Inclusive Excellence at the University of Denver

Inclusive Excellence is the recognition that a community or institution’s success is dependent on how well it values, engages and includes the rich diversity of students, staff, faculty, administrators, board members and alumni constituents.  More than a short-term project or single office initiative, this comprehensive approach requires a fundamental transformation of the institution by embedding and practicing Inclusive Excellence in every effort, aspect, and level the institution.  The goal is to make Inclusive Excellence a habit that is implemented and practiced consistently throughout the University of Denver.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) commissioned a set of scholarly papers focusing on the theory and practice of Inclusive Excellence.  Said papers delineate the meaning of Inclusive Excellence within the context of higher education; discuss how it differs from traditional notions of diversity; and encourage students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni to begin to practice the concept in order to transform their institutions.  More specifically, they argue that institutions of higher learning need to be transformed into entities that are all-encompassing of the various dimensions of diversity that exist on college campuses. 

In 2006, the University of Denver was introduced to the concept of Inclusive Excellence when Dr. Alma Clayton Pedersen, Vice President for Education and Institutional Renewal with AAC&U, delivered a keynote address at the annual DU Diversity Summit.  Several months later, Chancellor Robert Coombe and Provost Gregg Kvistad asked the University’s senior leadership to embrace Inclusive Excellence and begin working in conjunction with the Center for Multicultural Excellence to implement it at the University of Denver as a framework for its commitment to diversity.

Over the last several years, there has been progress in implementing Inclusive Excellence with many deans, administrators, faculty, staff, students, board members and alumni making significant contributions to the effort.  Much progress has been made particularly in embedding diversity into the University’s processes, systems, mission statements, and other structural dimensions.  

The concept of Inclusive Excellence moves the University of Denver away from a simplistic definition of diversity to a more inclusive, comprehensive, and omnipresent notion of inclusiveness that has the following features: 

  • Inclusiveness and Excellence are interdependent, as opposed to the traditional perspective that separates the two concepts.  To practice inclusiveness is excellence.
  • Shifts the responsibility for diversity and inclusiveness to everyone (administrators, faculty, staff, students, board members and alumni) on campus as opposed to one unit or department shouldering the responsibility for diversity.  A unit or person can drive the process, but every individual at the University of Denver from the Chancellor to students assumes responsibility for change.
  • Shifts the University away from conceptualizing diversity as a numerical goal (numbers only) of diverse students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni to transforming the institution into a vibrant community that embeds diversity throughout the institution in multiple areas including (but not limited to):  demographics (numbers), curriculum, policies, pedagogy, financial resources, leadership, hiring, student learning, marketing, technology, teaching, student advising, communications, administration, recruitment, hiring, and promotion, assessment, institutional advancement, tenure and promotion, and evaluation.
  • Employs a broad and inclusive definition of diversity that includes race, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and other important social dimensions that are part of the campus community. 

According to the University’s mission, the University of Denver commits to fostering a community of Inclusive Excellence through strategic leadership and service of the highest quality.  Candidates who have a demonstrated commitment to building a diverse educational environment are strongly encouraged to apply.  Candidates should be prepared to describe strategies for advancing Inclusive Excellence actively, intentionally and consistently.


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