The new ombudsperson will help you hash it out
Whenever arguments happen, Ombudswoman Katherine Greenwood comes in. She’s the newest member of the CU Denver Ombuds Office, a team of professional conflict mediators that help students, faculty, and staff deal with the inevitable disharmony that crops up within the university.
Trained as an attorney, Greenwood is no stranger to arguments, both in her work and personal life. “Conflict happens, we shouldn’t see it as a bad thing,” Greenwood said. “[But] I’ve seen carnage from conflicts, and there are other ways.” From arguments with a professor over grades to competing for the ever-fleeting campus parking space, many people don’t stop to ask questions think through their squabbles. “How can I work with this person or group so that the most people’s goals or needs can be met?”
The Ombuds Office takes its cues from the International Ombudsman Association. “We have four principles: we’re independent, we’re impartial, we don’t make any decisions, and we’re confidential,” Greenwood said. This leaves Greenwood and her team to ensuring fair process between the two antipathetic parties. The Ombuds can facilitate any disagreement that is university related, but they are informal, in that they do not compel either side toward a certain action. “We don’t participate. We’re more like air traffic control,” Greenwood said.
The office also offers conflict resolution training and team building seminars. “It’s something that’s not taught in grade school, and it really should be,” Greenwood said. “Even just by wording things differently, you can get much better results.”
Though she just started at the end of October, Greenwood has gelled quickly with CU Denver, “I taught at Loyola in Chicago, so I’m no stranger to academia.” Greenwood, who has also worked as a life coach, is excited to start her work. “This is the best team of people I’ve ever worked with,” she said.
While it’s not the Counseling Office, Ombuds is deeply invested in making a calm and comfortable environment. Coffee, tea, and a desktop fountain are the simple touches which help to dissolve hostility. “The main thing we do is listen,” Greenwood said. “We have tissues. And candy.”
Sometimes, of course, perfect amity is never reached, but Greenwood seems to roll with the punches. “My favorite phrase is peace, love, and granola.” The Ombuds Office often-times directs students and faculty towards other, formal departments to help find resolutions.
The sessions are completely confidential and the office reports to no one, except in a case where an individual might do harm to his/herself or others. “There are even two doors into the office, no one has to know you were in here,” Greenwood said. This is crucial when an individual is seeking guidance in some of the conflicts that Ombudspeople try to mitigate, such as disagreements over grades, working conditions, or sexual harassment.
The Ombuds Office is a lesser known resource to students, but essential to our campus running smoothly. Conflict is bound to come up, and Greenwood and the Ombuds Office are ready to help.