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Diversity, Equity and Belonging

Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine address diversity and inclusion from a measurable, strategic perspective that includes, as a foundation, equal employment regulatory compliance.

This commitment is communicated in the University’s diversity statement, which provides the foundation for all initiatives, as well as in the campus’ mission and vision statements on diversity, equity and inclusion.

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Diversity Resources

Latest News Expand answer
CultureVision Expand answer

CultureVision is an online tool designed to help faculty and staff explore diversity in medicine to help them provide culturally competent patient care.

Inclusion Academy Expand answer

Inclusion Academy is a series of workshops, presentations, panel discussions and skill building sessions focused on improving participants’ cultural knowledge and understanding. The sessions are offered throughout the year and are separated into categories that benefit a variety of audiences.

Each presentation will concentrate on an aspect of diversity or issue affecting diverse populations, such as Health Disparities in Minority Communities, Caring for Muslim Patients, Caring for Military/Veteran Patients, and Transgender Literacy, among others. The objectives of these sessions will be to obtain applicable skills; dispel rumors, misconceptions and myths; provide insight into cultural details that may affect care for patients; and address components of diversity found in workplaces.

Inclusion Academy is designed to be an asset to the Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine community and to foster cultural excellence in all facets of the operation.

For details, email

Policies Expand answer

Human Resources Policies

Visit the Policy Portal (login required) for all Human Resources policies, including:

  • Affirmative Action in Employment
  • Religious Accommodation
  • Transgender Transition Policy and Protocol

Culture of Respect in Education Policy

Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine prohibit the mistreatment, discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment or any intentional or unintentional disrespectful treatment of a subordinate student, trainee or colleague that disrupts the learning environment. See more information on the Culture of Respect in Education (CORE) policy in the Policy Portal (login required).

University Policies

Strategic Plan Expand answer

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is one of the foundational elements underpinning the College of Medicine’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.

In addition to the Strategic Plan, the College of Medicine is committed to key areas that support its commitment to diversity.

See the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan

Title IX Expand answer

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. All forms of sexual or gender-based harassment, including but not limited to dating and domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault are violations of Title IX.

Title IX protects individuals of all genders and sexual orientations and applies to students, faculty, staff, independent contractors, campus visitors, and other participants in University educational programs and activities.

To ensure compliance with Title IX and other federal and state civil rights laws, the University has designated a Title IX Coordinator to monitor compliance with Title IX and ensure that reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct are appropriately investigated and addressed by the University.

Any student, faculty, or staff member who has questions or concerns about their rights under Title IX or who believes that they have been the victim of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, is encouraged to contact the University’s Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response.

Penn State College of Medicine takes Title IX seriously. 

See detailed Title IX information, including contacts

Contact Us Expand answer

General questions about diversity at Penn State College of Medicine can be emailed to

Diversity Glossary

This glossary is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every word and term used in conversations regarding diversity, inclusion and equity. Because of the way language works especially around these concepts, many of these words and terms will continue to evolve. Nevertheless, it can be useful to have a reference that provides basic working definitions to help guide discussions.

Accessibility Expand answer

The extent to which a facility is readily approachable and usable by individuals with disabilities, particularly such areas as the personnel office, worksite and public areas.

Advocate Expand answer

Someone who speaks up for themselves and members of their identity group.

Affirmative Action Expand answer

A policy designed to redress past discrimination against women and minority groups through measures to improve their economic and educational opportunities. More recently, the policies have expanded the depth for covering individuals with disabilities and protected veterans.

Ally Expand answer

A person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group; typically member of dominant group standing beside member(s) of targeted group.

Bias Expand answer

The process by which the brain uses cognitive associations that are so well-established as to operate without awareness, intention or control. May be a neutral preference or an inclination, or reflection of social stereotypes.

Bullying Expand answer

Behavior from a person in relative power intended to hurt, harm or humiliate a person with less power. May be physical or emotional, and can occur in person or through electronic contact.

Cisgender Expand answer

The experience of having one’s gender identity aligned with the sex assigned at birth.

Cisnormativity Expand answer

The presumption that everyone is, and should be, cisgender.

Cultural Appropriateness Expand answer

An approach that considers multiple cultural factors (e.g., beliefs, values, norms, language, experiences, gender, sexual orientation/gender identity, age, class, education) in the design and delivery of services, training, research, collaboration/partnerships and community engagement.

Cultural Awareness Expand answer

The cognitive process through which individuals become sensitive to the values, beliefs and practices of different cultural groups.

