Description of Terms


Diversity: Individual differences, life experiences, group/social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, nationality, and disability), historically underrepresented groups, and groups with cultural, political, religious/spiritual, or other affiliations. Adapted from the AAC&U.

Disability: The term disability or (dis)ability may capture a range of identities and characteristics—mental and physical differences, neurodivergence, and other conditions that might affect one's behavior, function, and learning (Center for an Accessible Society, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Equity: The creation of opportunities for historically underrepresented populations to have equal access to and participate in educational programs that address institutionalized achievement gaps in student success and completion. Adapted from the AAC&U.

Inclusion: The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect—in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and emphatic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions. From the AAC&U.

Inclusive Excellence: As an alloy, inclusive excellence re-envisions both quality and diversity. It reflects a striving for excellence in higher education that has been made more inclusive by decades of work to infuse diversity into recruiting, admissions, and hiring; into the curriculum and co-curriculum; and into administrative structures and practices. Through the vision and practice of inclusive excellence, AAC&U calls for higher education to address diversity, inclusion, and equity as critical to the wellbeing of democratic culture. Making excellence inclusive is thus an active process through which colleges and universities achieve excellence in learning, teaching, student development, institutional functioning, and engagement in local and global communities. From the AAC&U.

Intersectionality: Recognizes that individuals have multiple interlocking identities defined in terms of sociocultural power and privilege, and that these identities shape people's individual and collective experiences. Identity is understood as all identities held by the individual, as well as the systems of privilege and oppression within which their identities are located. Informed by Shields, 2008.

Social Justice: Recognizes that for centuries, US and global societiesh have been based on the systematic oppression of marginalized groups and that diversifying higher education is a way to begin addressing historical injustices and exclusion. Social Justice is a commitment to taking concrete steps to reverse the effects of centuries of systematic exclusion. In building a community of learners, social justice fosters critical thinking and a deeper sense of social responsibility toward and with others, society, the environment, and the broader world in which we live. Informed by Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, 2016; Nelson, Creagh, & Clarke, 2012.