Youth-Nex Speaker Bureau

Looking for a speaker for your class, a talk or conference?

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This Speaker Bureau highlights experts within Youth-Nex that could be speakers for an outside event, conference, or workshop. Match your goals, objectives, and themes to the expertise of Youth-Nex speakers and reach out to our speakers directly! Speakers are alphabetically ordered by last name.

  • Jessika H. Bottiani

    200_Jessika_Bottiani.pngJessika H. Bottiani, MPH, PhD is a Research Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development. Her research focuses on measurement and intervention to improve adolescent experiences of school climate and school discipline. She has extensive experience developing, validating, administering, and analyzing statewide student reported survey data on school climate, including establishing climate indicators with reliable psychometric properties across diverse student groups and examining disparities in student reports based on demographic characteristics. She also has a decade of experience designing and implementing reliable classroom observational systems to assess positive classroom climate, teacher classroom management practices, and teacher culturally responsive practices. Dr. Bottiani utilizes data from student and teacher surveys, as well as classroom observations, to understand patterns in classroom and school discipline practices and to develop preventive interventions to reduce racial disparities in punitive school discipline. Dr. Bottiani has tested these interventions with a team of researchers and local collaborators in Maryland and Virginia in randomized trials funded by the National Institutes of Health, Institute of Education Sciences, and the National Institute of Justice. Dr. Bottiani earned her masters and doctorate from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. She has extensive training in advanced quantitative methods such as multilevel modeling and latent variable modeling. 

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  • Alexis Harris

    Alexis_Harris_200.pngAlexis Harris is a Research Assistant Professor with Youth-Nex and School of Education and Human Development. Alexis is a developmental and prevention scientist interested in promoting more healthy, just, and equitable developmental settings for youth. Her work has specialized in social emotional development and the promotion of wellbeing and community. She has implemented and evaluated community and school-based social-emotional learning interventions and professional development for educators, integrating mindfulness, compassion, and yoga-based approaches. Alexis has experience in designing and conducting evaluations, including RCTs and quasi-experimental studies, and using qualitative and mixed methods.

    In addition to her research experience, Alexis has developed and taught prevention and wellness-promotion curricula for children, families, and educators in school and community settings. Alexis is a lead author of the Compassionate Schools Project mindfulness-based social-emotional learning curriculum for elementary schools. She also developed CALM, a wellness-promotion program for educators and school staff that promotes emotional and body awareness, stress management, physical wellbeing, and professional efficacy through accessible and practical contemplative practices.

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  • Patricia Jennings

    200_Patricia_Jennings.jpgPatricia (Tish) Jennings M.Ed., Ph.D. is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of social and emotional learning and mindfulness in education and Professor of Education at the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia. Her research places a specific emphasis on teacher stress and how it impacts the social and emotional context of the classroom, as articulated in her highly cited theoretical article "The Prosocial Classroom." Jennings led the team that developed CARE, a mindfulness-based professional development program shown to significantly improve teacher well-being, classroom interactions and student engagement in the largest randomized controlled trial of a mindfulness-based intervention designed to address teacher stress. She is currently Principal Investigator of Project CATALYZE, a study that will examine whether CARE enhances the effectiveness of a social and emotional learning curriculum. She is a co-author of Flourish: The Compassionate Schools Project curriculum, an integrated social and emotional learning, health and physical education program. She is the author numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters and several books including Mindfulness in the Pre-K-5 Classroom: Helping Students Stress Less and Learn More, part of Social and Emotional Learning Solutions, a book series by WW Norton of which she is editor. 

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  • Wintre Foxworth Johnson

    200_Wintre_Johnson.jpgWintre Foxworth Johnson, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education. Prior to joining the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia, Johnson served as a Teacher Leadership Coach with the equity-focused policy and practice non-profit organization Teach Plus. She has extensive experience in teacher training and professional development, in particular, supporting educators in considering ways to translate culturally responsive and sustaining theories to practice in elementary school contexts; encouraging educators to excavate implicit biases and critique structural inequities that negatively affect the schooling experiences of marginalized students; and training preservice and inservice teachers to consider the pedagogical possibilities at the intersection of literacy and history instruction.

