Penn State earns second Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Today (Sept. 16) Penn State received its second consecutive national Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. The University will be recognized for the honor in the magazine’s November issue.

Penn State was selected for the HEED Award along with only 82 other higher education institutions across the country. It is the sole award in the nation recognizing colleges and universities for outstanding diversity and inclusion efforts across campuses. Penn State was selected based on the University’s exemplary diversity and inclusion initiatives, and its ability and commitment to embrace a broad definition of diversity on campus.

“That INSIGHT Into Diversity has again recognized Penn State as a national leader in diversity and inclusion, particularly among a larger pool of award candidates, is a testament to the high priority the University places on educational equity and our overall diversity efforts,” Marcus Whitehurst, interim vice provost for Educational Equity, said.

Penn State is only one of four colleges and universities in Pennsylvania — alongside Community College of Allegheny County, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and Millersville University — to receive the honor, and one of six Big Ten universities, also including Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Illinois at Chicago and at Urbana-Champaign; and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“We hope the HEED Award serves as a way to honor those institutions of higher education that recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion as part of their everyday campus culture,” Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, explained.

To be considered for the award, institutions had to complete a 40-question application outlining their diversity initiatives. INSIGHT Into Diversity approached its review of applicants from a wide-ranging perspective. The publication considered topics of race and ethnicity, disabilities, women’s issues, veterans issues and LGBT issues across campus programs, including students recruitment, retention and completion; recruitment and retention of faculty members; administrative diversity; suppliers; student services; hiring and employee policies; curriculums; programs and affinity groups; and community partnerships.

Penn State recognizes diversity as a core value of its academic mission in its strategic plan, A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State, which outlines seven diversity challenges within the dimensions of Campus Climate and Intergroup Relations, Representation (Access and Success), Education and Scholarship, and Institutional Viability and Vitality.

Penn State has three University-wide President’s Equity Commissions, and each college, campus and administrative unit has a diversity committee, many of which also have committees at the department level. The University also has a strong commitment to U.S. Department of Education TRiO programs and a host of programs that reach out to first-generation, low-income, pre-college students; support academic success; and offer need-based scholarships.

In 2013 the Office of Educational Equity commissioned research and analytics firm Halualani and Associates to conduct the University’s first external review of its diversity and inclusion efforts. The firm studied more than 3,000 pages of documentation across 43 colleges, campuses and units, and conducted a two-day site visit in February 2013.

In a December 2013 presentation Rona Halualani, the firm’s founder and principal, shared the firm’s analysis. The firm determined that Penn State ranks in the top four in comparison to peer institutions for diverse undergraduate student enrollment, diverse student graduation rates and new minority faculty hire numbers.

Halualani added that the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity leads one of the top 10 diversity strategic planning frameworks in the country, and also stands out as one of the few offices nationwide that focuses on diversity achievement outcomes and impact. Halualani also offered recommendations for improvement, which offer the University the opportunity for transformational achievements and the potential to be a national model for higher education.

For more information about the 2014 HEED award, visit For more information about Educational Equity at Penn State, visit

Last Updated September 16, 2014