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Board & Staff

The Dispute Resolution Center includes a Board of Directors, Executive Director, and staff. We also thank many volunteers who donate their time, serving as mediators, trainers, and facilitators.

Our Board

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LaSonia Forte

PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

LaSonia Forté is Associate Director of State Outreach in the Office of Government Relations at the University of Michigan. In this role, she builds strategic partnerships in the business, institutional, government, education and non-profit sectors throughout the east side of Michigan. She holds an AAS in Computer Information Systems, a BS in Psychology (Communication minor), and a Master's in Public Administration/Affairs (MPA). LaSonia joined the Dispute Resolution Center's Board of Directors because she believes in constructive dispute resolution and restorative justice for young adults. Her commitment to education, mentorship and building character is reflected in her collaborative nature and informs her community service and civic engagement. Her favorite statement on social justice is by Artika R. Tyner: "Seek justice: Make a commitment to serve the needs of the ‘least of these’ and give voice to the voiceless."

LaSonia also serves on the Board of Directors of Girls Group and is the co-creator and cosponsor of the annual Frank J. Forté Laptop Scholarship along with her husband, Prof. Michael Awkward. She has been engaged in community outreach for more than ten years in Metro Detroit and the greater Ann Arbor area.

Jennifer Symanns

Jennifer Symanns

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Jennifer is an HR professional, Mediator, and Ombuds Assistant at the University of Michigan, who has been a Dispute Resolution Center volunteer since 2012. She is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and Washtenaw County Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution sections. She is proud to be a part of the DRC because it provides accessible, affordable, and effective conflict resolution services that contribute to positive outcomes in our community.

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Michael Fried

TREASURER OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Michael Fried has been a mediator with the Dispute Resolution Center since 2002, primarily mediating divorce and special education cases, and considers volunteering at the Center as part of his effort of tikkun olam. Michael Fried retired from the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorneys Office in 2001 where he was Chief of Administration. He served on the State of Michigan Criminal Justice Information System Policy Council; and founded and led the Wayne County Justice Information System.

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Judy Hallas

SECRETARY OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Judy joined the Board of Directors in 2015 and she serves as the Secretary. She is an Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Michigan Medicine and specializes in change management. Judy believes in empowering others to have constructive and healing conversations and supports the Dispute Resolution Center in its mission and values.

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Gregory L. Curtner

Curtner is at home in a courtroom. A widely-recognized advocate, Curtner has tried complex cases involving antitrust, business transactions, defamation, intellectual property, securities, and sports law. As much as Greg thrives on trying cases, his primary mission and passion is understanding and helping to solve his clients’ business challenges.

At RSHC, he leads the antitrust and competition practice. He is also an active member of the firm’s class actions and commercial litigation groups. He is committed to providing effective and creative counsel to support the strategic goals of his clients. His understanding of, and experience in, economics, accounting, marketing, distribution, and finance help him to team effectively with clients. Greg will frame, present, and try a case when that’s the best solution or craft creative settlements when that option is the wiser course. In Greg’s view, solving problems born in the past is only part of his job. He aims to offer advice and strategy that his clients can use and rely upon as they do business in the future. Through four decades of representing athletic associations, manufacturers, trade associations, and academic institutions, Greg has cultivated an unparalleled depth of knowledge about antitrust, sports, entertainment, and education. He has successfully represented many high-profile defendants, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association, in precedent-setting cases.

Greg frequently serves as lead counsel in nationwide antitrust disputes and class actions for clients in a wide range of industries and has appeared in numerous state and federal courts. He is a former chairman of the Antitrust Section of the State Bar of Michigan, and was the primary drafter of the Michigan Antitrust Reform Act.

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Nikita Kennard

Nikita Kennard is a Business Strategist with over ten years of experience in government and private sector endeavors; partnering with Non Profits, executives, CEOs and entrepreneurs to meet and exceed project expectations.  Nikita combines her creativity in advertising, marketing and writing expertise with Lean Six Sigma training to produce results and has been awarded the Michigan Disability Determination Services Director's award and the Social Security Administration Champion's Award.  Nikita has been a participant in the Leadership Academy within the State of Michigan Department of Health & Human Service Emerging Leader program.  Nikita has received formal Lean Six Sigma training from Purdue University, has earned a BS in Psychology from Michigan State University and is a recipient of the Institute for Women's Entrepreneurship program at Cornell University.  The Dispute Resolution Center not only services a community dear to Nikita but also aligns with her belief in effective communication being impactful across generations within families and ultimately the community.

