Educational Neuroscience Symposium

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Cost is $125, including a box lunch for in person attendees.  Virtual attendees will receive Dr. Desautels’ new book, Intentional Neuroplasticity: Our Educational Journey Towards Post Traumatic Growth (2023).

Neuroscience and Trauma Responsive Education and Leadership | Moving Our Educational Systems and Organizations Toward States of Growth and Resiliency

The 2023 Butler University Educational Neuroscience symposium invites educators, parents, mental health professionals, higher education, pre-service teachers, and all who work with children and youth at this time. This day-long hybrid symposium will address nervous system development and how development is impacted by trauma and adversity which informs our discipline protocols, as we meet adults and students in their emotional and social nervous system states. We will be sharing how equitable and restorative communities develop with leadership that is focused on the physiological, emotional, social, and cognitive well-being of adults and students. Trauma Accommodating practices, experiences, and conditions will be explored and discussed as we address educators’ brain and body state, the trauma-responsive approaches with ELL students, equitable discipline protocols, and sustainable leadership in this vulnerable, yet hopeful time in education and within our communities.

Dr. Lori Desautels and Dr. Brian Dinkins

Our Journey Through the Developing Nervous System as We Rewire Our Perceptions of Discipline Through a Lens of Restorative Leadership

In this presentation, Dr. Dinkins and Dr. Desautels we will explore how our nervous systems are impacted by adversity, trauma, and experiences of resiliency through deepened connections and sensory regulation with others. Behaviors are only signals or indicators that the brain and body are struggling in survival states of functioning. In our time together, we will also explore Emotionally Inclusive Practices (EIP) – Emotionally-Inclusive Practices is a framework used to integrate emotion into every part of the educational experience. Developing the emotional intelligence of adults and children across our implicit bias, culture consciousness, and understanding student and our own trauma give us the awareness and skills to create restorative communities that prioritize all relationships.

Dr. Lori Desautels, has been an Assistant Professor at Butler University since 2016 where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Education. She was also an Assistant Professor at Marian University in Indianapolis for 8 years where she founded the Educational Neuroscience Symposium. Currently, the Symposium is in its 10th year, and now sponsored by Butler University College of Education. Through these conferences and symposiums, educators, parents and the community learn deeply about how adversity, trauma and resiliency impact the developing nervous system, helping our students to feel a sense of autonomy and purpose along with social, emotional and cognitive well-being. Because of her work, Dr. Desautels has been able to attract the foremost experts in the fields of developmental, relational and the social neurosciences which significantly grow the conference each year. 

Dr. Desautels has created a nine-hour graduate certification at Butler University in Applied Educational Neuroscience / Brain and Trauma. The certification is open to students around the world as it has transformed into a virtual platform and format. The Applied Educational Neuroscience Certificate, created by Dr. Desautels in 2016, is specifically designed to meet the needs of educators, counselors, and administrators who work beside children and adolescents who have, and are, experiencing adversity and trauma. 

Dr. Desautels was a co-author of the Social and Emotional competencies for the state of Indiana published in January 2018. She has also authored a series of articles for “Inside the School,” an online publication providing strategies to administrators and educators alike. Her articles are published in Edutopia, Brain Bulletin, and Mind Body Spirit international magazine. She also was published in the Brain Research Journal for her work in the fifth-grade classrooms during a course release partnering with the Washington Township Schools in Indiana. Dr. Desautels continues her work in the Pre-K – 12 classrooms and is currently co-teaching in the 7th grade at Belzer Middle School. She has met with hundreds of school districts across the country, equating to more than 100,000 educators with much more work to be done! 

Dr. Desautels taught emotionally troubled students in the upper elementary grades, worked as a school counselor in Indianapolis, was a private practice counselor and was co-owner of the Indianapolis Counseling Center. Dr. Desautels was also a behavioral consultant for Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis on the adolescent psychiatric unit where she learned that emotional and mental illness can be so challenging for youth, but the brain can repair and heal and resilience rests at the core of human nature and our well-being. 

Dr. Desautels is the author of several books, including: How May I Serve You, Revelations in Education (2012), Unwritten, The Story of a Living System (2016), co-authored with educator Mr. Michael McKnight, Eyes Are Never Quiet (2018), Rewiring Our Perception of Discipline (2020), and Intentional Neuroplasticity: Our Educational Journey Towards Post Traumatic Growth (2023). 

Dr. Desautels graduated with a BS in Special Education from Butler University, an MS in counseling education from Indiana University and earned her Ph.D. in philosophy with an emphasis in early adolescence/ thought formation from Indiana University and American Institute of Holistic Theology. Dr. Desautels resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband, Michael. She has three grown children, Andrew, Sarah, and Regan, and four rescue fur babies.

Robert Beltz has served public education for over two decades as a classroom teacher, English Language Development (ELD) specialist, and county ESL leader. A lifelong learner, he has earned certifications in Trauma-Responsiveness, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Applied Education Neuroscience, and English as a Second Language.  His work is focused on the nature of brain development, the importance of safety & connection, and identity affirmation for all students, including those with significant trauma. He has also worked in rural Africa, where he has confronted poverty and educational inequity. Robert graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics from Eastern Michigan University. He has since gone on to earn endorsements and certifications from Starr Commonwealth, Oakland University, Cornell University, and Butler University. Robert is a lifelong resident of Southeast Michigan, where he currently resides with his wife, Nicole. Together with their three children and their silver lab, they prefer to spend time outside, biking, kayaking, and traveling to new places.

