Building Bridges Conference

Building Bridges Conference


  • We are bringing you a two-day conference of diverse experts to share evidence-based practices, resources, ideas, and the latest in research for fostering quality early learning experiences for children 0-8 years old.


  • Participants in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota can receive 10 service hours
  • $25 registration fee, but the FIRST 200 participants can register for FREE

Keynote Speaker

Ross A. Thompson, PhD

Presentation: Transforming the Workforce for Young Children
Ross A. Thompson is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis, where he directs the Social and Emotional Development Lab. Thompson is an internationally-recognized authority on the psychological development of young children, parent-child relationships, and the applications of developmental science to public policy problems such as early childhood mental health, early education, and the development of school readiness. His work integrates understanding of the developing brain with early experiences in both typical and at-risk children, and he lectures extensively to legislative committees, public agencies, and private foundations. He has published five books, several best-selling textbooks, and over 250 papers related to his work. Thompson is President of the Board of Directors of Zero to Three, a national nonprofit devoted to the healthy development of young children and their families. He is on the Executive Committee of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, serves on the boards of the National Institute for Early Education Research and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, and was a founding member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. He received the Ann Brown Award for Excellence in Developmental Research in 2007, and the University of California, Davis Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2011.

Featured Speakers

Laura Maddox

Laura Maddox, PhD, BCBA

Presentation: Recognizing Early Signs of ASD and Simple Strategies for Engagement
Laura is the Program Director of the Center for the Young Child at the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI).  She has experience as an educator and administrator in her previous roles with Lincoln Public Schools, the Boys Town Institute for Child Health Improvement and at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Maddox is dedicated to improving the lives of young children and their families and has extensive experience collaborating across state systems and within local communities through her leadership roles with the Nebraska ASD Network, as a faculty consultant on the Nebraska LEND grant and in her current position with OCALI.  She is a past recipient of the Alice B. Hayden Emerging Leader Award from TASH  and the Ruth J. Eichman Early Childhood Educator Award from the Lincoln Public School Foundation.

Janet Lansbury

Presentation: Becoming a Peaceful Leader for Your Strong-Willed Child
Janet Lansbury’s respectful parenting advice ( is quoted and shared by millions of readers worldwide. She is the author of two bestselling books, Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. Janet is also the creator and host of “Janet Lansbury Unruffled,” one of the most downloaded parenting podcasts on the web and recommended listening by The Washington Post. She also enjoys teaching weekly classes at RIE, consulting with parents and professionals, and spending time with her three children, ages 24, 20, and 15.

Michael Yellow Bird, MSW, PhD

Presentation: Mindfulness Approaches to Address the Gap in Indigenous Children's Learning and Development

Dr. Michael Yellow Bird is a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes, (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara). He joined the NDSU faculty in the fall of 2014. He has held faculty and/or academic administrative appointments at the University of British Columbia, University of Kansas, Arizona State University, and Humboldt State University. He is Professor and Director of the Tribal Indigenous Studies program at North Dakota State University. His teaching, writing, research, and community work focus on Indigenous Peoples' health, leadership , and cultural rights; the effects of colonization and methods of decolonization; decolonizing social work approaches; decolonizing war and military service; neurodecolonization and mind body approaches; neuroscience and Indigenous Peoples; traditional mindfulness and contemplative practices; ancestral and paleo eating and lifestyle; and the Rights of Mother Earth.

Julie Tippens, DrPH, MA, MPH

Presentation: Early Childhood and Forced Migration: Working with Refugee Children and their Families in Nebraska

Presenters: Kristin Gall, Nebraska State Refugee Health Coordinator and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Claire Herzog, Director of Early Childhood Outreach, Ready in 5 - School Readiness for Refugee Chldren, and YMCA of Greater Omaha, Karen Parde, Nebraska State Refugee Resettlement Coordinator and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and Julie Tippens, Assistant Professor, Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 
Nebraska resettles the largest number of refugees per capita in the U.S., welcoming, 1,441 refugees between September 2015 and October 2016. Families resettled in Nebraska come from a variety of cultures and speak different languages, posing unique challenges and opportunities for providers. Presenters in this session will explain how experiences of violence and migration affect early childhood well-being and learning, describe the Nebraska Refugee Resettlement Program and provide an overview of refugees in the state, and discuss strategies and resources for working with young refugee children and their families.

Heather Wong-Xoquc

Presentation: Playing Yoga with Children as a Lifelong Resource for Wellness and Balance 
Heather Kamala, artist, writer and speaker shares her love of Health, Yoga, Young Living essential oils and the Action of Personal Development around the world. She is the Creator of the new brand: Zing Living, co-director at KiDo Kids School and founder of KiDo Kids Yoga taught in Asia, Europe and America.

Lenna Ontai, PhD

Presentation: Creating Healthy Dietary Environments: Is Parenting Important?
Dr. Ontai is a Specialist in Cooperative Extension at the University of California, Davis. Her research program focuses on understanding early socialization processes between parents and young children to understand factors that affect parents' socialization efforts such as income and cultural background. As a Specialist in Cooperative Extension, she is active in translating and disseminating current research findings in the areas of parenting, early social development and child care.

Kara Mitchell Viesca, PhD

Presentation: Maximizing Opportunities for Early Childhood Learners in a Multilingual School Setting

Dr. Kara Viesca is an Assistant Professor in Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education and the lead Principal Investigator of the International Consortium for Multilingual Excellence in Education ( Her scholarship focuses on advancing equity in the policy and practice of educator development, particularly for teachers of multilingual students. She has been awarded $4.6 million dollars in federal grant money across two 5-year projects to support teachers of multilingual students.

Soo-Young Hong, PhD

Presentation: Preschool Science Talk in Action and Reflection
Soo-Young Hong is an Associate Professor in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Soo-Young examines effective ways to engage early childhood professionals and young children in the learning of science and engineering. Soo-Young enjoys using 'I wonder' statements and 'what if' questions and also enjoys asking young children fun but challenging questions that spark their curiosity. Soo-Young's work aims to empower early childhood professionals to build science-and engineering-rich classroom environments and interactions and help young children develop the excitement of scientific investigations in everyday experiences.

Dipti Dev, PhD

Presentation: Role of Early Childhood Education Settings in Preventing Childhood Obesity: Linking Research to Practice
Dipti Dev is ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AND CHILD HEALTH BEHAVIORS EXTENSION SPECIALIST in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies at UNL. She received her PH.D., in NUTRITIONAL SCIENCES, from the UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN. Dr. Dev's work focuses on developing innovative training programs and nutrition solutions for childcare settings to help young children (2-5 years) develop healthy eating habits and prevent childhood obesity. She is purposeful that the programs are scalable and sustainable and meet the needs of rural communities in Nebraska. She is also passionate about childhood obesity prevention policy research, including assessing, strengthening and providing support for federal supplemental nutrition assistance programs and policies such as Head Start and USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program. By focusing on Head Start and CACFP programs she serves low income and minority children and their families at a higher obesity risk.