First campus ombudsperson seeks harmony

Nina GomezNina Gomez spent almost 30 years teaching undergraduate students the principles of communication.

Now, as the first ombudsperson for UCCS, Gomez is applying those principles to real-life conflicts facing faculty, staff and students.

“In many cases, conflicts boil down to how we communicate,” Gomez said recently.

“Effective communication skills are often about listening — and listening effectively.”

Listening without judgment is the first pillar that Gomez cites in the mission of the Ombuds Office, formed in January with the goal of informally assisting faculty, staff and students in resolving conflict. A second pillar is confidentially, to which Gomez quickly ads that no records of conversations are kept.

Both pillars are important to meeting goals of resolving conflict through early intervention and providing guidance to using existing resources.

“I’m new to this position but certainly not new to the university,” Gomez said. “My hope is to use my experience in the classroom and knowledge of UCCS to guide people appropriately. But I’m not a counselor. The conversations will be direct – ‘here are some things you should do.’”

Referral to the university’s Counseling Center is an option that Gomez might recommend. Or possibly, she may suggest the initiation of a formal process through legal counsel or the university’s sexual harassment officer. But mostly, she hopes to resolve issues at their lowest levels before they escalate. She will use a proven technique – face to face communication – to meet a goal of harmonious agreement by the parties involved in a conflict.

“I’m hesitant to say we seek a compromise because that implies one side gives and one side takes,” Gomez said. “What I seek is harmony where both sides leave satisfied with the outcome.”

A still active member of the faculty in the Department of Communication, Gomez conducts office hours on Tuesdays in Main Hall 403. Phone calls won’t be used to resolve disputes, she says, but can be utilized to schedule an appointment. The office number is 255-4324.

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