Dr. Brian Dinkins is an assistant professor at Butler University, where he serves as director of the Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals (EPPSP). Dr. Brian Dinkins is also the author and creator of Emotionally – Inclusive Practices, motivational speaker and national education consultant for the Center for Empowering Education, where he leads as CEO. He performed poorly in high school, graduating with a 1.9 GPA but went on to earn a B.A. from Purdue University, where he played football for the Big Ten Champion Boilermakers. In addition, he completed two master’s degrees, Ed.S, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Ball State University. Dr. Dinkins has served as turnaround principal in four high-poverty schools, including traditional, charter, and private schools, and has committed his work to serve children, partners, and communities in need.

Dr. Jason A. Smith has been working in urban education for the past 15 years in many different roles: a basketball coach, teacher, instructional coach, and in administration. He is the principal at Paramount Englewood. He recently finished his doctorate in Education Administration and his research study was focused on professional development on early childhood trauma’s impact on teachers’ perception of student behavior. As an urban administrator he has implemented trauma-informed practices and restorative practices to lower the exclusion of students from the school setting. His experience as a black man who was underserved in urban education fuels his desire to create equitable outcomes for all students. He is married to Kelly Smith and the proud father of two boys and two girls.

Crystal Williams is a 7th-grade Social Studies teacher at Belzer Middle School. She began at Belzer in the Alternative to Instruction classroom in 2015 as an Instructional Assistant (IA). While as an IA, she returned to school to obtain her Masters in Education.  She is now enrolled in the Applied Educational Neuroscience framework Certification program with Dr. Lori Desautels. Crystal believes in helping students and adults understand themselves to become the person they want to be. She aims to teach others how to integrate educational neuroscience into content areas.


Angelina Zara is an impassioned, highly motivated educator in Washington, DC. As a classroom teacher and teacher leader at Capital City Public Charter School,  a Title 1 full inclusion school in Washington, DC, Angie worked to implement relationship-based, restorative practices with learners with a range of social, emotional and academic needs. She is the Social Emotional Learning Specialist at Capital City Public Charter Lower school, and helped create a whole staff Wellness Committee in which she coordinated a team of nine cross-campus educators from elementary to high school. This team focused on adult brain and body wellness prioritization as a result of the stress facing staff throughout the pandemic. Angie currently serves on the Office of the State Superintendent Teacher Advisory Council. Angie holds her Bachelors in Arts from Indiana University-Bloomington, a Master’s in Education from Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC., and is a proud graduate of Butler University’s Applied Educational Neuroscience Cohort 5. Angie is a proud DC native who lives with her partner Jason. When she is not working, Angie is a self-proclaimed fitness fanatic who enjoys relaxing with her favorite shows and spending time with her loved ones.

Dr. Brian Dinkins | Dr. Jason Smith
Understanding Us So That We Can See Them Clearly

This break-out session will empower school personnel by improving their emotional intelligence and their understanding of how early childhood trauma impacts students’ brains, bodies, and behaviors.

Robert Beltz
Lost & Found: Reclaiming Multilingual Learner Identity through Educational Neuroscience

Throughout the country, students are in states of emotional retreat while teachers struggle with burn-out and compassion fatigue. A host of situational obstacles, including but not limited to COVID-19, distance learning, political discordance, trauma, and (at times) immigration issues, has left multilingual learners struggling to find their identities in a rapidly changing landscape. Research is clear: Students who do not feel seen, heard, and valued are more likely to struggle with behavior, attendance, and academic performance. 

In this session, participants will learn how identity is formed in the developing brain, and how adverse childhood experiences can hinder this development. Educators have a responsibility to affirm and validate student identity while creating a culture of felt-safety and connection. This session will examine this process through the lens of applied educational neuroscience (AEN), and will offer strategies to help multilingual learners reclaim their identities through authentic human connection. Participants will learn how identity develops, is reinforced, and in some cases, becomes fragmented in the brain. For multilingual learners in particular, we will examine identity with the following questions in mind: What is identity, where is it, and why is it important? How does identity vary across cultures? What factors harm a healthy identity?

Angelia Zara
Attending to Educator Well-Being and Centering Teacher Regulation in a Time of Crisis

Those of us who have made it to this point in the post-covid world of education know that  conversations have begun to shift. While prioritizing student need and wellness is at our core, we cannot pour from an empty cup. As we move through and navigate an educational crisis with an increased understanding of the need for mental health prioritization for our caregivers and students, we are left with the question: What about our staff? This workshop will delve into the tiered levels of adult wellness and regulation in our school buildings. We will explore practices within each pillar of Applied Educational Neuroscience to attune and attend to educator well being. This workshop is designed for any staff who understand the need and function of interdependence in our school communities.

Crystal Williams
Connection with Intentionality

In this session, you will learn how to integrate educational neuroscience strategies inside our procedures and routines so that students are able to access the cortex for deep learning and emotional regulation. These practices are built to address stronger connections and emotional regulation. Participants will walk away with many ways to connect with students while learning about their nervous systems.

8:30 AM EST Registration Open
9:00-11:30 AM EST Welcome Address – Dr. Brooke Kandel, Dean

Keynote Address – Drs. Lori Desautels and Brian Dinkins

11:30 AM-12:30 PM EST Lunch (Common Room, Café, outside)
12:45-1:45 PM EST Afternoon Break Out Session 1
2:00-3:00 PM EST Afternoon Breakout Session 2
3:00 PM EST Closing Panel

Guest parking available in the areas indicated by the blue and yellow squares.

1000 W. 42nd Street
Indianapolis, IN  46208