Cultural Competency Expand answer

A set of practice skills, knowledge and attitudes that must encompass five elements:

  • Awareness and acceptance of difference
  • Awareness of one’s own cultural values
  • Understanding of the dynamics of difference
  • Development of cultural knowledge
  • Ability to adapt practice skills to fit the cultural context of the patient
Cultural Competence Continuum Expand answer

Organizations and individuals can fall within one or more levels of the Cultural Competence Continuum:

  • Cultural destructiveness: Focused on seeing differences in others and eliminating them
  • Cultural incapacity: Sees the differences and views them as wrong
  • Cultural blindness: Sees the differences in other cultures but act as if they do not
  • Cultural pre-competent: Sees differences but responds inadequately to redress non-liberating structures, practices and inequities
  • Cultural competence: Sees the differences and understands the effects of the differences; values and respects the differences and attempts to find ways to celebrate those differences
  • Cultural proficiency: Sees the differences and responds in a positive and affirming manner; recognizes and responds to cultural differences successfully
Cultural Confidence Expand answer

A lifelong journey that includes a self-reflection on biases and prejudice as well as a motivation to expand one’s limited understanding of complex issues.

Cultural Desire Expand answer

The genuine motivating force that makes one want to work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds and engage in the process of becoming culturally competent.

Cultural Diversity Expand answer

Developing organizational processes that are inclusionary rather than exclusionary for cultural uniformity.

Cultural Encounter Expand answer

The process of engaging in multicultural interactions with people of a culturally diverse group.

Cultural Humility Expand answer

A lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique, to fix the power imbalances where none ought to exist, and to develop partnerships with people and groups who advocate for others.

Cultural Knowledge Expand answer

An understanding of the biological and sociological factors that contribute to health disparities among racial and ethnic groups.

Cultural Skills Expand answer

The ability to collect culturally relevant data regarding the individual or group presenting the health problem and to conduct culture-specific assessments.

Dating Violence Expand answer

Violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim.

Disability Expand answer

An individual is considered to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment or medical condition that substantially limits a major life activity, or if they have a history or record of such an impairment or medical condition.

Disabilities include, but are not limited to: blindness, deafness, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy, HIV/AIDS, schizophrenia, muscular dystrophy, bipolar disorder, major depression, multiple sclerosis (MS), missing limbs or partially missing limbs, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder, impairments requiring
the use of a wheelchair and intellectual disability (previously called mental retardation).

Discrimination Expand answer

Conduct of any nature that denies an individual the opportunity to participate in or benefit from a University program or activity, or otherwise adversely affects a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, or living environment, because of the individual’s age, race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or political ideas.

See Penn State Policy AD85 for details.

Diversity Expand answer

The inclusion, welcome, and support of individuals from all groups, encompassing the various characteristics of persons in the community. The characteristics can include, but are not limited to: age, background, citizenship, disability, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity/expression, geographical location, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and work experience.

Domestic Violence Expand answer

Crimes of violence committed against a victim by:

  • a current or former spouse;
  • a person with whom the victim shares a child;
  • a person who is or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse;
  • a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim; or
  • any other person against whom the victim is protected under Pennsylvania’s domestic and family violence laws.
Equity Expand answer

The equal treatment of individuals in all aspects of employment, including but not limited to compensation, resource allocation, conditions of employment and policies.

Ethnicity Expand answer

Pertaining to or characteristic of a people, especially a group (ethnic group) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language or the like.

Gender Expression/Presentation Expand answer

An outward representation of gender through appearance, dress and behavior. Typically described in degrees of femininity, masculinity or other genders.

Gender Identity Expand answer

A person’s internal experience of gender. Descriptors can include male, female or non-binary.

Harassment Expand answer

Any behavior consisting of physical or verbal conduct that substantially interferes with an individual’s employment, education or access to University programs, activities or opportunities. Harassment may include, but is not limited to, verbal or physical attacks, graphic or written statements, threats or slurs.

See Penn State Policy AD85 for details.

Health Disparity Expand answer

Differences in the incidence and prevalence of health conditions and health status between groups based on race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, disability status or a combination of these factors.

Health Equity Expand answer

A person’s ability to attain their full health potential without interference from their social position or ethnic/racial background.

Heteronormativity Expand answer

The presumption that everyone is, and should be, heterosexual. Discrimination against people who are not heterosexual is heterosexism.

Heterosexual Expand answer

Attracted to members of another or opposite sex or gender.

Inclusion Expand answer

The intentional and respectful involvement and empowerment of all members of a group.

Intersex Expand answer

A person whose physical sex characteristics do not align with binary medical definitions of male and/or female. Some intersex people may have a difference of sex development (DSD).

