Having shared understanding of language within an organization assists in collective efforts toward the same goal. Growing research on and attention to marginalized people have led to better defined concepts that more accurately describe their meaning. The following list of terms and definitions is an evolving one that will provide users guidance and help ensure campus-wide consistency in language as the Elon community strives for inclusive excellence. In this work, both terms and their meanings can shift over time as oppressed groups are increasingly heard and valued.

Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive excellence is the shared responsibility of Elon University members to act deliberately toward equitable outcomes through:

  • collective strength derived from people of all identities, abilities and perspectives;
  • pluralistic orientation reflected in pedagogies, programs and policies;
  • and positive cross-cultural engagement at all times and in all places.

Central to Elon’s mission of transforming mind, body and spirit, inclusive excellence requires addressing systems in ways that achieve equity and help individuals thrive.


Diversity is a multifaceted phenomenon of human differences related to identity, experiences, thoughts and perspectives. Elon believes that this wide range of differences is an essential component of the educational experience, academic excellence and an inclusive community.


Equity is the practice of understanding and satisfying human needs, particularly those created by historical and social forces that have generated disparate outcomes for groups of people based on their identities. Elon conceptualizes equity also as a goal of eliminating oppressive practices and systems that prevent some groups from achieving their fullest potential.


Inclusion is the outcome of creating environments in which any member of an organization feels welcomed, respected, supported and valued in the full range of experiences at Elon.