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Sheryl Wilson to become new Vice President of Culture and Belonging
Wilson will step into her new position in July 2024 with hopes to revitalize DEI at Bethel.
On May 4, The Collegian published a story which detailed the creation of a new future administrative role at Bethel College, aimed at addressing the need for work on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
In July, 2024, one of those staff and faculty members, Sheryl Wilson, will be taking her place as the new Vice President of Culture and Belonging at Bethel College.
Currently, Wilson serves as the Executive Director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), an affiliate of Bethel College. According to KIPCOR, Wilson “has been a practitioner, trainer and educator in restorative justice for over fifteen years and has had the honor of working with individuals from around the world in her practice.”
Prior to coming to KIPCOR, Wilson served in a variety of roles around the country relating to mediation, restorative justice work, and education. Notably, Wilson has done extensive work in facilitating offender-victim dialogues in prisons, served as Executive Director of Southern Truth and Reconciliation of Atlanta, and was President of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice.
Wilson did not always intend to take a place in an organization like KIPCOR. Speaking about the process of ending up in Newton, she said, “It took a little encouragement, strong encouragement, to get me to apply [to KIPCOR]. ... When I came here, saw what was happening here and how lovely this community is, I knew that I wanted to work here.”
In her six years at KIPCOR, Wilson has accomplished much. “We've trained thousands of educators in restorative practices in the state of Kansas,” she shared. Additionally, due to its close proximity and partnership with Bethel, KIPCOR works to educate Bethel students in restorative practices.
Wilson’s work on Bethel’s DEI policies was not intended to move her away from KIPCOR. Originally, she was simply a part of the team working to create a new Office of DEI. “We … created as a group of concerned faculty and staff an idea of what the new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion can look like,” Wilson said.
However, in the process of this work, Wilson was tapped as a potential candidate for the role that she was creating. Wilson explained, “In the course of all of these conversations about creating the office … President Gering looked at me one day and he said, ‘I think you are pretty passionate about this. I think maybe it should be you.’”
Originally, Wilson wasn’t sure if she wanted to accept a new position. “I think the biggest concern that I had was, I love what I do. I have no need to go somewhere else,” she said. However, after consideration, Wilson decided to take the opportunity.
Despite moving to a new role, Wilson still hopes to remain connected to KIPCOR. “I hope to bring KIPCOR with me,” she stated. “The work that I will do in an Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, the only way that you get that outcome is if you have a good process. And good process comes from the ways that we train here at KIPCOR.”
“The work that I will do in an Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, the only way that you get that outcome is if you have a good process. And good process comes from the ways that we train here at KIPCOR.”
With Wilson moving away from it, KIPCOR still has a strong future at Bethel College. “KIPCOR is going to live on. … My hope is that my successor will be found before I step away, and I'll get some time with that person to kind of get them shored up on how this place is run,” Wilson said.
Wilson hopes that the creation of the new role of Vice President of Culture and Belonging will allow her to be a force for good on campus. “We have been more of a reactionary force than a proactive force around DEI matters for a long time,” she shared. “My hope, and what I look forward to is … helping the college be in a place where we are not just in name, welcoming and inclusive, but where we really live that out.”