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New Mexico State University
New Mexico State University

Definitions of Diversity

There are various definitions of diversity throughout higher education. Below are some examples of definitions used by NMSU and our peer institutions.

Diversity Council’s Defintion of Diversity (7/1/10):

The term “diversity” encompasses differences of culture, background and experience among individuals and groups. Such differences include, but are not limited to, differences of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and disabilities, as well as political and religious affiliation and socioeconomic status.

Iowa State University:

ISU defines diversity as that quality of its physical, social, cultural and intellectual environment which embraces the rich difference within the multiplicity of human expression and characteristics including: Age, Cultural, Ethnicity, Gender Identification and Presentation, Language and Linguistic Ability, Physical Ability and Quality, Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, and Socioeconomic Status.

Kansas State University:

The term “diversity” means more than just acknowledging and/or tolerating difference. Recognizing diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others. Those perceptions affect their interactions. Embracing diversity is a set of conscious practices that involve:

  • Understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment.
  • Practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own.
  • Understanding that diversity includes not only ways of being but also ways of knowing.
  • Recognizing that personal, cultural and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others.
  • Building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.

Honoring diversity includes knowing how to relate to those qualities and conditions that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups. These include but are not limited to age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, physical and cognitive abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, gender expression, religious beliefs, political beliefs, educational background, geographical location, national origin, tenure, organizational roles, marital status, parental status, and life experiences. We acknowledge that categories of difference are not always fixed but also fluid, respect individual rights to self-identification, and recognize that no one culture is intrinsically superior to another.

Furthermore, embracing diversity includes realizing that everyone is diminished if all are not represented. It includes acknowledging how much is lost to all of us when we do not include everyone, how much more enriching all of our lives are if everyone is represented. A synergy occurs where the sum is equal to greater than the parts when we are all “at the table” or represented. Moreover, a result of recognizing diversity is that we are all changed. We are not “helping” others, but rather are being helped and transformed ourselves as part of the process.

Montana State University:

“is committed to creating a culture of intellectual and personal growth. Because learning is enhanced when topics are examined from diverse perspectives and because individuals possess unique outlooks which reflect the world around us, Montana State University is dedicated to creating an inclusive community that embraces a rich mix in the composition of its student body, staff and faculty. The distinction in viewpoints that comes from differences in race, gender, age, language, socioeconomic status, religion, political affiliation and geographical background are appreciated and valued at MSU as important aspects of the campus community at every level and in every sector of the campus.

To this end, MSU welcomes international students and faculty and enthusiastically seeks engagement with peers from around the globe to expand our depth of understanding and share in the discovery of knowledge. MSU has an especially strong commitment to Native Peoples and actively engages in the development of social and educational initiatives to preserve the cultural integrity of all American Indian students, faculty and staff. MSU strives to advance the ideals of human worth and dignity for all by facilitating open discussion, supporting rational resolution of conflict and encouraging on-going examination of values.”

Oklahoma State University:

“places a great value on the differences of its people. The Division of Institutional Diversity focuses on the development of more inclusive community of learners and leaders while striving to address all of the complexities that emerge. OSU values all voices in its community and serves every member of the OSU family. The goal of the division is to maintain campus communities throughout the University systems that are socially, culturally and globally competent.”

Texas A & M University:

Diversity is “The inclusion, welcome, and support of individuals from all groups, encompassing the various characteristics of persons in our community. The characteristics can include, but are not limited to: age, background, citizenship, disability, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity/expression, geographical location, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience.”

Texas Tech University:

We celebrate and affirm the differences among people from all walks of life. We embrace a definition of diversity that includes ethnic/racial identity, sexual orientation, age, sex, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, gender identity, nationality, body shape/size and differences in physical ability. Our commitment to serve students and the campus community is built on the framework of our values as a multicultural agency that affirms the uniqueness and potential of individuals and that strives towards promoting social justice for all persons.

University of Arizona:

“has a broad definition of diversity including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability, nationality, language, religion, and socio-economic background.”

University of Nevada, Reno:

“will promote diversity in a learning environment that stimulates debate and free inquiry within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity, confidentiality and respect both in and out of the classroom setting. Student Services will communicate the knowledge that the presence and contribution of ALL students’ are of great value.
Student Services will conduct ongoing assessment of our own ability to identify and respond to issues affecting campus climate. We seek to learn as we lead and collaborate with all members of our University community.
Student Services will ensure that all programs, services and office environments are welcoming and able to assist any person regardless of his or her race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, national or geographical origin, ability or socio-economic status.”

University of New Mexico:

Diversity is an inclusive term that goes beyond race and gender. It is a philosophical belief that all forms of differences, including religion, geography, etc. are valuable and should be honored as such. Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action are federally mandated compliance responsibilities imposed on the institution that requires that we be colorblind and color aware respectively. Diversity is a voluntary belief system that indicates we value all forms of diversity, not just color and gender. Diversity is also a goal to be attained that empowers each individual group to be heard and participate equally in whatever activity, process, department, or administrative structure one chooses to engage in.

University of Oregon:

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect.  It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs,political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.

Utah State Univeristy:

The diverse world in which we live is a composite of many cultures, values and ways of interacting with one another. The dimensions of diversity include gender, religious beliefs, race, martial status, ethnicity, parental status, age, education, physical and mental ability, income, sexual orientation, occupation, language, geographic location, and many more components. Understanding the dimensions of diversity and world cultures in Extension audiences will help ensure the development of instructional competencies that will connect with groups and individuals interacted with.

Washington State University:

“upholds its commitment to diversity by modeling for the state and nation a community of individuals who seek what is best for each other. Through its curriculum programs and services, WSU provides understanding and supportive interaction among diverse population groups, and respects individuals’ personal values and ideas. Taking a step further, through the Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment, WSU provides workshops, open discussions, and full length training services on a variety of diversity issues that are available to the WSU community. The Diversity Educators have been professionally trained by the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), an organization that strives to build dialogue between groups on issues such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. It is the diversity team’s goal to increase participant’s knowledge of cultural values, customs, and expectations. Our work aims to reduce prejudice and discrimination and build coalitions among groups.”