Conference History

In what has become a campus tradition, the first Building Bridges Conference was held in 1997. It started as a dream of two clinical psychology graduate students who believed that to encourage Native American youth to persist in their education, there needed to be a bridge built between their traditions and the traditions of higher education.

Since 2003, the USD Office of Admissions has partnered with the Building Bridges committee to encourage Native American high school students to attend the conference. In 2010, Admissions initiated the Native student visit weekend, to correspond with the Bridges Conference, Native American Alumni Banquet and the annual USD Powwow (Wacipi).

A number of other academic departments and student support programs participate in an information fair embedded into the Bridges conference schedule. They welcome the opportunity to interact with the Bridges participants and to inform students, teachers, counselors and family members about what they have to offer current and future USD students.

Conference Mission

We believe that exposure and discussion of diversity issues such as racism and the ethnic minority experience can facilitate positive institutional change. We value and desire the respect for diversity in all levels of education. Building Bridges provides opportunities for students and faculty to learn effective ways to make higher education a positive experience for all students.

Our Goals

  • To provide a community service by addressing the educational needs of Native American students.
  • To provide survival skills for students and concrete solutions for educators who work with them.
  • To expose conference attendees to Native American role models.
  • To provide information related to bicultural competence.
  • To engage Native American students in pursuing undergraduate college education.
  • To build strong networks between local, regional, public and tribal colleges for the long term goal of successful recruitment and retention of First Nations students in higher education.
  • To focus on bicultural competence.
  • To provide a forum for addressing the importance of diversity in psychology.