Team at Casino Training Academy

The CTA Team & Trainers

Years of experience in Indian Country and specific expertise in Native American Casinos provide the foundation of the CTA team and trainers. Sharing our experience with your team and using it as a tool for their success is our goal.

Marcia Zephier Instructor at Casino Training Academy

Marcia Zephier

Associate Instructor

An associate instructor with CTA, Marcia Zephier is a lifelong educator and advocate for Native American education and causes. Zephier spent 33 of her 34 1/2 years in public education in the Sioux Falls School District in South Dakota. Twenty-five years were committed to serving students with special needs, particularly students with learning disabilities, and for 11 years, Zephier worked specifically with Native American students after she developed the Native American Connections program.  Zephier  connected with Native students through two elective, credit-bearing classes entitled Native American Connections I and II for which she was also a curriculum writer. NAC I & II were literacy-based and focused on the history, culture and traditions of the people of the Oceti Sakowin. In addition to teaching, Zephier was responsible for mentoring Native American students through small group and one-on-one sessions, which included monitoring grades and problem-solving issues, which may be  barriers to academic success. She also worked extensively with students in preparing them for higher education. Zephier is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Zephier has also worked extensively in the Native American education community by serving on several committees at both the local and state levels, including the Core Concepts Working Group which was responsible for identifying the core concepts essential to understanding and teaching the history and culture of the Oceti Sakowin. She has been an inservice presenter at several South Dakota schools and universities and presented twice at the South Dakota Indian Education Summit. She also served on the state’s Indian Education Advisory Committee from 2007-2013. Most recently, Zephier was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Honoring Ceremony for Native American graduates at her alma mater, South Dakota State University. Zephier has also taught in the Staff Development Office for the Sioux Falls Schools District for almost a decade. She has reached over 600 educators in her class Native American Studies for Educators, which she also teaches in the graduate program at the University of Sioux Falls. Her community involvement has led her to serve on several Board of Directors in both Native and non-Native nonprofit organizations.

Marcia Zephier was born and raised in Flandreau, SD. She received her bachelor’s degree from Northern State University and her master’s degree in secondary educational administration from South Dakota State University. She is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Marcia is a mother of two and grandmother of two. She is semi-retired and living in Sioux Falls, SD. Marcia’s passion is using her education and experiences to give back to her Native communities. 

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Scott German

Business Development

Scott German, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, is a business development liaison for Casino Training Academy, with over 25 years experience in Tribal Government. German was on the Sisseton Wahpeton Gaming Board, overseeing the operation and integration of three gaming properties, and is currently the Tribal Employment liaison for Taylor Woodstone, staying involved and in touch with a wide variety of tribal communities and initiatives, and is also currently a board member of Friends of Public TV in South Dakota. He was appointed a term to the South Dakota State Advisory Committee to the Commission on Civil Rights from 2000-2005, and was recently reappointed to a two-year term.

German served in the US Army, with a tour of two and a half years in Germany.

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Jim Lather Instructor at Casino Training Academy

Jim Lather


Jim Lather is a marketing, communications, and leadership expert with more than seven years of experience in Indian Country. Lather is a founding partner and instructor for Casino Training Academy, and brings valuable experience and expertise. For fourteen years Lather has owned both a full-service advertising agency (JamesDugan) and a digital marketing firm (44 Interactive). Lather also owns and operates Arrowhead Consulting Group, a highly regarded Native American gaming consulting firm. Additionally, he is both Disney® Institute Certified in Customer Service, as well as a John Maxwell Certified in Leadership Training. Lather also, served for eight years in the USAF and is a Desert Storm Veteran. Incorporating Lather's real-world business experience with his tenure in Indian Country, his training style is both highly insightful and energizing. Teaching the specific and necessary skills to allow casino staff, management and Tribal members throughout the Midwest to succeed and grow into leadership roles themselves, Lather takes great pleasure in delivering a powerful and inspirational message to all of his audiences.

