Northern Opens Cultural Engagement Center

Northern Oklahoma College opened the newly completed Cultural Engagement Center Tuesday morning at the Vineyard Library Administration Building.

Approximately 40 attended the open house, attendees toured the facility after the opening.

The Cultural Engagement Center was funded by a $1.75 million United States Department of Education grant as a Native American Serving Non-tribal Institution.

The five-year grant for the Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions Program (NASNTI) was approved in September 2016, the grant concludes in September 2021.

"Northern is thrilled to receive this federal funding to help Native American students by enhancing academic and student support services to assist them in achieving their higher educational goals," said Northern Oklahoma College President Dr. Cheryl Evans.

"We look forward to working with the tribal governments of our students we serve as we develop new ways to help more individuals have the life changing experience of completing a college education at NOC," Dr. Evans added. "Northern is interested in better serving its growing Native American student population. Native American enrollment at NOC has grown by 42% over the past 10 years; on in every eight NOC students is Native American. Through the NASNTI program, Northern will continue to focus our work to promote Native American Postsecondary success."

Ted Moore, Title III Native American Student Success Specialist explained the three initiatives for the program.

"Number one initiative is to expand access to high demand, high quality courses by redesigning 30 online courses at six area tribal centers," Moore explained. "The second initiative is to offer interactive and data driven online services to promote student success; and the third initiative is to support Native American student success by developing culturally-aligned mentoring and tutoring, cultural and language activities, professional development for faculty and staff on strategies to support Native American student success and establish a new Cultural Engagement Center to house new support services and resources."

NOC student Beulah Ingram also spoke at the ceremony.

"I am very excited that there is an area where Native American students can meet and receive services. The Cultural engagement Center also will provide tribal mentors and online classes to tribal education centers. It is also a gathering spot for the Northern Thunder Club. Not only can students receive help, they can also learn about different cultural backgrounds as well. There are many tutors available at the Center as well as online tutoring provided.

"I appreciate Northern Oklahoma College for the opportunities the Cultural Engagement Center will provide and for giving me the opportunity to speak today in the Grand Opening." Evans also thanked the past Title III NASNTI Project Director, Charlene Flaner, and the current Project Director, Dr. Rae Ann Kruse.

Also recognized were Ted Moore, Title III Native American Student Success Specialist; Anna Scott, Title III Distance Learning Specialist; Denver Wahwassuck, Student Mentor; and Native American Advisor/Recruiter Gina Conneywerdy; Northern Thunder - Native American Club President Gabriela and Vice-President Beulah Ingram.

The facility was constructed by Ben Hayes and Nate Moser of Ben Hayes Construction Company. Timothy Herzer and Mindy Gray from GH2 Architects were architects for the project. NOC is home to six tribal jurisdictions including the Tonkawa Tribe, Osage Nation, Kaw Nation, Ponca Tribe, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, and Pawnee Nation. 

Refreshments were provided at the ceremony.