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Mission Statement

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Learning and Development family is committed to progressing and developing the skills of all associates. Learning and Development is where knowledge meets our 9 Core Values and creates unique learning opportunities, which continue to support the culture and tradition of Choctaw Nation.

Our Philosophy of Learning and Development

“An education which acknowledges the full intellectual and social meaning of a vocation would include instruction in the historic background of present conditions; training in science to give intelligence and initiative in dealing with material and agencies of production; and study of economics, civics, and politics, to bring the future worker into touch with the problems of the day and the various methods proposed for its improvement. Above all, it would train power of readaptation to changing conditions so that future workers would not become blindly subject to a fate imposed upon them.”

-Excerpt from John Dewey’s Democracy in Education (1916).

Contact List

Leadership & Talent Development - Terry Ashby
Director of Leadership & Talent Development
Office: (580) 924-8280 x2585
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Terry Ashby is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation. Terry is extremely honored to have the wonderful opportunity to serve the members of the Choctaw Nation as the Director of Organizational Development. Previously, Terry was the Sophomore Instructor of Choctaw University where he was responsible for teaching Choctaw cultural values and incorporating Choctaw culture in all areas of the Choctaw University curriculum. Terry is a 1989 Durant High School graduate and a 1993 graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State University where he majored in Physical Education and minored in Mathematics, Psychology, and Safety Engineering. While at Southeastern, Terry lettered in Basketball for three years, was a member of the Forensic Department for one year, and was also a four year member of the Native American Counsel. In 1995, Terry began his 18 year career in education in Texas as a teacher and a coach. His classroom experiences include middle school math, Algebra 1, Speech, Career Investigations, Health, and Physical Education at all levels. As a coach, Terry was responsible for developing teams in Football, Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Track, Volleyball, and Cross Country. In 2003, Terry began his career as a school administrator as an Elementary Assistant Principal. In 2004, Terry received his Masters in Educational Administration from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, TX. The last 10 years of his educational career, Terry was a school administrator at the level of Principal. Terry enjoys teaching, presenting, and lecturing on the subject of the Native American culture and welcomes any opportunity to do so. He is experienced in presenting to diverse audiences in diverse settings. His experience includes speaking to the Culture and Humanities Department of the University of North Texas, providing a presentation to the School of Nursing for Texas Woman’s University on the subject of treating the Native American patient. Terry has also been the keynote speaker at events and honored with privilege of being the key note speaker for the City of Gainesville Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in 2012. For the 2014 Native American Heritage Month, Terry was honored with the opportunity to provide a presentation to the 479th Artillery Battalion stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, TX titled “Native American Pride and Spirit; yesterday, today, and forever…” Terry is passionate about his Native American heritage and lives his life to reflect the teachings and values of his Choctaw culture.

Learning & Development - Brandon Fields, Manager
L&D Manager
Office: (580) 924-8280 x2654
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Brandon Fields proudly serves as Trainer of the Management Training Series and has spent the majority of his professional career with The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Brandon is a 2005 graduate from The University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor Degree in Sociology. Mr. Fields brings to his new position 10 years of experience from Choctaw Gaming, specializing in enhancing guest experiences and enriching the lives of Choctaw Nation associates. Brandon’s background includes but is not limited to:

  • Freeman Group Certified Trainer
  • Disney Experience Certified
  • Foundations “Train The Trainer” Certification
Brandon’s previous role as Guest Service Director, combined with his background and experience in training is a huge asset in the development of our future leaders.
Mr. Fields was raised in Idabel, Oklahoma where he graduated from Idabel High in 1999. He and his three children have been residents of Durant, Oklahoma since 2013. When not engaged at work, Brandon loves spending time with his children and family, playing softball and watching sports.