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Muffy MacKenzie

Muffy is a mediator, facilitator, peacemaker and small business owner who has been a volunteer with the Dispute Resolution Center since 2002. A member of the Michigan Bar Association, Muffy's specializations include: MCR3.216 Domestic Relations Mediation Training & Domestic Violence Screening Training, Peacemaking Court and Tribal Peacemaking Skills, Advanced Mediator Training, Great Meetings Great Results Facilitator Skills, Mediation Training for LGBT Community, Truancy Prevention and School Attendance, Michigan Special Education Mediation and Facilitation, and General Civil Mediation. She is proud to be part of the Dispute Resolution Center because she believes it is a beacon in our community for peaceful solutions in a very adversarial society. It is a place where people can come settle disputes in a collaborative way and take part in designing their own solutions with the guidance of our talented volunteer mediators, as well as a place to learn what can be life-altering skills to listen and be listened to.

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Laura O'Connor

Laura O’Connor is a senior associate with Burness, a social change communications firm. She develops and supports strategic communications plans for national public health foundations and nonprofit organizations that address children's health issues. She leads campaigns and storytelling projects to help expand afterschool progams in all 50 states and create policy changes that address health equity. She joined the Board because of her beliefs in the positive power of community building and kids’ advocacy and voices.

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Susie Paisley

Susie Paisley is vice president & controller at Amplifinity, an Ann Arbor software company. She joined the Dispute Resolution Center because of her belief that it provides a valuable service to our entire community. It not only helps peacefully resolve existing conflicts, but prevents potential disputes by teaching life-long social and coping skills to our residents.

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Laurie White

Laurie White, a native of Flint, MI who moved to Ann Arbor in the mid-1980s, is a documentary film maker, family therapist and Dialogue facilitator, as well as a certified mediator. She has been connected with the Dispute Resolution Center in various capacities for almost 10 years, and loves connecting with others who share her passionate belief that it is possible and necessary to find solutions to conflict.

Our Staff

Sally Brush

MEDIATION SERVICES COORDINATOR

Sally Brush has been coordinating the Dispute Resolution Center’s Small Claims Mediation Program in Washtenaw County since September 2006.  She also supervises the monthly Brown Bag Lunches for the DRC’s mediators.  Sally has spent significant time in African American, Appalachian and Jewish communities.  For most of her career, Sally worked with families of divorce and remarriage. Recognizing the damage done to children by the economic and psychological stresses of poorly handled divorces, she started a program to help parents and children navigate divorce without devastating their children. The program included mediation and extensive training of professionals, as well as education and support groups for parents and children, eventually reaching over 20,000 children and 7,000 parents in small groups. Sally can be reached at brushs@washtenaw.org.

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Belinda Dulin

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Belinda Dulin began her employment with The Dispute Resolution Center 2003 as the Mediation Services Coordinator and assisted in launching the Small Claims Mediation Program and the Domestic Relations Motion Day Program.  In 2006, she became the director of mediation services and was responsible for the development and administration of various civil and family mediation programs as well as facilitating workshops to community organizations.  In 2007, Belinda accepted the position of Executive Director and continues to expand the DRC’s services. Under her leadership, she has expanded the small claims mediation program, where mediation is the first step for problem solving in the 14A, 14B and 15th District Courts; and, developed and implemented school-based conflict programs serving students, families and school staff in identifying and resolving barriers and issues that affect students. Specific services include attendance mediation to identify the barriers consistent school attendance and create solutions that break the pattern of poor attendance, support the family structure and, academic improvement. Also, the DRC implemented the restorative practices services to address student-student and student-teacher conflict in a non-punitive, supportive manner that allows relationships to be restored, problems to be resolved and support services to be identified to support positive behavior and academic improvement. In 2013, also under Belinda’s leadership, the DRC partnered with the Peacemaking Court, providing restorative justice model to families in the child protection and delinquency systems The Dispute Resolution Center serves Washtenaw and Livingston Counties.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master of Arts degree in Dispute Resolution, both from Wayne State University.  Prior to becoming involved in community mediation, she worked in the corporate setting assisting with employment disputes -- preserving the working relationships between co-workers and employees and management. Belinda can be reached at: dulinb@ewashtenaw.org.

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Paula Luput

DATABASE ASSISTANT

My name is Paula Luput and I am studying Computer Science at Eastern Michigan University. Working for the DRC started off as a summer job but is now my current job and has become a huge part of me. I consistently am drawn towards and learn more about the issues happening in our local community. What the DRC does for Washtenaw County is amazing, and I am proud to be a part of it.

I am hoping to see the effects of the DRC grow bigger, and spread across multiple counties, even states. There is so much we, as the DRC, can provide for our community and for others.

