Carrie Billy Addresses TMCC GradsAug 15th, 2001 | By tcj | Category: 13-1: Honoring Our Students & Alumni, Tribal College News
“Don’t let this moment pass by without committing yourself to be a role model,” Carrie Billy told graduates of Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC) in North Dakota last May. “You don’t have any choice. You will see it in the eyes of your children and grandchildren,” she said.
A Navajo woman with a law degree, Billy knows what it is like to be a role model. In 1998, President William J. Clinton appointed her as the first executive director of the White House Initiative of Tribal Colleges and Universities (WHITCU). She served in the position, which was created by an Executive Order issued by the former president, until January 2001.
TMCC President Gerald “Carty” Monette introduced her, saying, “I do not believe that anyone else could have led the WHITCU office with such professionalism. She came into office with only one agenda — to work fairly and equally for all Indian people. This alone separated her from many others. Her manner of dealing with the colleges and with funders is without a doubt the reason for so many of her accomplishments.”
Billy arrived already savvy about the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), about Indian people, and about the political process, he said. Prior to working for the White House initiative, Billy served as federal relations counsel to AIHEC and before that as a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). While working for Bingaman, she helped enact the 1994 legislation that designated tribal colleges as land grant institutions.
“I know your road has not been easy,” Billy told the Turtle Mountain graduating class. Billy grew up on a reservation, as she described in a 1999 article in the Tribal College Journal (Vol. 11, N.2.). She knows firsthand the many disincentives to education there and the importance of role models, especially Indian teachers. While serving as executive director of WHITCU, she helped to establish the new, $10 million American Indian Teacher Corps program, which resulted partly from a visit she arranged by former Education Secretary Richard W. Riley to Salish Kootenai College. She also helped expand funding for tribal colleges under the Department of Education’s Title III program and helped AIHEC to increase federal funding for facilities.
Billy continues to create opportunities and serve as a role model in her work as the president and chief executive officer of her own business, The Wupatki Partnership. The firm focuses upon building digital opportunity in Native America through strategic partnerships among tribal people, the federal government, and the private sector. Part of her work involves the Advanced Networking for Minority Serving Institutions program.