In a move that signals an even greater commitment to faculty, staff and students at Wright State, educator/administrator/lawyer Hazel Rountree is settling in as the university’s newly created ombudsperson.
Rountree’s appointment is aligned with Wright State’s new Strategic Plan. It will bolster a campus effort to strengthen the university by enhancing our environment that gives faculty, staff and students more freedom, support and encouragement to offer innovative ideas, by exploring new ways of doing things and by expanding opportunities for professional development.
“We want to unleash the power of our collective minds,” said Provost S. Narayanan. “In Hazel, we will have someone who can help people be the best that they can be.”
Rountree, J.D., most recently served as assistant director of affirmative action at Wright State before being named to head the university’s newly formed Office of Ombuds.
“I want to be a point of contact for anyone—students, faculty or staff—to discuss issues and get them to the place they need to be,” she said. “The second part is to be proactive and identify patterns and trends that help employees.”
Rountree is no stranger to being in a leadership role. After her family moved to Dayton from Buffalo, N.Y., when she was 11, Rountree was quickly identified by her schoolteachers as a leader who cared about others. She was put in charge of helping blind students get off the bus in the mornings and get settled in for their breakfast.
At the end of each school year, Rountree would ask custodians to give her old blackboards and other school equipment headed for the dumpster and use it to set up a classroom on her front porch, where she would teach her siblings and neighborhood kids how to read. By the seventh grade, she was running her own summer camps for kids in the inner-city, west Dayton neighborhood, where finding constructive things to do in the summertime could be a challenge.
Rountree became interested in law at an early age. Her parents nicknamed her “the attorney” for her ability to mediate family issues among her 10 brothers and sisters. When having only one telephone in the house began to spark sibling battles, she set up a schedule designating telephone time for everyone.
Rountree went on to get her law degree at the University of Dayton, served as a law clerk for the Legal Aid Society of Dayton and Dayton Public Schools, and a civil-rights intern for the City of Dayton. She also spent 14 years at Sinclair Community College, six of them as director of student activities.
In addition, Rountree is founder and president/CEO of the Wright Computer Connection, a nonprofit dedicated to bridging the digital divide by providing computer technology to the underprivileged. She set up computer labs at community centers, teen clubs and even violence-plagued public housing with clusters of donated computers.
As ombudsperson, Rountree will work with every unit on campus and be proactive in listening to concerns and helping to resolve any conflicts, ensuring that things are done justly and fairly. She says she will ensure that all parties are treated with respect.
Roundtree also is a newly elected member of the Dayton School Board. In that role she will be a front door to the outside community, serving as a touchpoint to ensure that Wright State continues to have a strong relationship with community organizations and businesses.
“Dr. Rountree’s appointment is part of our commitment to empower members of our campus community with the tools, the environment and the support they need to do their best work,” said Wright State President David R. Hopkins. “And her role also furthers the mission of our Strategic Plan to be a strong partner for our region.”
Rountree will also work closely with Wright State’s Department of Human Resources, Office of Equity and Inclusion and other units to review Wright Way policies and training programs in order to ensure they are complete, consistent and up to date.
In addition, she will work to ensure that faculty and staff have what they need to do their jobs, such as professional development opportunities, equipment or time.
“People here have a great affection for Wright State,” Rountree said. “And I think employees would like to go to the next level and say, ‘We want to help Wright State grow, but we want Wright State in turn to help us grow as individuals.’”