ombudsman building

Office of the Ombudsman

113 Duhring Wing / 236 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6273
Phone: 215.898.8261



Thadious M. Davis, PhD
Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought
Professor of English


Dr. Thadious M. Davis, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and professor of English, was appointed the University Ombudsman on September 1, 2011. Dr. Davis joined Penn's faculty on July 1, 2004. Previously, she held tenured faculty positions at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Brown University, and Vanderbilt University where she was the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English. Dr. Davis is the author of five books, including the forthcoming Southscapes: Geographies of Race, Region, & Literature. She has served as the editor of numerous reference books and edited collections. Dr. Davis has lectured and taught in Europe and Asia, including the International Falkner Symposium at Chuo University in Tokyo, Japan. She also served as the Walt Whitman Chair in American Civilization, a Fulbright Distinguished Chair, at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Dr. Davis has served as a fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and the Huntington Library in California where she held the R. Stanton Avery Distinguished Fellowship.

Dr. Davis's teaching areas include African American literature and Southern literature with an emphasis on issue of race, region, and gender. Her research interests are interdisciplinary: geography and African American writers; photography and Southern women; film and literary modernism; visual culture and the Harlem Renaissance; civil rights law and narrative fiction.

Associate Ombudsman

Marcia Martínez-Helfman, JD, MSW


Marcia Martínez-Helfman joined the University as Associate Ombudsman in July 2011.  To this role, she brings over 20 years experience in conflict resolution and human resources leadership in a broad range of business settings, including healthcare, financial services, telecommunications, technology, manufacturing and non-profits. Ms. Martínez-Helfman received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and her Masters degree in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis.

Ms. Martínez-Helfman is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Philadelphia Business Journal's Woman of Distinction Award and Fannie Mae's Chairman's Award. She was also selected as a Fellow of Robert Wood Johnson's Urban Health Initiative for her community service and leadership. Ms. Martínez-Helfman has an extensive record of volunteer and community service, having served on numerous non-profit boards, including Congreso de Latinos Unidos, The Women's Law Project, Volunteers for the Indigent Program, the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.  She currently serves on the Board of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, and on the Board Development Committee of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.