Diversity at Purdue: A Brief History

As a land-grant institution, Purdue is part of a distinguished tradition of democracy, inclusiveness and accessibility in higher education.[116] The 2008-2014 strategic plan states that all members of the University community are valued for who they are and what they contribute.[117]

In pursuit of its goal of academic excellence, Purdue prepares its students for living and working in a global society by immersing them in a diverse body of students, faculty and staff on campus.[118] The 2008-2014 strategic plan states that excellence cannot be achieved without an educational environment that is immersed in a diverse yet cohesive academic community where faculty, students and professional staff engage in a rich mix of human and intellectual activities.[119]

The University seeks to develop and nurture diversity, which is defined as "equality and inclusion for all people — men and women of diverse races, ethnicities, religions, national origins, sexual orientation, abilities and skills, knowledge and ideas, socio-economic levels, life experiences and perspectives that interact with the global community."

The University communicates its vision for diversity through numerous policies and documents, including:

  • 2008-2014 Strategic Plan: New Synergies[120]
  • Toward a Mosaic for Educational Equity: A Purdue Vision and Action Plan[121]
  • University Regulations 2009-2010, An Online Reference for Students, Staff and Faculty[122]
  • Faculty and Staff Online Handbook[123]
  • Nondiscrimination Policy Statement[124]
  • Anti-harassment Policy[125]

Through its "Statement of Principles and Values," the University declares its commitment to maintaining an inclusive community that recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of every person; fosters tolerance, sensitivity, understanding and mutual respect among its members; and encourages each individual to strive to reach his or her own potential.

All educational services and programs of the University are to be available and open to all academically qualified individuals without any discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, disability or status as a veteran.

The 2008-2014 strategic plan called for the establishment of a Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion position.[126] The position provides strategic leadership and vision around Purdue's efforts to foster a climate that embraces and promotes diversity. Purdue's first Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion was appointed in August 2009.[127] The Office was charged with providing institutional leadership related to diversity and inclusion with four major areas of focus.

  1. Increasing and retaining the number of underrepresented minority faculty
  2. Increasing and retaining the number of underrepresented minority students
  3. Preparing students with the requisite cultural competencies for global leaders
  4. Developing a more inclusive campus community

A variety of projects and programs also contribute to the creation of a diverse and inclusive environment at Purdue. Purdue also provides social and academic opportunities for students from diverse cultures to acclimate to the University's academic environment. For example, the colleges of Engineering, Science and Technology have partnered to coordinate the Academic Boot Camp program, a summer session that exposes admitted students to the coursework, lifestyle and pace of college life. The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program provides students with opportunities to work together with the University to promote the successful completion of a baccalaureate degree in a designated STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) discipline. The Summer Research Opportunities Program encourages talented undergraduate students from social and economic backgrounds that are underrepresented in research careers to pursue graduate education through intensive research experiences with faculty mentors. Purdue is also becoming increasingly involved in the education of Native American graduate students, actively recruiting more Native American students into graduate programs in the STEM disciplines.

The College of Agriculture serves as an example of how diversity is integrated into the curriculum through course requirements. Students can choose from a variety of courses in fulfilling the Multicultural Understanding Requirement, including the elective AGR 201 (Communicating across Cultures). The course includes a basic review of the variety of differences that exist among human beings, such as race/ethnicity, gender identity, age, social class, disability, learning styles and religion/spiritual orientation.

The Diversity Landscape Today

The concept of diversity has evolved into a complex set of meanings and definitions that vary from person to person. The Diversity Dimension Committee spent a significant amount of time discussing an overarching definition that would serve as a baseline for examination of the present state of diversity efforts at Purdue and establishment of appropriate recommendations. The Committee agreed upon the following definition:

"Diversity refers to human qualities that are different from our own and those of groups to which we belong; but that are manifested in other individuals and groups. Dimensions of diversity include but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience and job classification."

This concept focuses on a broader set of qualities than race and gender. In the context of the classroom, valuing diversity means creating an environment that respects and includes differences, recognizes the unique contributions that individuals with many types of differences can make and creates an environment that maximizes the potential of all students. Accomplishing these goals requires a long-term commitment from executive leadership, faculty, staff and students, working together to establish and sustain an environment that supports an all-inclusive, respecting community.


