Our office includes Director and Ombudsperson Sara Thacker, Associate Ombudsperson Lauren Bloom, and Assistant Ombudsperson Julia Horvath. When contacting our office, Julia is the first person who will assist you in answering questions about our services and standards of practice, conducting intake, providing conflict coaching, making referrals, and scheduling appointments. Sara and Lauren then meet with employees to listen to their concerns, problem-solve, and explore a range of options that help facilitate resolution.
Sara Thacker is the Director of the Staff Ombuds Office at UC Berkeley. She holds a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law and a LL.M. in conflict resolution from Georgetown University Law Center. Sara is a self described “recovered attorney” having found more progressive ways to resolve disputes after working for several years as a litigation associate at international law firms. In addition to serving as the Staff Ombudsperson for campus, Sara developed a new ombuds services program for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and served as the Laboratory Ombudsperson from 2010 to 2014.
Prior to joining the Staff Ombuds Office, Sara served as an Adjunct Professor and Hewlett Fellow in Conflict Resolution and Legal Problem Solving at Georgetown University Law Center where she taught courses in negotiation, mediation, and multi-party dispute resolution. Sara is a certified mediator and has mediated cases for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the DC Office of Human Rights. As an experienced mediator, she also worked with the Department of Energy to create a pilot Mediation Support Advisor program to prepare employees for mediation and improve the productivity of the process.
From 2011-2014, Sara served on the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Board of Directors, the largest professional association for organizational ombudspersons. She previously co-chaired the IOA Communications Committee and has presented at annual conferences for organizational ombuds on various topics, including mediation, advanced ombuds skills, and data collection and analysis. Sara is the author of two articles on organizational ombuds, including Good Intentions Gone Astray: How the ABA Standards Affect Ombudsmen [PDF], Journal of the International Ombudsmen Association, Vol. 2, No. 1, (2009) and Where Are the Ombuds? [PDF], The Independent Voice, Vol. 1, Issue 5, (2006). She has also given public speaking presentations regarding cultural considerations in conflict resolution, the role gender plays in mediation, and alternative careers in the law. In her spare time, Sara can be found on her yoga mat or eating her way through the Bay area.
Lauren comes to UC Berkeley with over 15 years of professional experience in the conflict management and alternative dispute resolution field. She chose this profession because she has seen how employee conflicts and concerns provide opportunities for positive change. Lauren’s conflict resolution experience includes serving as the Ombuds at The University of Texas at Austin and at the Texas State Lottery Commission as well as working as a mediator and on restorative justice initiatives. Additionally, Lauren has been a counselor at employee assistance program services, taught sociology, and worked on issues related to housing, domestic violence, sexual assault, child care, and business and economic development. Lauren is a member of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), was a founding member of what is now known as the Texas Organizational Ombuds Practitioner Association, and has served as a co-chair of the Ombuds of Texas.
Lauren holds a Master of Arts in Sociology with a Portfolio in Dispute Resolution 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.
Lauren spends her free time practicing yoga, dancing, and parenting. She likes to explore all the beauty that the Bay area has to offer.
Julia strives to be of service to UC Berkeley staff. Over and over she has witnessed the creative power of self-determination: when people are given time to reflect, they are able to develop and implement the solutions that work best for them. She is proud to work in an office that maintains a safe space for staff to address their workplace concerns constructively.
Prior to joining UC Berkeley, she was a research scholar at University of New Mexico Staff Ombuds Services, where she combined her passions for research, mediation and training. She completed 150 hours of basic and advanced mediation training and the Foundations of Organizational Ombudsman Practice in 2016 and holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology from Budapest University of Technology and Economics in Hungary. When Julia was awarded the Julius Rezler Alternative Dispute Resolution Scholarship, she discovered her calling: working in field of conflict resolution. She is passionate about identifying and communicating the value of the organizational ombuds work.
In her free time, Julia likes to plan her next trip to further explore the world.