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Backbone Staff

Carrie Billy serves as a co-PI on the Native FEWS Alliance of which AIHEC is the backbone. Carrie is a member of the Navajo Nation, is President & CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Through AIHEC, the nation’s 37 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) work toward Strong Sovereign Nations Through Excellence in TRIBAL Higher Education. 

Throughout her career, Ms. Billy has focused on developing equity-centered strategic initiatives and innovative policies and programs founded on Tribal culture and values, including AIHEC AIMS, a comprehensive TCU data system, and the Indigenous Evaluation Framework, which incorporates Indigenous epistemology and core tribal values into a framework that integrates place, community, individuality and sovereignty with Western evaluation practice. She has worked to forge partnerships and drafted legislation designating TCUs as “1994 land-grant institutions” and creating a new federal designation for “Hispanic Serving Institutions”. Her career reflects a commitment to public service — protecting and promoting the cultures, rights and well-being of American Indians and improving the quality of life and educational status of all. 

Ms. Billy has undergraduate degrees from the University of Arizona and Salish Kootenai College and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center.  She was appointed by former President William J. Clinton as the inaugural Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges.

Frank Brannon is supporting the AIHEC backbone for the FEWS Alliance, focused on collaborative opportunities between the Alliance and TCUs.

Frank hails from East Tennessee and has lived in Northern Virginia for four years. He studied Physics at the University of Tennessee and later Environmental Science at Sony Brook University in New York. After working for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center as an Education Specialist, he returned to school and graduated with an MFA in Art from the University of Alabama. Frank has been an instructor with Western Carolina University, Penland School of Crafts and returned to education administration with Northern Virginia Community College in 2017. The limited edition, letterpress books that Frank produces are held in several special collections libraries in the United States, England and with private collectors. His 2005 letterpress monograph focused upon research into the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper of northern Georgia, 1828-1834. As the 2016-2017 Vaughan Fellow with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, he continued this historical research, documenting his work supporting Cherokee language revitalization through art. He enjoys gardening, running, bonsai, opera and quesitos. His email address is

Kathy Aplan is supporting the backbone by creating and disseminating a quarterly newsletter and supporting their social media efforts.

Kathy Aplan, AIHEC Communications and PR Associate, is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She manages the social media, press releases, and newsletters for both the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the Tribal College Journal.  

She has previously worked in Public Affairs for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe CARES Act and at the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations as their Communications Coordinator.  She worked at Oglala Lakota College as the TV Production Director overseeing and teaching their TV Production Program that was given several awards.  She was co-PI on an NSF grant that highlighted locations of interest on the Pine Ridge Reservation having students make short video vignettes that combined history, research, and GIS.  She has also worked in television production, including copywriting, graphics, shooting and editing.

Katherine Cardell, Senior Data Associate for Student Success for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, manages the AIHEC AIMS (American Indian Indicators of Success) data collection initiative involving the annual collection and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from the 35 accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities. She is an analyst with a background in mixed methodological research related to minority health, limited English proficiency, intimate partner violence, and mandatory random drug testing. Mrs. Cardell holds a master of social science degree in European integration from Queen’s University of Belfast in Northern Ireland. She enjoys foraging, gardening, getting muddy, and learning traditional skills.

Darius Taylor is AIHEC’s Data Associate for Student Success supporting AIHEC through a partnership with the Harvard Strategic Data Project.  He is a scholar, artist, and activist originally from North Chicago, IL but currently resides in Springfield, MA. His background intersects the fields of education, epidemiology, biostatistics, evaluation, research, psychometrics, theater production and performance. Darius intersects these disciplines with a critical lens and the overarching goal of healing and empowering historically marginalized youth and young adults. Darius is excited about supporting the Native FEWS Alliance with hopes of advancing the achievements of TCUs, students, staff, and Indigenous Scholars.

Erica Moore, Ph.D., is Boriken Taíno of iukaieke Guainia and a member of the United Confederation of Taino People. She has a Ph.D. in higher education leadership and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in history. Moore currently serves as Executive Director of Native Student Success at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. Previously, she was director of the American Indian Student Center at South Dakota State University (SDSU), where she oversaw Native student success and worked as a content expert for an ongoing educational development series and fostered a culturally responsive and supportive campus environment for American Indian students.

Prior to working at SDSU, she served as chief academic officer of Lower Brule Community College, the tribal college for the Lower Brule tribal community. Moore has worked in education for over 10 years, including teaching a variety of history and political courses and a research agenda focused on Native American student success.

In addition to her higher education experience, Moore has shared her expertise in culturally responsive practices in workshops for K-12 classrooms, museum networks, and medical facilities. In 2018, she served as a U.S. Human Rights Network ‘Fighting Injustice through Human Rights Education’ Fellow. Moore continues her passionate advocacy, where her lobbying for equity, diversity, and inclusion has positively impacted organizations, communities, and those they serve.