Penn State receives Minority Access honor for commitment to diversity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State was one of 31 institutions nationwide named to the 2014 list of “Colleges and Universities Committed to Diversity” at the 15th annual Minority Access National Role Models Conference earlier this month.

Colleges and universities nominated for the honor were asked to provide information regarding programs they have instituted that show commitment to diversity. Institutions included on the list were recognized for cooperating with the external community; recruiting, retaining, educating and graduating a diverse pool of students; faculty hiring; and diversifying the administration and support staff.

“Penn State’s inclusion among this select list of higher education institutions is a testament to the University’s long commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Marcus Whitehurst, interim vice provost for Educational Equity. “The University remains dedicated to placing a high priority on educational equity and our overall diversity efforts, and we thank the students, faculty, staff and administration who have worked toward our diversity goals.”

Penn State was recognized for having institutional and leadership commitment to diversity in the form of support for its A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State. The framework 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. The University also was recognized for its infrastructure for promoting inclusion. 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 conference, organized by Minority Access Incorporated in Washington, D.C., has its roots as a project implemented at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services to concentrate on health and medical issues, specifically focusing on the health disparities gap in the United States. Minority Access is a nonprofit educational organization that provides support to individuals, colleges and universities, federal, state and local governments, private agencies and corporations of all kinds to diversify their campuses and work sites by improving the recruitment, retention and enhancement of minorities.

Minority Access identifies minority researchers and their supporters to bring them together at a national conference to talk about disparity issues. As the conference expanded in the past 15 years, the organization began to broaden its focus to include disparity and diversity issues in education, health care and research.

“The best way to limit disparity is to increase diversity,” said Andrea Mickle, president of Minority Access. “That’s how we tie in honoring colleges and universities that are committed to diversity. We see that as a pathway to eliminating disparity.”

Mickle added that Penn State is being recognized among a select group of organizations highly committed to diversity. “It is a very diverse pool of colleges and universities, too. There are community colleges, a medical school, schools from the South, North and West, Hispanic-serving institutions and historically black colleges,” Mickle said.

Penn State was among the first universities to establish a vice provost for Educational Equity position in 1989 and an Educational Equity Office in 1990. The University has a strong commitment to U.S. Department of Education TRIO programs and a host of initiatives that reach out to first-generation, low-income, pre-college students; support academic success; and offer need-based scholarships.

Last month, 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.

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Last Updated August 28, 2015