KIPCOR offers help to anyone wanting skills for dealing with conflict


Monday, January 15th, 2018
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Most people would agree it’s harder than ever these days to have a civil conversation when there’s disagreement.

The staff of KIPCOR, Bethel College’s peacebuilding institute, has definitely seen this, says Sharon Kniss, director of education and training – and they want to help.

“We’ve been recognizing [since the] 2016 election, people are more aware of the polarization,” Kniss says. “People are realizing, ‘There’s a lot of disagreement, and we don’t know how to have a civil conversation or dialogue.’

“Specifically post-election, through Facebook and [direct] conversations, I’m hearing: ‘Is this something KIPCOR can do?’ Another handful of folks have reached out to KIPCOR, asking for ‘something I can just show up for.’”

The Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution is known regionally for its mediation trainings, and in fact offers a certificate (available for college credit) in conflict resolution.

“We are trying to come up with trainings that are more accessible to ordinary people who can’t take four days off, and don’t have a lot of extra funds [for an intensive course],” Kniss says.

About a year ago, KIPCOR staff gave a presentation on workplace conflict to the Newton Chamber of Commerce, and floated the idea of having a series of short, inexpensive courses. The reaction there was positive, Kniss says.

So KIPCOR is launching a pilot program, to begin Feb. 3, with the overall title “Leading in 2018: Working with Conflict and Differences.”

While KIPCOR staff had working professionals in mind as they were developing the program, they also want it to be useful to almost anyone interested in learning better ways to handle conflict, have civil conversations and build community, Kniss says.

It’s described as an “accessible and flexible workshop series [that] gives you the opportunity to add more tools to your toolbox as a community leader, change agent and citizen of a rapidly evolving world.”

Seven of the nine sessions are on Thursday evenings from 6-8:30 p.m., while two are extended, held on Saturdays – Feb. 3 and March 3, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The location is the KIPCOR offices at 2515 College Ave. in North Newton.

The short sessions are $35 each and the extended sessions $50. There’s a price break if you sign up for the whole series.

“The idea is to keep it affordable,” Kniss says. “There will also be limited-income rates available.”

Social workers will likely be able to earn CEUs through the courses, Kniss notes, adding that it might be possible for educators as well, but tied to an Individual Development plan and subject to outside approval.

Register online at kipcor.org or by calling 316-284-5217.

The first session, on Feb. 3, is titled “Connection, Communication and Conflict.” Kniss describes it this way: “If KIPCOR was to synthesize the most fundamental skills taught in our flagship ‘Managing Interpersonal Conflict’ class into a day, this would be that day.”

The other extended session, on March 3, is “Facilitation and Dialogue” and will teach basic skills in those areas and “how to run a good meeting,” Kniss says.

Titles of the seven evening sessions are “Getting Unstuck” (basics of negotiation, Feb. 8); “Trauma and Resiliency” (working with the impact of trauma personally and collectively, Feb. 15); “Power of Diversity” (looking at cultural competency and the need for difference in all spectrums, Feb. 22); “Building Great Teams” (“going beyond team-building games,” March 8); “Making Conflict Work for Your Organization” (how conflict can actually make an organization stronger and more productive, March 15); “Connected Communities” (ways to build connections in a neighborhood or between organizations and their surrounding area, March 22); and “Leaping Leadership Hurdles” (key principles of self-reflective leadership, March 29).

Most sessions will be co-led by a KIPCOR staff person and a regional expert in the particular topic being addressed in that session.

Confirmed co-leaders are Joyce McEwan-Crane, Wichita (Feb. 15), Donna Schenck-Hamlin, Manhattan (March 3), Art Thompson, Topeka (March 15), and Gregory Cole, Wichita (March 29).

McEwan-Crane is the strategic development coordinator for the Center for Community Support and Outreach at Wichita State University, where she coordinates the work of “trauma-informed systems of care.”

Schenck-Hamlin co-founded the Institute for Civic Discourse and Dialogue at Kansas State University, and is a program/project associate for both the ICDD and the Center for Engagement and Community Development at K-State.

Thompson, a professional mediator, was formerly the dispute resolution director for the Kansas Supreme Court.

Cole is a Wichita businessman who owns the Good Life Company and who has also taught leadership at Southwestern College in Winfield.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.

Former KIPCOR student and Bethel graduate among journal’s list of quiet influencers in nonprofit world


Thursday, December 7th, 2017
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A Bethel College graduate is among the 30 people featured in the cover story of the December 2017 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

“The Influencers: People Quietly Changing the Nonprofit World” (published online Dec. 5) highlights 15 people – and more briefly lists 15 more – the magazine calls “charity movers and shakers who are doing exciting things … moving under the radar but making a big impact on society’s toughest issues.”

