The Buffalo Project

Determining if ESC-NFC is an Open Educational Institution: An Ethnographic Study of Western New York

Principal Investigators: Dr. Rhianna C. Rogers (2010-present) and Dr. Aimee Woznick (2013-2014)

Research Assistants: Alexandra B. Valenti (2016-2017), Maria Tripi, BA (2010-2013) and Vincent Caito (2010-2011)

COMMUNITIES OF WESTERN NEW YORK

Since my move to Western New York in 2010, my research has taken more of an anthropological focus. I am currently working on a IRB survey project, coined “The Buffalo Project,” which analyzes the impacts of cultural inclusiveness on college learning and student retention at SUNY Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center.

What is the Buffalo Project?: A Introductory PowerPoint

Buffalo Project 2014 (An Updated and Expanded Powerpoint)

Project Reports (Read Here)

AY-2012-2013-Report-for-IRB (R.Rogers and M. Tripi)

AY 2013-2014 Report for IRB (R.Rogers and A. Woznick)

Articles (Read Here)

How to Cultivate ‘Cultural Openness’ Among Adult Learners: Practical Examples from the Buffalo Project” (R.Rogers and A. Woznick) SUNY Empire State College, All About Mentoring, Winter 2015

PROJECT DESCRIPTION
This research project grew out of a paper presented at the 2011 Empire State College All-College Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York. As part of an plenary session entitled “Empire State College as an Open University: Open to Whom?” Lead Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Rhianna C. Rogers, presented an invited paper titled “Is ESC’s Niagara Frontier Center (NFC) a culturally ‘Open’ Center for learning?” This presentation discussed her pilot study findings (AY 2010-2011) related cultural inclusivity at the Niagara Frontier Center (NFC).  Now a formalized research project (AY 2012-2014) with research assistance and a co-PI, the Buffalo Project has been successfully impacting cultural understanding and the development of student-centered programming at NFC since its inception.

Data utilized in this project (AY 2010-2014), combined Western New York (WNY) history, regional Census reports, ESC Census data, general findings from the pilot study (AY 2010-2012) and formal student surveys (AY 2012-2014) to discuss the level of cultural understanding at NFC and whether it correlated (or not) with student academic inclusiveness. With the help of research assistants Vincent Caito (2010-2011), Maria Tripi (2010-2013), and co-PI Dr. Aimee Woznick (2013-2014), we have shed light on this and other related questions, which has led us to better understand the impacts of Western New York culture and how NFC students are impacted by it.

Based on these aforementioned concepts, the following research question was developed:

1. How can ESC/NFC become a more culturally “open” regional center?

Based on this question, we developed the following research objectives. Our hope is to:

  1. Understand and or construct a localized cultural history for ESC/NFC students in the context of the surrounding WNY cultural populations;
  2. Comment on the role of culture in each representative demographic group at ESC/NFC and the greater Buffalo region; and
  3. Determine what elements of “culture openness” have been identified in or around ESC/NFC that may have positively or negatively impacts on the learning processes for diverse populations.

STUDENTS, PLEASE PARTICIPANT IN THIS SURVEY!!

NOTE: This is a growing and organic project based on NFC student feedback. Students, please remember that all comments are welcome (good, bad, or indifferent.) We want to know what you really think and why.

IRB SURVEY: (All 3 documents must be completed)

Survey Consent Form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6B2JWH2

Participant Observation Form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6BTL2QB

Participant Profile Form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6BBVLSL

TENTATIVE FINDINGS

Results of this survey yielded new information about NFC culture not previously considered (see reports and article for more information). Generally speaking, survey data (AY 2010-2014) indicated a general lack of cultural understanding among diverse student populations at NFC (e.g., across genders, race, ethnicity, settlement/location, class, economic, and technological divides). Some students did not understand the definition of culture and simplified the term to a study of race and ethnicity, thus minimizing its scope to exclude many standard culture-based classifications (e.g., economic, social, linguistic, political, religious and cultural variables). These results suggested that students were not being adequately engaged cross-culturally and/or being taught the importance of cultural diversity. We determined that the development of more culturally inclusive events and increased opportunities for cross-cultural communication was needed in order to foster greater understand among students.

CULTURALLY INCLUSIVE ACADEMIC PROGRAMMING AND COMMUNITY EVENTS

This survey information, collected over a 4 year period (AY 2010-2014), has been used to create  a variety of activities at NFC in order to engage students cross-culturally; some of these events include culture-based plenary discussions, documentary film round tables, community tours, student clubs, and food events. The results have also been used to inform local governance committees and the Dean of NFC. Since the implementation of this survey, the Dean has asked many local committees to consult students and/or include a student member as part of their committee.

Positive feedback and regular attendance at these events by students, staff, and faculty suggest the apparent need and interest in this type of research, the validity of the data set, the benefits of incorporating student voice within NFC event planning.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS BASED ON THE BUFFALO PROJECT SURVEY 

As alluded to earlier, this data set was meant to help NFC improve its connection to diverse student populations and increase its retention of diverse learners.

NOTE: There are many events still to be scheduled, so expect to see this page updated regularly.

