TRANSITIONS: Urban Planner Stromberg, Ombuds Director Bloom

Ingrid Bergman stands amid trees on the Quad.
Ingrid Stromberg has joined UC Davis as the university’s first urban designer, focused on the “campus fabric.” (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

If the Quad is the heart of the campus, then all of the nearby buildings should face it. That’s an example of urban design — the way different components of UC Davis fit together to form the “campus fabric” — and it’s a topic that Ingrid Stromberg will focus on as the university’s first urban designer.

“It’s about all these different systems working together,” Stromberg said. “It can’t be all one thing — we have to think of it as a whole, living system.”

She began work in August in the Office of Campus Planning.

She had worked most recently with Perkins & Will architecture. In private practice, she said, planners like herself consult on projects for limited periods of time, before moving on to other assignments. Here, she is impressed by the way campus administrators think about preserving the university over the long term.

“To have a cohort of people so committed to the stewardship of one place is very different,” she said.

Most of her work is meant to last at least 20 years, she said. Because buildings are rarely replaced, urban designers often work with landscaping or, at UC Davis, with  bicycling infrastructure. “There’s more cycling infrastructure here than anywhere that I’ve ever been,” she said.

She’s been getting better acquainted with the campus by making sure to spend about an hour each day walking, seeing how people use its spaces and striking up conversations with passers-by.

Stromberg received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and a master’s in the same subject from UC Berkeley. She also spent five years as an urban designer in Toronto.

Lauren Bloom mugshot

Lauren Bloom, an associate ombudsperson at UC Davis the last two years, is the new director of the Ombuds Office.

The office is “a confidential, independent, impartial and informal problem-solving and conflict management resource for all members of the UC Davis and UC Davis Health campus communities” — faculty, staff and students.

Bloom is a certified organizational ombuds practitioner with 14 years of experience, all in higher education. Before joining the UC Davis Ombuds Office, she served as associate ombudsperson in UC Berkeley’s Staff Ombuds Office and ombudsperson/director at the University of Texas at Austin (with a simultaneous appointment as ombudsperson for the Texas State Lottery Commission).

Her staff at UC Davis comprises two associate ombuds and an assistant ombuds. The ombuds have offices in Davis and Sacramento for confidential meetings with clients. “We are a safe place to communicate and share your concerns, and help figure out some options to go forward,” Bloom said.

She said faculty members might come in to talk about tenure issues or a difficult research collaboration, staff members may bring concerns related to being treated with civility and respect, or they may be having difficulty dealing with change in the workplace; and student cases might involve grade disputes, academic dishonesty, or issues related to theses and dissertations.

“We try to get at the root of what is concerning people,” Bloom said, “and offer resources and effective communication tools that allow individuals to move forward constructively.”

In addition to individual appointments, the Ombuds Office offers mediation services as well as extensive training programs on conflict management and communication. The Ombuds Office offers specialized group trainings on request and courses throughout the year (some 60 sessions annually), including two new conflict management workshops for graduate students and postdocs.

Bloom holds a Master of Arts in sociology and a Master of Science in social work from the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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