K-State offers mediation service to solve disputes

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Kansas State offers a mediation service, a form of intervention in a dispute in order to resolve it, to Riley and Geary county residents.

The service is located in Mary and Carl Ice Hall, and it is directed by clinical assistant professor and Riley Geary Mediation Program coordinator Tonya Ricklefs. Ricklefs said the program was established about three years ago. While she said the program is under-utilized, it has been successful thus far.

“The mediation program has two focuses, one to be a service to the community, and two to be a resource to make alternate dispute resolutions affordable to the Manhattan community,” Ricklefs said.

The cases brought in to the program are child-custody and family cases; however, Ricklefs said they could do other types of mediation, such as a business trying to solve a dispute or a sorority trying to bring order back into their organization.

“We have gotten referrals for other types of conflict, for example student-group conflicts here at K-State,” Ricklefs said. “But what has happened is that they resolved those (issues) before coming to the mediation process.”

How it works

The mediation services that K-State offers is based on a sliding pay scale, so depending on what income people earn is how they base their hourly charge to clients. The first session is a three-hour session that includes the administrative side and an initial get-to-know-you meeting with the clients.

“Our process is to speak to each one of the parties individually,” Ricklefs said. “We gather background information, domestic violence screening and then we prep them, ask questions about what their concerns are and what their triggers could be.”

After the initial individual session, Ricklefs said they join for a two-hour joint session. The joint sessions do not necessarily happen in the same room, depending on concerns from the parties involved and the information the mediators learned from the first session.

In the three years the program has been open, they have received 330 referrals, which means they have been contacted and have contacted those clients back. Ricklefs said they get about 100 cases a year, roughly. She also said K-State’s program is ahead of the curve because they offer online mediation, something that she does not know of any other mediation program offering the service yet.

Student mediation

The program offers K-State students the opportunity to student co-mediate. There is a certificate program offered to students — the conflict resolution certificate — through the College of Human Ecology. Once a student completes the certificate, they are eligible to be a student mediator.

Laura Lyddon, a K-State graduate, completed her certificate last summer and has co-mediated five sessions since then. Lyddon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in family and life science with a minor in conflict analysis and trauma studies and her certificate in conflict resolution in December of 2016.

“It’s really fun to see the things we learned in class, like when we did the divorce and child custody class, we had to actually practice mediating with our classmates,” Lyddon said. “So it’s really fun to see it happen in real life.”

Lyddon also said it’s a great opportunity to get to know professors better and interact on a more personal level with them.

Jessica Cless, a 2013 K-State graduate in family studies and human services, working on her doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy at K-State, has been mediating since she graduated in 2013.

“I go in and work a case with a lead mediator, someone who is a state-approved mediator and has lots of experience, and we work side-by-side with them,” Cless said. “Usually they will pair you with the same person and work a couple different cases with them so you can learn from them.”

Cless said the more a student learns, the more responsibility a student can take as a student mediator. Cless also said the mentorship it offered from trained professionals like Ricklefs drew her to the program.

Ricklefs said the program is a big benefit to the Manhattan community because of its affordability and self-service abilities.

“We have people who are getting divorced, either as a student or military on Fort Riley, who just can’t afford to hire attorneys,” Ricklefs said. “They have us mediate the dispute part of the divorce, and then they can file their paperwork themselves. That’s a huge benefit we can help people with.”

For more information on the Riley Geary Mediation Program, visit https://www.he.k-state.edu/fshs/rgmediation/.

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