    Dr. Johnson’s research has two primary aims: to examine the relationship between literacy teaching and learning in race-conscious and social justice-oriented elementary school settings, and to investigate the sociopolitical development of children from historically marginalized communities, with particular focus on Black children’s educational experiences and racial awareness. Her most recent article, published in the peer-reviewed journal Language Arts, is entitled “‘History is a Way of Building Identity’: How One Independent Neighborhood Elementary School Uses Black Cultural Movements to Engage Children’s Sociopolitical Perspectives”. Dr. Johnson earned her Ph.D. in Reading/Writing/Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

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  • Amanda Nguyen

    200_Amanda_Nguyen.jpgMy work primarily focuses on implementation and evaluation of mental and behavioral health programs for young people in settings where there are limited resources to support delivery of evidence-based interventions. Usually, this involves partnering to provide training and support to local implementers through innovative delivery models such as “task sharing”. Within that broader arc, I have two content areas: 1) rural school mental health; 2) mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings. I’ve previously given guest lectures related to child protection and development, community engagement, program evaluation, and emergency responses fordisplaced people, drawing on qualitative and quantitative research experience in Rural Virginia as well as a number of conflict-affected or post-conflict settings (e.g., Iraq, Chechnya, Myanmar, Ukraine).

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  • Toshna Pandey

    200_Toshna_Pandey.jpgToshna Pandey is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Virginia with Drs. Catherine Bradshaw and Jessika Bottianion projects seeking to improve teachers' and students' equity stamina and literacy, redirect challenging behaviors in the classroom, and facilitate positive student-teacher engagement. She received her Ph.D. in Special Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she studied school-based behavior interventions and educational equity and served as a teacher coach for Pre-K and Early Elementary school teachers. Her research interests include school-based coaching models to equip teachers with skills to implement preventative interventions, reducing racial disparities in punitive discipline using culturally-responsive classroom management for racially and ethnically minoritized students, and teacher professional development to enhance students' socio-emotional competencies and teachers' equity-mindfulness.

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  • Ashlee Lester Sjogren

    200_Ashlee.Lester.Sjogren.jpgAshlee L. Sjogren, PhD is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Youth-Nex Center at the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development. Dr. Sjogren earned her doctorate in Educational Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Education. Dr. Sjogren received a B.S.Ed. in Youth and Social Innovation and Spanish from the University of Virginia in 2016. Broadly, her research explores early adolescents’ motivational experiences and beliefs in educational contexts. Specifically, she is interested in how educational structures and contexts influence the sense of belonging and engagement of middle school students from historically marginalized communities. Dr. Sjogren has presented her work at various professional conferences such as: American Educational Research Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), and Society for Research in Adolescence (SRA). She has also spoken with numerous groups of educators to share her work. She believes that speaking is an important way to connect research to practice and engage in co-learning opportunities with educational stakeholders.

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  • Faith Zabek

    200_Faith_Zabek.jpgFaith Zabek is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist who applies her experience working in schools and across systems to her research initiatives. Her research investigates youth wellbeing through a bioecological lens, with a focus on social justice and equitable measurement. She is interested in exploring the ways in which contexts and interactions impact student and school outcomes as well as how research-practice partnerships can facilitate youth success. She has developed and implemented culturally responsive curriculums to promote healthy relationships and critical systems thinking among middle school youth in underserved communities–using participatory methods to increase the resonance and effectiveness of the programs. At Youth-Nex, she supports both the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health and the Remaking Middle School project. She conducts action research exploring how novel professional development approaches (e.g., group-based teleconsultation and design thinking) can increase staff’s ability to provide evidence-based, equitable, collaborative, and developmentally responsive services. She also conducts research that more broadly explores the impact of organizational systems and policies on youth development and equity. For example, utilizing multilevel invariance testing procedures, she investigates whether school climate surveys, which are increasingly utilized within state accountability systems, measure climate equitably for schools that serve underrepresented populations.


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