Laura Smythe ("Sm-eye-th") became the university ombuds on April 18, and after working remotely for three months, arrived on campus Aug. 1. Iowa State's free ombuds service offers impartial, confidential help to faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate and professional students who want to resolve university-related problems.
Smythe also offers training on more than a dozen topics such as using language to de-escalate, facilitating difficult conversations, leading an inclusive meeting or recognizing workplace bullying.
Smythe comes to Iowa State from the University of Idaho, where she served as university ombuds for all five of its campuses (2018-22). Previously, she oversaw pro bono programming for law students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (2014-18), and served as executive director of the Mediation Center of Greater Green Bay (2011-15). Since 2003, she has operated her own firm, consulting in organizational culture and conflict resolution and serving as a contract ombuds. Since 2013, she also has provided training in mediation and communication skills for staff in the state of Wisconsin's Department of Health Services.
She earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the College of Wooster, Ohio; and two master's degrees (political science, Latin American and Iberian studies) and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Smythe's hire brought the ombuds service in house again. From August 2020 to last spring, the service was offered virtually, with two Boston-based ombuds assisting Iowa State employees.
The ombuds service is in suite 2101A-C in the west wing of Agronomy Hall. Due to the confidential nature of the work, the ombuds office doesn't offer walk-in service. To schedule an appointment, call 515-450-7186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.