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Problem Solving Steps

If there is an unresolved problem or conflict that couldn’t be solved through discussion with the other person(s) [consult the department’s Road Map], start at the beginning of the chain. When in doubt, you can always talk to Dina (Academic Advisor and Student Support Coordinator) in Fine Arts 302. She will usually know what your next step should be.

1. Professor or Advisor
  • Professor of the course – if it involves a problem in the course. Use their office hours!
  • Academic Advisor – your advisor can provide referrals for a variety of challenges and concerns, from academic to hardship and more
  • Major Professor – for graduate students, your major professor serves as your advisor and mentor, including brainstorming around issues with your own students if you’re TA-ing, questions about work/life balance, academic issues, etc.

If the issue is with your professor, see the following steps.

Please note: professors and advisors aren’t therapists or parents. There are limits to how they can help if what you really need is academic coaching, therapy, workshops on navigating interpersonal relationships, financial help, etc. And sometimes the outside perspective you really need is indeed just your parent or a good friend. But if you need referrals to these resources, see Dina.

2. Coordinators and Area Heads
  • Student Support Coordinator within the department: when in doubt, start with Dina Canup (Fine Arts 302, Undergrads, grad students, faculty: when you have a problem and don’t know where to start, if you are faculty or TA who has a student who needs a referral or information for services on campus, when you have a concern and could use an ear or guidance for next steps.

Referrals include but aren’t limited to:

See also: Guide to Student Resources at UGA

  • Graduate Coordinator – John Bray (room 309D, For general “grad school things” that your major professor doesn’t know the answer to. The GC can be helpful as an ear when a student’s problem is beyond what their major professor can help with or if they need the point of view outside their area. The GC may also consult with the student support coordinator, depending on the problem.
  • Undergraduate Coordinator – Vivian Appler ( Can be helpful as an ear when a student’s problem is related to our academic programs or if they could use the point of view of a faculty member beyond their professor. The UGC may also consult with the student support coordinator, depending on the problem.
  • Area Heads and Committee Chairs - Often the head of an area or committee can be helpful in discussing a problem that relates to the specific area.
    • Performance: George Contini
    • Design: Ivan Ingermann
    • Dramatic Media: John Gibbs
    • Film Studies: Richard Neupert
    • PhD/History: David Saltz
    • Committee Chairs (see current list) for committees including Production, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, Season Selection, etc.
3. Department Head

Department Head Julie Ray is the supervisor of the faculty, in terms of organization. If someone has a problem involving a faculty member, it's the department head they'd go to if the earlier steps haven’t solved the problem. It is recommended that students speak with the Student Support Coordinator first, to review and schedule with the Head if needed.

  • Sometimes students feel like skipping this step and going straight to the dean (of Grad School or Franklin), but don’t do that. We are expected to solve most problems within the department. If you eventually feel the need to escalate this up the chain, they’ll want to know who you’ve tried to address this with first and won’t take you seriously if you haven’t even tried the earlier steps.
  • Sometimes the area head, committee, or area faculty as a whole are a useful step before escalating to the Department Head
  • If a student has a serious problem with the Department Head, then they may need to go to the area faculty or committee, but it is probably better to go to the appropriate Ombudsperson before taking that step; more on that below.
  • Department Heads can be resources for students when they have general departmental concerns that the Student Support Coordinator is unable to resolve.
4. Additional options outside of faculty: Student Representatives and Ombudspersons
  • Diversity Facilitator Nikki Clay (PhD student, graduate student Teaching Assistant who can be helpful in navigating issues around diversity within the department and who can bring issues to the DEI committee from other students. Keep in mind she is a TA but also a fellow student, not faculty or staff, and thus does not have authority over faculty/staff/fellow students. However, her thoughts do/should carry weight in the committee.
  • Student reps to committees – (see current list) students can bring some questions or concerns to their student reps to various committees, which can be useful in getting info or concerns to those committees (and also helpful in being “just the messenger” if the students with the concern wish to be anonymous, or if multiple students want to send something to the committee through the student rep). Often the committees will ask the student reps to report out to their fellow students or seek their thoughts. Student reps don’t have authority or power over the committees or faculty/staff/fellow students, but student voices do/should carry weight in the committees.
  • Ombudspersons: ombuds.uga.eduNeutral, confidential, informative resources for students, faculty, and staff if you could use an ear or support outside the department. Charisse Harper ( is the ombudsperson for students. While she can't solve their problems for them, she can be a valuable ear, a source for referrals/information, and -- importantly -- is a confidential resource. If a student talks to an ombuds, they aren't mandated to report to EOO, for example, if a student doesn't want that (sometimes grad students in particular fear that such a report will make it obvious to their professor that it's them with the concern or complaint). Any faculty, staff, TA is mandated to report any violations of anti discrimination anti harassment policies to the EOO. The ombuds and Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention are exempt from this for the most part, as confidential resources. They do work closely with the EOO, however, as needed. There are also ombuds for faculty and staff.

Note: Sometimes talking things through helps people make their own decisions and often has a calming effect for situations. Sometimes they'll refer folks to other offices on campus, or send them back to their department to work it out. The ombuds don't solve their problems FOR them. As faculty ombuds Jenny Gaver said, "the problem is still their problem and the decision is still their decision." They don't mediate conflicts between two people.

The ombuds aren't "calling the manager." This is not a problem solver but a space to calmly process, get it all out, and then get information that could help.

5. Dean of Franklin College and/or Graduate School

If there is a serious problem that cannot be solved within the department, writing or meeting with the dean is a last resort. Keep in mind that you will need to be clear about the problem, it will need to be documented, and the dean will want to know what steps have been taken within the department to resolve the problem. This should not be your first course of action.

NOTE: There very few formal mechanisms for official conflict mediation through a third party on campus. This is very rare except in cases involving policy violations or HR-related issues.


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