Diversity Definitions

The definitions for diversity and equity were developed by the Diversity Advisory Committee during the 2021 academic year. All other definitions noted herein have been taken from Olympic College’s Glossary of Common Terms in Higher Education. The posting of certain definitions to this website is a requirement associated with Senate Bill 5194 which provides for equity and access in the community and technical colleges and was enacted into law during the 2021 regular session.  

Diversity: Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It includes race, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, ability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.

Equity: The proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunity, treatment, impact, and outcomes for all.

Inclusion: Inclusion has roots in the disability movement, as a strategy for including students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms. Over time, it has come to describe the process by which all students who have historically been excluded and marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, citizenship status, and gender identity and other social identity markers, can experience belonging, be respected and valued, and fully participate in all aspects of the educational environment. In this sense, inclusion goes beyond mere integration to require the removal of barriers to educational participation. However, it falls short of requiring equitable outcomes or the transformation of institutional power arrangements.

Culturally competence: The National Center for Cultural Competence (n.d.) references the seminal definition provided by Cross et al, 1989: "Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professions to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. 

The word culture is used because it implies the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious or social group. The word competence is used because it implies having the capacity to function effectively. 

Five essential elements contribute to a system's institution's, or agency's ability to become more culturally competent which include: 

  1. Valuing diversity 
  2. Having the capacity for cultural self-assessment 
  3. Being conscious of the dynamics inherent when cultures interact 
  4. Having institutionalized culture knowledge 
  5. Having developed adaptations to service delivery reflecting an understanding of cultural diversity 

These five elements should be manifested at every level of an organization including policy making, administrative, and practice. Further these elements should be reflected in the attitudes, structures, policies and services of the organization.” (National Center for Cultural Competence, n.d.)

Historically marginalized communities: Historically marginalized communities or populations are: “Individuals, groups, and communities that have historically and systematically been denied access to services, resources and power relationships across economic, political, and cultural dimensions as a result of systemic, durable, and persistent racism, discrimination and other forms of oppression. Long standing and well documented structural marginalization has resulted in poor outcomes – health, social, political, economic and overall increased vulnerability to harm. Historically Marginalized Populations are often identified based on their race, ethnicity, social-economic status, geography, religion, language, sexual identity and disability status.” (Department of Health and Human Services, 2021).

Communities of color: The term “of color” embraces Black, Asian, Latino, and indigenous peoples both within the U.S. and transnationally, whose collective marginalization as “colored” peoples and colonial subjects informs coalition politics that cut across many issues. “Communities of color” is sometimes used interchangeably with people of color but can also refer to the geographic areas in which they are concentrated.  

Low-income communities: According to the federal government, a “’low-income individual’ means an individual whose family's taxable income for the preceding year did not exceed 150 percent of the poverty level amount,” as established by the Census Bureau. (U.S. Department of Education, 2021). Low-income communities, then, refers to a collective of individuals so defined (Office of Management and Budget, 1997).

Community organizations: Community organizations, or community-based organizations, refers to nonprofit or grassroots organizations that operate in and for the benefit of a specific community. 


Department of Education (2022). Federal TRIO programs current-year low-income levels. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/trio/incomelevels.html

Department of Health and Human Services (2021). Historically marginalized populations engagement toolkit: For healthcare systems & providers. https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/media/2393/open

National Center for Cultural Competence. (n.d.). Definitions of cultural competence. Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development. https://nccc.georgetown.edu/curricula/culturalcompetence.html

Office of Management and Budget (1997). Revisions to the standards for the classification of federal data on race and ethnicity. www.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/omb/fedreg_1997standards.

Olympic College. (2022). Glossary of common terms in higher education. https://www.olympic.edu/about-olympic-college/equity-olympic-college/equity-inclusion-toolkit/glossary-common-terms-higher#_I