Cheryl Crazy Bull
President & CEO of the American Indian College Fund
Cheryl Crazy Bull, Wacinyanpi Win (They Depend on Her), Sicangu Lakota, is President & CEO of the American Indian College Fund. A lifelong educator and community activist, Cheryl is an advocate for self-determination focused on Native voice, philosophy, and traditions as the heart of the people’s work in building prosperity for current and future generations.
Cheryl has served on the boards of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium National Museum of American Indians and the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center. She currently serves as a board member with IllumiNative, a narrative change organization, Native Ways Federation comprised of seven national Native organizations, and as a founder of the National Native Scholarship Providers Working Group. Her research is focused on tribally-controlled education, leadership, and educational equity.
Among her recent speaking engagements are presentations or keynotes at the 2018 regional convenings on racial equity hosted by Grantmakers for Education, 2016 Annual Conference of Association for the Study of Higher Education, and the 2014 National Conference on Race and Equity in Higher Education.
Cheryl worked for 17 years at Sinte Gleska University in various faculty and administrative roles and for four years as the Chief Educational Officer of St. Francis Indian School, a tribally controlled school on her home reservation, Rosebud, in SD. In 2002 Cheryl began a 10-year tenure as the President of Northwest Indian College headquartered on the Lummi Nation in Washington until she came to the American Indian College Fund in September 2012.
Cheryl has been recognized with an honorary cultural degree from Sinte Gleska University and an honorary doctorate from Seattle University. She is also the recipient of numerous recognitions as an Indigenous woman leader and tribal educator.
Carrie L. Billy
President & CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium
In 2008, Carrie L. Billy was named the president and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), 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 ensure 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 on 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.
President & CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium
Ruth Buffalo is originally from Mandaree, North Dakota. She currently resides in south Fargo with her husband and four children. She recently was elected into office in 2018 to serve North Dakota as a Representative for District 27.
Ruth’s professional background is in public health, education, and research. After receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice, she served her rural tribal community as a Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator where she built and enhanced community coalitions in six different communities. She led a successful wellness program at a tribal college which contributed to student success. She is a volunteer to several local, statewide and national boards which focus on improving the quality of life for all people. Her work includes research and advocacy, community capacity-building and continued reconciliation efforts through education. She has served on advisory councils focused on women’s health, women’s leadership and local food systems.
Some of her professional board membership and commission work includes the following; Executive Board Secretary, North Dakota Democrat-NPL (2017-present), Fargo Native American Commissioner appointee (2017-2018), founder of a local task force, Fargo Moorhead Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women – Human Trafficking (2017-present), Susan G. Komen Scholarship Recipient (2001-2013), former Chair of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition (2016-2018), received the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s 40 under 40 leadership award (2017). The Fargo Inforum newspaper named her among local leaders to watch in 2019.
Ruth is an alumni of several women’s leadership initiatives and has worked on a project led by women to increase civic engagement throughout North Dakota. She continues to mentor others. In 2017 she successfully completed the Executive Education Certificate through Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government’s, Leadership, Organizing, and Action program.
Ruth hopes her efforts will contribute to policy changes in all levels of government for future generations. She is a community advocate for all people and works to make sure all people are informed of the electoral and legislative process. Her passion is safe and healthy communities.
She is also a citizen of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation and descendant of the Chiricahua band of Apache.
Ruth earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Master degrees in Management, Business Administration and Public Health.