Bethel adds VP of culture and belonging, taps Wilson

Headshot of Sheryl Wilson in black top with denim blue overshirt

Sheryl R. Wilson will leave her position as executive director of KIPCOR when she takes an appointment as Bethel’s first-ever vice president for culture and belonging, beginning July 1, 2024.

Wilson has served as the executive director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) since November 2017. Bethel will open a search for a new director in the coming months.

The new VP position arose after Bethel’s first director of an office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Julián Gonzalez-Salamanca, concluded his tenure, and the position remained vacant.

“Faculty and staff were expressing concern about what a DEI office would look like,” Wilson said. “A group of us began meeting to talk about how we could create a robust office, with many stakeholders, that supported students, faculty and staff.

“We created a proposal and offered it to President [Jon] Gering. When he began envisioning what the role would look like, there was creating policy around diversity, equity and inclusion; there was enabling professional development opportunities.

“Most of all, there was a need to create a place for students to feel comfortable having conversations around belonging, diversity, inclusion. And all of this needed someone in a dedicated role.”

Gering and the Bethel board created a cabinet-level position in culture and belonging – a “neutral” seat, Wilson said, “not aligned with any other area.”

“The primary purpose is to be attuned to the needs of our students,” she said, “and to make Bethel welcoming to any and all who are new here, whether students, faculty or staff.”

Wilson has been an independent contractor for more than 20 years, practicing, training and educating in restorative justice (RJ) with people and groups from around the world.

She holds both a B.S. in mediation and communication studies and a restorative justice-based Master of Liberal Studies from the University of Minnesota.

Beginning her RJ career as a trainer and research associate at the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, Wilson developed and facilitated Victims, Offenders, Community, A Restorative Experience (VOCARE) dialogues in Minnesota correctional facilities. She also worked as a community mediator with the Victim Offender Conferencing program in Washington County, Minn.

As a researcher, she was actively involved in the evaluation of the VOCARE prison-based program. Her work in victim-offender dialogue at the Minnesota Department of Corrections is featured in an A&E Network pilot, Confrontation.

She has served as a special projects coordinator for the Georgia Council for Restorative Justice (GCRJ), a program of Georgia State University, and, as executive director of Southern Truth and Reconciliation (STAR) in Atlanta, she worked with communities affected by historical harm.

In the summer of 2008, Wilson coordinated a group of victim-offender facilitators to serve as support people for witnesses who gave testimony to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) during hearings for the United States diaspora, held at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. She continued working with a contingent of the Liberian TRC living in the Atlanta area as executive director of STAR.

More recently, before coming to KIPCOR, Wilson worked as a certified Parents as Teachers educator for a teen parenting program in the Montgomery (Ala.) public schools, as an educator in Wake County, N.C., and as a trainer in victim-offender dialogue.

Wilson was president of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice, a professional organization for RJ practitioners, from 2017 through July 2022.

During her tenure at KIPCOR, she has mediated in conflict resolution cases, taught classes, served as a trainer and facilitator on multiple topics and in several capacities, and spoken at various events.

In her spare time, Wilson works on writing projects that explore the relationship between the RJ movement and racial reconciliation. She contributed a chapter to Colorizing Restorative Justice, a book about RJ practitioners of color and the challenges they face, published in June 2020.

Wilson is married to LeRoy Wilson, Information Services coordinator and software development adjunct faculty at Bethel. They are the parents of two sons, Collin Wilson and Sam Wilson, a 2022 Bethel graduate.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel ranks at #23 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of “Best Regional Colleges Midwest” for 2023-24. Bethel was the first Kansas college or university to be named a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center, in 2021. For more information, see