Through Juliet, Shakespeare highlights that a rose would smell just as sweet regardless of its assigned name. This is encouraging to me, an Ombuds (or Ombudsman/Ombudsperson), because it is rare that anyone has any clue what an Ombuds is or does! The name does not give any indication of what it is we do or how we help.
For the sake of finding out what is in this particular name, let’s look at some brief history of the word and position of “Ombudsman.”
The Ombudsman role was first created in Sweden in 1713. Some translate this title as “citizen defender” or “representative of the people.” Since then, the position has expanded across the world and across industries. Today, CU Ombuds are considered, “Organizational Ombudsman.” Organizational Ombudsman support individuals and organizations to prevent, manage and resolve conflict. While we do not advocate for any person, position, or outcome the way the original Ombudsman did in 18th century Sweden, we are positioned to help you think through difficult situations and navigate your way through them.
That said, there are Ombudsman all over the world with slight role variations in the media, healthcare, government, banking, insurance, etc. Depending on your life experiences, you may have come across one person, or multiple people, with the title, “Ombudsman,” but received very different services.
For me, it doesn’t really matter what is in the name, “Ombuds,” or “Ombudsman.” What is important is how I am able to help you, your office, your department, your University, grow and change with grace; navigate and embrace conflict to enhance your relationships and effectiveness in your role; feel comfortable and excited to come to your campus everyday. It doesn’t matter to me that “Ombudsman” is a gender-neutral Swedish word – I’m still going to help you break down the situation so we can identify the underlying issue. I’m still going to help you design a path forward that meets your needs and helps to create an inclusive and trusting environment.
So – pay attention to our name, or forget about it. Come meet us to learn how we can help you. Keep an eye on our blog for some tips, tricks, book reviews, and food for thought to enhance your experience at the University, and in your life.
by Teresa Ralicki
Ombuds at CU Denver