. If you look at the history of OO research, there are few individuals consistently doing research on the field. It would strengthen the field if we had more practitioners, as well as academics, doing research.

I think what I enjoy the most in my service to IOA is that it speaks to the educator and academic in me - that I am able to help others build their research and assessment skills, but also that I am able to help create opportunities for colleagues to broaden the base of literature on the field. My biggest goal is to create a sense of enthusiasm for research and a base of what I would call “scholar practitioners” -Ombuds that are practitioners and researchers who are talking about our field in robust ways.

I think one of the things I am most proud of in the Research and Assessment Committee is the humility the members have in terms of looking at the Ombuds field from an analytical lens. I am very proud of the work this committee has achieved.  We have created the research agenda and the practice and compensation survey. As a committee, we hope to continue setting ground for future research. The aim is within the next 1-2 years the committee creates a research award program to recognize individuals who are doing work for the field.

Advice to Prospect Volunteers

I would say talk to those of us that already volunteer. I think part of becoming a volunteer is finding someone to become a mentor in service. Finding a role as a volunteer that speaks to who you are as an individual… because that is the space where you will have the passion and willingness to contribute productively to the organization.

One of the benefits of volunteering in the Research and Assessment committee is that you – get to participate in discussions with individuals who are committed to the deep dives in the history and practices in the field. Also, it is a space where one does not have to be a researcher or be proficient in assessment to be involved in the committee. In the Research and Assessment Committee you can start to see what the current conversations are around issues and begin to explore what research and assessment means to you as an individual and how you can be involved.

Fun facts: Name one book or professional development item you recently read/listened to and what you found most interesting and/or helpful from them?

One of the things I have been looking at is trauma informed practices and not just individual trauma but also structural trauma. As an Ombuds I believe it is important to explore how we navigate that space.

Book: Trauma sensitive mindfulness
Author: David Treleaven
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