Learning & Development - Brenner Billy
Cultural Trainer
Office: 580) 924-8280 x2220
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Brenner is currently finishing his bachelor's degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and will continue working toward a Master in Education. Originally from Broken Bow and now residing in Durant, he grew up in a culturally active family and community.
Brenner has followed the traditions of our culture, having learned from his Grandfather and family that we must continue to teach and pass on to our younger generations today. He will continue to do so with his family and son, and now with the Learning & Development department, which he joined in June of 2016. Prior to that he worked in H.R., Cultural Services and in the Language department.
Brenner was an assistant coach for the youth stickball league, teaches social dancing, and participated in presenting Cultural meetings alongside the Chiefs. He is fascinated with learning more of the Choctaw language and culture in order to share with our people who may not know, or may have forgotten, and is progressing in speaking the Choctaw Language.
Brenner expresses the paths of our ancestors, and believes understanding how where we have been leads to where we shall go today and in continuing the path of our people.

Brenner: "Kanima ash inlikma chi pisa la chike!"
(I’ll see you around sometime!)

Learning & Development - Dede Stephens
Trainer II
Office: (580) 924-8280 x4188
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Dede Stephens started with the Choctaw Nation as a Trainer in 2016. Prior to that, she had 20+ years in the public school system as a School Counselor, Librarian, Teacher, District Test Coordinator and School Psychologist & Psychometrist.
She has a Master of Education in Library Media Science and a Master of Education in School Counseling from East Central University. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood endorsement from SOSU.
Dede loves spending time with family and enjoying almost anything outdoors (baseball, softball, fishing, gardening, hunting and cooking for friends and family.) She and husband Travis live in Coleman with three of their four children.

Learning & Development - Felicia Scott
Office: (580) 924-8280 x4137
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Felicia Scott has recently joined with Learning and Development as the New Hire Orientation Coordinator in July 2016. She resides in Durant with her husband Mike and their family. She is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and moved here in 2012, where she began working at the Durant Casino. Felicia has over 20+ years working with the tribal government, as well as Indian Gaming. She is currently enrolled as a student with Choctaw U and hopes to continue and one day obtain a degree in Native American Leadership at SOSU. She holds on to her love for her culture and her language, in which Choctaw is her first language and she is still a fluent speaker. Felicia has recently started beading and wants to learn other cultural practices to pass on to her children and grandchildren. She is also part of the Employee Dance Troupe where she participates in the community meetings and other events that is requested for dancers to perform.

Learning & Development Commerce - Graham Kovash
Training Coordinator
Office: (580) 924-8280 x4294
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Graham A. Kovash is a proud tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Graham started his career with the Choctaw Nation in April of 2014 as a Security Officer at the Choctaw Casino in Durant. In January 2016, he moved to the Durant Casino & Resort HR Department. His duties included training the weekly new hire orientation for new associates and coordinating the perfect attendance events for the Durant property. On February 26, 2017 he transferred to the Choctaw Nation's Learning and Development Department as the Training Coordinator. Graham is currently enrolled in Choctaw U and has a number of certifications that he is working on or has completed.

  • Supervisor Academy
  • Microsoft Office Specialist – Excel, Excel Expert & Outlook 2013
  • Service Culture Development Certificate
  • First Aid/CPR Certification
  • CMA
Graham graduated from Durant High School in 2008 and currently resides in Durant with his future wife, Britni Fullenwider and their son Liam Kovash. While work is very important to him, he is also active outside of work. Graham loves all outdoor activities and most importantly, spending time with his son. Graham plans on continuing his education in psychology and working alongside the Learning and Development team. He is determined to contribute to the growth and development of the Choctaw People.

Learning & Development - Jamie Bullock
Office: (918) 567-7000 x6857
One Choctaw Way
Talihina, OK 74571
Attn: Human Resource
Fax: (918) 567-7026

Jamie Bullock has been employed with the Choctaw Nation for 18 years. Jamie graduated from Haworth High School in 1989. In July of 2013, she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Resource Management from Ashford University. Jamie would like everyone to know, “It is never too late to go back to school and continue learning – I’m living proof”. She began working in the Dental Clinic at the “old hospital” in 1996. After a couple years, she transferred to Family Practice and worked as a receptionist. In 1998, she transferred to Human Resources and worked with the HR Team for 14 years. In July of 2013, Jamie transferred to the Learning and Development Department. Jamie is now a trainer for Health Care and takes great pride in helping train associates in many different areas. Each Thursday, Jamie trains and facilitates Health Care Orientation in Talihina. During the rest of the week, Jamie travels to satellite clinics to train staff members in order to make it easier for them to learn without travelling. Jamie lives in Talihina with her husband, Clint and son, Joshua.

