Founder of Untangled Resolutions


Bathabile Mthombeni

My Story

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by how societies work and by how power is distributed in society. As a child born under Apartheid in South Africa I learned very early on that, often, distinctions are made between people on the basis of their identities and different amounts of value are attributed to people on the basis of those distinctions. To be blunt and specific, I learned that White people had decided that they were superior to Black people and deserved to own and control everything.

My nationality on my birth certificate reads: Republic of South Africa Undetermined. My parents managed to bring my siblings and me to the United States and we eventually became Resident Aliens. I was an Undetermined Resident Alien. My identity was erased. I belonged no where.

I found myself preoccupied by my desire to understand how identity-based systems of oppression develop and what supports their foundations.

I was keen to uncover how these systems grow beyond those who establish them and, generation after generation, become deeply entrenched into collective beliefs and value systems.

I wanted to know what sustains these systems and why they are so difficult to dismantle.

I majored in sociology as an undergraduate at Princeton and earned concentration certificates in African Studies, African American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Visual Arts. I focused my academic studies on examining the intersection between gender, race, and power.

I experienced the great joy and privilege of voting for Nelson Mandela in South Africa’s first free and fair election.

The year after President Mandela was elected I took a year off to live in South Africa and conduct empirical research about how Black South African men understood women’s rights in the context of what was then the new South African constitution. This work culminated in a documentary and in a prize-winning thesis titled Public Rhetoric/Private Realities: Genderspeak in the New South Africa.

I chose to attend law school because of my passion for social justice. I served as an editor on the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law and I discovered my second passion: Alternative Dispute Resolution.


Alternative dispute resolution presented to me the answer for how to approach resolving disputes when significant power imbalances disadvantage marginalized people.

I also discovered the mediator’s catnip: That moment when warring parties suddenly gain new insight that facilitates a new vision of their counterparts, allows them to recognize their common interests, and happily create a mutually beneficial agreement. I still find myself yearning after that moment even after nearly two decades of practice as a mediator.

I spent nearly three years as a litigation associate at a Wall Street law firm before discovering my true profession. I did not know what an organizational ombudsperson was until I applied for the job!

After four years as the associate university ombuds officer for Columbia University, I founded Untangled Resolutions and also took a position as an adjunct professor of conflict management and dispute resolution at John Jay College. I returned to being an organizational ombuds when I accepted the position of university ombudsman at Binghamton University.

I took some time off from Untangled Resolutions to earn a masters degree in leadership and organizational development and a graduate coaching certificate from the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Today I combine all of my academic knowledge, life experience, and passion for social justice to serve organizations that desire to find the highest expression of themselves as diverse and inclusive communities that center equity and belonging for all.


I would be honored to guide you and your organization as you bring your diversity aspirations to life.

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