Tracy Leigh Canard Goodluck (Oneida/Mvskoke Creek), a member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, has a passion for Indian education, particularly reform, and she has dedicated her career to improving the outcomes of students in tribal communities. Recently selected as a Presidential Management Fellow and assigned to the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC), she is now on the inside, an ideal place to contribute to true policy change.
The Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF), established more than three decades ago, provides advanced degree students from all disciplines with the opportunity to develop their leadership skills as well as a leg up to permanent employment with the federal government. Fellows are appointed to two-year terms with any one of the federal agencies, where they receive significant training on topics such as leadership, management, and policy and participate in agency-wide, Administration, or Presidential initiatives. The fellowship comes with a paycheck, starting at the GS-9, GS-11, or GS-12 grade level, along with benefits.
The PMF program is competitive. Of the approximately 7,000 who applied for the 2014 class, just 609 were chosen as finalists. Goodluck, a 2014 finalist, believes her dedication to public service and leadership skills acquired throughout her career helped her win the fellowship. “My background in working to provide opportunities for our Native people, especially for Native youth, was probably something that set me apart from [the] others,” she said.
Goodluck obtained a J.D. and Certificate in Indian Law from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2014. She also holds an A.B. in Sociology from Dartmouth College, a Master’s in Teaching from the University of Washington, and an Educational Specialist Certificate Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of New Mexico.
Goodluck’s work experience, spanning more than 12 years, includes serving as a teacher, teacher-leader, and school administrator in rural tribal communities, including the Hopi, Navajo, and Tulalip reservations, and urban areas, namely Albuquerque and Seattle. She also co-founded the Native American Community Academy (NACA) in Albuquerque, a grades 6 through 12 charter school developed based on an indigenous, holistic model of teaching and learning. Besides college preparatory classes, NACA offers a curriculum rich in courses on Native American culture, history, language, and literature as well as courses in wellness and experiential learning activities, many involving local organizations.
“Being a part of NACA was life-changing for me, professionally and personally,” Goodluck said. “NACA is a community that is focused on being a model of what Native American school reform can look like.”
From her home office in the Department of the Interior’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Goodluck works on Indian Affairs legislative issues as an attorney-advisor. Within the DPC at the White House, where the domestic policy-making process is coordinated, she serves as a policy advisor to the President’s Special Assistant for Native American Affairs. Here, her main priority is the White House Generation Indigenous (Gen I) initiative, which was announced at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in December 2014.
Goodluck describes Gen I as an initiative that seeks to improve educational outcomes of Indian youth through new investments and increased engagement from the public and private sectors. “It has been exciting to work on this initiative both at the White House and at DOI because the work we are doing with BIE [Bureau of Indian Education] reform, Native youth engagement opportunities such as the White House Tribal Youth Gathering being held in July, and the partnerships with Native organizations across the country, all have real and tangible impacts in Indian country,” she said.
When Goodluck and her husband, L.T. Goodluck, moved from Albuquerque to Washington, D.C., last September for her PMF detail, she felt like she had come full circle. Her paternal grandparents were not only employed by the federal government, but they also met in the nation’s capital. Her grandmother, Ruth Swamp Canard (Oneida), worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as an executive assistant; her grandfather, Virgil “Buck” Canard, served as a budget analyst for Public Health Service-Indian Health Service (PHS-IHS).
Goodluck does not know where her path will go once the fellowship ends. She likes the idea of pursuing a career with the federal government, where she can continue working on reform from the inside, but she is just as open to taking on a challenging position in Indian country. “As long as I am working to move our tribal issues forward, then I will be happy,” she said.