Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business

Meet our Team

Board of Directors

John Thomas, Ph.D., Dean, School of Business

Robert E. Coy, J.D., Vice Chair/President, Versacare, Inc.

Richard Pershing, J.D., Director, Center Director

Staff and Collaborators

Richard Pershing, J.D., Center Director

Richard Pershing is a mediator and practicing attorney with substantial experience in business and healthcare administration and law. He believes in the “miracle of mediation” which he believes occurs when parties to a dispute take ownership of their matter and exercise the power vested in them to resolve it instead of letting an outsider impose an outcome. Mr. Pershing has mediated numerous litigated matters in general civil and estate litigation. He has also facilitated owner and board matters in resolving issues and developing strategies and plans. He is a partner of Reynolds Jensen & Swan LLP, a firm handling business transactions, litigation and estate matters. He is on the faculty of California Southern School of Law. He received his B.A. from La Sierra University and his JD from Western State University, College of Law and his mediation training through Pepperdine University, Strauss Institute.

Tony Belak, J.D., Healthcare Program and Associate Center Director

Tony Belak is the founder of The Institute for Workplace Transition and the former Executive Director of the International Center for Collaborative Solutions at Sullivan University, Louisville, Kentucky, where he was also on the faculty of the Master of Science in Conflict Management program. He was the Senior Dispute Resolution Counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs and is not only a mediator and arbitrator but also a teacher in basic, advanced, and specialized conflict resolution. He is recognized for his innovation in designing conflict resolution programs within the workplace. Tony is president of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) Kentucky chapter.

He has taught conflict resolution at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, Indiana University Southeast College of Business, and MBA courses and seminars at the Vienna campus of Webster University and Bratislava, Slovakia. He is the first attorney graduate of the George Washington University Interagency Institute for Federal Health Care Executives (1992). He was an original founder of the Louisville Bar Association ADR Committee and served for eight years on the Kentucky Bar Association ADR Committee and as its chair for two years. He is the former Regional Counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs and was an initial member of the Civil Justice Reform Act Committee for the Western District of Kentucky, former assistant Commonwealth Attorney, special assistant U.S. Attorney, and President of the Federal Bar Association, Kentucky Chapter. He is a certified mediator and arbitrator with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Kentucky Collaborative Family Network, the U.S. Postal Service REDRESS Program, trained as an arbitrator by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), and a mediator/arbitrator with the Southern Indiana Realtors Association, Inc. He also is past two term chair of the Louisville Bar Association ADR/Mediation Section and past President of the Mediation Association of Kentucky.

Mr. Belak has traveled throughout the United States and Europe lecturing and training in mediation and dispute resolution. He has taught mediation skills to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) internal mediators and conflict resolution training to United Nations and Austria Kontrollbank managers and supervisors in Vienna and Irish Department of Defense mediators in Dublin. He is the founder and past president of the Federal ADR Council, Inc., a non-profit shared neutral mediation project for federal agencies in Kentucky and Indiana, the oldest in the nation. He was instrumental in establishing the Mediation Association of Kentucky, the Jefferson County Court Annexed Mediation Rule, the Federal Court prisoner petition mediation project, and one of the earliest peer and truancy mediation programs in Jefferson County, Kentucky. He served on the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service focus group to establish core competencies for their internal roster of neutrals, the Administrative Office of the Courts Mediator Guidelines Committee, and has published articles in national magazines and local newspapers regarding conflict resolution. He began his interest in ADR as an ombudsman in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois in 1973. He teaches a certified web assisted mediator skills and collaborative practices training program and consults and trains for business and industry worldwide. Tony can be reached at; or

Sue Hamilton, J.D., School Mediation and Family Program Director

Sue Hamilton is a licensed attorney, federal and local mediator and a certified fitness and wellness coach. She is a member of LAW, TAPM, and the Tennessee and American Bar Associations. She has received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with a focus in family and schools, from the University of Tennessee and her Doctorate of Jurisprudence in 1993. Hamilton has designed state wide school and corporate dispute resolution seminars; presented for Tennessee Bar Association, Wm J. Harbison Legal Education Foundation, and Annual Governor's Conferences, Drug Free Schools. She is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator and Trainer in General, Civil/Family, and Domestic Violence, a Federal Mediator for the United States District Court and a member of Kentucky's Civil and Family Court Roster of Mediators. As a trainer for International Center for Collaborative Solutions at Sullivan University and now La Sierra University, she enjoys traveling to train in many parts of the country. Currently, Ms. Hamilton has incorporated the legal and wellness professions in her law practice by providing collaborative options for those in dispute.

Dulce L. Peña, J.D., Professor, Conflict Resolution Trainer and Facilitator

Dulce Peña has served as an attorney with Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center. Prior to joining the Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center she practiced litigation at the law firm of Thompson and Colegate in Riverside where she litigated in the areas of employment, civil rights, wage and hour regulations, medical malpractice, partnership dissolutions and corporate derivative actions. She is a certified mediator from Ken Cloke's Dispute Resolution Center, with emphasis on workplace conflict and disputes. In 2011, Ms. Peña joined the La Sierra University School of Business as a Professor of Management. She currently teaches and mentors students in the areas of human resource management, leadership development, and workplace conflict. 

