In 2002, the name of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) was changed to the Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME), to reflect a different philosophy and perspective regarding campus diversity. Specifically, the change represented a movement away from the deficit model, which conceptualizes diversity as a problem involving disadvantaged, under-prepared, and culturally deprived people, to an asset-based validation model that conceptualizes diversity as an asset involving talented and gifted individuals who contribute to the very teaching, learning, service, and research mission of the University. In addition, CME began to work with students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni using a more inclusive definition of diversity, which includes race/ethnicity, gender identity and expression, religion, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, age, and other salient social dimensions.
The Center for Multicultural Excellence can be described as a hybrid model between a traditional "Office of Minority Affairs" found on most college campuses that supports primarily students of color, and an Intergroup Relations Center that addresses issues of campus climate and intergroup relations, and engages the entire campus. Conceptually, the staff of the Center labor in two primary areas:
- Compositional diversity refers to the number of a specific population represented on a college campus and the programs, policies, and procedures employed to increase and support members of those groups.
- Beyond having a diverse population on campus, intergroup relations refers to how their presence is perceived and received, whether they are welcomed or not, and to what extent individuals representing different groups interact with each other.
Among CME programs, for example, the Excelling Leaders Institute and the LGBTIQ&A Gala are compositional diversity initiatives, while the Diversity Summit and the Voices of Discovery dialogues are intergroup relations programs.
In 2006, the Center for Multicultural Excellence initiated the campaign approach to introduce the concept and practice of Inclusive Excellence at DU. The concept was unveiled at the 2006 Diversity Summit by Dr. Alma Clayton-Pedersen, then Vice-President for Institutional Renewal with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).
The AAC&U concept of Inclusive Excellence moves the University of Denver away from a simplistic definition of diversity to a more inclusive, comprehensive, and omnipresent notion of diversity that transfers the responsibility for diversity on the campus to everyone, (i.e. administrators, faculty, staff, and students) as opposed to one unit or department shouldering the work of diversity. Inclusive Excellence in practice, also shifts the concept of diversity from a numerical representation (numbers only) of diverse faculty, staff, and students to transforming the institution into a vibrant community that embeds diversity throughout the institution in multiple areas including (but not limited to) demographics (numbers), curriculum, policies, pedagogy, financial resources, leadership, hiring, student learning, marketing, technology, teaching, student advising and much more.