Here is a list of activities do date:

General Accomplishments

  1. Create Cultures Across the Curriculum Residency (Fall 2012)
  2. Established a Cultural Diversity Luncheon/Global Food Fest for NFC faculty, staff, and students. Semi Annual (Fall 2010-present)
  3. Established a Semi Annual Buffalo Project Academic Plenary Series. Presentations/Lectures listed below. (Fall 2010-present)
  4. Established Community Presentations about the Buffalo Project. Lectures listed below. (Fall 2013-present)
  5. Created opportunities for NFC students to get involved in local College governance committees (Fall 2013-present)
  6. Provide opportunities or community engagement through special event opportunities (e.g. See article about CARES at the 2013 UB Presidenty Obama event here)
  7. Development of a Culturally Sensitive, NFC Student Club- SUNY ESC NFC CARES (Jan 2012-present)

Club Website: http://sunyesccares.wordpress.com/

Club Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SUNYESCCARES?ref=stream

Regional Lectures/Plenaries:

Rhianna C. Rogers and Aimee Woznick “How to Cultivate Cross Cultural Awareness among Adult Learners: Practical Examples from the Buffalo Project SUNY Diversity Conference – Making Diversity Count: Ensuring Equity, Inclusion, Access and Impact.  Albany Mariott, Albany, NY, Nov. 2014

NFC Buffalo Project Plenary Series/Lectures:

“Discussion of Iroquois Culture-Matriarchy and Disabilites by Michael Bastine” Semi Annual Buffalo Project Plenary Series Presentation with Brian Murphy and Drs. Sandra Johnson and Rodney Haring  (Event Co-Organizer with Sandra Johnson and Eric Bridges), SUNY Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center, Cheektowaga, NY, April 2015.

“Native American Keynote Address by Dr. Rodney Haring and Tribal Sovereignty Plenary Session” Semi Annual Buffalo Project Plenary Series Presentation with Brian Murphy and Drs. Sandra Johnson and Rodney Haring  (Event Co-Organizer with Sandra Johnson and Panel Moderator), SUNY Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center, Cheektowaga, NY, Nov. 2013.

“African American Plenary Event” Semi Annual Buffalo Project Plenary Series (Panel Organizer with Drs. Mark Soderstrom and Sonja Brown Givens and Event Moderator), SUNY Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center, Cheektowaga, NY June 2013. https://ensemble.annese.com/app/sites/index.aspx?destinationID=aSPB6eUGcku1g7SLDiz5Hg&contentID=9PRpWq-EY0-mbVL0WeswOA&pageIndex=1&pageSize=10

“Native American Event: Why do we celebrate Native American Month?,” Semi Annual Buffalo Project Plenary Series (Panel Co-organizer with Dr. Sandra Johnson and Prof. Ann Garner and Event Moderator with presenters Brendalee Piccone, Brian Murphy, Ann Garner, Sandra Johnson, and Sierra Adare-Tasiwoopa api), SUNY Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center, Cheektowaga, NY, Nov. 2012. http://vimeo.com/53705437

“What is Cultural Sensitivity?” Panel Organizer and Moderator with Bob Gerulat, Sandra Johnson, Hartley Hutchins and Brian Murphy, Cultures Across the Curriculum Residency, SUNY Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center, Cheektowaga, NY, Nov. 2011.

Instiutional Presentations about the Buffalo Project

Rhianna C. Rogers “The Buffalo Project: Exploring Cultural Inclusiveness at Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center,” Dialogues Discussions. SUNY Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center, Manhattan, NY, Mar. 2015.

Rhianna C. Rogers and Aimee Woznick “How to Cultivate Cross Cultural Awareness among Adult Learners: Revisiting the Buffalo Project ” Brown Bag Discussions. SUNY Empire State College-Niagara Frontier Center, Cheektowaga, NY, Nov. 2014.

“The Buffalo Project: How Can Empire State College’s Niagara Frontier Center Become a Culturally ‘Open’ Regional Center,” ESC Virtual Academic Conference, Cultural Studies AOS Meeting, SUNY Empire State College-Coordinating Center (Main Campus), Saratoga Springs, NY, Oct. 2012.

Rhianna C. Rogers and Maria L. Tripi “How Can Empire State College’s Niagara Frontier Center Become a Culturally ‘Open’ Regional Center, 8th Annual Empire State College Student Academic Conference, SUNY-Empire State College, Adams Mark Hotel, Buffalo, NY, Oct 2012.

“ESC as an Open University: An Ethnographic Study of SUNY ESC-Niagara Frontier,” in ESC as an Open Institution: Open to Whom? SUNY Empire State College All College Conference, ESC Coordinating Center (Main Campus), Saratoga Springs, NY, March 2011.

Community Conferences/Presentations about the Buffalo Project:

UPCOMING PRESENTATION: “The Importance of Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity to WNY Realty: More Insights from the Buffalo Project” in WNY Relators Association-Women’s Council of Realtors Business Meeting, Amherst, NY Oct. 2015

“Keynote Address: How Culture Can Impact WNY Settlement Patterns: Case Studies from the Buffalo Project” Realty Edge Business Meeting. Millennium Hotel, Cheektowaga, NY Nov. 2013

“The Importance of Cultural Awareness in WNY Realty: Case Studies from the Buffalo Project” WNY Relators Association, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Buffalo, NY Oct. 2013

“The Importance of Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity to WNY Realty” in WNY Relators Association-Women’s Council of Realtors Business Meeting, Amherst, NY Oct. 2013