Kevin McCarthy is a 2015 graduate of the dual JD/MS - NCR program. He graduated with a BSBA in 3/3 Business Law from Creighton University School of Business in 2013. The program allowed him to apply and enroll into Creighton School of Law after the completion of his junior year and LSAT; his first year law classes counted towards his major requirements for his undergraduate degree. McCarthy learned about the dual degree program during his first year of law school. He plans on utilizing his master’s degree over his JD when he enters the workforce. McCarthy completed his practicum experience working at the Nebraska State Ombudsmen Office in Lincoln, Nebraska.
In His Own Words
The NCR program implements a student-as-teacher and teacher-as-facilitator model. In short, the student reads the assigned reading and comes to class to have a discussion with other students on the different theories and aspects of conflict resolution that were presented in the reading; sharing real life experiences where appropriate, and expressing negative and positive aspects of each theory presented. Teachers facilitate this discussion, presenting overarching themes for discussion, keeping the topic on track, and adding insight when needed. This prepares students for the real world. Students in the classroom are expected to critically think through topics and apply theories that they have read in the course material by utilizing hands on experiences such as: facilitating a classroom discussion, mediating a dispute between two parties, creating a conflict system design model, and negotiating terms just to name a few. The theories that are learned and practiced in the classroom not only prepares a student for the corporate boardroom or the mediation table, but also for everyday life conflicts; negotiating the price of a house, resolving conflicts with family members amicably, mediating a conflict between neighbors, facilitating a community project, etc. I find myself using the skills I have acquired through the NCR program not only at my practicum, but in every other instance of my life as well.
I chose the Nebraska State Ombudsman because I was interested in utilizing the material I had learned in my master’s program, and I believed an ombuds department would give me that ability. I have not been disappointed. After a short conversation about my interests, Mary Lee Brock, my practicum advisor, set up an email correspondence with the Nebraska State Ombudsman office. Within the next few weeks, I had set a practicum up at the site. My goals for the program were to improve my mediation skills, improve my critical thinking skills, and be able to comfortably explain to a lay person what an ombudsman does at the state level by the end of my experience. I can happily say I have been able to accomplish each of my goals and more a month before the completion of my program. A description of the role of the ombudsman department is as follows: The Office of the Public Counsel (also known as the State Ombudsman’s Office) is an independent complaint-handling office for the use of citizens who have complaints about the actions of administrative agencies of state government, that is, the bureaucracy of state government. By investigating and resolving citizens’ complaints relating to the actions of state administrative agencies, the Ombudsman’s Office seeks not only to provide administrative justice to citizens who have been wronged by state agencies, but also to promote accountability in public administration. Because the Ombudsman’s Office is independent of the agencies that it investigates, it can be impartial in disputes between administrative agencies and citizens, and can promote reasonable and informal resolution of citizen grievances. This activity not only improves the relationship between citizens and their government, but it can also play an important role in holding powerful agencies accountable for their actions..
The ombudsman department put me in charge of my own cases with minimal supervision; I handled mostly DHHS cases. The head ombudsman allows all of the deputy ombudsman to work on their cases with any type of resolution style that they see fit. I typically used a facilitative/facilitative mediation style as that is the most effective style for the complainants I handle. I have handled a variety of different types of cases from researching and investigating if a hospital’s trauma one designation denial was handled in a procedurally correct manner, to mediating between a complainant and DHHS over an unpaid claim. I also consulted the head ombudsman on my opinion of the trauma one issue, and what I believed the next steps should be if any.
I use my critical thinking skills on a daily basis to come up with creative solutions to less than obvious issues. I can also attest that the ombudsman office has given me all the opportunities I would need to learn the ins and outs of the department, from sitting in on court hearings and senators meetings, to even inviting me to the Nebraska Mediation Center for continuing education luncheons to sharpen my skills. Furthermore, everyone at the office keeps an open door policy, and I have been able to seek their counsel whenever I find an issue that I don’t quite understand. My practicum experience has been the highlight of my master’s degree, as it has allowed me to apply all of the hands on experience in the classroom in a career setting. I cannot express to you, the readers, how much the Master of Science in NCR has affected my life. It has made me a better-rounded student, citizen and employee. It has given me the practical hands on experience one expects from an institute of higher learning.