Ms. Peña is a graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law and holds master's degrees from Loma Linda University and Fielding University in education administration and Organizational Management and Development. She is also a graduate of Fielding University's Evidence Based Coaching Certificate program. In addition to her 20 years of experience as an attorney, Ms. Peña has worked in higher education administration as a board member, administration and teacher, and has extensive experience coaching executives and management on work-related issues and conflict coaching. She is a member of the California Bar Association, the International Coaching Federation and has served on numerous boards in her community. She is a sought after speaker and trainer. Ms. Peña enjoys photography, art, Spanish and French literature, travel, snorkeling, music, team sports, writing poetry and short stories as well as spending time with family and friends.

Patti Cotton Pettis, MAOD, Executive and Conflict Coach, Certified Mediator, and Consultant

Patti Cotton Pettis is a professional and certified executive coach and organizational development consultant. She specializes in leadership development and change management; and coaching for conflict, increased self-confidence, personal effectiveness and authenticity, and communication and negotiating skills.

Patti works with executives, teams, and special work groups, and utilizes evidence-based models based on best practices for leadership and team development to maximize learning, growth, and potential. She is certified by the International Coach Federation, Harvard-trained in Immunity to Change methodology, and a certified facilitator for Amherst Writers and Artists' generative writing. She facilitates workshops and retreats on immunities to change, forgiveness, life purpose, the power of individual and collective strengths, and visioning.

Patti is a seasoned executive with more than 25 years of multi-cultural experience in the realms of philanthropy, Swiss diplomatic relations, public relations, and communications. Her master's degrees are awarded from La Sierra University in English Literature, and from Fielding Graduate University in Organizational Management and Development. Her thesis topic at Fielding reflected her work in coaching at-risk youth to increase social and emotional intelligence skills through the utilization of transformative conflict resolution. She is also a graduate of Fielding's Evidence-based Coaching Program.

Patti currently serves on the following boards: Alternatives for Domestic Violence for Riverside County, Riverside Community Health Foundation, and the Riverside Library Foundation.

Sharon Van Horn, MA, Coordinator for Church Life Programs

Sharon Van Horn is presently a Mediator, Life Coach, Consultant and President of CDM Resources in Louisville, Kentucky. She has a Master of Arts in Human Resource Leadership from Azusa Pacific University as well as a Master of Arts in Theology and Christian Education from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Over the past thirty years, she has worked with numerous individuals, couples, families and groups in addition to businesses as a counselor, mediator, life coach, consultant, health advisor and image consultant in the United States and Europe.

She is an ordained Minister and President of Life Connections International, Inc., in Louisville, Kentucky, a faith-based ministry which provides resources and services to connect people to God, themselves, and others. She is also a Victim Chaplain and a member of the Board of Directors of two faith-based organizations. Sent To Serve is a Mission to Kenya, Africa based in Groton, Connecticut and Let The Church Rise is a ministry to churches in New England in Guilford, Connecticut. She is on the Board of Directors of SPAVA , an organization in Louisville, Kentucky whose mission is to produce a nonviolent society by being mentors and role models for youth. She was a founder and chief executive officer of a start-up gourmet beverage company in Connecticut for eleven years.

Sharon is currently involved in alternative dispute resolution in Louisville, Kentucky and other parts of the state as a mediator through the Kentucky State Court System. She also has a private practice called CDM Resources which helps individuals, couples, families and groups to understand themselves and each other in order to build healthy and lasting relationships. She helps people learn to communicate better, resolve issues, and build relationships that previously appeared deadlocked.

Sharon travels to various parts of the United States and to Europe, twice a year, to work with individuals, couples, and families on communication, conflict resolution, and personal growth and development. She also presents at retreats on various topics including identity, fulfillment, communication and conflict resolution. Email:

Dr. LaVena Wilkin, Ph.D, Professional Coach and Certified Mediator

LaVena Wilkin, PhD serves as the Dean of Conflict Management and Professor in the Sullivan University Graduate College. She was formerly Dean of the College of Business Administration at Sullivan University. Before joining Sullivan University, Dr. Wilkin spent twenty-six years in the construction industry, and three of those years she co-owned a successful commercial and industrial masonry company. She became an adjunct instructor for Sullivan in 1999, and discovered her passion for teaching. After selling the company, Dr. Wilkin came to work full-time at Sullivan University, serving as the first Associate Director of the Evening and Weekend Division. Dr. Wilkin is a graduate of Sullivan University, earning her associate, bachelors, and master's degrees from Sullivan. Dr. Wilkin earned her PhD. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from Nova Southeastern University.

Dr. Wilkin's dissertation topic was workplace bullying in academe, and her research focused on how faculty members who have been targets of workplace bullying cope with that experience. Her research interests include workplace bullying, conflict and change, conflict and communication, facilitating conflicted workgroups, and the power of forgiveness. She has presented papers and facilitated workshops on several conflict management related topics, including workplace bullying, communication, organizational conflict management, and change management.


The Center of Conflict Resolution has trained many mediators who represent a great many professional and community backgrounds including attorneys, educators, social service and health professionals, community leaders and more. For every conflict, our staff carefully chooses a mediation team of one or two mediators whose education and experience most closely match the issues and the people involved in the conflict. In addition to numerous specialties, the Center offers the following panels:

  • Healthcare Panel
  • Education Panel
  • Business Panel
  • Labor
  • Congregational Ministry Panel
  • Real Estate Panel
  • Family and Collaborative Law Panel
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