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TRANSITIONS: New Ombuds and Director of Ceremonies

By Dateline Staff on May 31, 2016 in University

The Office of the Chancellor announced the appointment of a new ombudsperson and director of Ceremonies and Special Events.

Office of the Ombuds — Katherine A. Greenwood will lead this office as the successor to UC Davis’ first ombudsperson, Susan Kee-Young Park, who is leaving the university to pursue other opportunities.

Greenwood, who served in a similar capacity the last three years at the University of Colorado, Denver, starts at UC Davis this Wednesday (June 1). Operating independently, she will provide confidential, informal and impartial conflict resolution services to faculty, staff and students; and address issues of concern with the chancellor (or acting chancellor).

The ombudsperson also is responsible for providing recommendations — via an annual report and other means — that may result in developing, modifying and executing policies.

Greenwood holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Tulane University. She also graduated from Tulane’s School of Law and is licensed to practice law in California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and the District of Columbia.

Before joining the Ombuds Office at the University of Colorado, Denver, she spent 18 years as an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University in Chicago. She also was an organizational consultant and executive coach for the Greenwood Group in Chicago from 2001 to 2013.

As UC Davis’ first ombudsperson, Park gave the office a strong foundation, said Karl Engelbach, associate chancellor and chief of staff in the Office of the Chancellor. During Park’s three-year tenure, the Office of the Ombuds provided problem solving and conflict management services for more than 825 constituents, mediation and group facilitation services to more than 200, and interpersonal communications and conflict management training for more than 1,500 people.

“We are grateful for her fine work in identifying issues and recommendations for change in her annual reports,” Engelbach said.

Ceremonies and Special Events — The new director, Whitney J. Smith, will succeed Louise Uota, who is retiring after a 30-year career with UC Davis. Smith, a certified meeting professional, started her new job today (May 31), back on the campus where she studied exercise science as an undergraduate.

She worked for the last 8½ years as the events manager for the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas. In that position, she planned campuswide events aimed at promoting and increasing philanthropic investments for the university’s academic, research and public policy programs. In addition to planning and managing some 130 events a year, Smith also managed conferences and workshops that the Baker Institute held in the Middle East, Latin America and Mexico.

Before that, she spent two years as executive assistant to the associate dean at the University of Houston Law Center and two years as student activities coordinator for St. Hope Public Schools in Sacramento. 

Uota started her UC Davis career on the health system campus: temporary employee in 1986, assistant in the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon office the next year (during which time she helped put on the first telethon to raise funds for pediatrics) and event manager for nine years.

She moved to the Davis campus in late 1997 to become the manager of the Chancellor’s Residence under Larry and Rosalie Vanderhoef. She held this position for 11 years before taking charge of Ceremonies and Special Events eight years ago.

She and her team planned everything from convocations and commencements to international conferences and symposia, a total of about 400 events by her estimate. Her last will be the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors meeting in San Francisco, June 16-17, and her last day of work will be June 29.

“She’s done an outstanding job and been a tremendous colleague, leader and team player who brought a great sense of professionalism and attention to detail to everything she worked on,” Associate Chancellor Engelbach said. “Her devotion to UC Davis has been exemplary and we, of course, wish her well in all of her future endeavors.”

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About the author(s)

Dateline Staff Dave Jones, editor, can be reached at 530-752-6556 or Cody Kitaura, news and media relations specialist, can be reached at 530-752-1932 or