Diversity is a broad and multifaceted concept. However, defined simply, diversity means differences. Words that come to mind include: variety, mixture, assortment, range.

The late Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., author of Redefining Diversity, defines diversity as any mixture of items characterized by differences and similarities. In his definition, similarities are as important as differences. In human diversity, we are all different and similar along many dimensions. Others add the concepts of acceptance and respect for the differences and similarities within the definition of diversity.

Within the context of the university setting, diversity has often been defined by identity statuses such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical and mental abilities, gender identity, religion or spiritual beliefs, and veteran status. Other dimensions of diversity include socio-economic status, geographical background, linguistic background, nationality. Further still, diversity includes differences and similarities in thought, ideas, perspectives, and other ways in which people are different or similar to one another. With this definition of diversity, the College of Agriculture recognizes, values, and respects these differences and similarities and encourages the creation of an environment that capitalizes on those differences and similarities.


The term minority is defined as the smaller in number of two groups forming a whole. A racial/ ethnic minority is a person whose race or ethnicity is a non-dominant race within the group. In the United States, racial/ethnic minorities are generally considered to include Hispanic/Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, and those of two or more races. This definition applies at Penn State University.

Underrepresented Minority (URM)

The definition of Underrepresented minority is far from being crystal clear. However, the URM designation is relatively consistent among schools. Underrepresented Minority can be defined as a group whose percentage of the population in a given group is lower than their percentage of the population in the country. At Penn State, as well as many colleges and universities, underrepresented minorities are generally considered to include: Hispanic/Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, and those of two or more races. International students generally fall into a separate category of their own.