Inclusive Excellence brings together a comprehensive knowledge base – research and theory – from a variety of sources. Within this framework there are some concepts and terms that are fundamentally linked to the educational mission and institutional practice, and thus deserve to be highlighted. The definitions have been categorized by four essential pillars of Inclusive Excellence-Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Excellence.

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Inclusive Excellence is a planning process intended to help each UW System institution establish a comprehensive and well-coordinated set of systemic actions that focus specifically on fostering greater diversity, equity, inclusion, and accountability at every level of university life. The central premise of Inclusive Excellence holds that UW System colleges and universities need to intentionally integrate their diversity efforts into the core aspects of their institutions—such as their academic priorities, leadership, quality improvement initiatives, decision-making, day-to-day operations, and organizational cultures—in order to maximize their success.

In many respects, Inclusive Excellence represents the next necessary step in our evolution as a System committed to creating those diverse learning environments that we know are so vital to our students’ growth, learning, and achievement. Our recruitment and retention efforts as well as our engagement in such initiatives as the Campus Climate Study and the Equity Scorecard Project have taught us that our pursuit of diversity has to be a far more multidimensional, integrative, and student-centered process if it is to produce the kinds of individual and System-wide transformation we have been seeking. Inclusive Excellence is a change-oriented planning process that encourages us to continue in our diversification efforts albeit with a greater intentionality and attentiveness of how they serve the needs of our students. Informed by a well-established body of empirical research as to the institutional contexts, practices, and cultures that contribute to the establishment of a diverse learning environment, Inclusive Excellence represents a shift not in the essence of our work but how we approach it and carry it out. Above all, Inclusive Excellence asks us to actively manage diversity as a vital and necessary asset of collegiate life rather than as an external problem.

Inclusive Excellence offers an approach for organizing our work in a deliberate, intentional and coordinated manner. This approach:

  • Employs a dual focus in diversity efforts, concentrating on both increasing compositional diversity, and creating learning environments in which students of all backgrounds can thrive;
  • Requires a more comprehensive, widespread level of engagement and commitment ensuring that every student fulfills their educational potential;
  • Places the mission of diversity at the center of institutional life so that it becomes a core organizing principle, around which institutional decisions are made;
  • Calls for a close attentiveness to the student experience itself, including the impact of race and ethnicity, and the influence of physical ability, sexual orientation, gender expression, socioeconomic background, and first-generation status on their learning experiences; and
  • Demands that the ideals of diversity and excellence be pursued as the interconnected and interdependent goals they are.

Four Essential Pillars of Inclusive Excellence

Diversity

Individual differences (e.g. personality, learning styles, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, country of origin, and ability as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations) that can be engaged in the service of learning. Compositional Diversity is the numerical and proportional representation of various racial and ethnic groups on a campus. (Milem, Chang and Antonio).

Equity

Equity Mindedness refers to the outlook, perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners and others who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes, and are willing to assume personal and institutional responsibility for the elimination of inequity. This includes being “color conscious,” noticing differences in experience among racial-ethnic groups, and being willing to talk about race and ethnicity as an aspect of equity. Equity perspectives are evident in actions, language, problem-framing, problem-solving, and cultural practices. (Bensimon, 2008).

Inclusion

The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in people, in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect—in ways that increase one’s awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.

Excellence

The quality of being excellent; state of possessing good qualities in an eminent degree; exalted merit; superiority in virtue.