According to data from Purdue's Office of Institutional Research (OIR), the University has maintained a fairly consistent overall undergraduate student population of approximately 31,000 since the 2001-02 academic year. During the 2010-11 year, the total undergraduate student population of 30,836 was made up of the following:

  • 42.4% Women
  • 7.4% Underrepresented Minorities (All Undergraduates)
    • Compared to 5.4% in 2001-02
  • 8.3% Underrepresented Minorities (U.S. Undergraduates)
    • Compared to 5.8% in 2001-02
  • 11% International Undergraduates
    • Compared to 6.4% in 2001-02

This data demonstrates that Purdue is becoming more diverse in its international student population, but a slower rate of growth is seen amongst underrepresented minorities.

In 2011 nearly 8,000 students and 2,700 faculty and staff from more than 120 foreign countries were part of Purdue's academic population.[128] The University has the second-largest international student population among all public universities in the United States and is fourth overall.[129]

We also examined the demographic make up of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty. Of a total of 1,888 Tenured and Tenure-Track faculty in 2010-11:

  • 445 were Minorities (23.6%) — includes international faculty
  • 509 were Women (26.9%) — has shown steady increase since 2001-02
  • 53 were Underrepresented Minorities (6.1%) — 7.8% in 2001-02 was the high over the 10-year period; however, the faculty size was smaller

The data suggests that the diversity of tenured faculty has not grown with respect to underrepresented minorities. The data also reveals that there are several college with no underrepresented minority tenured or tenure-track faculty. We believe that this non-growth has an impact, on some level, on opportunities for students to be exposed to diverse viewpoints.

After review of the CPI, Faculty and Staff Survey, Student Survey and our own discussions, it appears that most units of the University are working to integrate diversity into their agenda. Many programs are aimed at supporting and addressing the needs of students who are underrepresented in certain fields such as women or minorities in STEM. These programs (listed below) should be acknowledged for their efforts to provide a much-needed layer of support to students. However, the existence of these programs alone does not ensure that first-year students experience a collegial community that exposes them to diverse ideas and worldviews.

