Are you still unsure what an ombuds is or what they do?

What’s an ombuds?

The term “ombudsman” (ahm-buhdz-man) is a Scandinavian word, which literally means “representative.” At the most fundamental level, an ombudsman is one who assists individuals and groups in the resolution of conflicts or concerns. There are a number of different titles or names for this position: “ombudsman,” “ombudsperson” or “ombuds”, among others. 

Ombuds work in all types of organizations and industries, including government, military, colleges and universities, corporations, healthcare, prisons and news organizations. 

There are different types of ombuds with different roles, functional responsibilities and standards of practice including classical/public sector ombudsman, advocate ombudsman, an array of federal ombudsman, and organizational ombudsman. The standards of practice and functional responsibilities vary among the different types of ombuds.

The classical and public sector ombudsman, typically appointed by a legislative or executive body, addresses concerns related to the conduct of government agencies. An advocate ombudsman advocates on behalf of a designated population, such as patients in long-term care facilities.

Here at the University of Colorado, we are organizational ombuds defined as a designated neutral who is appointed or employed by an organization to facilitate the informal resolution of concerns of faculty, staff, students and, sometimes, external clients of the organization. Really anyone who has a university-related concern. 

As organizational ombuds, we serve as a no-barrier, first-stop when seeking information and insight from a trusted advisor who is independent, impartial, confidential and informal. Your university ombuds office is a safe, credible, accessible and voluntary resource. You can trust ombuds to collaborate with you in any situation that requires flexibility, professionalism and a focus on solutions. We deal with the widest range of concerns and conflicts within the university setting, exploring and analyzing all options – providing a source of insight and guidance. Whether you are university staff, a student or a faculty member, ombuds can help you survey the terrain, assess risk, monitor trends, address challenges, and advocate for fair processes. Ombuds help by:

  • Analyzing a problem and identifying options
  • Explaining relevant policies and procedures
  • Clarifying the channels available to follow
  • Providing neutral, confidential advice
  • Expediting matters that have been delayed
  • Assisting parties in resolving disputes

Ombuds Day 

The American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution (ABA DR) designated the second Thursday of October as Ombuds Day soon after passing ABA Resolution 103, which provides, “the American Bar Association encourages greater use and development of ombuds programs that comply with generally recognized standards of practice, as an effective means of preventing, managing, and resolving individual and systemic conflicts.” 

Ombuds Day is an opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of the various models of ombuds programs, highlight the value ombuds bring to the entities and constituents they serve and encourage greater implementation and use of ombuds programs. The theme is “Ombuds: Unusual name. Important service.”

Interested in learning more? You may obtain additional information about ombuds and Ombuds Day at There you will also find information and registration links to a variety of ombuds webinars throughout October 2020 and into November 2020. Most programs are open to the public and free of charge. 

On October 8, 2020 a panel of representatives from the predominate ombuds associations in the United States will present “Ombuds Day – A Recognition of the Ombuds Profession & the Value of Ombuds” discussing the role and value of different types of ombuds programs.

Register for morning session – October 8, 2020 – 10-11:30 AM ET

Register for afternoon session October 8, 2020 – 4-5:30 PM ET

Campus Ombuds Day Events

We also invite you to join your campus ombuds on October 8th to celebrate Ombuds Day. 

Grab your favorite Cup of Joe, meet the University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds, and tackle a few rounds of Scattergories from 10:00 am to 11:00 am MT. Register here

Join the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Ombuds for a 30 minute virtual Lunch and Learn. Donna Douglass Williams, UConn Health Ombuds, will present “Conflict Positive” Strategies. Register here 

Ombuds Tip

The key is not avoiding conflict but learning to effectively manage it. Your ombuds is there to help you navigate situations and provide tools that empower you to resolve issues. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to visit CU Boulder Ombuds Office Lunch and Learns and CU Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Lunch and Learns There are a variety of topics that might be of interest to you. 

By: Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds Office