Lanai Greenhalgh reflects on Ombuds office she helped create

Colorado State University offers an array of robust support services for students, from academic advising through the Collaborative for Student Achievement to counseling services through the Health Network and conflict mediation through the Student Resolution Center.

It’s only been in the past decade that similar support services to help University employees manage challenges in their personal and professional lives have developed on campus. And that is the result, in large part, of efforts by Lanai Greenhalgh, who has served as Director of the Office of the Ombuds and Employee Assistance Program since 2009.

“Lanai has done such an amazing job creating a position that has been responsive to the needs of employees, supervisors and administrators,” said Diana Prieto, associate vice president for human capital.  “She has been a key player in all the consult teams across campus, and she will be sorely missed.”

Greenhalgh, a licensed clinical social worker, is leaving CSU on May 4 to relocate closer to family in Utah.

“I have enjoyed my time at CSU and I am proud to say I worked here,” she said. “The organization is filled with people who are dedicated to the mission of educating students, and each employee plays a role. The more we can support our workforce, the stronger we are as an institution.”

She said one of the real strengths of CSU is the climate of caring and support for each other, and a culture of seeking out resources and using them for that care and support. “That’s a sign of a healthy organization; the administration pays attention to and supports these efforts.”

Together but different

During her first year as director of the EAP, the shared governance councils – Administrative Professional Council, Classified Personnel Council and Faculty Council – recommended reviving the ombuds function that previously had been part of the student conflict resolution center, with the focus solely on employees. It made sense at the time to have Greenhalgh become the ombuds as well.

The EAP supports CSU employees and their families with personal issues and crises, while the ombuds office provides confidential assistance in resolving issues related to the workplace. Greenhalgh said it is not unusual for the two areas to overlap, but the approach to each is very different.

“The EAP provides resources to help faculty and staff respond to crises, from a student death that impacts all of campus to family mental health issues,” she explained, adding that all employees and their families can access six counseling sessions at no charge through the program. “We can put employees in touch with legal resources, financial planning, child care referrals, etc. The CARE program that connects employees to community health and social services is part of the EAP.”

On the other hand, the Office of the Ombuds is committed to confidentiality, neutrality, informality and independence and serves as a place where employees can seek assistance in resolving disputes or understanding processes within CSU.

“Our goal is to resolve workplace conflicts early and at the lowest level possible,” Greenhalgh said. “What we really want to do is to get people to talk to each other; I think of it as facilitating communication rather than ‘mediating disputes.’”

The ombuds is a non-reporting office; Greenhalgh keeps no formal records of appointments or conversations and will not discuss employee issues with supervisors or administrators without expressed permission from the employee.

Lanai Greenhalgh portrait

Bon voyage, Lanai

An open house bon voyage to Lanai Greenhalgh will be held on her last day, Friday, May 4, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Longs Peak room. Parting thoughts and wishes will be shared with Lanai during a slide show in place of remarks. Colleagues will also have an opportunity to share thoughts and wishes with Lanai privately on a notecard placed in a sealed envelope at the open house. Contact Diana Prieto, diana.prieto@colostate.edu, for more information.

Resources available

Employees can access the following resources anytime:

ComPsych Guidance Resources 24/7 crisis and referral line: (800) 497-9133

CARE Program (Emma Chavez): CARE.colostate.edu, (970) 491-4839

Faculty Ombuds (Kathy Rickard): (970) 491-5121

HR Solutions Partners: (970) 491-6947

Office of Equal Opportunity: (970) 491-5836

“If I spot trends or identify issues of concern, I will talk with the appropriate people without disclosing anyone’s identity, just to point out areas where action could be taken,” she said.

The Ombuds Office provides services to approximately 150 faculty and staff each year, and the number for the on-campus support of employees is roughly 150 as well. For those using the EAP services directly through the EAP vendor, ComPsych, the number is approximately 800 per year. The CARE Program provides services to an additional 250 per year, with another 2,700 searching for resources on the website. Combined, the Office of the Ombuds and Employee Assistance Program has been contacted for assistance more than 4000 times this past year.

“The office has been a one-stop shop for employees, and as our population grows, there are more employees who will need assistance,” she said. “When people learn we are here for them, they come.”

Temporary gap

Greenhalgh said she realizes her departure will leave at least a temporary gap in services available to employees. Kathy Rickard will continue as faculty ombuds, but that is a quarter-time position dedicated completely to the needs of faculty.

Prieto said she is in discussions with Lynn Johnson, vice president of operations, on next steps to ensure employees have access to coverage through the EAP program on an interim basis.