Diana Cournoyer
Oglala Sioux Tribe
Interim Executive Director
E-mail: dcournoyer@niea.org

Diana works on the implementation and assessment of Common Core State Standards, by supporting tribes and Native Communities in their transition to utilize college and career ready standards. Her primary focus is to work closely with Native communities, organizations, and researchers to provide support for community/academic partnerships that affect local and national policy. Previously Diana worked with the Oglala Lakota College Graduate Studies Department to manage the Education Administration Professional Development Grant. Her work realigned the current education Administration curriculum and objectives with national and South Dakota State Educational standards.


Kurrinn Abrams
Seneca Nation of Indians
Education Specialist
E-mail: kabrams@niea.org

Kurrinn Abrams (M.A.) supports the recruitment and retention of highly qualified educators to serve in schools with high Native student populations by managing the Teacher Initiative Project and job board, as well as by providing school leadership and teachers with resources to help them be successful. During her Master’s program at Columbia University, Kurrinn worked in a variety of educational spheres, both locally and nationally, as not only a teacher, but also as an intern at the U.S. Department of Education. Kurrinn comes directly to NIEA following her work in curriculum development on the Partnerships team at The Opportunity Network, a non-profit organization based in NYC that helps students achieve their college and career goals.

Rusty Creed Brown
Lenape (Delaware Tribe of Indians)
Field Operation Specialist
E-mail: rbrown@niea.org

Rusty’s role as the Field Operations Specialist is to support the facilitation, establishment, and maintenance of relationships among schools, tribes, and other stakeholders. Rusty served as Osage Nation’s Natural Resource Specialist, and its Child Support Enforcement Director. He worked with the Sac and Fox Nation as its Policy Analyst and Tribal Administrator. In Alaska, he was a community outreach liaison with villages along the Chukchi Sea and the North Slope. Rusty received his BS, in Natural Science, from the University of Alaska Anchorage; and received a JD and MS from the University of Tulsa; concentrating on Native American and Indigenous Peoples Rights.

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Kathryn Bussey
Cherokee Nation
Legislative Fellow
E-mail: kbussey@niea.org

Through research, policy analysis, and advocacy, Kathryn collaborates with the legislative team to support Native students and families in reaching their fullest potential. While an undergraduate, she interned for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), wrote policy papers at the Kennedy School of Government, and served as the President of the Institute of Politics. After studying civil liberties and federal law, Kathryn graduated from Harvard University. Awarded Harvard’s Richardson Public Service Fellowship, Kathryn worked at a cradle-through-career nonprofit startup that combined community organizing, data analysis, and collective impact strategies to support equitable education in her hometown of Oceanside, CA.


Matt de Ferranti
Legislative Director
E-mail: mdeferranti@niea.org

As NIEA’s Legislative Director, Matt develops, directs, and implements the organization’s work to improve educational outcomes for Native students. Matt comes to NIEA from the Education Trust, where he served as Director of Legislative Affairs during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which culminated in enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Previous advocacy and government relations experience includes work as Policy Counsel for Feeding America and Director of Federal Agency Relations for Habitat for Humanity. Before working in advocacy and government relations, Matt served as an attorney for cities in California and Texas and as Chief of Staff for a Texas State Representative. Matt began his career teaching through Teach for America in Houston’s Fifth Ward.


Adrianne Elliott
Cherokee Nation
Legislative Analyst
E-mail: aelliott@niea.org

As Legislative Analyst, Adrianne supports NIEA’s federal and state advocacy for excellence in Native education through policy analysis and research. Adrianne joined NIEA following her graduation from Yale University, where she worked with the Native American Cultural Center and Association of Native Americans at Yale. During her time in college, Adrianne worked at a law firm and served as an intern at the White House.

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Jacob Tsotigh, Jr.
Tribal Education Specialist
E-mail: jtsotigh@niea.org

Jacob S. Tsotigh, Jr. (M.Ed), has been involved in American Indian education programs for the past 38 years specializing in parent committee training, culturally responsive pedagogy, Title VI Indian Education programming, and school improvement.  He previously served the South Central Comprehensive Center as Indian Education TA Coordinator in the four state region of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. He served for 12 years as the Indian Education Director for Anadarko (Oklahoma) Public Schools, and countless years serving in the capacity of trainer and providing technical assistance for Indian Education programs. Mr. Tsotigh is past president of the Oklahoma Council for Indian Education (OCIE) and a longtime member of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA).  He has been married to Alana Quetone Tsotigh, a retired elementary school teacher, for 39 years and has three children and one deceased.  He is a 4/4 citizen of the Kiowa Tribe.


Judi Urquhart
Development Director
E-mail: jurquhart@niea.org

Judi Urquhart brings over two decades of fundraising experience to her role as Director of Development.  Most recently, she served as Director of Planning and Development for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe where, in a year’s time, she and her team raised over $2 million in federal funding. Prior to that, Judi served as a fundraising consultant at Wakeby Fire and Associates where she raised over $4 million in foundational and federal funds for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project and the North American Indian Center of Boston.  Judi holds a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Judi will develop and implement a multi-faceted strategy to build and strengthen the organization’s funding base.