Intolerance Expand answer

An act of intolerance refers to conduct that is in violation of a University policy, rule or regulation and is motivated by discriminatory bias against or hatred toward other individuals or groups based on characteristics such as age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, genetic information, national origin, political belief, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status.

See Penn State Policy AD29 for details.

Linguistic Competence Expand answer

The capacity of an organization and its personnel to communicate effectively and convey information in a manner that is easily understood by diverse audiences, including persons of limited English proficiency, those who have low literacy skills or are not literate, individuals with disabilities, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

LGBTQI+ (Sexual and Gender Diversity) Expand answer

A collection of acronyms to describe the diverse groups of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex (LGBTQI) and other non-cisgender, non-heterosexual populations, and their allies.

Microaggression Expand answer

Specific interactions between those of different races, cultures, genders or sexual orientation can be interpreted as small acts of mostly non-physical aggression; the term was coined by Chester M. Pierce in 1970.

Microinequity Expand answer

A subtle message, sometimes subconscious, that devalues, discourages and ultimately impairs performance in the workplace. These messages can take the shape of looks, gestures or even tones.

Multiculturalism Expand answer

The practice of acknowledging and respecting the various cultures, religions, races, ethnicities, attitudes and opinions within an environment.

Non-Binary Expand answer

A gender identity that is both, neither or between male and female gender identities. Other terms may be genderqueer or genderfluid.

Prejudice Expand answer

A preconceived judgment about a person or group of people; usually indicating negative bias.

Race Expand answer

A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliations, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time. Racial categories subsume ethnic groups.

Responsible Employee Expand answer

In the context of Title IX, a university is obligated to provide a prompt and effective remedy to gender discrimination or harassment upon notice. A university has notice when a responsible employee knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known about the discrimination or harassment. A responsible employee is any employee who has authority to take action or institute corrective measures, has a duty to report to appropriate officials, or anyone a student could reasonably believe has the authority or responsibility to do so.

Retaliation Expand answer

Any adverse action taken by a member of the University faculty, staff or student body against any individual on the basis of a Good Faith Report made by such individual, or on the basis of such individual’s participation in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry by the University or an Appropriate Authority, or participation in a court proceeding relating to suspected Wrongful Conduct at the University, including but not be limited to, harassment, discrimination, threats of physical harm, job termination, punitive work schedule or research assignments, decrease in pay or responsibilities, or negative impact on academic progress.

See Penn State Policy AD67 for details.

Sexual Assault Expand answer

Includes, but is not limited to, attempted or unwanted sexual activity, such as sexual touching and fondling.

Sexual Exploitation Expand answer

Includes, but is not limited to, prostituting another person, non-consensual visual or audio recording of sexual activity, non-consensual distribution of photos, images or information of an individual’s sexual activity or intimate body parts, nonconsensual voyeurism, coercing someone against their will to engage in sexual activity, or knowingly transmitting sexually transmitted disease (STD) without disclosing STD status.

Sexual Harassment Expand answer

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted, inappropriate, or unconsented to.

See Penn State Policy AD85 for details.

Sexual Misconduct Expand answer

A form of sexual harassment that refers to sexual offenses including but not limited to rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual exploitation, sexual coercion and any other forms of nonconsensual sexual activity.

Sexual Orientation Expand answer

The degree to which a person is attracted to individuals of the same or a different sex or gender identity.

Stalking Expand answer

A course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of others, or to suffer emotional distress. Stalking may include repeatedly following, harassing, threatening or intimidating another by telephone, mail, electronic communication, social media or any other action, device or method.

Title IX Expand answer

A federal statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in curriculum and extracurricular activities, on or off campus, by any institution accepting federal funds (1972 Education Amendment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).

Title IX Coordinator Expand answer

The institution’s representative with the authority to oversee and investigate all issues of sex discrimination and sexual misconduct, including identifying and addressing patterns and systemic problems, implementing policies and procedures, notifying students and training employees on policies and procedures, and preventing and remedying retaliation.

Transgender Expand answer

The experience of having a gender identity that does not align with the sex assigned at birth. May also include individuals whose expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Associated terms sometimes include gender-diverse, gender-expansive, gender non-conforming, and non-binary. Transsexual is a now-outdated term previously used to describe transgender people who pursued medical or surgical changes.

Unconscious Bias Expand answer

Perceptions, thinking, and actions that occur outside of conscious awareness or conscious control; a response that is hidden, automatic and natural.

Resources Expand answer

This glossary was compiled with support from the following sources: