Volume 4, Number 1, Oct. 2003
A Composite Campus Ombuds Profile
The Ombuds Office at the University
of California Santa Barbara has begun building an online Ombuds
Reading and Resources Room. It is my hope that this work will
provide a valuable educational resource for new ombudsmen,
for ombudsmen seeking to cultivate their practice through
acquisition of knowledge, for ombudsman scholars conducting
research, and for individuals unfamiliar with the profession
interested in learning more about ombudsmanship.
Key aspects of the new information initiative include:
- The Ombuds Oral History Project
- The Ombuds Case Study Project
- The Annual Report Project
- The Ombuds Profile Project
The portrait of a hypothetical campus ombuds presented below
represents a snapshot in time. It was written using information
received from the Ombuds Profile Project survey. In the spring
of 2002 questionnaires were sent out with a call for case
studies to 103 campus ombuds in the United States, Canada,
and Australia (65 women, 32 men, 6 to "ombuds offices"
without ombuds listed). This profile blends eleven responses
to the questionnaire (6 women, 5 men) that were received in
time for the 2002 profile. In answer to the question "Ombuds,
Who Are They?" we present the following composite.
2002 Campus Ombuds Composite Portrait
The campus ombuds is more likely to be female than male.
Prior to working as an ombuds she/he had been working in a
field that had little to do with alternative dispute resolution.
She/he worked on the campus prior to becoming an ombuds and
learned of the position via "word of mouth" through
an extended invitation to apply by someone within the campus
community, a recommendation to the position, or being informed
by a peer of the job opening. Another avenue she/he might
have entered the field was through working as an "Assistant
to the Ombuds" and being promoted from that position.
Whatever the case, the campus ombuds has worked in the capacity
of ombuds for five years or less.
She/he is well educated holding a masters degree in one or
two areas. The breadth of her/his education is staggering.
Fields of study include: alternative dispute resolution, anthropology,
business economics, choreography, college student personnel
administration, communication, dance, english, health care
management, history, law, philosophy, police sciences, and
The community that the campus ombuds serves is over 20,000.
She/he serves the staff, students, and faculty of the campus.
The ombuds office itself was most likely established in the
1970's although there is a good chance that the office may
have been established in the 1990's. The office itself came
into existence in a variety of ways. It may have been established
by the Provost, the Academic Senate, the Student Union/Association,
the Board of Governors, the State Board of Regents, the Chancellor,
or the Associate Dean. Who the ombuds answers to is equally
diverse and may include: the Executive Vice Chancellor, The
Office of the Provost, The President of the University, the
Coordinating Committee on Operational Matters, the Dean of
Undergraduate Studies, The Vice President for Student Affairs,
to "no one", and to the Associate Dean.
Education, events, and readings that have helped to shape
the ombuds practice are broad in scope. The campus ombuds
benefits from the following: remaining current with issues,
trends, and legal aspects of higher education, mediation training,
mentoring and interaction with experienced ombuds. She/he
also benefits from attending the California Caucus of College
and University Ombuds Association's (CCCUOA) Asilomar conferences,
University College Ombuds Association (UCOA) conferences.
Research in communication in conflict, alternative dispute
resolution, listening skills, and restorative justice training
has also proved helpful.
Some of the readings that have helped shape the practice
include: Fisher and Ury's Getting to Yes, Chris Moore's The
Mediation Process, Dan Millan's The Way of the Peaceful Warrior,
H. Arnold and D. Feldman's Organizational Behavior, Kenneth
Cloke's Mediating Dangerously, The International Ombudsman
Anthology, the collection of 5 articles in the Negotiation
Journal devoted to ombudsing, The International Handbook of
the Ombudsman edited by Gerald E. Caiden, The Center Magazine's
article "Ombudsman on the Campus: A discussion with Geoffrey
Wallace", and UCOA's The Ombuds Handbook.
Life experiences that have helped shape the ombuds practice
include: dedication to life-long learning, learning to work
with people from different cultures under intense stress,
living a life passionate about peace, and seeking to live
a life of integrity.
As her/his greatest accomplishment the campus ombuds might
cite one of many different achievements. Accomplishments include:
work on individual files, assisting students in managing roadblocks
hampering matriculation, recipient of a 1988 Nobel Prize for
Peace as a UN peacekeeper, helping to start the first Restorative
Justice program at a major university in the U.S., using many
years of service to the university to help faculty, putting
work as an anthropologist to useful work in a context outside
of that profession, helping to alter the way residents are
treated, and/or transcending the odds, rising above the circumstances,
and having the courage to choose the path of most growth.
The campus ombuds finds the work rewarding. The work is never
dull, and people cease to amaze the ombuds. She/he enjoys
working in a learning environment and appreciates the "learning,
endless learning; growing endless growing". The campus
ombuds enjoys helping those in need to heal relationships,
solve problems, and resolve conflicts. She/he is rewarded
each time she/he sees someone leaving the office smiling and
full of hope that had entered crying and despondent. The campus
ombuds is grateful that their practice contributes to the
process of peace and to the betterment of humanity.