Learning & Development - John Detten
Office: (580) 372-5466 Cell: (580) 775-0794
365 Tri-Acres Road
Arthur City, TX 75411

John Detten began work for Choctaw Nation in 1993 as an independent contractor and has served in various departments since 2003. His background and education are in Agriculture, Law Enforcement, Vocational Education and Business Management and Public Service.
John has been married to his wife Evelyn for 35 years. They are parents of two adult children - a son Jason in California, and a daughter Andrea in Texas. They share three grand-daughters and two grandsons. Their home is a small farm near Arthur City, Texas.

Learning & Development - Nathan Roach
Guest Services Coordinator
Office: (580) 924-8280 x4322
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Nathan is an proud tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. He started his career with the tribe in June of 2013 as a Valet Driver at the Casino in Durant. He then transferred over to Guest Service. His duties include training guest service to new hires at orientation, creating the ChocTalk and sending it to every associate that is in the Choctaw Nation, keeping the discount list updated with all the discounts employees receive, he also joins his team and goes across the 10½ counties doing quality inspections making sure everyone does their part to keep Choctaw prosperous.
Nathan graduated from Colbert High School in 2011 and also graduated college in 2015 at SOSU with a Bachelor Degree in Physical Education/Recreation. He currently resides in Durant with his wife, Makala Roach and their son Sylas Roach. He likes to spend as much time as he can with his family but he also likes to stay active and try to find different things to do that are sports related. He plans on working with all the Learning and Development team and helping the Choctaw Nation grow as a whole.

Learning & Development - Tiffany Bryant
Lead Guest Services Coordinator
Office: (580) 924-8280 x2745
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Tiffany Bryant is a proud tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and a graduate of Atoka High School. Her career with Choctaw Nation began at the Stringtown Casino, where she supervised and assisted other associates. The desire to help others led her to the position of receptionist at the Choctaw Nation Headquarters in Durant, welcoming and assisting each guest that visited. She then used her skills to assist the associates by transitioning to Guest Service.
Tiffany is very active in her church and enjoys spending time with her husband Jeff and her three wonderful children.

Learning & Development - Victoria Pacheco
Trainer II
Office: (580) 924-8280 x2953
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Victoria Pacheco is currently a Trainer II, who has earned her BA and MBS degrees from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 2010.
A resident of Durant, she has been married to her husband Jesse for 17 years and has four children. Before coming to work with Learning & Development, she worked for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services as a Child Welfare Specialist, and also has experience in public education. She is active in her church, where she currently works with youth, and she enjoys reading, crafting and yard sales.

Learning & Development - Warren Choate
Office: (580) 924-8280 x2584
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Warren Choate was hired in January of 2003 as a Blackjack Cashier at the Durant Bingo-Hall Casino. In April of 2003, he moved to the I.T. department where he began the task of building the first ad-hoc casino networks at the remote sites along with end-user support for all issues. After two years, he was transferred to Pocola as the primary Site-Tech for that site and for Sallisaw Blue Ribbon Downs. Warren came back to the Durant Casino in February of 2008 as an Ancillary Applications Administrator for the Hotel and Restaurants Point-of-Sale systems. In January of 2010, he became a Training Coordinator for the newly developed Casino Training department, where he wrote the code for multiple computer-based training systems.
Warren now works as an eLearning/Designer in Choctaw Nation's Learning & Development department where he works with three online training systems, does training analysis and marketing, and keeps several training databases updated.
Warren began working in Information Technology in 1988 and has an Associates Degree in Computing and Network Operations. He also wrote all the HTML & PHP code for this website.

Choctaw U - Becky Hicks, Director
Director of Choctaw University
Office: 580) 924-8280 x2544
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Becky Hicks was raised in Hugo, OK and graduated from Hugo High School. She attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University as a Parsons Scholar and graduated as an Honors Program Graduate and Magna Cum Laude in 2002 with a BBA in Marketing. Becky began a career in banking and returned to SOSU a year later to begin night classes for her Master’s Degree. After earning her MBA in 2007, she changed careers and found a way to combine her passions for lifelong learning and serving others. Her training career varied from public health to higher education and back to banking, where she was a corporate trainer, specializing in management and leadership education, technical training, and employee development. She joined Choctaw Nation’s Learning and Development Department as an Instructor/Curriculum Designer in 2012, and was promoted to Director of Choctaw University in 2016. Since hiring on at Choctaw Nation, Becky has become a certified DACUM facilitator, MBTI Certified Practitioner, and is currently pursuing CPLP certification. Becky lives in Durant with her husband, Jason, and their four children: Hannah, Abigail, Sydney, and Drew.

