The premise for this research project grew out of a paper presented at the 2011 Empire State College All-College Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York. As and an invited participant in the plenary session entitled “Empire State College as an Open University: Open to Whom?” the Principal Investigator, Dr. Rhianna C. Rogers, presented an paper titled “Is ESC’s Niagara Frontier Center (NFC) a culturally ‘Open’ Center for learning?” which discussed her tentative findings on culture within the Niagara Frontier Center (NFC) student population. Data collected during the pilot phase of this project combined Western New York (WNY) Regional Census reports, ESC Census data, and general findings from in-class student participant observations and research to discuss the current state of cultural understanding in NFC and its possible impacts on student retention. The analysis of this data suggested a general lack of cultural understanding between student populations, which indicated that culturally diverse student populations were not being “openly” engaged. The implementation cultural activities, post survey, yield positive feedback, suggesting that a formalized survey of this phenomenon would benefit NFC. The report presented below is the articulation of our work to date and our move toward the full-fledged project, expected to be completed in AY 2012-2013. Our ultimate goal is to determine the true role culture plays in ESC-NFC Open educational model.

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