Spotlight on RMC’s ombud Art Lusse, feature by Nicolas Cordero

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Human conflict is inevitable, but resolving it can be challenging. Mediation and negotiation have prevented countless wars and resolved millions of conflicts around the world.

Art Lusse is an expert in both of these practices. Lusse has helped hundreds of individuals, businesses, and families solve conflict in a peaceful way.  Lusse is now committed to sharing his knowledge and expertise with college students.

art (1 of 1)Lusse was born May 7, 1945 in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from St. Louis University in 1970 as a lawyer. In the same year, Lusse started his career in the Army and served until 1974.

“That was the beginning of appreciating that I was a good negotiator,” Lusse said. He didn’t like where he was stationed at first, but he negotiated with his superiors about it. 

Lusse’s supervisor had said “You can get out of here and actually go where you want to go if you don’t mind stopping by Vietnam for a year.” Lusse agreed to go to Vietnam for a year with the goal of following his dreams after the war was over. 

After returning from Vietnam, Lusse moved to San Francisco where  he worked as a prosecutor for four years. Once  married, Lusse and his family moved to Missoula, Montana. He wanted to go back to school and pursue education in a different field.

“I was a trial lawyer. In the Army I was a prosecutor. After 18 years of that I became convinced that going through the legal process, while sometimes necessary, is most of the time not,” said Lusse. The goal of mediation, negotiation, and alternative resolution dispute is to make the court the last resort. 

Lusse graduated from the Harvard Negotiation Program as well the Strauss Institute of Dispute Resolution.

“When I went back to school, I realized how much I love the classroom,” said Lusse. 

He taught at The University of Montana for 14 years. In 2008, Lusse and his family made  moved to Billings and he began teaching mediation and negotiation at Rocky Mountain College.

“It was really clear to me that being in the classroom with students is where I needed to be. Working with students is my passion,” Lusse said.

This academic year, Lusse started working as an ombud for RMC. His job entails dealing with any conflicts that arise surrounding the college and its members. The ombud is a confidential service open to all students, staff, and faculty at RMC. A great advantage of this position is the fact it works independently from the rest of the college.

“One, I’m independent from everybody. Two, what I do is all confidential,” said Lusse. Lusse works to make sure that all parties receive fair and equitable treatment within the interaction. He works to promote respect, reasonable solutions, and fairness within the conflict at hand. One of the most important facets of Lusse’s work is to facilitate communication and navigate through the bureaucracy.

“The idea is that I can guide people through the thought process of the conflict, and it’s based on the idea that I going to empower them to find the answer. As opposed to me ‘saying here is what you should do.’ I don’t tell them what to do,” Lusse said.

The concept of mediation functions with mutually acceptable agreements when conflicts arise. Alternative dispute resolution processes are an extremely valuable resource to all members of an organization. 

“I’m trying to make sure I always give them choices and then of course, I also have the mediation component. I’ll do mediations when the individuals need something more substantive. I also do education for faculty and staff,” Lusse said.

Lusse is strictly committed to confidentiality and neutrality. Each meeting is tailored to the dynamics and context of specific situations with the informed consent of the visitor. Lusse always remains respectfully impartial with all parties within a conflict. Lusse may also make recommendations for review of systemic change when policies or procedures of RMC generate trends or patterns in conflicts.  

Lusse commented, “There is a new program called the ‘ombud on-demand’, which is a department can contact me and I will provide whatever it is they would like educationally. For example, how to deal with conflict or how to improve communication,”

The ombud on-demand program is now open to students. Any student with concerns or complaints about matters related to the college community can be discussed with the ombud.

“This year, my charter includes students. If students have problems I can help. I’ve already been involved with resident hall situations. I can aid students with problems that they may be having with either another student, with faculty, or with staff.” Lusse said. 

Conflict is inevitable, but finding viable solutions isn’t always easy. Art Lusse is happy to schedule a meeting with any faculty, student, or staff anytime at any place.To arrange a meeting, please email:

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