  • College of Agriculture
    • Ag Education Learning Community
    • First-Year Seminar Courses
    • Dean's Scholars Learning Community
    • Dean's Scholars Program
    • STAR Presentation FEELS Program
    • Twenty-First Century/Purdue Promise Program
    • USDA Multicultural Scholars Program
    • SROP (Summer Research Opportunities Program)
    • MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences)
    • National Society HASA (Hoosier Agribusiness Science Academy) Summer Institute
  • College of Education
    • College of Ed — Block I EDCI 28500 Course
    • College of Ed — Ed-Math Review Sessions and Individual Tutoring
    • Ed Students in Ed Enhancing Diversity — SEED
    • Ed — Teacher Ed. Ed Organizations Board-EOB
    • Destined to Teach
  • College of Engineering
    • EPICS Learning Community
    • Honors Learning Community
    • IDEAS Learning Community
    • Network Learning Engineering — College Strategic Plan
    • AFL Volunteer Worker Trainee Program
    • Chinese Social Networking
    • Cross-Cultural Communication and Diversity
    • Global Engineering Cultures and Practices
    • MEP Academic Boot Camp
    • New Student Orientation Fall
    • New Student Orientation Spring
    • Women in Engineering Program (WIEP) Residential Community Engineering — WIEP Undergraduate Mentoring Program
    • ENGR 18000 — Minorities in Engineering Seminar — 1 Credit Hour
    • ENGR 19400 — Women in Engineering Program Women In Engineering Seminar — 1 Credit Hour
    • 2nd-Year Foundations Committee
  • College of Engineering and College of Science
    • Engineering and Science Learning Community-Integrated Science and Engineering
    • Women in Science (WISP) and WIEP Tutoring
  • College of Health and Human Sciences
    • STAR Presentation
  • College of Liberal Arts and Liberal Arts Diversity Initiatives
    • Twenty-First Century Scholars' CLA Mentor
    • Learning Communities
    • Foreign Language Placement Exams
  • College of Pharmacy
    • Multicultural Programs (MCP) Student-Parent STAR Experience
  • College of Science
    • First-Year Seminar Courses
    • Learning Beyond the Classroom Certificate Program
    • Multicultural Orientation Experience (MOE)
    • WISP
    • SCI 100 Multicultural Leadership Training Seminar
    • SOAR (Science Opportunities to Advance Retention) Study Tables
  • College of Technology
    • TECH 100 — College of Technology
    • TECH 101 — College of Technology
    • Women in Technology (WIT) Learning Community
    • STAR Luncheon for Female Students
    • STAR Luncheon for Multicultural Students
  • School of Management
    • The Dr. Cornell A. Bell Business Opportunity Program (BOP)
  • ECET
    • Tech-Free evening tutoring for two required courses
  • Undergraduate Studies Program
    • GS 11900 — Introduction to Academic Programs at Purdue
    • Twenty-First Century Scholars Mentor Program
    • USP Explorers/Honors Learning Communities
  • Fraternity and Sorority Life
    • Meet the Greeks
  • Office of International Students and Scholars
    • Primary support resource for international students and scholars
    • WOW (Weeks of Welcome) Educational Exchange Program
    • International Friendship Program (IFP)
  • Office of the Dean of Students
    • HORIZONS Student Support Program
  • Purdue Memorial Union
    • Purdue Student Union Board
  • Residence Life
    • University Residences Global Residence Life Programming Efforts
  • Other Institutional Resources for Diversity and Inclusion
    • The Black Cultural Center (BCC) provides purposeful, holistic, scholarly and co-curricular programming designed to enhance the understanding of the African-American heritage. It enhances the academic, cultural and social development of the entire Purdue community. The center was established in 1969 as a place where the African American Experience in America could be explored, celebrated and shared. It stands today as a visible representation of the University's commitment to cultural diversity. The nationally recognized center houses a library, computer lab, an art collection and the BCC ensembles. The performing ensembles include the Black Thought Collective, Black Voices of Inspiration, the Haraka Writers, Jahari Dance Troupe and the New Directional Players. The BCC sponsors a Cultural Arts Series featuring prominent scholars and performing artists. Educational tours of the facility are also available for students and community members.
    • The Diversity Resource Office (DRO) encourages, develops, administers and assesses programs and activities that foster a climate celebrating the rich diversity of our University community. DRO, home of the DiversiKey Certificate Program and the L.E.A.D. Peer Mentor Program, offers training for diversity competencies in both the workplace and learning environments. Other diversity initiatives include Diversity in the Global Experience, the Intersections Student Diversity Conference, the annual Diversity Summit and publication of the Religious, Ethnic and Civic Observances Calendar.
    • The Latino Cultural Center (LCC) exists to provide the community awareness of the regional diversity of peoples, landscape and cultures within the Latino Community. The LCC also strives to build a community for Latino/a Boilermakers and alumni to share their ideas and experiences to promote cultural awareness to the Purdue University campus and beyond. The center was established by students in 2003 as a place for them to learn, share and support Latino/a Culture. LCC seeks to promote diversity and awareness through education and programming within its 15 Latino-based organizations; through its volunteer program, Embajadores; and within its facility. The Latino-based organizations serve as a support network for students while at Purdue and beyond. Embajadores, the LCC service-learning organization, incorporates leadership through its five committees: Recreation and Health; Community Outreach; Culture and Arts; Social Justice; and El Pulso, the student-led newsletter.
    • The LGBTQ Advisory Board is a committee of faculty, staff, student leaders and community members that advises the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. The advisory board primarily focuses on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity with respect to campus climate and inclusion. The group held its inaugural meeting in December 2007.
    • The National Science Foundation's Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Indiana project is a collaboration among eight universities in the state of Indiana. The goal of the project is to increase the quality and quantity of students successfully completing STEM baccalaureate degree programs. LSAMP has a long-term goal of increasing the number of students interested in, academically qualified for and matriculated into programs of graduate study in the STEM disciplines.
    • The Native American Educational and Cultural Center (NAECC) represents the culmination of student, faculty and administrative staff commitment to fostering a culturally diverse and intellectually inclusive campus environment. As the physical realization of the Tecumseh Project's specific Native American student recruitment and retention objectives, NAECC seeks to provide Native American students personal and professional enrichment opportunities in a culturally-appropriate fashion and to serve as a "second home" for current and prospective Native American students. Moreover, the NAECC's intended inclusion of Native American tribal communities and non-Native Purdue students, faculty and staff into campus educational, cultural and research programs fosters an environment of mutual accountability and respect that is vital to crafting cross-cultural relationships and enhancing campus diversity.
    • Women's Resource Office (WRO) is to help lead Purdue to achieve equity, create a supportive campus climate and provide a rich variety of opportunities for learning, professional growth and leadership for all women students, staff and faculty at the University. Working in partnership with the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence, the WRO focuses on promoting inclusive leadership through research, education and collaborations that help advance inclusion and broaden representation in the academic setting.

