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Diversity Definition & Goals

What do you mean by diversity? What “counts” as diversity? As we learned from Edgar Beckham, the keynote speaker at IPFW’s Diversity Institute in June 2003, the answers to such questions depend on the context.

Diversity in the IPFW Context

The following definition of diversity was developed by the IPFW Diversity Council in 1995 and revised slightly to improve clarity in January 2005.

The Diversity Council is committed to creating an environment that enhances learning by recognizing the inherent worth of all individuals at the university. It is our conviction that diversity stimulates creativity, promotes the exchange of ideas, and enriches campus life. The term diversity encompasses differences of culture, background and experience among individuals and groups. Such differences include, but are not necessarily limited to, differences of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, and disabilities, as well as political and religious affiliation and socioeconomic status.

People and groups are not defined simply by identification with one or several categories, but also by their own and other people’s perspectives and attitudes. Each of the categories could be a basis for stereotyping, prejudice, disrespect, or exclusion. IPFW’s goal is a campus where all are welcome and are treated fairly and with respect.

Defining Campus Diversity Goals

It is useful to distinguish between diversity as a concept and campus diversity goals.

  • Diversity refers to the different backgrounds, cultures, characteristics, and experiences of individuals and groups.
  • The campus has diversity goals in each of the five strategic areas above.
  • Diversity initiatives are designed to help achieve the campus diversity goals.

The specific definition always depends on the context:

  • Diversity goals for recruitment are based on demographics–which groups are not represented proportionally to their availability in the recruitment pool?
  • Diversity goals for retention and success aim to close any achievement gaps that exist–are some groups leaving the university at a higher rate than others? are some groups achieving greater success than others?
  • For curriculum, the definition of diversity varies by the academic discipline, and the goals are defined in terms of the kind and level of learning expected.
  • For campus climate, we measure how welcoming the campus is to diverse groups.
  • For outreach initiatives, diversity goals will depend on the primary purpose(s) of the initiative–e.g., recruitment, experiential learning, partnerships to provide a service, entrepreneurial activities, etc.