One of these “movers and shakers” is Aziza Hasan, born in Jordan to a Palestinian father and American mother, who later moved to Halstead, graduated from Halstead High School and Bethel College. She is now based in Los Angeles as the executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, which she co-founded in 2006.

Following graduation from Bethel in 2003 with a degree in history and social science and a certificate in conflict resolution, Hasan spent two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Interfaith Ministries of Wichita, and completed an M.A. degree at Wichita State University.

In 2016, Hasan received Bethel’s Young Alumnus Award, which “recognizes character and citizenship, achievement or service rendered, and honors and recognition received.”

When The Chronicle put out a call, earlier this year, for names of people who fit its criteria of quiet impact in the nonprofit world, the magazine “wasn’t prepared for how many we would find. The individuals profiled were drawn from a pool of more than 300 nominations.

“These people are forward-thinking, and their stories speak of innovation, personal courage and grit. Collectively, they offer a glimpse of the future of philanthropy.”

Among those profiled are people working through their nonprofit organizations to break down the color and gender barriers in outdoor sports, help first-generation college students complete their degrees, de-stigmatize and effectively treat mental illness, provide safe space for homeless students, fight the opioid epidemic, improve financial access for marginalized groups such as poor women and native people, and, in Hasan’s case, build bridges across deep religious divides.

You can read the profile of Hasan at www.philanthropy.com/article/Building-Bridges-Across-Faiths/241857 and access all the profiles at www.philanthropy.com/specialreport/the-influencers-people-quietl/159.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.

KIPCOR film will help launch new restorative justice network


Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel College will open its annual Film Series and kick off a new restorative justice network at the same time.

KIPCOR will screen the Kansas premiere of the documentary Healing Justice Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus. (Note earlier start time than for past films.)

This film will be part of the launch event for the Kansas Restorative Schools Network, which KIPCOR is coordinating.

Since 2011, KIPCOR staff have been helping to facilitate Restorative Practices in Schools trainings for teachers, administrators and school social workers, with more than 1,000 of them in schools across Kansas.

The Nov. 12 event marks the official start of an organized network of leaders and practitioners of Restorative Practices in Schools from around the state, many of whom are coming to campus for the film and other events.

The showing of Healing Justice is free and open to the public as part of the annual KIPCOR Film Series, with a freewill offering taken to help support the series and the work of KIPCOR.

Discussion leaders for the talk-back session after the film will be members of KIPCOR’s Restorative Schools Initiative training and consulting team.

Healing Justice looks at restorative justice as a response to the school-to-prison pipeline.

The term refers to a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools due to exclusionary and punitive disciplinary practices, into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect. They would benefit from additional educational and counseling services, but instead are isolated, punished and pushed out.

Just released this month, Healing Justice is the newest film from World Trust Educational Services, a nonprofit social justice organization that provides tools and resources for people interested in tackling unconscious bias and systemic racial inequity in their workplaces, their communities and their lives.

Since 1998, World Trust has been producing films, curriculum and workshops that educate in an effort to deepen the conversation about race.

Directed and produced by Shakti Butler, Healing Justice addresses the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform in the United States.

It highlights various healing methodologies, including restorative justice practices, with the goal of supporting a national dialogue that investigates and considers alternatives to the current punitive model of justice.

The rest of the afternoon’s activities, while geared towards those who have completed Restorative Practices training through KIPCOR, are also free and open to the public.

However, preregistration is required, which can be done by visiting kipcor.org/event/kansas-restorative-schools-network-launch-event/ or calling KIPCOR at 316-284-5217. (No preregistration is required to see the film.)

Membership in the Kansas Restorative Schools Network is open to those who have completed KIPCOR’s Restorative Practices training. Others who are interested are invited to join as supporters, to receive news about the network’s activities and stay connected.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities, for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.

Read the article on Bethel College’s Press Release page here.

Bethel Names New KIPCOR Director


NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel College will welcome as its new director a person with deep experience in mediation and restorative justice.

Sheryl R. Wilson, Cary, North Carolina, will begin Nov. 6. She follows long-time director Gary Flory, who retired this summer, in the position.

Wilson has a B.S. in mediation and communication studies and a Masters of Liberal Studies in restorative justice from the University of Minnesota.

For more than a decade, Wilson has served as a restorative justice practitioner and conflict resolution specialist, working with victims and survivors of “crimes of severe violence” to address trauma healing, mediating in criminal cases with a focus on facilitating dialogue, and training victim-offender mediators in anti-racism and restorative justice practices, in settings around the country.

Her mediation work was featured on the A&E Network restorative-justice pilot Confrontation in 2006.