Choctaw U - James Essert Jr.
Instructor II
Office: (580) 924-8280 x2896
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

James Essert is an Instructor II for the Choctaw University Leadership Series. Known as “Sonny” by all, he began working with the Choctaw Nation in March 2016. Previous to joining the Choctaw University staff, he was an Adjunct Instructor within the Native Studies program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant while also holding a position as Advisor specifically for Native American students.
From 2005 to 2014, Sonny was an English Language Expert at Jilin Normal University in Siping, Jilin, China. During that time, he taught courses as an ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor to English majors within the Foreign Languages Department. He has also led/co-led international workshops in China, Thailand, The Philippines, and India.
Sonny holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Literature and a Bachelor’s in Theology from Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. While living in China, he gained his Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies & TESOL from Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.
In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, sightseeing, learning about other languages, and online gaming. His brother and sister work for the Choctaw Nation, so working for the Nation is now a family affair. Sonny’s passion for people is exhibited most in his love of God and his desire to help those inside and outside the Church.

Choctaw U - Leslie Rains
Instructor II
Office: (580) 924-8280 x4218
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Leslie Rains has obtained a number of credentials that make her an asset to the Choctaw University team:

  • Master of Interdisciplinary Studies Degree - 3 Major Areas (under: Human Services, Human Sciences, Education); Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX
  • Bachelor of Science Degree; East Central University, Ada, OK
  • DACUM Certified
  • Addie Certified
  • Freeman Group Certified Trainer
  • Foundations “Train-the-Trainer” Certified
Leslie is an active Choctaw Nation Tribal Member with a deep passion for her amazing family, incredible Tribe, engaging training systems, and Jesus.

Choctaw U - Liz Kellam
Instructor II
Office: (580) 924-8280 x2956
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Liz Kellam was raised in Silo, Oklahoma and graduated from Silo High School. She attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University and graduated as an Honors Program Graduate with a B.A. in English Education in 2007. Liz completed her Masters of Education from East Central University in 2012. She began her career as a high school English teacher and later worked as a customer service trainer for First United Bank. In 2010, Liz became an instructor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in the Learning Center teaching remedial English and reading courses as well as an adjunct instructor for the English department teaching Composition I and II courses. Here, Liz found her passion for teaching students life skills and developing curriculum and writing programs. She became the Learning Center Director in 2016. In 2018, she came to work for the Choctaw Nation as an Instructor II for Choctaw U.

Choctaw U - Shawn Young
Office: (580) 924-8280 x2481
1802 Chukka Hinna
Durant, OK 74701

Shawn Young has been an associate with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma since 2003. Before starting full-time in 03 she was a part of the Summer Youth Program when she was 14. After graduating from Gateway College of Evangelism in St. Louis, MO with a music degree, she came home and started working full-time for the Tribe. She has worked in several Choctaw Nation Departments such as Finance, Chief’s Office, and Human Resources. She joined the Learning & Development Department in April of 2011 where she transitioned into Choctaw University. Shawn is currently an instructor for the Choctaw University Continuing Education Programs. She holds a Tribal Human Resources Professional Certificate (THRP), and belongs to several HR and educational organization as SHRM, ACHE, ACTE, and AAACE. She has been DACUM certified to help write curriculum.
Shawn is currently attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University to earn a Master in Business Administration. She graduated Cum Laude from SOSU with a Bachelors in Liberal and Applied Arts in 2016. She is a proud Tribal Member and CDIB holder. Shawn and her husband, Adam, have a home in Caddo. They have one child, Rachel ReNee. She enjoys spending time with family, writing, antiquing, and singing.

Foundations Training
'Foundations' training session for Government Trainers