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Stephanie Myers

MEDIATION SERVICES COORDINATOR

Stephanie Myers joined the DRC staff in 2020. Stephanie is passionate about mediation, adaptable conflict resolution, and restorative justice practices. Stephanie enjoys mediating small-claims cases and community disputes. Stephanie understands how mediation and restorative justice practices can shape not just the dialogue around conflict but also how we as a society respond and move forward from conflict. Stephanie will be assisting the DRC in its efforts to expand alternative dispute resolution to online forums. Stephanie is excited about the future of online dispute resolution and believes in conflict resolution and access to justice. The DRC has the opportunity to help members of the community that otherwise would not be able to participate in conflict resolution practices.

Stephanie earned her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Criminal Justice from the University of Michigan - Dearborn before earning her Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. She is a member of the Michigan State Bar Association and Washtenaw County Bar Association. Stephanie can be reached at: myerss@washtenaw.org

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Germaine Smith

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Germaine joined the Dispute Resolution Center in April 2018 as the Administrative and Development Assistant. Prior to joining the DRC team, Germaine has been deeply involved in non-profit mission driven work originating at Growing Hope and immersed herself in programmatic development around food sovereignty and healthy food access.  In that time, she developed her skills in policy advocacy and campaign development work in sustainable agriculture through the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council, Bee Safe Neighborhoods, Bee City Ann Arbor, and the Agricultural Land Area Preservation Advisory Committee of Washtenaw County. She transferred these skills to another local non-profit, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, helping to build and strengthen capacity for the organization. There she gained a lot of experience in organizational development, particularly in fundraising and donor cultivation strategies and approaches, outreach and social media planning and coordination, event planning, and trained in non-violent communication practices. Germaine currently serves on the Committee Advisory Board for Law Enforcement for the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office. In her spare time, Germaine enjoys beekeeping and growing food. She is currently working toward her Master's in Ecojustice Education at Eastern Michigan University. Germaine can be reached at smithger@washtenaw.org.

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Carolyn Stilwell

MEDIATION SERVICES COORDINATOR
Carolyn Stilwell is a conflict resolution specialist with over 10 years of experience in community mediation, facilitation, and teaching conflict resolution skills. She began her work at the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County in Maryland conducting outreach and providing conflict management training. She became passionate about community mediation and conflict resolution when she saw the transformative power of the processes used at the center. She continued on to become the executive director for several years. In Maryland she was certified as an evaluator mediator in the Inclusive Model and to served as a volunteer mediator, trainer, and evaluator for local community mediation centers. Her work then took her to FEMA where she currently serves as a temporary reservist ADR Advisor on disaster sites.
Carolyn received her MA in Cultural Anthropology from Washington State University. She also has bachelor’s degrees in Social and Political Studies and Graphic Design from Wilmington College, Ohio. She speaks both Spanish and English. (Se habla español y ingles.) Carolyn can be reached at: stilwellc@washtenaw.org

Olivia Bloomhuff

DRC 2018 & 2020 INTERN

Olivia is an undergraduate at the University of Michigan pursing degrees in History, Psychology, and Sociology. She plans to continue her educational career in law school next year. She has found that working at the DRC has increased my passion for law, restorative practices, and relationship building as she has seen the great impact that the DRC is able to have on schools, communities, and families.

"As an intern at the Dispute Resolution Center, I know that my work is serving individuals, families, and the community in direct and concrete ways. From developing a juvenile diversion program to supporting the long standing dedication of the DRC to peacemaking, mediation, and conflict resolution I know that being an intern here supports the principles of healing, community growth, and restoration which I hold dear to me. During my time at the DRC I hope to understand more about how alternatives to the adversarial court system can foster positive change, encourage collaboration, and address the root of conflict to promote healing." 

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Bridgette Wolf

DRC 2020 INTERN

Bridgette is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor as of December 2019. She majored in psychology with a focus in child development, and hopes to continue her education at the graduate level at U of M to obtain a Master of Social Work. She currently volunteers at a mental health clinic where she administers therapy to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and works as an assistant in a research lab in the Psychiatry Department of the U of M Hospital collecting EEG data from children and teenagers with anxiety.

"I am greatly looking forward to beginning my internship at the Dispute Resolution Center and gaining a new perspective to empower children and families who are experiencing familial or financial conflict.  I am particularly interested in and motivated to learn more about the impact of mediation services on family and child interactions as well as peer mediation in schools.  I am also look forward to facilitating in the expansion and improvement of the DRC’s juvenile programs."

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