Additionally, University Residences houses more than 90 percent of all incoming students; however, there are no specific requirements for hall diversity programming. It should be noted that University Residences does have initiatives in place that address diversity issues among students and residential life staff as a whole, such as the following:

  • UR Global is a student organization that matches first-year international students with volunteer student hosts during the first eight weeks of the fall semester to ease the transition to the Purdue community and college life. The program is a collaborative effort between University Residences, ISS and the International Center.
  • Social Justice and Inclusion Team (Staff Training) was initiated during fall 2011. The working definition of Social Justice for Residential Life is "a personal and professional commitment to the intentional and interactive process of understanding privilege, disadvantage and oppression while working toward a more equitable institution."
    • Facilitated a REC Training Session: "Social Justice and Inclusion."
    • Collaborated with the University Residential Life Training and Development Committee to ensure that Social Justice themes are threaded through all of RA Training Facilitated an RA Training Session: "Creating Positive Spaces."
    • Facilitated a Tunnel of Oppression for the Fall RA Training.

First and most concerning, is that the work being done in the academic colleges appears to reach only small portions of the first-year student population with few centralized efforts from the University to prioritize exposure to issues of diversity. Responses to the 2008 Graduating Student Learning Outcomes Survey (GSLOS)[130] show that more than 80 percent of the respondents agreed that interaction with individuals from diverse background and characteristics is an important part of a college education. But the survey also showed that 58 percent of students participated in an enriching diversity experience during their time at the University. Taken together, these results show that there is no guarantee that students will encounter programming related to diversity during their first year.

Another concern is that there seems to be a lack of centralized programming support efforts for all aspects of diversity (e.g., LGBTQ, disability, social class, religion, political views, etc.) This lack of attention can be seen in the responses to questions 39 to 41 of the Student Survey where only one-third of students reported feeling that the University did a good job of exposing students to different issues related to political perspectives, world religions and social class.[131] These efforts could most naturally be conducted in collaboration with the central Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

New practices should be consistent across schools. The practices should be based on a commitment to diversity from University administration and an overall commitment from the University community. The University needs to take advantage of the diversity that already exists. New practices must include awareness and understanding through experience.

Diversity Curriculum

The variety and diversity of curriculum opportunities listed above are impressive. The list of courses and programs suggests that each college has addressed the diversity curriculum issues in a manner that meets their specific college's needs.

One concern is that some students may be required to cover the same material across many courses. It also may be difficult to access the content of the various classes. For example, Nursing students may have different diversity training than Elementary Education students. The Committee believes that assessing existing protocol is necessary. We must ask "How is diversity being taught? What new practices should be in place in the future?" Inherent issues include variations in definitions, learning objectives, assessment and goals.

Diversity Communication

What new practices should be in place the future? Many of the offered programs are voluntary in nature. If appropriate incentives could be put in place, existing programs could be much more effective. The WOW program for international students has a boiler block optional program that was minimally attended in fall 2011. Since the program is delivered by recorded presentations, each international student could be required to view this program online, even before entering the country. If signing up for the check-in and enrollment required them to view this program first, the participation could reach 100 percent of the international students rather than 25 percent.

Some of the special programs may need additional resources in order to include greater numbers of special student populations. For example, the Host Family program offered to international students may need to add more staff or incentivize more local families to grow the program.


