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

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 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

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

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 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.