Ernest L. Stevens Jr., Chairman of NIGA, Earns his Master’s Degree through University of Phoenix and a Scholarship Fund is Established in His Honor

The UOPX Team at the NIGA Tradeshow and Convention

On Thursday, July 22, 2021 during the National Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Conference (NIGA), Patrick Horning, National Tribal Strategic Alliance Executive, and Joe Healey, Tribal Operations Specialist of University of Phoenix (UOPX) took the stage with Ernie Stevens Jr., Chairman of NIGA. They were awarded a NIGA 2021 Business Leadership Award for their role in promoting and supporting Native Americans seeking higher education.

Chairman Stevens spoke about his recently completed Master’s degree through UOPX and his journey to accomplish this. Chairman Steven’s said, “These folks pulled off a miracle.” He said that he had started one of many grad schools in 1986, but “they never materialized as I was busy working and raising five kids.” About 10 years ago he went to the University of Phoenix with a need to understand day-to-day life education and to understand how he could better mentor people and understand the business world around us. He restarted last year and finalized his degree.

Joe Healey, Tribal Operations Specialist, University of Phoenix; GinaMarie Scarpa, Co-founder & CEO NABI Foundation, Patrick Horning, National Tribal Strategic Alliance Executive, University of Phoenix and NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr.

Horning added, “Today is about education and what education means to Indian country … Chairman Stevens has really stepped up and set the example … he wanted to set the example for our children, for our Tribal members who may have not had the opportunity to go out and get into the occupation that they want; he wanted to set the example for the employees for either of those who want to upskill or reskill to get into different positions inside the enterprises.”

GinaMarie Scarpa, Co-founder & CEO NABI Foundation  (Native American Basketball Invitational) was then invited on stage. Horning announced that a full scholarship for an undergrad or graduate degree had been named the “Ernest L. Stevens, Jr., NABI Foundation/ University of Phoenix Scholarship” and will be open on September 3, 2021 to anyone who has participated in the NABI.

Please view the video above or by clicking here

For more information on University of Phoenix visit

For more information on the NABI Foundations visit

For more information on the National Indian Gaming Association visit