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Carrie Billy      

President & CEO of American Indian Higher Education Consortium

Carrie L. Billy was named president and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) in 2008, the collective spirit and unifying voice of our nation’s 37 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). Billy has a track record of success in both government and the nonprofit sectors, where her accomplishments include designing and implementing strategic initiatives, developing innovative policies and programs, and forging partnerships and coalitions. An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, she has dedicated more than 30 years to ensuring that American Indian and Alaska Native students have the resources they need to stay successfully on an academic track.

As AIHEC’s top executive, Billy deeply understands and supports the organization’s mission to ensure excellence in TRIBAL higher education. Under her leadership, AIHEC secured more than $85 million in additional operating support to “forward fund” TCUs and $360 million in mandatory funding for TCU institutional development – and while state higher education budgets declined by 26 percent, federal operating funding for TCUs increased by more than 20 percent – a spread of 46 percent. Billy also led the development of AIHEC AIMS, a comprehensive data collection system for TCUs, and the Indigenous Evaluation Framework, which incorporates Indigenous epistemology and core tribal values into a framework that integrates place, community, individual gifts and sovereignty with Western evaluation practice; and she has launched new Native student engagement, student success, pre-K/12 partnership, job creation and tribally-directed research initiatives.

Billy was appointed previously by President William J. Clinton to serve as the first executive director of the White House Initiative of Tribal Colleges and Universities. In this role, Billy is recognized and celebrated as leading initiatives that resulted in historic changes to improve TCUs’ capacity and increase American Indian student success. Her emphasis on integrating TCUs into U.S. federal programs and strengthening their partnerships with the private sector resulted in the largest funding increases ever received by TCUs in annual federal appropriations; the establishment and funding of new education and infrastructure programs in several U.S. federal departments— including the National Science Foundation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, which has led to more than $250 million in STEM funding at TCUs; and the creation of a public-private facilities initiative involving the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Housing and Urban Development that has transformed TCU campuses into state of the art learning centers. Billy’s tireless efforts also influenced President Clinton to become the first U.S. president to visit a TCU.

Earlier in her career, Billy served as a senior staff member to U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, (D-NM) where she focused on Indian Affairs, health policy, judicial issues, and education. It was during this time that Billy first began working with TCUs—overseeing the development and enactment of legislation establishing a key vocational education operating program for selected tribal institutions as well as a bill to transform and secure ongoing support for the nation’s only institution of higher education (Institute of American Indian Arts) dedicated to promoting and nurturing American Indian Art. In 1994, Billy also helped to pass legislation designating TCUs as “Land-Grant Institutions,” which opened new doors of opportunity for TCUs in agriculture, land-use, and community development. Additionally, Billy’s unyielding belief in increasing educational opportunities for all underserved students also led her to spearhead the drafting and enactment of legislation that created the Hispanic-Serving Institutions designation—adding these institutions to the list of Minority-Serving Institutions that receive federally-supported opportunities and resources from the U.S. Department of Education.

Billy has undergraduate degrees from the University of Arizona and Salish Kootenai College. She also earned a Juris Doctorate from the Georgetown University Law Center and practiced law in Arizona.

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