NC State’s Definition of Diversity

How do we define diversity?

Diversity refers to an inclusive community of people with varied human characteristics, ideas and worldviews whose interactions both benefit and challenge each other to grow while making the community better.

Such a community will:

  • enhance access, attract and retain a diverse population and promote equity and equal opportunity;
  • encourage interaction among diverse people to enrich the educational experience, promote personal growth and enhance the community;
  • foster mutual respect, value differences and promote cross-cultural understanding;
  • prepare leaders to live and work in a competitive global community.

By definition, NC State is diverse because it is a community of individuals from varied backgrounds and demographic categories; it encourages, accepts and values a diversity of people and ideas; it seeks to promote an environment where equity, respect and understanding represent the norm in the campus climate; and, it seeks to prepare entrepreneurs who are effective citizens of a global community. We will know that we have achieved authentic diversity when all four of these objectives are fully realized.

How Diversity Benefits Everyone

In an opinion by Justice Sandra O’Connor (joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer), the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly adopted Justice Powell’s view from Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), finding that “student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.”

The Court found that the educational benefits of diversity “are not theoretical but real” and had been substantiated by the University of Michigan and its amice in supporting briefs. Those benefits included “cross-racial understanding” and the breaking down of racial stereotypes. The Supreme Court cited social science research showing that “student body diversity promotes learning outcomes, better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society and better prepares them as professionals.” It acknowledged that “major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today’s increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas and viewpoints,” and that high-ranking former military leaders have asserted that “a highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps” is essential to national security. The Court concluded that “effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized.” (Jonathan R. Alger, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI)

History of Diversity at NC State

NC State University was founded as an all-white, all-male institution in 1887 and remained so until it was forced by the Civil Rights Movement, the courts and other events to admit non-white students. In 1953, NC State admitted its first African American graduate student, but it was not until 1956 that the first African American undergraduate students enrolled. For the next three decades, NC State was neither very accessible nor very hospitable to African American students.

Since the civil rights movement, NC State has made significant progress in the admission, retention and graduation of minority students. Today, NC State is among the nation’s leaders in the graduation of African American students with graduate degrees in mathematics, science, engineering and technology. Since 1993, NC State has been recognized as one of the 100 best colleges for African American students. NC State is now a campus where everyone is welcome.

  • See also Diversity on NC State University’s main home page.