Meet Our Staff

Laura Smythe
University Ombuds

Laura C. Smythe, is University Ombuds at Iowa State University. In this role she serves graduate and professional students; merit, professional and scientific staff; faculty and administrators. She serves as a confidential, informal, impartial, and independent resource. She works with individuals, groups, units, and departments to address concerns about communication, conflicts, culture, and climate and assists with the development of respectful and ethical communication, inclusivity, and ethical leadership. She often brainstorms with visitors about how to approach a difficult situation, she mediates and facilitates conversations among people who are having trouble communicating in a constructive and/or respectful manner, and she also offers trainings, coaching, and skill-building upon request. Smythe does not receive, or issue, complaints and cannot advocate for anyone.

Before serving as University Ombuds for Iowa State University, Smythe served as University Ombuds to the five campuses of University of Idaho. She was there for almost 4 years. For almost two decades Smythe has also worked as an Organizational Culture Diagnostician on behalf of her consulting business, Communication Connections, LLC, which she founded in 2003. In that role, she consults with businesses in almost every industry ranging from small, family-owned businesses, to churches, non-profit organizations, international Fortune 500 companies, and on behalf of a state’s entire Division of Mental Health and Addiction. She serves her clients as a contract Ombuds, a mediator, facilitator, coach, trainer, systems analyst, and conflict management expert. She has worked with dozens of leaders to design ethical and inclusive organizations that value their employees and the communities in which they work.

From 2011-2018, Smythe held multiple roles including serving as adjunct faculty at University of Wisconsin – Green Bay where she created the content for, and taught, both mediation and small-group communication; co-teaching mediation at University of Wisconsin Law School and serving as Executive Director of a Community Mediation Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Beginning in 2013 and for the next 8 years, Smythe also served the Wisconsin Department of Health Services as their contract trainer in mediation and facilitating difficult conversations

Smythe has trained nationally and internationally and is particularly intrigued by the subjects of ethical communication, ethical leadership, and trauma-informed ombudsing. She has been recognized by her Ombuds peers as the first Organizational Ombuds to address trauma-informed ombudsing and by her peers in the Wisconsin State Bar as an elite attorney. She was asked by the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to serve on the District 10 Office of Lawyer Regulation Committee and did so for 8 years. She currently serves on the American Bar Association – Dispute Resolution Section subcommittee for 2022 International Ombuds Day and is also a member of the International Ombuds Association. She presented at the IOA conference most recently in April of 2022.

Smythe holds a B.A. in Spanish from the College of Wooster in Wooster, OH, two Master’s Degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison (in Political Science and in Latin American and Iberian Studies) and a Juris Doctorate from University of Wisconsin Law School.

Contact for questions about:

  • Individual conflicts
  • Group conflicts
  • Group dynamics
  • Concerns about implementation/application of policies
  • Trainings (please see training offerings here)
  • Coaching

Kay Mwanza
Administrative Specialist

Kay is a graduate of Iowa State University, graduating with a B.S. in Community and Regional Planning. She has spent the last 10 years in the business world serving as both an administrative assistant and as a manager of several different businesses. Although she spent some time as co-director of the Maintenance Shop in the Memorial Union, she now returns to Iowa State University after more than 15 years away.