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50 for 50 Spotlight: Ombudsman Helena Goto (MDR ’11)

Unusual Name. Important Service.

That is the theme of the 2nd American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Dispute Resolution Ombuds Committee Ombuds Day. According to the ABA website, "Ombuds Day serves as an additional opportunity to educate and raise awareness among the public about the history and practices of the ombuds profession including the various ombuds models, the roles they play, the services they offer and the value provided."

Are you still asking yourself, "But what is Ombuds?"

Ombudsman comes from the Swedish word for a legal representative. Helena Goto – Ombudsperson – is a graduate of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution and this week's alumna in the spotlight. Through her conflict consulting practice, HG Consulting, Helena says, "I'm just trying to find ways to make the world a better place." Her company's motto states that "the sooner you focus on your company's culture, the better." Since 2013, Helena has acted as Managing Principal of HG Consulting, successfully running her own business that works with and advises clients from both public and private companies in conflict, culture, and communication. In her role as an ombudsman, she creates incentives for people with deep issues related to systemic organization problems to come forward to solve conflict in an internal and confidential manner. She currently serves as the inaugural ombudsman for California Lutheran University.

While she was an MBA student, Helena enrolled in negotiation and mediation classes, and it was then that she really found her niche. Following graduation, she enrolled in the Masters of Dispute Resolution program at the Straus Institute. Her favorite courses were in mediation and apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation, and it was through this training that she honed in on building her specialty in a particular type of conflict resolution–one that would open the door for communication between employees and top level administrators.

Helena shared, "The MDR allowed me to create a vision and mission of inclusivity through communication. In addition, the practice and the understanding that to become more comfortable we at first need to become uncomfortable."

For this week's celebration of Ombuds Day, Helena visited Pepperdine to speak with current students about the career of an ombudsman which, she explained, originated primarily in higher education, though today more and more government agencies and corporations are using ombudsman to solve conflict. She also described how she has built and continues to build her business in a field that's relatively new and open for innovations. Helena said that networking and marketing her specialty peer-to-peer is key to expanding and obtaining new clients. She also advised students to find an equally ambitious group of people with which to meet, build a dialogue around conflict resolution practices, and share knowledge with one another.

Mediation is, according two Helena, transformational, and she is a trailblazer in her field. To learn more about the Masters of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine Law, click here.