Devoted to helping others
For nearly 30 years, Madrid has worked to improve life for those on and off campus

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs


Anita Madrid

Anita Madrid leaves the Berkeley Pledge, and returns to the helm of the Staff Ombuds office. Jane Scherr photo.

23 August 00 | Anita Madrid's first job on campus required her to be locked in a cage everyday, literally. She and her fellow "inmates" sorted highly confidential admissions packets in the basement of Sproul Hall, in what used to be the police department's jail.

"I had just left the very respectable profession of teaching, only to end up in a jail cell," Madrid, a former nun, recalled. "It was emotionally and physically draining, but we made the work bearable by racing to see who could sort the most packets each day."

Though Madrid laughs at the memory now, it taught her a valuable lesson, she said: Try, whenever possible, to make something good out of a difficult situation.

Madrid has shared this philosophy with many during her 27 years on campus, the last five of which were spent as director of the nationally recognized Berkeley Pledge, a campus outreach program that works to prepare underprivileged K-12 students for admission into college.

She recently left that position to return to the Staff Ombuds Office, where she will serve as director. Madrid's decision to leave the Berkeley Pledge was, in large part, due to family obligations - her elderly father was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and requires increased care.

"These events, coupled with the intensive time demands of the Berkeley Pledge, made me re-prioritize my life," said Madrid in a recent letter to her colleagues. "I could not serve the pledge well or my family if I remained in my current position, and I would not want to let anyone down."

It is this duty to service that has won Madrid fans around campus and across the country.

"I salute your commitment to improving the lives of low-income California students," said U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in a letter to Madrid, following President Clinton's public tribute to the Berkeley Pledge in 1998.

"Your work has transformed a bold vision into a model program for the nation and the world," said former Berkeley chancellor Chang-Lin Tien.

Though Madrid is leaving the Pledge program, the outreach work there will continue under the watch of Genaro Padilla, vice chancellor for undergraduate affairs.

"We greatly value Anita's contribution to creating partnerships between Berkeley and our partner schools and for sustaining those partnerships over the past five years," said Padilla. "We will build upon Anita's work as the campus reorganizes outreach to strengthen these partnerships."

At the Ombuds Office, Madrid replaces Ella Wheaton, who left last spring to work for the Department of Justice in Washington. Madrid was co-director of the Ombuds office along with Wheaton before taking a leave to work for the Berkeley Pledge.

Madrid's charge, along with associate director Margo Wesley, is to help the campus manage its human resources by handling conflicts, which, according to Madrid, are inevitable and natural.

"Conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing," she said. "But how those conflicts are managed is what can cause pain or injury, and what the campus really needs to focus on."

In working through these issues with staff, Madrid's approach is to "get the person out of their box to look at the perspective of others." Re-framing these issues, she said, is often "a pathway to solutions."

According to Wesley, the two primary issues staff bring to the Ombuds office are inadequate communication within their department or unit and disrespectful treatment by supervisors, faculty or co-workers.

Wesley said other sensitive areas include a lack of professional development opportunities and a perception that efforts to obtain diversity in the work force are being ignored and workloads have increased.

The Ombud's office approach to these issues is developing more varied training programs, providing more self-help tools, communicating their services as broadly as possible and strengthening collaborative relationships with other campus groups concerned with campus quality of life.

The goal is to help the campus move from the current emphasis on dispute resolution to dispute prevention.

"We want to work with all units who share in our mission to improve the campus's organizational health," Madrid said. "How we perceive and respond to obstacles has a great affect on how healthy we are."



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Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.

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