  1. Maximize the role and authority of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
    • The staffing of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion must have a more centralized diversity investment. While there are reporting units, the central office staff is currently only made up of the Chief Diversity Officer and an administrative assistant.
    • New programmatic efforts should be informed and improved by ongoing assessment. Generally the most commonly identified institutional metrics for diversity are generally limited to issues related to representation. However, we recommend the addition of other metrics and accompanying accountability measures to effectively measure the impact of diversity and inclusion on the college campus.
  2. Increase the extent of diversity efforts in the residence halls. One of the greatest levels of opportunity to impact the first-year student outside of the classroom is within the residence halls. University Residences consistently houses more than 90 percent of the incoming first-year students.
    • Collaborative efforts as they relate to the ever-increasing international student population and other underrepresented groups should be engaged in by University departments such as Residences, SATS and Student Affairs and ISS.
  3. Develop curricula that reflect diversity.
  4. Increase integration efforts for international students in residence halls and increase additional support for international student integration.
    • Create a new position of International Student Coordinator (possibly a graduate student). This role would be focused on programming specifically designed to engage more interaction between domestic and international students in the residence halls. Programs overseen could be mentoring programs, activities designed to be highly interactive, regular programs to structure/encourage interaction.
    • Develop language tables for the dining halls for students interested in learning other languages.
    • Increase the level of cultural training for all resident assistants.
    • Further support and enlarge the "UR Global" program. During the past two years, this program has proven effective to engage about 300 students in a mentoring program. An infusion of added staff and funding could enlarge this program to reach more students.
    • Establish a pre-departure orientation program for new international students coming to Purdue in fall 2012. This program would be piloted in China in summer 2012. The focus of this program would be twofold:
      • Acquaint key advisors, counselors and support staff that work with our international student population in order to give them a better understanding of the background of international students.
      • Provide information and Q&A sessions for prospective students and parents to help them better understand what to expect when coming to Purdue in the fall.
  5. Ensure that there is a diversity component in all incoming student summer programs (e.g., BGR, STAR, BGR-I, ISS programs).
  6. Establish an LGBTQ Support Center. Support centers exist for most underrepresented groups, except for this one.

116. 2010 Re-accreditation Self-Study Report for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools: Reaching New Heights. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/accreditation/2010/index.php (accessed July 12, 2012)

117. 2008-2014 Strategic Plan: New Synergies. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/strategic_plan/ (accessed July 12, 2012)

118. 2010 Re-accreditation Self-Study Report for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools: Reaching New Heights. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/accreditation/2010/index.php (accessed July 12, 2012)

119. 2008-2014 Strategic Plan: New Synergies. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/strategic_plan/ (accessed July 12, 2012)

120. 2008-2014 Strategic Plan: New Synergies. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/strategic_plan/ (accessed July 12, 2012)

121. Toward a Mosaic for Educational Equity: A Purdue Vision and Action Plan. Purdue University Office of the Provost. http://www.purdue.edu/provost/documents/mosaicplan.pdf (accessed July 16, 2012)

122. University Regulations. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/univregs/index.html (accessed July 16, 2012)

123. Faculty and Staff Online Handbook. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/faculty_staff_handbook/ (accessed July 16, 2012)

124. Nondiscrimination Policy Statement. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/purdue/ea_eou_statement.html (accessed July 16, 2012)

125. Anti-harassment Policy. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/policies/ethics/iiic1.html (accessed July 16, 2012)

126. 2008-2014 Strategic Plan: New Synergies. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/strategic_plan/ (accessed July 12, 2012)

127. Miami University official names Purdue's first vice provost for diversity. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/uns/x/2009b/090709WoodsonTaylor.html (accessed July 11, 2012).

128. 2011-12 Purdue University Data Digest. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/datadigest/ (accessed July 11, 2012).

129. Purdue's international student population ranks among highest in United States. Purdue University. http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/general/2011/11115BrzeznskiInternational.html (accessed July 11, 2012)

130. Gradating Students Learning Outcomes Survey: Overview of Results Spring 2008. Purdue University Office of Institutional Research. http://www.purdue.edu/oir/PDF_files/2008%20Senior%20Survey%20University-wide%20report.pdf (accessed July 12, 2012)

131. Evidence Library #542: Student Survey 11 Outcomes. Purdue University.