In addition to serving as an independent contractor in mediation and conflict resolution, Wilson currently works at Duke University’s Clinical Research Institute in data collection and documentation, and as a substitute teacher in the Wake County (North Carolina) Public Schools, a setting in which she practices restorative justice strategies.

Wilson is president of the National Association for Community and Restorative Justice and has served on the board of the Victim Offender Mediation Association, an international professional organization.

Wilson has been special projects coordinator at the Georgia Council for Restorative Justice at Georgia State University, Atlanta, where she was responsible for community outreach, training and raising awareness of restorative justice initiatives in the state; as executive director of Southern Truth and Reconciliation (STAR) in Atlanta, with a mission to collaborate with communities to adapt the “truth and reconciliation” process in response to racism and restorative justice; and as a certified parent educator in the Teen Parenting Program in the Montgomery (Alabama) Public Schools.

She also has a long history of community involvement. Since moving to North Carolina, she has been a volunteer mediator with the Juvenile Justice Project at Campbell Law School in Raleigh, and currently is a teacher and facilitator in the Racial Reconciliation Ministry of Cole Mill Road Church of Christ in Durham.

“I am very enthusiastic about the future of KIPCOR,” said Bethel Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Milliman. “We have benefited for years from the wise direction of Gary Flory. Building on his legacy, while exploring new avenues of work, Sheryl Wilson will bring expertise, experience, professionalism and enthusiasm to lead the work of KIPCOR’s excellent staff to the next level.

“I am thrilled that she will be joining us. She possesses the attributes and talents needed to help the joint efforts of KIPCOR and the college in promoting needed strategies for achieving peace and the resolution of conflict in Kansas and beyond.”

Founded in 1985, KIPCOR is one of the oldest peacebuilding institutes in the United States. It is dedicated to solving human conflict, both locally and globally, and promoting peace and social justice. For more information, see kipcor.org.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in Washington Monthly’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges 2017-18 and in the Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.

Read the article on Bethel College’s Press Release page here.

A welcome message


There’s a message going around. You may not have heard it, but you might haven seen it in yards around the Newton community.

It’s a message North Newton residents Stan and Marlene Smucker have had prominently displayed in their own yard for the past couple of months, one that welcomes community members of all backgrounds.

“No matter where you are from, we’re glad you are our neighbor.” That’s the message, printed in three languages (usually English, Spanish and Arabic), relayed by the tri-colored yard sign. Immanuel Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia created the original sign and made a PDF version available for anyone who wanted to produce them.

Since the initial sign posting, the message spread across the East Coast and has now made its way into Harvey County. The Smuckers noted they got their sign at Shalom Mennonite Church, having only to pay for the printing of the sign. Getting on board with that message was an easy decision for the Smuckers to make, given their personal beliefs.

“We feel strongly that our country needs to be open and accepting, especially to people having a difficult time getting acquainted with America,” Stan said.

“We’re all immigrants. We’ve all come from someplace else and taken this country, so it’s ours to share,” Marlene said.

Refugees are not always treated well and may even be criticized, but the Smuckers wanted anyone coming to the country to know that they welcome them, something they have done throughout their lives.

Having held pastorates in many multiracial communities in Ohio, Oklahoma and Colorado, the Smuckers have always been welcoming of individuals from different backgrounds. The Smuckers looked to build people up, not break them down.

Living in Arvada, Colorado, Marlene noted the Smuckers were part of a community of Hispanics, African-Americans and Hmong (immigrants from southeast Asia) and shared their church with the Hmong community, so that ability to coexist is something they see as crucial.

“It’s just an important thing that we get to know each other,” Marlene said.

Suffice it to say, the Smuckers are glad to see interest in the message growing through the yard signs, something the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at Bethel College is working to encourage as well.

KIPCOR staff decided to make its office, Kaufman House (located on the Bethel campus at 2515 College Ave. in North Newton), a place where anyone from south-central Kansas who wants a welcome sign can pick one up.

The 24-inch by 18-inch signs are available by donation (suggested $10 to cover printing) during KIPCOR’s office hours, generally 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Email kipcor@bethelks.edu or call 316-284-5217 for more information or with any questions.

KIPCOR will accept donations beyond the cost of the signs, which will go to support KIPCOR’s work in bridge-building and conflict resolution.

“In putting up signs, if you have questions or want support in neighborly skills or community building, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We build stronger communities together,” said Sharon Kniss, KIPCOR director of education and training.

Kniss added that KIPCOR staff see making the signs available to the public as a way to both draw attention to KIPCOR’s presence and what it can offer in terms of peace-building skills and training, and to spread a message of welcome.