The Ombuds Team: An Independent and Confidential Resource for MSU Denver Faculty and Staff

Confidential. Independent. Impartial. Informal.

The term “ombuds” (pronounced “ahm–buhds”) comes from a Swedish term meaning “a person who has an ear to the people.”

MSU Denver has two ombuds (Cris Gilbert and Michael Stephens, (see bios below) who are available to work with faculty and staff to surface and resolve university-related issues. The ombuds are an independent, impartial, confidential and informal resource for the MSU Denver community. The ombuds supplements but does not replace MSU Denver’s formal administrative channels.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the ombuds function:

  1. What does an ombuds do?
  2. What does an ombuds not do?
  3. Who can use the ombuds team service?
  4. What types of concerns are brought to the ombuds team?
  5. What happens when you contact a member of the ombuds team?
  6. What might I gain by contacting a member of the ombuds team?
  7. What authority does the ombuds team have?
  8. What happens to information provided to a member of the ombuds team?
  9. Should I contact the ombuds team to give notice to MSU Denver?
  10. How does the ombuds team remain impartial?
  11. Will the ombuds team participate in formal meetings?
  12. How is the ombuds team unique and different than other resources at MSU Denver?
  13. Are there some things that will not be kept confidential?
  14. Will the ombuds team talk to my attorney or testify for me or for the company if I choose to file a grievance or lawsuit?
  15. Can the user of the ombuds team services remain anonymous?
  16. What if my question is not listed here?

About the Ombuds Team at MSU Denver:

MSU Denver employees should contact one of the ombuds below to discuss concerns and options for resolution.

cris gilbert ombudsLaCrisia “Cris” Gilbert (cris-ombuds@mwi.org and 214-802-3339) is a member of MWI’s ombuds panel and has served as both an organizational and advocate ombuds. Her ombuds career started in 2012 as an advocate ombuds in the State of Texas where she advocated for residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities, working with closely with regulatory and individual facilities and their administrations. Utilizing over 30 years in the ADR field as a mediator, facilitator (specializing in Faith-based organizations), professor and trainer, Cris was instrumental in resolving conflicts at all levels from family, civil court cases to facility issues. Cris has served as an organizational ombudsman with a university, assisting faculty, staff, and students as well as training compliance investigators in mediation, conflict resolution, and DEI initiatives for the organization. She has also worked as a facilitator, assisting HR and Compliance with informal resolutions. She serves in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) on two campus initiatives (the President’s DEI Council and Social Justice, Equity and Inclusion Council). Book a time to talk with Cris by sending an email to (cris-ombuds@mwi.org and 214-802-3339).

Michael Stephens (michael-ombuds@mwi.org and 413-341-6977) is an experienced ombuds, mediator and coach with the goal of helping foster good working relations and a more positive culture in the organizations he serves. Michael is a member of the International Ombuds Association, and has significant experience as an ombuds in both corporate and academic settings. Michael has a certification in Mediation from the Mediation Training Institute. Michael worked for many years as an ombuds, as well as the manager of other ombuds, at Merck, a multi-national pharmaceutical company. Before that, he had many years of experience in Human Resources roles at Merck and several other companies. After retiring from Merck, he has served as ombuds for Amherst College and Smith College. Michael is also an experienced facilitator and workshop leader, specializing in communications skills, conflict resolution and change management. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Colorado and a Masters in Business Administration from New York University. Schedule a time to talk with Michael by sending an email to  michael-ombuds@mwi.org or by calling 413-341-6977.


The MSU Denver Ombuds Team was established under a charter approved by the President of MSU Denver. A copy of that charter is available here. The charter incorporates by reference the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the International Ombuds Association (IOA) and requires that the MSU Denver Ombuds Team adhere to the IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. The charter, as well as the IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, contain important information about the MSU Denver Ombuds Team and the manner in which it functions.

Due to the independent, impartial, informal, and confidential nature of the ombuds function, communication with the ombuds does not constitute formal notice to MSU Denver.