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Nan Niesen


Nan Niesen is a training and development professional, specializing in creating customized customer service training programs and implementing performance improvement systems. Niesen is an industry leader, with over 21 years of training experience in Indian Gaming. Prior to having her own customer service training business, Niesen worked for Mystic Lake Casino and Hotel for over 10 years in the training and development department. Her positions included: manager of Mystic University; curriculum designer; classroom trainer; MBTI workshop facilitator; training liaison for operations; and organizational development representative.  

Her extensive experience in virtually all aspects of training has given her a solid background in assessing training needs; designing, developing, and delivering effective training programs; and evaluating training impact. Through an onsite needs assessment, Niesen identifies specific customer service deficiencies, creates a plan for improvement, and works with all levels of the organization to close these performance gaps. Niesen has designed and developed, a variety of training programs such as The Guest Service Scorecard Program (improves customer service by using service expectations, training, feedback and coaching, and evaluation), Effective Management (a 5-day management program for new supervisors and managers) and the Train-the-Trainer Series (qualified employees are trained to become certified trainers). Niesen is committed to creating opportunities for employee development and organizational success through collaborative effort and mutual goals.

Niesen is a partner and an instructor for Casino Training Academy. She is also the founder and principal of 1st Impressions, a customer service training company located in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is a qualified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) practitioner, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota.

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Darren Kuyper Instructor at Casino Training Academy

Darren Kuyper


Darren Kuyper is a marketing specialist with Casino Training Academy, and has worked in the marketing and advertising industry for more than 24 years. Kuyper has a keen instinct for uncovering Native American casinos’ needs, opportunities, and primary points of difference in their market, and uses that information to create engaging, high-impact communication strategies that drive traffic and revenue. His proficiency allows him to provide clients with progressive advertising and strategic marketing solutions that are developed through creative thought and professional leadership. A native of South Dakota, Kuyper takes a very personal interest in the success of his clients and their advertising and marketing programs.

Kuyper’s hands-on experience includes regional and national work with Native American casino properties, retail, foodservice, education, events, service, financial, and other industries.

Kuyper is at present Executive VP at JamesDugan Casino Marketing in Sioux Falls, SD, holds a certification from the Disney® Institute, has presented at OIGA and GPIGA, and coaches student members of the South Dakota Advertising Federation.

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Travis Quam instructor at Casino Training Academy

Travis Quam


Travis Quam is the creative authority with Casino Training Academy. Throughout his career, Quam has collaborated on — and maintained — high-level positioning, strategy, design, and creative direction for a wide variety of clients, projects and campaigns, both inside and outside of Indian Country. His experience and expertise in brand, print, television, outdoor, web, d igital, environmental, and other channels has established him as an award-winning creative director who provides the final word in creative and strategic design.

Quam currently serves as the creative director at JamesDugan Casino Marketing in Sioux Falls, SD. He has a design degree from Sessions School of Design in Arizona, has served as creative director for Redding University, and has done work for the Phoenix Suns of the NBA.                 

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Matty Mathison Instructor at Casino Training Academy

Matty Mathison

Associate Instructor

CTA Associate Instructor Matty Mathison's achievements in education and training are legendary. Over the years Mathison has refined her materials and curriculum, applying the results in countless training environments earning her many awards. Her drive for excellence in education and her leadership in mentor-training activities have twice earned her the Distinguished Citizen of the Year for Shawano County, selection as the American Planning Association Citizen of the Year for the state of Wisconsin, membership in the select group of recipients of the Herb Kohl Award for Excellence in Teaching in the state of Wisconsin, and national recognition with the coveted Disney Teacher of the Year Award.

Mathison’s training and coaching skills have earned her a cherished membership in the Wisconsin Coach’s Hall of Fame. She continues her drive for excellence by applying her training techniques in her Challenge by Choice classes, which emphasize cooperation, problem solving, and empathy, in her company, Why Knot Adventures, and in custom-designed educational endeavors.

Her involvement in any training guarantees high energy, humor, and unique processing techniques.

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